Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas with Dusty

My friend Jeff is a connoisseur of Christmas music of all kinds--classic, novelty, sacred and secular. In his quest to obtain every '60s pop Christmas recording, he came across a truly lovely (and rare) ballad by the incomparable Dusty Springfield entitled "O Holy Child," which was written by her brother Tom and recorded to aid an orphanage in London. Jeff sent me the 45 single of "O Holy Child," as well as the rare "Woman's Own" Christmas EP by the Springfields. I have used my needledrop of the Dusty single to accompany the slideshow presentation. I hope you enjoy this special Christmas gift from me and Jeff.

Of all the great British Invasion songstresses (Petula, Cilla, Lulu, Sandie, Marianne), Dusty is my favorite. Her voice was rich and soulful, and as all great singers do, she made every song her own. I recommend her masterpiece, Dusty in Memphis for any introduction to her catalog, as well as the equally essential Complete A and B Sides 1963 - 1970. No female singer quite interpreted Goffin and King as wonderfully as she, save for Aretha.

Dusty was born Mary O'Brien in West Hampstead, London. She began her singing career performing folk songs alongside her older brother. They achieved success as the Springfields, even scoring a major U.S. hit with their cover of Wanda Jackson's "Silver Threads and Golden Needles." Dusty soon broke out on her own, shunning the folk of the past, and thus reaching worldwide fame and iconic status as the platinum blonde r&b diva.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

(Biographical information taken from the liner notes to The Springfields: On an Island of Dreams, written by Michael Robson.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Everywhere It's Christmas!

One of the many perks of being a member of the Official Beatles Fan Club was that as Christmas neared, one would receive a special flexi-disc record containing Christmas messages from the Fab Four themselves. Starting in 1963 and continuing through 1969, the Beatles recorded hilarious, Goon-type greetings that may have baffled a few of their American fans! I make it a tradition to listen to these recordings, as well as outtakes from the sessions, each Christmas season. They are a constant source of holiday cheer for me and countless Beatles fans.

The Christmas record featured in this post is the 1966 release entitled Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas, recorded November 25th at music publisher Dick James' house. The night before, the Beatles had convened at EMI's Studio Two to tackle a first take of John's stupendous "Strawberry Fields Forever." Housed in a psychedelic cover designed by Paul McCartney, Pantomime is perhaps the most creative and interesting of all the Christmas flexi-discs. Playing off the British Christmas tradtion of musical-comedy theatre productions, the Beatles add their own unique twist to the format. The video is a Lego animation film created by Leftfield Studios in 2003 as a visual accompaniment to the Beatles' record--I think it is perfectly executed and quite fun to watch!

So, to one and all, a Happy Crimble and a Merry Goo Year!

Check back soon for another special Christmas posting...

(References: The Beatles on Apple Records by Bruce Spizer and That Magic Feeling by John C. Winn)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Purple Hearts and Power Chords


If you are not familiar with the Who, beg, borrow and/or steal the Amazing Journey and The Kids are Alright documentaries. Once you view them, you will quickly become a Wholigan, and will thus be compelled to get your hands on all their classic albums. My personal favorite is the mono version of their psychedelic concept album, The Who Sell Out, but you cannot go wrong with A Quick One, The Who Sings My Generation, Who's Next, Live at Leeds, Quadrophenia, Tommy, Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy...They are one of rocks' most vital, visceral, incendiary groups. Here we have a band where everyone plays lead--lead guitar, lead bass, lead drums and lead vocals--yet they accentuate each other perfectly. They might have wanted to take each other's heads off at one time or another; perhaps that's what made them so dynamic--all that tension!

The footage presented here captures the Who's explosive live act. Filmed on August 6, 1965, the first night of the Richmond Jazz and Blues Festival, this clip of "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" was eventually aired in the US on December 9--43 years ago this week.

It's such a shame that the Ox and Moonie are not here with us--they are sorely missed. There will never be another bassist and drummer quite like them. Thankfully, the Who continue to release concert DVDs so those of us who missed out on seeing them live can at least witness these phenomenal documents and imagine what it must have been like to be there.

(References: Anyway Anyhow Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of the Who 1958 - 1978 by Andy Neill & Matt Kent; The Who: Ten Great Years - Rolling Stone.)