Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Old lang what?
Auld Lang Syne is a poem written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. The literal translation of the title is "old long since" but colloquially it means "long, long ago" or "days gone by".
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Written by Irving Berlin for the 1942 Paramount Pictures musical, Holiday Inn (starring Bing and Fred Astaire), Let's Start The New Year Right was released as the A side of White Christmas (also featured in the film).
Speaking of Guy Lombardo, here's a clip from the 1950's of Guy and His Royal Canadians performing one of their biggest hits, Boo Hoo...
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the effect that It's A Wonderful Life has on yours truly; no matter how often I watch this movie (and to be honest, I lost track long ago), I still get a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye during the final moments. Today I present a clip of the final nine minutes of the film. I suppose you could skip ahead to the five minute mark, but it won't hurt to watch the whole thing - it might even do your soul some good.
In case you've been living in a cave and have never heard of the movie, I'll set it up for you. George Bailey, played by James Stewart, is a hard working family man who has sacrificed for others his whole life. On Christmas Eve he becomes despondent (I won't go into details but it involves the loss of $8000 through no fault of his own). He starts to think the world would be better off had he never been born. Enter the apprentice angel Clarence who shows George exactly what the world would be like had he never been in it (among the changes: his war hero brother Harry died as a child since big brother George wasn't around to save him from drowing; his four children were never born; his beloved town of Bedford Falls has become the sleezy, seedy town of Potterville). George begins to realize the effect he's had on the world around him. The clip starts at the scene where George realizes his wife Mary, played by Donna Reed, doesn't recognize him.
Yep, it happened again - I've got the sniffles and tears are rolling down my cheeks as I type this. Frank Capra really knew how to tug at the old heart strings, didn't he?
A few actors who are not in this scene are:
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Back when I was a just a wee lad, I absolutely adored Alvin and the Chipmunks. I'm talking about the original version created by Ross Bagdasarian in the late 50's, not the 1980's version and not the 2007 Jason Lee live action film. I loved watching repeats of the early 1960's cartoon The Alvin Show; I had all of their albums (including The Chipmunks See Doctor Doolittle and The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles,) and my pre-adolescent Yuletide was not complete unless I listened to Christmas with the Chipmunks (Volumes 1 and 2) at least 100 times. This morning I received an early Christmas present courtesy of YouTube; a clip from the aforementioned Alvin Show featuring Alvin, Simon, Theodore and David Seville (all voiced by Bagdasarian) performing The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late), the 1958 Billboard # 1 hit (the only Christmas song to reach # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart). I, in turn, offer it to you for your Yuletide enjoyment.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You - Bill Squire
I'm a big fan of old school rap (I've been known to bust out Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight at the most inappropriate times), and Run-D.M.C. is at the top of my list. Christmas In Hollis was featured in 1987's A Very Special Christmas, the first in a series of compilation albums produced to benefit The Special Olympics. Why I like this video: Mischievous elves, dogs with antlers, Santa leaving $1000,000 in cash, cheesy special effects and a cool beat courtesy of the late Jason Jam-Master Jay Mizell - what's not to love?
From 1979, another low key video featuring Paul, Linda and the band singing, dancing and generally having fun. Why I like this video - I'm a big fan of the Beatles, I like this song, and I'm a sucker for primitive special effects.
Proving that I am one of the gayest straight men on the planet, my final video is this black and white version of Mariah's 1994 hit. Why I like this video- Mini skirts, go-go boots and a black and white retro setting - do I really need to explain further?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Christmas with the Cartwrights
Direct from 1963 we bring you one of the most bizarre Christmas albums ever recorded; Christmas on the Ponderosa. If you're reading this blog you probably don't need an introduction to Bonanza, the the television western which ran from 1959-1973. The series was a standout during a time when Westerns predominated the television landscape and was in the top 5 rated TV programs for 9 of the 14 seasons it aired (reaching number # 1 for 3 of those seasons). It was a merchandising powerhouse that spawned Ponderosa and Bonanza steakhouses, comic books, action figures, lunch boxes, assorted toys and even a Ponderosa theme park in Lake Tahoe, NV. After the original series ended, there were three TV movies and a short-lived "prequel" series.
