(Slight edit since first posted.)
At our house, we don’t stress very much about Christmas. There are moments of consternation involving shopping and shipping, but in general, as long as the tree gets up and the liquor cabinet gets stocked (Christmas Eve is Jack Daniel’s night), we’re good.
However: We are having a bit of a crisis right now over whether to send Christmas cards, which I have found in recent years to be an odious chore. The acceptability of the mass-produced holiday letter helps, as does being able to print mailing labels—if I had to do it like my mother still does, writing cards by hand with a personal note in most of them, we’d probably have stopped sending cards years ago. Should we abandon the practice entirely, we won’t be alone. The number of cards sent nationwide is expected to decline from 1.8 billion last year to 1.5 billion this year, and that number’s only going to fall because a generation raised on electronic communication finds writing cards and sending them via snail mail to be even more tedious than I do.
(If you’re expecting a card from us, you might yet get one. I think The Mrs. is weakening, and every time I read one we get, I feel guilty about not sending them. Thanks, Mom.)
I’ve had my Christmas library on solid while working at my desk this morning, and here are five noteworthy songs I’ve heard today.
“Deck Five”/Saturday’s Children. On the Dunwich label from Chicago, the same one that signed the Shadows of Knight, Saturday’s Children were a Beatles-inspired garage band with musical chops enough to play in 5/4 time on this holiday song inspired by Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” which was released at Christmas of 1966. In one sentence, that’s about all I know of them. Read more and hear both sides of the “Deck Five” single at Derek’s Daily 45.
“My Boyfriend’s Coming Home for Christmas”/Toni Wine. Here’s somebody we like a lot, a bubblegum goddess who sang with the Archies and on Dawn’s “Candida,” which she co-wrote. “My Boyfriend’s Coming Home for Christmas” dates back to 1963, which surprised me at first—I was guessing it came from later in the Vietnam Era. Read more about the song and others from the Vietnam Era at Hip Christmas, which is an insanely great site you should visit right now. I mean it. You won’t be sorry. Look for some crazy-good and extremely rare tracks for download.
“12 Days of Memphis (Christmas)/Star & Micey. Despite their name, Star & Micey is a six-piece band from Memphis that released a debut album in October 2009, the second full-length album released on the Ardent label after the debut from Jump Back Jake, which we liked a lot around here. This Christmas, Star & Micey has put out two holiday singles. This one, which comes in a regular version and a drinkin’ version, name-checks a lot of famous Memphis people and destinations, and you can hear it here.
“Christmas Eve” and “Christmas Bells”/Robert Gayler. A while back I came across a collection of Christmas cylinder recordings from the pre-1920 Pioneer Era of Recording. Most of them were unlistenable, either because of their primitive sound quality or because their style is so antiquated. These two recordings, from 1916 and 1919 respectively, are keepers, and feature Gayler on the celesta. Of “Christmas Bells,” a 1919 newspaper ad says it is “musically reminiscent of the morning of gladness and of crisp, clear, sun-kissed air carrying the message of the joyful bells to a happy world.” And it is. About Gayler himself, I have been able to find nothing. No matter who he was, I doubt he could have imagined the ripple in time he was creating in 1919, and how it would still be rippling 91 years later.
“Christmas Bells”/Robert Gayler (from Edison cylinder; out of print)