While I was sitting in the parking lot of the Fort Wayne post office, looking over the stacks and stacks of Christmas comps that Martin Johns had sent (click the link to get the full story), this 2002 comp stuck out.
I opened the CD case to scan the playlist (see below). What I found was a treasure trove of Christmas songs transferred over from vinyl to one compilation.
However, two songs stood out from the pack. Two songs that grabbed me by the collar, stared at me directly in the eye, and delivered a wallop so hard that it made my jaw drop, my stomach flutter, and made me squeal in absolute delight.
One was a B-side from the 1950s that I'd thought I'd never, EVER hear in my lifetime. The other was a much-sought after A-side from the 1960s that bordered on the myth of urban legend.
To better explain this, here is a special insight from Martin that we like to call:
In 2001, I discovered eBay. I had my long-time wishlist by my side as these sought-after gems seemed within my reach. When I saw SSgt. Barry Sadler listed (CAPT'S NOTE: Yep... this one!), I placed my bid and waited. As the auction neared its late-night close, it looked like I might get it fairly cheap.
Then, with minutes to go, I was outbid. I outbid my rival. He outbid me. I outbid him. He outbid me. I outbid him. He outbid me. This back and forth went on, frantically, for several minutes that seemed like countless hours. I managed to get the last bid in as time expired and the prize was mine! As was a bill for close to $60. (I've since learned not to let "eBay fever" take such hold of me).
Within minutes came something I did not expect. I got an e-mail from my bidding rival congratulating me, expressing the invigorating nature of the contest, and humbly asking if I could somehow get a CD copy or mp3
He explained that he was an obsessive Christmas music collector who annually produced a comp for friends and family. He had determined that a theme for his 2001 edition was to be 9/11 and he'd been desperately hunting for the Barry Sadler record.
There was no denying his sincerity. But the calendar was short and I didn't have a PayPal account, so it wasn't even guaranteed that I would get the record before Christmas. So I emailed the seller and had him ship the record to my rival, rather than myself. I'm not sure when the record reached him, but not in time for his comp.
Dr. Jim Donnelly, thus, became my first comp trading partner. I've been privileged, in the past few years, to trade with some folks I consider to be real masters of this odd "art form." But, year in, year out, Jim produces the most consistently satisfying comps I have had the joy to experience. (CAPT'S NOTE: Paging Dr. Jim... Hope you'll send us a copy this upcoming Christmas!)
His 2005 effort ranks as my all time favorite comp received. The Christmas spirit between his grooves is not something you can produce unless it is truly bursting from your heart. And the little skits from his kids, Seamus and Paddy, are the Christmas confection I most crave each holiday (so, kids, I know you’re getting to those rebellious years, but please consider my sweet tooth and remember, Santa knows).
Through e-mail, we've shared a lot more than music, though there is that of course. Jim tells me that his friends always ask about me when they gather at Christmas. My mother asks after him. I hold the Donnelly's as family, though we've never met. And THAT, my friends, is the magic of Christmas music.
1.) This song had enough charm to give me a smile. That charm has been used up and I really don't like this song anymore. Next...
2.) WOW! What if someone delivered everything mentioned in "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" to a recording studio where the song is being recorded? This is on par with anything Stan Freberg ever did! Great track!
3.) A fantastic promo single from The Chambers Brothers circa 1969. And the time has come today... The Chambers have reunited and have their own MySpace music site!
4.) August Darnell is Kid Creole's given name and he recorded this gem for the 1981 Ze Records' "A Christmas Record" - an album ten years ahead of its time.
5.) I once made my brother's Christmas by giving this amazing, yet typical performance by the Blues Magoos as a gift.
6.) Just say Julie, wha wha whaaaaa! Julie explains a Christmas memory that turns bad... from the same girl who sang "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun"!
7.) Back in the 1950s, juvenile delinquency was everywhere. In this song, it even hits the North Pole! Backus and Daws Butler play off each other beautifully - a fun track!
8.) Very reminiscent of Meri Wilson, this fun, fast rocker is always a great listen! Karla DeVito has had many co-stars, including Meat Loaf and Robby Benson... whom she ended up marrying!
