08 December 2006

Capitol Records: Merry Christmas to You!

I love the Christmas season —the excitement and anticipation, the lights and sounds swirling around you, that feeling of pure joy. I’ve been a nut about Christmas all my life; I'm quite the geek, actually. But how could I not be in love with this magical season, with this imagination? My mother loves Christmas, too, so Christmas spirit filled our house from Thanksgiving evening through Christmas night. She made Santa come alive, and I believed as long as I could.

How did I find out about Santa? My third grade teacher asked those of us who believed in Santa to raise our hands. Four of us did. She then told us we were old enough to know the truth and spilled the evil beans. Broke my heart. Coal-hearted b*tch.

Putting up the Christmas tree kicked off the season. Mama, my sister and brother, and I would gather in the living room to decorate the tree — a rare treat, as the living room was off-limits unless company came over — and Mama would put on this Christmas album, her favorite holiday hits from her teens. We’d sing and hang ornaments and talk about what Santa might bring. When we finished, OM would come in to give the tree his blessing. Yes, it sounds hokey and wholesome, as if Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed were playing our parents … but that’s the way it went at the Coffey house.

And those memories are why Capitol’s Merry Christmas to You! (released around 1955) is my favorite Christmas album. And as it says on the cover, it’s a high fidelity recording.

The collection of songs is awesome. Okay, some are silly and a bit Dr. Demento — but they’re fabulous when you’re a kid. This album introduced me to Nat King Cole’s “A Christmas Song,” still one of the most sublime holiday songs ever recorded.

It has taken me years, more than a decade, to track down most of the songs on CD — an Eddie Bauer collection here, a Christmas cocktails album there — but I got the last of my favorites two seasons ago, thanks to the Elf soundtrack.

So here, dear readers, are my Capitol Christmas classics:

Upload music at Bolt.

Dean Martin: “Christmas Blues”

Dino at his Dinoest. This is one of the first five Christmas songs I listen to when I pull out the collection Thanksgiving night. Those brightly packaged, tinsel-covered Christmas blues. I wanna grab a martini glass and swirl and swig in front of a fireplace with every listen.

Frank Sinatra: “The Christmas Waltz”
The best Frank holiday song evah. I listen to this right after the first “Christmas Blues” spin. It’s that time of year when the world falls in love / Every song you hear seems to say / Merry Christmas, may your New dreams come true / And this song of mine, in three-quarter time / Wishes you and yours the same thing, too.

Johnny Mercer: “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”
Nobody has ever bested my fellow Georgian on making “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” swing better — no, not even Bruce Springsteen, so don’t even go there with me. Just listen. And swing.

Billy May & His Orchestra: “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo”
Speaking of swinging, did you know that Rudolph is better with a little mambo thrown in? ‘Tis so. Get up and dance around your desk right now, and get that party started.

Les Baxter: “Santa Claus’ Party”
I love the movie Elf, and the soundtrack is fab — plus, it includes this song, the one I’ve been missing since I packed up my turntable for another day. It’s goofy, it’s happy — just the kind of song a freckled-faced, bespectacled kid wanted to hear while putting her favorite Uncle Bob decorations on the branches. A Christmas tree so high / It pokes right through the sky / And Santa will be there to call / Merry Christmas to you all!

Track Listing

Side One:
1. Frank Sinatra: White Christmas
2. Les Paul & Mary Ford: Jingle Bells
3. Frank Sinatra: The Christmas Waltz
4. Yogi Yorgesson: I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas
5. Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely: Silver Bells
6. Mel Blanc: Christmas Tree
7. Johnny Mercer: Winter Wonderland
8. Les Baxter: Santa Claus’ Party

Side Two:
1. Nat “King” Cole: The Christmas Song
2. Billy May: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Mambo
3. Les Paul & Mary Ford: Silent Night
4. Louis Castellucci: Sleigh Ride
5. Dean Martin: The Christmas Blues
6. Johnny Mercer: Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
7. Margaret Whiting: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
8. Nat “King” Cole: (All I Want for Christmas Is) My Two Front Teeth

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At 12/08/2006 09:11:00 AM, Blogger Ben Heller said...

Did you mention before that you're posting a christmas album every day Beth ?

my mind's gone blank.

At 12/08/2006 09:13:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

I was planning to do it every Tuesday, instead of my regular album posts, but Blogger and Bolt and I have had a bitch of a time this week. I had hoped to feature a Christmas song a day ... if I can get the damn issues worked out.

How was Holland?

At 12/08/2006 12:53:00 PM, Blogger Old Lady said...

Don't forget the chipmunks!

At 12/08/2006 02:40:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

It's heartening to hear someone who's so UP on Christmas. I used to be, but for many reasons this year - I ain't. Perhaps I can enjoy it vicariously through you.

At 12/08/2006 02:42:00 PM, Blogger Peter said...

These sound pretty hot. I'll have to go on an itunes christmas binge. My family has two christmas records-- Bing Crosby, Merry Christmas and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special soundtrack. My Dad keeps putting on the Three Tenors album but I'm not that into it.

At 12/08/2006 03:00:00 PM, Blogger barista brat said...

that teacher was a real grinch!

