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Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea

Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea

“We started to drive home – it was snowing when we left Abbey Road…” Les mer.

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Happy New Year – Abba

Happy New Year – Abba

“When we were writing we thought they were pop songs. Something for the day, possibly for the month or something like that, I never thought they’d last.” Les mer.

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White Christmas -Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter & His Orchestra

White Christmas -Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter & His Orchestra

‘The recording was in the can in under twenty minutes after which Bing headed off for a round of golf…’

White Christmas -Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter & His Orchestra

Decca18429ADecca 18429 (78 rpm USA 1942) / Brunswick 03384 (78 rpm UK 1942)

Recorded in Los Angeles, CA, 29th May 1942
Released October 1942
Writer Irving Berlin
Musical Director John Scott Trotter

USA #1 31/10/42 11 weeks UK #5 12/77
Original 1942 copies had ‘Let’s Start The New Year Right’ also by Berlin on the B-side

Bing Crosby’s version of ‘White Christmas’ is the biggest selling single record of all time and according to the 2007 edition of The Guinness Book Of World Records has sold approximately 50 million copies. This does not take into consideration the millions of additional albums on which Crosby’s version also appears. In his long career Bing, born Harry Lillis Crosby in Tacoma, Washington, in 1903, sold in the region of 500 million records though record company accountability being what it was in his time, sales were likely much higher. Crosby was without doubt the biggest star of the first half of the 20th century, arriving at a point where radio was entering its golden era, and beginning his recording career just as electrical recording and the microphone were introduced. He became America’s greatest ever radio star, appeared in over fifty Hollywood movies, including the famous ‘Road’ series with his lifelong friend Bob Hope, and from the late 1920s until the birth of rock and roll in the middle 1950s, was the world’s biggest singing star. Just how popular he was is often hard to appreciate in our multi-media era, though an indication is given by a survey taken at the height of his popularity when it was estimated that over half of the 80,000 hours of recorded music played on US radio each week consisted of Crosby recordings!

‘White Christmas’ was written by Irving Berlin, himself one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. Born Israel Isidore Baline in Siberia in 1888 (his new surname apparently the result of a spelling mistake on his first published piece), his family emigrated to New York in 1893. Berlin, who began his career as a singing waiter, saw himself as a songwriter, while noting that George Gershwin was a “composer”. Gershwin saw things differently stating, “Irving Berlin is the greatest American song composer. His songs are exquisite cameos of perfection.” His first major hit was ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ in 1911, and he later wrote dozens of standards including, ‘Cheek To Cheek’, ‘Always’, ‘Blue Skies’, ‘What’ll I Do’, ‘God Bless America’, ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ and ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’. ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ sold a million copies of sheet music in its’ first year of release and Variety called it, “the musical sensation of the decade”. It was also on the playlist of the band that went down with the White Star liner Titanic in April 1912. Berlin later had all his sheet music credited with the modest legend: “The Song Genius of the World”. For those who complain that “they don’t write songs like they used to” and maintain that modern songwriters lack the requisite skills, it’s interesting to note that Irving Berlin could not read music, could only play the piano in one key, and then only on the black notes!

Berlin wrote ‘White Christmas’ for the Crosby movie Holiday Inn that came out in 1942. Apparently, he was pretty impressed with the song when he first wrote it and told his musical secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written – hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!” Recalling the day he first presented the song to the relaxed crooner, Berlin said, “When he read the song he just took his pipe out of his mouth and said to me, ‘You don’t have to worry about this one, Irving.'” (Though Bing was the first to record ‘White Christmas’ he still missed out Berlin’s introductory verse which is still seldom heard) Crosby premiered the song on his radio programme on Christmas Day 1941, and went into the studio to record it the following summer. The date was May 29th 1942 and there was a ninety-degree heatwave in Los Angeles when Crosby entered the studio. The air-conditioning had broken down so Bing stripped to the waist in the summer heat to sing, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” The recording was in the can in under twenty minutes following two takes after which Bing headed off for a round of golf. Though record ‘producers’ were not credited at the time, the session was probably supervised by orchestra leader John Scott Trotter who was Bing’s musical director until 1953.