9.) Of all the songs off the Warner promo LP "Winter Warnerland", this was my least favorite. Too close to Mannheim Steamroller & Trans-Siberian Orchestra for my tastes.
10.) This one gave me a jump when I scanned the playlist too! This great song came from the legendary EP called "A Boston Rock Christmas" which, like the SSgt Barry Sadler song, has taken near mythical status.
11.) According to Martin's liner notes, this was the A-side of the Blues Magoos forgotten Christmas single (see #5 above)! I've always assumed that "Jingle Bells" was the A-side! Very harmless fluff (to borrow a phrase)...
12.) I'd yell "GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!!" but that phrase won't cover it. I've been looking for this song for almost 10 years. Came close several times on eBay... gotten a lot of bad leads on file-sharing programs... but here it is - in breathtaking vinyl. About as sincere and horrific as I thought it would be... Thanks Martin!
13.) Privately pressed in 1986, this better than average home recording is not that bad! Over at Augie's Records, they have a copy of this Dr. York 45 for $10 (scroll down to the D's).
14.) From another Warner Brothers promo album ("Yulesville"). The Ramones obviously had fun with this 47 second Christmas ID!
15.) Ohhhh yeah! A great blues track off "Winter Warnerland" (see #9 above). Jesse Ed Davis was a phenomenal guitarist who had worked with Clapton, Lennon, and George Harrison to name a few. He died six months before this was issued... what a tribute!
16.) WOW! Talk about rare! According to the liners, Patti Smith wanted to help her friend Lenny Kaye launch an independent label but was under contract to a major label. Using a pseudonym (r.e.f.m.), she recorded this rather bland version of "White Christmas". Both the song and the label tanked but it fetches quite a penny amongst the collectors.
17.) Read more about this wickedly funny Christmas bedtime story over at Randy's Rodeo - number one on the "D" list!
18.) A Christmas promo single from Edward Bear? This probably was the last song they'll ever write for you...
19.) I lost it when Jim Backus said "Boob McNutt"! Imagine Thurston Howell III trying to organize an office Christmas party... THIS IS PRICELESS! This will probably go on my annual Christmas CD!
20.) In 1988, this excellent Christmas single made the news when it was announced it would only be available on 45 - it still is! Dreams So Real was the protege band of R.E.M. and never lived up to the hype.
21.) As noted in the liner notes "by 1988, vinyl was much cheaper for fledgling, unsigned bands trying to make it. You could easily fill a whole CD or two with selections from this period that never made it to disc." After hearing this rather long, punk / new wave flavored version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", I can tell why this band never made it.
22.) Actual Christmas vinyl from 1996? WOW! This was the jukebox B-side of Everclear's "Santa Baby". It was released as a hidden bonus track on their 1997 "So Much For The Afterglow" CD.
23.) This horrid version of "Do They Know It's Christmas Time?" was never released in the US (thankfully)... BUT one afternoon in December, 1989 a Chicago disc jockey (whose name escapes me) played this on the air on WBBM-FM (B-96) and I captured it on cassette! It was (to my knowledge) the only broadcast of the single in the U.S. and the last song I recorded off the radio in the 1980s. It was sadly lost in my apartment fire in Toledo and I can't prove it... GRRR!
This has been quite the ride! About 1/2 of this comp I already had in my own archives but the other 1/2 more than makes up for it! Any comp that can remove four songs off my search list (Jim Backus' "The Office Party", Edward Bear's "Coming Home For Christmas", The Blues Magoos' "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", and SSgt. Barry Sadler's immortal "I Won't Be Home For Christmas") gets four great jumpin' icebergs in my book!
The title of this comp says this is "Solid Gold Christmas V2". I can only imagine what "Solid Gold Christmas V1" sounds like! Any chance of a tracklist Martin?
I'd love to say this was the best comp I've heard so far from Martin (and it is) but there's so much more to go... I better wait and see!
UP NEXT: JohnsCDs 2002-2332-035(42) - An American Postal Worker's Christmas