I like this choice, because it’s my favorite Xmas song, with all due respect to Frank, Ella, and everyone who’s ever covered “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. From JPK, as always:
Ronettes, “Sleigh Ride” (1963)
It’s a sad day to see Phil Spector imprisoned for murder, even sadder that he deserves to be, but never mind that. Let’s think about the good old days, when he was a tortured recluse with a Napoleon complex churning out his “little symphonies for the kids.” The Christmas album he released for the 1963 season came at the peak of his studio wizardry and contains some of his best stuff, applied perhaps disconcertingly to familiar Christmas standards. The Ronettes were a pet project of his and he always seemed to work a little bit harder on getting their material to pop. And did it ever. This version of “Sleigh Ride” really swings through the dense layers, including an entire string section in one break. Ronnie Spector sounds great too, and there’s even a whinnying, clip-clopping horse. Ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding!
Phil Spector: another talented jerk.
One of the all-time greats Christmas albums–up there with the one from ZE Records. My favorite track is The Bells of St. Mary’s (Darlene Love, I think), but it’s all good.
David in NY
“Baby It’s Cold Outside” is not a Christmas song.
The difference between him and Zevon is that Warren was too drunk to find the trigger.
Great song and the Ronettes are just super. Love them.
Speaking of Christmas music, I heard Madonna’s version of “Santa Baby” the other day and wanted to break my radio.
Speaking of the Ronnete’s
David in NY
Haven’t had the pleasure (isn’t Eartha Kitt the usual?), but am curious about the violent reaction it caused.
Ahem. The definitive cover of Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
David in NY
@Raven: I recall a very good NPR interview (“Fresh Air”?) with her, probably in connection with the book.
It’s not Christmas without Darlene Love.
@David in NY: Yea and there was a good bit in Keith’s book about it as well.
“Little symphonies for the kids” or was it teenage symphonies to god? I don’t recall, but I do know Velvet Crush named an album that after a quote from who was it? Spector? Brian Wilson?
A good album though.
@David in NY: It is egregiously bad. It’s a whole new definition of total crap.
I had forgotten how much extra noise and recording hiss there is on these sixties multi-track abominations yech.
I swear I read that she had a fling with John Lennon in the early/mid 60s.
Can I just say how much I detest Christmas songs? Hate, hate, hate them. Every single one.
That said, I am happy to report that I have finished my Christmas shopping. Of course, it’s easy when I only have to buy two gift cards (one Best Buy and one Macy’s, both of which I bought at the grocery store because I get double gas points for them) for the nieces, a book (Amazon) and sweater (J.Crew online) for the sister I got in the family grab bag, a cash donation for the boss’ gift, and a box of cigars for my John.
Have I mentioned that I also hate, hate, hate Christmas shopping?
One of my favorite Christmas albums as well. I like The Ronettes version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. Great stuff
I need to dig out last year’s St Etienne xmas album, A Glimpse of Stocking.
Anyone know what happened to Phil Spector’s wigs?
I’m getting pretty bald.
@Napoleon: Dawg there was a whole lotta flingin goin on!
Does this count as a Christmas song? for some reason, I find it kind of moving, and I know there are people for whom it’s not fiction.
Technically neither is “Sleigh Ride”.
Fresh Air Interview with Ronnie Spector
Also available on the Fresh Air iPad app.
The Ronettes – Be My Baby
Holly Cole, “Santa Baby” my gift to y’all.
Or, in case TBogg’s around.
@geg6: If you hate Christmas music, then you really need to listen to the ZE Christmas Album. Trust me on this.
David in NY
By my criterion, “Baby It’s …” is not, and “Sleigh ….” is. The difference is in the content of those awful loops of “Christmas songs” that play in retail establishments, subjecting employees to five weeks or more of skull-penetrating pain. There are only so many true “Christmas songs” and they can all be played within about 1 1/2 hours, until the repetition makes workers suicidal. (I swore I was going to start slamming my head on the floor if I even heard “Silver Bells” again — like having a ball-peen hammer tapped regularly on one’s skull.)
Anyway, “Baby It’s …” is never on that loop. And “Sleigh Ride” is. QED.
BTW, there are some wonderful duets of “Baby …”, though I have a hard time imagining the one featuring Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton.
Cris (without an H)
Neither is “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” but it still is a welcome addition to a Christmastime playlist.
Everyone in the Pool
For Christmas song haters, Bob Dorough and Miles Davis’ “Blue X-Mas” is the cure.
@David in NY:
There are a gazillion examples of wonderful Christmas Music. You just have to look beyond pop songs.
Fer example, Jose Carreras wonderful singing of Ariel Ramírez’ Missa Criolla.
Cris (without an H)
I’ve started trying to categorize (in my cluttered head) the songs we hear around this time of year. Classes include:
* Religious Christmas – Ones that actually are about the Nativity of Jesus and related matters. Ex: Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger.
