In the spirit of the times, I’ve been looking at Christmas clips and songs on Youtube. What an awesome gift that site is. Yes, the ads are annoying but they pay for the whole shebang. Almost anything I can imagine is on here. To study something, anything – from guitar to the films of Fritz Lang – the toob can take you a long way. No wonder TV is falling behind, when you can watch stuff like this:
He came from the glory indeed. I hope this little fairy never stopped singing like this. From the tape quality, I’d say she’s probably 25 or 30 years older now.
Most Christmas carols are relatively recent, written in Europe (mostly England or Ireland) in the 19th century. Stillenacht was written 200 years ago this year (2016) by Fr Josef Mohr, an Austrian Catholic priest. It was put to music two years later by his church organist, Franz Gruber (a name that sounds familiar – keep reading).
It’s never been my favourite carol but it’s hard to dislike this version.
Time for a little less Kings College and a bit more King. This is from the famous Comeback Concert aired by NBC in December 1968, which is said to have restarted his career. He was extremely nervous about doing the informal, in-the-round part of the show, since he had not performed with a live audience since 1961. Elvis manages to make it sound like it’s all about sex. ‘Oh play it dirty,’ yells someone (one of the band, I’m sure). I think that’s the incomparable Scotty Moore doing the frilly bits of guitar in the background. DJ Fontana kept the beat on a drum case.
And now to one you may not have heard – and if you haven’t, you need your ears checked, as Groucho might have said. This song sold over 100 million copies and there are 500 versions. Bing Crosby’s version alone sold 50 million which gives it a reasonable claim to being the biggest selling record in history. Here we have Bing and Marjorie Reynolds in a duet from Holiday Inn in 1942 – except the voice is not Reynolds but that of Martha Mears, who dubbed her. I love the way Bing plays the bells with his pipe. Remember that this film was released in August 1942, when the US was eight months into the second world war and a fairly long way from Christmas. Imagine hearing this through the naval radio broadcast while sweltering in a destroyer in the Pacific… timing is everything.
If we are thinking colours, the next one has to be Red Christmas, of course. I haven’t seen this film, although I think it played the Sydney Film Festival this year. It opened in November in the US, which may mean it will get an outing here soon – or go straight to DVD. Whatever, it looks like good clean blood-soaked fun. The money shot late in the trailer had me jiggling. Ouch. You’ll know if when you see it.
And who could resist this one? Got to be in my Xmas stocking, dripping with blood. What a cast. Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea and all those Hitchcock references – and that’s just the trailer. The 70’s really were pretty wild, at least in horror.
This next one reminds me of The Dean Martin Show – so much of how they still shoot these shows was established way back. Okay, the white piano is more John Lennon than Deano, but the whole set and dancers routine… which of course is intentional and a tiny bit satirical. What I love about this clip is how classy Miley and Bill are together, even when hamming it up, and the way they wait so long to cut away to show us George Clooney on piano. Actually, he’s more on stool than on piano, but that’s alright too. Many people are content just to watch him do nothing. And that girl can sing. So can the next one….
‘Green and silver, red and gold’….My friend Peter Boully introduced me to the wonder that is Jessye Norman about 20 years ago, one of many things for which I am eternally grateful. This voice would make you believe in God, at least at Christmas time. This is from a concert recorded at Ely Cathedral in England in 1988, one of the most beautiful of the many Gothic piles that still stand in Europe. The music matches the building and what Ms Jessye does towards the end makes me cry every time. There is no voice more beautiful than this. I hope those boys knew how lucky they were to be in the presence of greatness.
So now we are tired, and it’s only two sleeps till Santa. Let’s finish with a couple of classics. The first explains the headline, although if you are reading this site you probably knew it already. From Die Hard, a scene that shows in two seconds why Alan Rickman was such a fine actor – just listen to the tonal variation and humour in his voice. I already miss him.
And to say goodnight, perhaps the greatest Christmas song ever, at least if you have an Irish drop of blood and a fondness for the one too many. A phenomenal song, made the sadder by the loss of Kirsty MacColl in a stupid boating accident in 2000 and Shane McGowan in … well, that’s a sad story. But oh my gosh, what a song. Comes with a nice cameo from Matt Dillon in the first few seconds.
‘So happy Christmas, I love you baby, I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true…’.
Merry Christmas, one and all. Here’s to those better times.