With dialogue intermixed with songs, this album plays like a recording of a Bonanza Christmas Variety Show (which unfortunately does not exist). Original cast members, Lorne Greene (patriarch Ben Cartwright), Dan Blocker (middle son Hoss) and Michael Landon (youngest son Little Joe), lend their voices to song and dialogue. Pernell Roberts, who played eldest son Adam. did not take part in the recording session (Ben explains that "he's in St Joe and won't be home until after New Year's") fortunately, they flashback to last year's Christmas party where Adam sang The New Born King (and insert a previously recorded song). Assorted actors playing friends and neighbors join in the party along with The Ken Darby Singers to add some professional voices to the mix (FYI Ken Darby was an Oscar and Grammy Award winning composer, arranger and conductor who wrote the Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender).
If you're a fan of Bonanza (such as yours truly; among the traits I inherited from my Dad is a love of this show), this album is a must-have. There are some Christmas standards (Hark! The Herald Angles Sing; Deck the Halls; Oh Come, All Ye Faithful and Jingle Bells) as well as some not-so traditional tunes (Lorne Greene performs Stuck In The Chimney with a Swedish accent and Michael Landon tells how Santa Got Lost in Texas). Fortunately, it's still in circulation and a CD can be ordered from Amazon for a mere $6.98. Go out and buy it immediately.
Now, as an added blog bonus, here's a mid-60's recording of the great Johnny Cash performing the theme from Bonanza.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I love the movie and I love this number in particular. The song is set in the club car of an express train heading north from Florida. I've always had an inexplicable love of trains and one of the great regrets of my life is that I wasn't alive to travel by train during the golden age of passenger rail travel. I suppose it appeals to the romantic in me. Bing, Danny and the girls make snow seem so appealing, don't they? It's a sweet song, not one of Irving's best, but delivered with such sincerity that you can't help but want to run out and frolic in the snow.
Of course, life is always more fun in old Hollywood musicals. The truth of the matter is that I hate winter and snow in particular. Sure, there is great beauty in a country landscape the morning after a snowstorm; the sunshine reflecting off the snow-covered trees, branches dripping with ice cicles. And I'll admit there are a few snow-related activites that I begrudgingly enjoy (sledding, snowball fights, building snowmen and snow forts with my son). And thanks to Irving Berlin, I've been brainwashed into longing for a white Christmas. Still, if I had my way, winter would exit December 26 and take all traces of snow with it. Living in New England as I do, it's unlikely that will ever happen even with Global Warming (speaking of which - as I write this it is 7 degrees outside - damn your lies, Al Gore).
Saturday, December 6, 2008
To enhance your Yuletide enjoyment, I offer this 1986 medley of Christmas tunes performed by the reunited Monkees (Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork). This video was created by MTV and features the music channel's mid-80's crew and staff, including VJs Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Downtown Julie Brown (and a couple of others whose names I can't remember - hanging my head in shame). I discovered this accidentally; one more reason why I love YouTube...
Friday, December 5, 2008
As cynical and sarcastic as I am 11 months of the year, when it comes to Christmas, I'm as merry as a school boy and as giddy as a drunken man (to paraphrase the post-conversion Scrooge). I love the cheesy music and the kitschy decorations and the same tired movies and television specials I've watched countless times. I love the traditions and the memories and festive yuletide cheer. Sure, the reality of the season often doesn't match the hype, and the joy is in the build up more so than the actual day, but none of that matters. Yes, it's a time of crass commercialism, but I choose to believe that people really are kinder and more caring this time of year (statistics prove that in the United States at least, the majority of annual charitable donations are made in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day).
To prove what a sentimental slob I am about the holiday, I freely and publicly admit this: I still get choked up during the closing moments of It's A Wonderful Life when Harry Bailey raises his glass and offers this toast "To my big brother George, the richest man in town" (cue assembled cast singing Auld Lang Syne). Even though I know it's coming, I still weep like a baby.
To kick off the Yuletide festivities here at the Museum, I present a bit of holiday kitsch. Here's a husky-voiced Lucille Ball performing We Need A Little Christmas from the the 1974 film version of Jerry Herman's hit musical Mame:
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Lost Weekend 2008
The past six days have been a blur of sorts; hours of sleep punctuated by periods of coughing, sneezing, shivering, sweltering and just plain being miserable. Finally, under the combined weight of my wife and mother-in-law's nagging, I went to the ER where I was poked, prodded, swabbed and tested. All of the tests came back negative. The prognosis of the ER Doctor? I have some type of "viral crud". I can expect to be better in one to two weeks (talk about non-specific diagnoses). Well, I am finally feeling well enough to focus (at least temporarily). I did manage to go to work for a few hours today. The upside to all this is that I've had absolutely no appetite and have lost six pounds in a week. Mom was right - there is a sunny side to every situation.