* Secular Christmas – Santa Claus stuff, but still about Christmas per se. Ex: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Jolly Old St. Nicholas.
* Wassail & Yule – regarding caroling and other old English traditions. Ex: Deck the Halls, We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
* Winter – songs about snow and ice. As such, we should be encouraged to continue singing them through March, if we weren’t so burned out on them by New Years. Ex: Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride.
* Romantic Bullshit – standard love songs that happen to use Christmas as the backdrop. Ex: Merry Christmas Baby, Blue Christmas, All I Want for Christmas Is You
* Christmas by Association – music that has nothing to do with Christmas or winter, but that goes hand in hand usually due to its being used in a Christmas movie. Ex: Linus and Lucy.
David in NY
@Cris (without an H): @Brachiator:
Oh, you guys. It’s not like nobody ever wrote a good seasonal song about the wintertime. Or that a sensitive person couldn’t put together a list of good songs of this sort. I know that.
But the popular Christmas songs to which one is subjected indiscriminately at this time of year are awful, and not very varied. (Stores play the upbeat, chipper and repetitive ones, e.g.). And over a month or so, the popular stuff like “Little Drummer Boy,” [rum a tum tum], “Silver Bells” (ta ta TA, ta ta TA,), and yes even “Sleigh Bells” becomes lethal. Just try listening to any of this standard claptrap about three times without crying.
Cheryl from Maryland
Listening right now to August Burns Bad’s shredding of God Rest You Merry Gentlemen. Did not realize that song could be a head banger.
David in NY
@Cris (without an H):
One of our Christmas Eve traditions for more than a couple of decades has been to go over the (Hudson) river and through the malls to my sister’s in Northern Jersey. And on the way, we listen to some radio station in Passaic or wherever that plays wall-to-wall Christmas songs. And the selection is often dispiriting, though when it’s heavier on the traditional stuff, and doesn’t have to pad out the (really) limited selection of decent popular Christmas songs with dreck, we quite enjoy it.
In part, we are waiting to hear “Jingle Bells Rock” which, since our youngest was about five, became his favorite, then a requirement of the trip. It’s a rare hour-long trip when we miss it. And I secretly wait for Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” and think, “But the children, the children …”
You forgot parody Christmas songs, my favorite of which is “Walking Around in Women’s Underwear.”
I can’t hear the Ronettes or Darlene Love songs without thinking of “Goodfellas”. “What did I tell you, don’t buy anything, don’t get anything…Do you want us all to get fucking pinched?”
@David in NY:
It’s 2011. A lot of people I know put together playlists of Xmas Music. Other people compile YouTube lists. I’m waiting for some fun Spotify playlists.
Yeah, there’s some craptastic stuff out there, put it is increasingly easy to ignore.
Meanwhile, anybody got any fun Festivus music?
Americans should take a clue from the Brits and make “Fairytale of New York” their favorite Chirstmas song.
While not technically a Christmas, both “River” by Joanie M. And the wonderful cover by Robert Downey Jr. Are lovely in holiday mixes.
That album is great, but Baby Please Come Home is the best song on it. Great longing and emotion in that performance.
And speaking of great female singers and Christmas songs, don’t forget Brenda Lee, Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. Her voice has such an amazing quality. She sounds so much bigger than 4’9″.
I can’t seem to find it on Youtube, but Robert Smigel’s SNL claymation short “Christmas Time for the Jews” is my favorite Darlene Love song.
Corey Taylor “[email protected]”
“Sleigh-Ride” was written by Leroy Anderson (no credit given here) and I don’t know who added the words. It was a pure instrumental made famous by the Boston Pops and Arthur Fiedler. I know this because I played in the Pops for 20 years and at least that many Christmas week shows (actually about 8 per…try “Jingle Bells” 4 times a day for a week!) ), and with the crap that we had to do (sometimes twice a day) a nice, clever, and clean arrangement by the composer (which also swings a little, unlike this one, which is as square as Mitt Romney’s head) was always a few minutes of relief.
My favorite is “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”) especially as Rosemary Clooney did it with us for a TV special — one of the high points of my career (BTW which included working under George Szell, Pablo Casals, and Leonard Bernstein, and yes, I am putting her in that class).
And the worst one, IMO, is “The Little Drummer Boy”, which drives me absolutely batshit crazy (although it did provide the title — almost — for one of LeCarre’s best novels).
Baby It’s Cold Outside, or as I prefer to think of it, The Date Rape Duet, is one of my favorites too. By the time she gets to “Say, what’s in this drink,” it’s basically all over for her.
It is not sad to see Phil Spector imprisoned for murder. It is sad that he should have committed the act, but having done so, it is only appropriate that he be in prison.
I’m glad someone beat me to pointing out that “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is totally about date-raping someone. It’s chilling (rim shot!) actually.