At 12/08/2006 03:46:00 PM, Blogger lulu said...

That Yorgi Yorgesson song is the sound of my childhood. He does a version of Yingle Bells that is outstanding.

At 12/08/2006 05:37:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

OLD LADY: I have to admit, I love The Chipmunks' Christmas song. And the Singing Dogs' tune, too.

CHRIS: Vicarious away. I'm a bit blue myself this year, so I'm going for the old reliables -- my favorite Christmas songs -- to cheer me up. Sorry it's not a good season for you this year.

PETER: You can't have a cool Christmas without Dino or Johnny Mercer ...

BRAT: She wasn't a Grinch -- she was a bitch. I hope her life ended miserably. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

LULU: I love both of those Yorgi Yorgesson songs! They were so much fun to sing along with when you're a kid.

At 12/08/2006 10:41:00 PM, Anonymous m said...

despite this horrible obsession with xmas, you are an amazing person.


At 12/09/2006 08:04:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

Nice spirit Beth. We had a Reader's Digest 4 record collection that I loved as a child and I'd love to track it down or recreate it.

That teacher was flat out mean! Kids are never kids long enough.

At 12/09/2006 12:09:00 PM, Blogger haahnster said...

Regarding your "Currently Anticipating"

CBS showed the Rudolph and Frosty The Snowman animated classics back-to-back last night. Emily was in complete awe.

Good times.

PS - My word verification thingy was "buurrn," which is probably what that teacher is doing...in HELL, where she belongs. (I'll be bitter for you.)

At 12/09/2006 11:41:00 PM, Anonymous The TechnoBabe said...

You have some great holiday memories and feelings associated with the holidays. I had forgotten about Johnny Mercer.
If you are down at all this year you don't sound like it, and you are cheering all of us up, thanks.

At 12/10/2006 06:08:00 AM, Blogger lee said...

I love cranky Frankie :). He leaves those other fellas for dead ;).

At 12/10/2006 11:54:00 AM, Blogger OnMyWatch said...

cool record. my mom loves the swing-type music too and handed that off to me...so I can relate.

As far as the teacher story...my experience was from a Sr. Clarisse in 5th grade. In retro, I guess I lasted a long time compared to others. But my mom wanted to kick her ass when I came home crying and asking if what she said were true. talk about a bitch! :)

At 12/10/2006 12:47:00 PM, Anonymous DJ Cayenne said...

I love the Bing Crosby and David Bowie "Little Drummer Boy."

For a ridiculous diversity of free streaming Christmas songs, check out:


Not a commercial. It's just fantastic. I've heard Christmas songs by Beck, Galaxie 500, Stars, Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo.... Run, don't walk.

At 12/10/2006 05:50:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

I'm telling you, pick up the Los Straitjackets xmas album. It's one of the best ever. My dad always puts on the friggin' Manheiom Steamrollers for the holdiays. Thanks to that wretched album, I decided long ago not to make my children listen to it. We rockl it out for the holidays. Los Straitjackets, Brian Setzer, and ella Fitzgerald are the ol' standby's in our house now. I highly suggest them all.

At 12/11/2006 09:34:00 AM, Anonymous HollyC said...

Our Christmas album was a Mantovani album, that and Percy Faith. I hear any of those and I feel like I'm 5 years old again. It is AMAZING how hearing certain music can stir the memory so much!
now I am off to search for the albums for sale on-line!

At 12/12/2006 11:01:00 PM, Blogger Erik said...

Where's AC/DC's "Mistress for Christmas"? Or "Ramones" "Merry Christmas, I Don't Wanna Fight"?

At 12/13/2006 06:03:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

M: I'm f*cking amazing, darling. And brilliant with the Christmas spirit.

DALE: Ooooh, the Readers Digest collection probably rocked! Get on that now; it took me about 10 years to track down just the few tracks I most loved.

HAAHNSTER: Did Emily see The Grinch last night? Please let me have her. (And thanks for the buurrn).

TECHNOBABE: So glad I can cheer y'all up! I've been wearing lots of red and green this week, and singing Christmas songs loudly at my desk. it's working.

LEE: You gotta hear Dino, though. Frank had the voice, but Dino had the coooooooooool.

At 12/13/2006 06:12:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

ON MY WATCH: Damn Sr. Clarisse! I hope she's roasting with Mrs. Majors. My mom was ready to kill my teacher, too. Who wants to ruin one of the most magical parts of childhood? Evil b*tches.

DJ CAYENNE: I love that, too ... and, of course, I have it on CD and MP3. It's just cheesy enough to be cool. Omigosh, that site sounds FAB! I'll be streaming tonight.

JEREMY: Have the Setzer and Fitzgerald; send me a sample Los Straitjackets so I can judge whether or not you're still musically cool.

HOLLYC: Percy Faith! One of my favorites is the Ray Coniff Singers' album!!!

ERIK: I don't have the AC/DC ... but I have The Ramones, baby!

At 12/14/2006 08:28:00 AM, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Nat King Cole is THE ONLY ONE who can sing that song! And Burl Ives, Have a Jolly Holly Christmas!

At 12/27/2006 07:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers kick butt!! :)


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