Following release in October 1942, Bing’s recording of ‘White Christmas’ went to Number 1, where it remained until New Year. In each of the following 20 years his recording returned to the American charts during the season of goodwill (reaching Number 1 again in 1945 and 1947 and assisted by a 1954 partial re-make of Holiday Inn called White Christmas) becoming the most successful recording in Bing Crosby’s impressive career. (It was also released as a ‘V’ disc in 1945 – these were made exclusively for overseas US troops) Incidentally, Crosby made a carbon copy re-recording of ‘White Christmas’ (using the same musicians as the original) on the 19th of March 1947 because the original master was worn out, and consequently it is this version, and not the 1942 recording, that is most frequently heard. Shortly after his death in 1977, ‘White Christmas’ again rose to Number 5 on the UK charts, and made the Top 30 again as recently as 1998. ‘White Christmas’ won Irving Berlin an Oscar® and is also one of the most recorded songs of all time. Undoubtedly the classic Christmas song, each year hundreds of artists around the world make new recordings of the song in a multitude of languages as a new festive season approaches.
(The second-best all-time Christmas seller would appear to be Gene Autry’s 1949 recording of ‘Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer’ which allegedly sold 25 million copies)

Copyright © 2001/2014 SongStories/Tony Burton

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I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake

I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake

Lake filmed a video in the Sinai Desert where he performed his song surrounded by Bedouins and camels.

I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake

I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg LakeManticore K 13511 (UK) / Atlantic 45-3305 (USA)

Recorded at EMI, Abbey Road

Released November 1975

Writers Greg Lake & Peter Sinfield
Producers Greg Lake & Peter Sinfield

UK #2 12/75 USA #95 12/75

While this appears on numerous Emerson, Lake and Palmer collections (due to a later group re-recording) it was in fact a Greg Lake solo offering when it first appeared in time for Christmas 1975. Not your usual jolly Christmas ditty full of reindeer, mistletoe and roasting chestnuts (though there is a distinct overdose of sleigh-bells), ELP and former King Crimson vocalist Greg Lake’s contribution to all those Christmas hit collections over the intervening years is a song of yuletide gloom and woe with a message, though that message is apparently not necessarily what you thought it was. This can hardly be blamed upon Mr Lake since he didn’t write the lyrics, only the music. Having come up with a suitably seasonal melody on his acoustic guitar (you can sing ‘Jingle Bells’ to it!), Lake contacted lyricist Pete Sinfield with whom he’d worked in King Crimson.

 

 

 

 

The mood is set with Sinfield’s opening lines, ‘They said there’ll be snow at Christmas, they said there’ll be peace on earth, but instead it just kept on raining…’ Following mention of a ‘fairy story’ about some Israelite, there’s an uplifting classical interlude, sleigh-bells to the fore (more of that later) before further gloom descends in a final verse though towards the end as hope springs eternal things look up with an ‘hallelujah’ and ‘noel’ before the final line glumly predicts, ‘be it heaven or hell, the Christmas we get we deserve’. Not much good cheer there then, Greg?

Most articles written about the song seem to claim that it’s an anti-Christmas, anti-religious or atheist piece about the ever increasing commercialism of Christmas. Sinfield, having recently read these claims on Wikipedia, vehemently denies this and states that it is actually about childhood Christmas’s he recalls in the early 1950s, a loss of innocence and the sad realization that everything isn’t quite what it seems – i.e. it was actually his dad dressed up as Father Christmas! However, the man who sang the song does in fact have a different view, and in comments relating to U2’s 2008 charity cover version on @U2blog he said, “In some ways, ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ is a rather quirky song. It was never written with the intention of it becoming a hit single but was written, rather, as an album track making quite a serious comment about how Christmas had changed from being a celebration of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, into one huge and disgusting shopping orgy.”

