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We Need a Little Christmas

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December 21, 2004

This week, a celebration of the birthdays of two important men: Frank Zappa and Jesus Christ. There are differences, of course: we know when Frank Zappa was born (December 21st, 1940). We're not even sure of the actual year of Christ's birth and the date is estimated to be anywhere between October 1st and March 31st, more or less. And, of course, nobody has ever been tortured or killed for not believing in Zappa.

Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
Patrol Boys Retail Comedy a Wholesale Prices Stevens and Grdnic Training budding control freaks for future positions as Attorneys General and the like.
Trouble Every Day Freak Out! The Mothers of Invention From their classic first album, this is still, sadly, very relevant.
Cosmik Debris Strictly Commercial The Mothers of Invention This is what I want to say every time I hear the latest pack of lies for the Occupation Regime in D.C.
Peaches En Regalia Mothers - Fillmore East - June 1971 The Mothers of Invention It's a classic Zappa instrumental
Joe's Garage (single version) Strictly Commercial The Mothers of Invention This is the closest Zappa ever got to being sentimental. It's a great song.
Fuzzy, Squirrel of the North Ducks Breath Mystery Theatre Ducks Breath Mystery Theatre We pause for a book report.
White Christmas A Jazzy Wonderland Tony Bennett w/Dexter Gordon on saxophone It's a suave jazz treatment of this Irving Berlin classic, written for the 1942 film Holiday Inn.
We Need a Little Christmas Mame (OC 1966) Angela Lansbury, Frankie Michaels, Jane Connell and Sab Shimono Down on her luck and short of Cash, Auntie Mame decides that an early Christmas celebration is in order. With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, Mame is based on Patrick Dennis' novel Auntie Mame; the adaptation is by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (who also did a non-musical stage version that served as the basis for the 1958 film). Mame ran for 1,508 performances and is often revived. A ghastly 1974 film version starred on over-the-hill Lucille Ball.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Meet Me in St. Louis (OC 1990) Donna Kane The Judy Garland version is the best known, of course, but this is from the 1990 stage adaptation. In context, the song is more than a little melancholy since it comes at a time when the family is in crisis over a pending (and highly unpopular) move to New York.
Hard Candy Christmas The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (OC 1978) Company This is the last song in the show, sung by Miss Mona's girls as the whorehouse of the title is closed down just before Christmas by a two-faced Texas governor and a right-wing media gasbag. Hmmm....
White Christmas The Girl on the Magazine Cover Joan Morris, Bill Bolcom (piano) To bring us full circle, here's a pretty much straight rendition of the song.
The Mergandanz Lights Now it is Christmas Again Garrison Keillor They're the Lake Wobegon family that always puts up way too many Christmas lights.
Talk Christmas/Cool Yule Holiday in Plaid Michael Winther, Paul Binotto, Larry Raben, David Engel This from the musical Plaid Tidings..a Holiday Musical, produced by the Pasadena Playhouse. The show features the characters from the popular musical Forever Plaid.
My Simple Christmas Wish Emily Skinner Emily Skinner It's not as heart-warming as you might think: "I want to be rich, famous and powerful."
The Twelve Days of Christmas Now it is Christmas Again Garrison Keillor, Tom Keith (sound effects), Plymouth Music Series Ensemble Singers OK, bear with me on this: Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion sings "The Twelve Days of Christmas" in Norwegian while Tom Keith does sound effects for each gift. Where else would you hear this?
Be A Santa A Fynsworth Alley Christmas Guy Haines and Michelle Nicastro; tap dancing by Nikki Harris This is from Subways Are for Sleeping, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Mrs. Santa Claus Mrs. Santa Claus (OS 1996) Angela Lansbury This original musical was produced for television in 1996. Jerry Herman wrote the music and lyrics and Mark Saltzman the book. The all-star cast had Lansbury in the title role, supported by Terrence Mann, Michael Jeter and Charles Durning.
Onion Radio News 63 The Onion's Finest News Reporting Doyle Redland Face Of Jesus Seen On Miracle Hippie
The Night Before Christmas The Stash Christmas Album Louis Armstrong The Story Time segment this week is a reading of Major Henry Livingston Jr.'s poem (previously attributed to Clement Moore) by Louis Armstrong, recorded just a few months before his death in July, 1971
A Christmas Carol An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer Tom Lehrer This is from a live concert in Cambridge, MA in 1959.
Green Christmas Tip of the Freberg Stan Freberg with Marvin Miller, Will Wright, The Judd Conlon Chorale and Billy May's Music This trenchant parody of the commercialization of Christmas is, sadly, every bit as relevant now as it was in 1958.
Good King Eccleslas Milligan Preserved Spike Milligan Milligan's goofy Eccles character goes caroling and gets an appropriate reception.
The Pageant Now it is Christmas Again Garrison Keillor It's an annual event at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility in Lake Wobegon.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus A Christmas Gift for You The Ronettes Later re-released as The Phil Spector Christmas Album, this features holiday standards performed by Darlene Love, Bobb B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, The Crystals, etc.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus Spike Jones' Greatest Hits Spike Jones and his City Slickers; George Rock (vocal) This track and the next one were major holiday hits for Jones.
All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) Spike Jones' Greatest Hits Spike Jones and his City Slickers; George Rock (vocal) Both featured trumpeter George Rock doing his famous "baby" voice - a great visual gag given that Rock was a very large man.
The Nutcracker (excerpts) Spiked! Spike Jones and his City Slickers The whole thing runs 20 minutes; this is all the actually funny stuff. The rest is a surprisingly sentimental (not to say sappy) re-working of The Nutcracker for a small chorus and orchestra. Very odd.
Children's Stories Monty Python's Flying Circus Eric Idle When good bedtime stories go bad.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town The Stash Christmas Album Harry Reser and His Orchestra; Tom Stacks (vocal) This dates from October of 1934 and sounds like it could be a cartoon soundtrack.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town A Christmas Gift for You The Crystals Santa gets the Phil Spector "wall of sound" treatment.
Santa Claus Is Back In Town Blues Christmas Nappy Brown This Lieber and Stoller number was recorded in 1991.
Hey Santa Claus Rockin' Little Christmas The Moonglows It's a do-wop plea from 1953.
'Zat You, Santa Claus The Stash Christmas Album Louis Armstrong and His Commanders From October of 1953, this is a classic bit of Armstrong comedy. Buster Poindexter (David Johansen) had a hit with it in the 1980s.
Santa Baby Bluebird's Best - Heavenly Eartha Eartha Kitt and Henri René Classic Kitt, as Eartha purrs her way through her gift list for Santa. Whew!

Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.

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