24 December: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: I Believe In Christmas Eve

Published December 24, 2019

Today marks the final post of the Advent Calendar, featuring Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and 'I Believe In Christmas Eve', written by Smokey and first heard on the group's 1970 album The Season For Miracles.

My own relationship to Christmas has had its ups and downs. I have fond childhood memories of the scent of the Christmas tree, presents lying underneath it, the sense of togetherness, and all the rest of it. But sometimes it was also the scene of a lot of family tension.

I've never quite lost my fondness for Christmas though, and I decided in my early twenties that it could be fun as long as I was allowed to celebrate it my way, without any unnecessary obligations, yet there were a few years in adulthood when I just didn't want to know about it. These days, however, I embrace the holiday season wholeheartedly.

So, at the end of the day, and in my own way, I'd like to echo the sentiment put forward in today's song: I Believe In Christmas Eve.

Thanks for following the Advent Calendar. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have too.

Merry Christmas!

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23 December: Lionel Bart: Give Us A Kiss For Christmas

Published December 23, 2019

This delightful single was released in 1961, but, shamefully, failed to become a hit. Lionel Bart is mainly known as the writer of the previous year's hit musical Oliver!, based on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, and was one of the prominent scenesters in 1960s Swinging London. Sadly, though, his life later deteriorated into flops, disastrous business deals, and drink and drug abuse.

Let's remember him this way.

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22 December: Julie London: I'd Like You For Christmas

Published December 22, 2019

Time to get a little romantic again, this time courtesy of the great Julie London. Her 1957 single 'I'd Like You For Christmas' was written by Bobby Troup, whose most famous song was 'Route 66'.

If it was Bobby that Julie wanted for Christmas, I guess he was already in the bag by then (they had both been divorced from their previous spouses for a few years when this song was released), although they didn't marry until 1959. The marriage lasted until Troup's death in 1999.

But that's enough information from your gossip columnist. Let's hear the song instead.

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21 December: Steeleye Span: Gaudete

Published December 21, 2019

I'm not sure my Latin teacher would have approved of the pronunciation here ("Gow-day-tay"), but for that very reason, and, naturally, the lovely performance, Steeleye Span's 'Gaudete' has become one of my Christmas favourites in recent years.

Apparently, the single was released in 1972 but didn't become a hit until 1973, when it reached number 14 on the UK charts. Steeleye Span, of course, was one of the most popular UK folk music bands of the 1970s.

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20 December: Jiminy Cricket: Kris Kringle

Published December 20, 2019

I suppose 'When You Wish Upon A Star' will always be Jiminy Cricket's biggest hit (it's been a staple of Swedish Christmas TV for almost 60 years now), but here's another gem from Mr Cricket's catalogue.

'Kris Kringle' was released as a single A-side on Disneyland Records in 1956. The voice of Jiminy Cricket (he wasn't real, you know) belonged to Cliff Edwards, who I believe also wrote the lyrics for this song. I only discovered 'Kris Kringle' quite recently, but there's something oddly comforting about Edwards' - sorry, Cricket's - conversational delivery, don't you agree?

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19 December: The Everly Brothers: Christmas Eve Can Kill You

Published December 19, 2019

You will rarely go wrong with an Everly Brothers recording, and this is no exception. Written by Dennis Linde (who penned Elvis Presley's fab 1972 hit, 'Burning Love'), I'm afraid 'Christmas Eve Can Kill You' takes a rather sombre view of the holidays, but it's still a great track. Originally released on the brothers' 1973 album Stories We Could Tell (and isn't that a hopelessly murky sleeve?), it was never a hit.

Too dark for you? Don't worry, things will perk up again in tomorrow's post.

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18 December: The Three Suns: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town

Published December 18, 2019

I love that there once was a time that a major label such as RCA Victor felt it worthwhile to release an album like The Three Suns' A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas. I also love that there are people today that seek out and rip these forgotten albums and put them on blogs so that people like me can access them, and then share selected tracks with the followers of my Advent Calendar blog.

The Three Suns, an American instrumental trio, were founded in 1939 and achieved a number of major hits in the 1940s, including their 1947 version of 'Peg O' My Heart', which was number one for three weeks. In the 1950s, they scored two Top 20 albums.

One of the members was Al Nevins, who went on to form the publishing company Aldon together with Don Kirshner. Aldon was the main player in the so-called Brill Building era of the early-to-mid 1960s, featuring now legendary songwriting teams such as Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, and Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich.

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17 December: Loretta Lynn: I Won't Decorate Your Christmas Tree

Published December 17, 2019

While the majority of Christmas songs celebrate the wonders of the holidays, there are quite a few that add a touch of bitterness to the mix. Here's one example: Loretta Lynn's 'I Won't Decorate Your Christmas Three' from her 1966 album Country Christmas.

It has to be said, though that with Lynn's feisty performance, the message is perhaps one of defiance rather than bitterness. Judge for yourselves.

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16 December: The Glad Singers: Ox And Donkey

Published December 16, 2019

The Glad Singers have featured in three previous Advent Calendars, and it's my pleasure to bring them back for this one as well. The song 'Ox And Donkey', as the liner notes of their 1965 Swing Bells! album reveal, was written by the group's arranger, Donald Walker, after hearing "some Caribbean natives sing a carol". He forgot the tune and the lyrics, only remembering the mood of the song, so decided to write a completely new carol based on that memory, "to bring the warmth of the Haititian rhythms to our northern Christmas".

I dedicate this post to the memory of my friend Brady Benton, who passed away a couple of months ago. He first introduced me to The Glad Singers' album - thank you, Brady!

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15 December: Sugar Chile Robinson: Christmas Boogie

Published December 15, 2019

I was going to post one of my bizarre Christmas offerings today, but I thought better of it. "It's Sunday, after all, so give the people something that's good-good instead of bad-good." Ergo, 'Christmas Boogie' by Sugar Chile Robinson.

Eleven years old when this was recorded in 1950, Frank "Sugar Chile Robinson" was, despite his tender age, an accomplished singer and pianist who won a talent contest at age three and scored a number 4 R&B hit with 'Numbers Boogie' in 1949. He is still around today.

This recording always brings a smile to my face. 10 out of 10 for energy and charm.

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ADVENT CALENDAR 2019