The soundtrack album for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the once-reviled 1969 James Bond film that’s enjoyed a critical reappraisal among fans in recent decades, isn’t a Christmas record, true. But the film, which starred George Lazenby — a handsome and hardy but unengaging Australian model with no prior acting experience — in his single appearance as 007, is set at Christmas.
Its soundtrack features some of the best music in the entire 50-year franchise. You’ve got John Barry’s kinetic opening title theme (reprised in Brad Bird‘s The Incredibles, among other places). You’ve got its elegiac love theme, “We Have All the Time in the World,” with lyrics by Hal David, beautifully sung by Louis Armstrong.
And as I discovered only weeks ago, you’ve also got Nina‘s (whose?) “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?”
Remember Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron‘s brilliant dystopian sci-fi movie about a worldwide pandemic of absolute infertility, wherein the youngest person on Earth is 19 years old?
Well, the youngest Christmas song to be promoted the rarefied rank of a standard — Mariah Carey‘s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — turns 19 this year. If you think Hollywood has a remake problem, take a look at the holiday charts on Billboard or iTunes. Our pop stars still write new Christmas songs, but we’re not embracing them.
In a new essay for Slate, I scratch my chin over when and how the secular seasonal songbook, a living document until a couple a decades ago, came to be locked down tighter than Santa’s workshop.
Posted in Christmas, music
Tagged album covers, Brad Paisley, Christmas, Coldplay, Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Leona Lewis, Mary J. Blige, Paul McCartney, Phil Spector, Run-D.M.C., Slate, Sufjan Stevens, Wham!, yuletunes
We’re going in a radically different direction with today’s Musical Advent Calendar selection, debuting the cover of a Christmas record yet to come.
That would be the eighth in my unstoppable series of holiday mixtapes, Children, Go Where I Send Thee! Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable Hard Eight: The Desolation of Nog. My only goal was to staunch the 2009-2012 trend of these things getting longer each year — last year’s installment weighed in at a truly obnoxious 130 minutes, only two minutes shorter than the classic holiday movie Die Hard. Which is not to say I wasn’t proud of the goddamned thing. I was.
Anyway, that grand ambition of brevity flowered only, uh, briefly. When it drops in a week or so, my new yulemix will be another feature-length epic to comfort and amuse you through your car trips, your long layovers, and your interminable sleepless nights of loathing and regret. I think you’ll really dig it. Merry Christmas!
“Featuring the fantastic organ artistry of Jimmy McGriff“!
Mr. McGriff, whose career spanned another 46 years after he played on Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got a Woman” in 1961, died in 2008. I regret that I did not pay tribute to him on that year’s collection, Santa Claus and Popcorn.
My best find this year. The songs more than live up to the sleeve’s considerable promise. How had I never heard this, or even heard of this, before? You mofos been holding out on me.
I’ll be fighting the temptation to over-represent it on the yulemix. Better to ration out its treasures over the coming years. I’m playing the long game, yulemixwise.
December 4th. And I’ve barely begun my yulemix. But I’m only three days late starting the Yuletunes Advent Calendar, wherein I will post one classic album cover each day until Christmas.
This one was part of my big Black Friday splurge, which came to just over $14. I got it in a dollar bin, for 15 percent off. There is a star to the east of Ho’s face, yes. I wanted to show you the actual CD I got so you can see that it apparently once belonged to a cat named Bob Burger. C’mon, that’s a little bit funny.
Anyway, can’t talk. Yulemixin’.
That’s The Boss’s imminent album up there, all right. Over at NPR Monkey See this morning, I ask why it — like pretty much every album Springsteen has made in the last 30 years (except for The Ghost of Tom Joad) — must have such a terrible, awful, no good, inexpressive and irreducibly goddamn fugly cover.
I wrote a similar, much longer piece examining the covers of Springsteen’s entire official catalog five years ago, after the horrific cover of Working on a Dream leaked. Continue reading