Not surprisingly, on the musical side ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ contains all the pomp and circumstance one might expect from a member of the notably bombastic Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and obviously flush with cash from his group engagements, Lake hired a 60-piece symphony orchestra and 30-voice choir to accompany him in the studio. What he didn’t initially pay for was the chunk of classical music he stole from Russian composer Sergey Prokofiev, which forms the most uplifting musical segment of the song. This is part of his Lieutenant Kije Suite, written in Paris in 1933. Prokofiev died in 1953, though only 22 years later his music was still in copyright when Lake borrowed it, though the late Russian’s publishers don’t appear to have noticed for a while. Original copies make no mention of him, but more recent editions give Comrade Prokofiev his due credit. This slice of Prokofiev was added, by the way, at the suggestion of Lake’s buddy Keith Emerson who claims to have used it himself during lengthy live jams with his previous band, The Nice. (By the way, Sting pinched another part of Prokofiev’s piece for his song ‘Russians’)

‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ was recorded at the famed Abbey Road studios, and with symphony orchestra and choir in place, in order to create something of a party atmosphere, Mr Lake, jolly joker that he was, decided to hire a stripper who apparently caused something of a sensation when she sat on the lead-violinist’s lap! There are no details as to how far she had proceeded in her act at the time. Throwing more wads of cash around, and perhaps with the birth of the baby Jesus in mind, Lake filmed a video in the Sinai Desert (Israeli occupied at the time) where he performed his song surrounded by Bedouins and camels. The Bedouins were no doubt suitably bemused. Released in November 1975, ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ swiftly climbed the UK charts and rose to Number 2 though it was held off the Number 1 spot by Queen’s finest musical moment, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

Sinfield, who wrote the lyrics for most of King Crimson’s debut album and also named the band, composed the lyric to Lake’s other well-known solo piece, ‘C’est La Vie’ (a French Number 1 for Johnny Hallyday) and went on to write for Bucks Fizz (!), Celine Dion (‘Think Twice’) and numerous others including another French superstar, Julien Clerc. Greg Lake is still recognized as one of the Kings of ‘Prog-Rock’ – indeed author Tom Bromley has noted, “I’m not sure it is possible to be more ‘prog’ than Greg Lake without having been born a hobbit.” (What about Jon Anderson of Yes then? Or maybe he IS a hobbit?) Following his solo sojourn, Greg of course rejoined his pals Emerson and Palmer for further musical mayhem and during the 1980s was a member of both Emerson, Lake & (Cozy) Powell and Asia. In more recent times he’s been a solo act – ELP reconvened in 2010 for a one-off 40th anniversary gig. While Mr Sinfield’s dreams were shattered, it’s quite possible that Greg Lake, like many of you readers out there, still do believe in Father Christmas. A Merry Christmas to you all!

Copyright © 2010/2014 SongStories/Tony Burton

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Happy Xmas (War Is Over)  –  John & Yoko/The Plastic Ono Band with The Harlem Community Choir

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko/The Plastic Ono Band with The Harlem Community Choir

“I always wanted to write something that would be a Christmas record that would last forever.” Les mer.

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Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

In 2007 BBC Radio 1 took umbrage at some of the lyrics and played a censored version which bleeped out the words ‘faggot’ and ‘slut’… Les mer.

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Christmas – Low – beste juleplate!

Christmas – Low – beste juleplate!

Low er eit av mine favorittband, og eg er så  heldig at dei har gitt ut ei juleplate. Julemusikk kan lett bli irriterande i lengda, men denne cd-en er veldig behageleg. Den byrjar med lystige Just like Christmas der Low er på roadtrip til Stockholm og Oslo.

Resten av cd-en er i kjent Low-stil. Sein, sein, seig musikk med fantastiske harmoniar. Little Drummer Boy har fått eit heilt magisk lydbilde. Det er ein jamn sekkepipeliknande dur uavbroten gjennom heile songen, saman med mørke, tunge, treige taktslag. Kvinnestemmen har fått eit nydeleg ekko. Viss du ikkje får julestemning av denne songen så veit ikkje eg. Ein annan favoritt er den usannsynleg treige versjonen av Blue Christmas. God jul!

 

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