Thursday, December 24, 2015

Once more, Dear Friends, unto the Holiday breech

Yet another attempt at this post (my third)  - Blogger is misbehaving. Word wrap vanished into the sub-electronic ether. Certain words seem to be acting as control codes. Typing after the end of a sentence seems to produce no result. If this continues, Blogger will get a few lumps of coal in its Christmas stocking.

And now (drum roll) the paragraphs it took half an hour to produce, thanks to the magic of cut and paste (cymbals clash):


It's 55 degrees Fahrenheit outside on the day before Christmas. This is not the usual December weather for Vermont. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hear Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen, and Danny Kaye singing, "snow, it won't be long before....". Fat chance. The lyric, by the way, is from the movie "White Christmas". Not this year.

The egg nog, which takes about five hours to make, is now at the stage where it is 'resting' for about three hours in the refrigidaire. (It's the olde Joie de Cuisiner recipe I favour, and contains a somewhat Bibo Vocatus component.) (I am tempted to add a polite "heh, heh", but considering the season, that appellation should really be a "ho, ho, ho", which won't be quite accurate until I've had a few cups of
ye old recipe.)

Hooray, the blogger problem seems to be over. Perhaps there was a site update underway when I started writing. I just popped in to post last Saturday's radio show:

Holiday music is an interesting phenomenon. For the first thousand or so years, all the big songwriters did what anyone trying to make a living would do - they went where the money was. Which means that they wrote for the Church. My interest is in the American Pop Song form, which came along much later. While there were a couple of tunes making the rounds in the 1930's, songs like "Jingle Bells", and "Winter Wonderland", Christmas pop didn't really hit the big time until December of 1941. Oh, Irving Berlin had given the idea a shot in the late 1930's with "Hello Mr. Kringle", which was recorded by Kay Kyser, but there wasn't a lot out there unless you wanted to hear Bing's 1935 'Adeste Fideles', with 'Silent Night' on the flip side. (By the way, the Silent Night used an Irish men's chorus and is really quite lovely. Bing recorded the song several times, starting in 1928 with Paul Whiteman. The 1935 release was held up for awhile, as Bing did not wish to profit from a spiritually aligned piece of music. It was released after the label agreed to donate the proceeds to a charity. )
In 1940, Irving Berlin sold an idea to Paramount Pictures. As part of the package, he would write all the music for a story about an Inn (with a floorshow, naturally) which would only be open on holidays. Paramount assigned the leads to Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Early in 1941, Berlin composed what would become the biggest selling single of all time. No one really recognized what they had at first, "Be Careful It's My Heart" was expected to be the big hit.
On December 7th, 1941, the United States was brought into the Second World War by the bombing of the US fleet at Pearl Harbor and Guam. That Christmas day, Bing introduced the song on the Kraft Music Hall radio program, which he hosted. 'Holiday Inn' was released in August of 1942. The almost mythical imagery of a New England winter struck a chord in a nation at war. By that October, "White Christmas" had become the most popular song on the charts, and it stayed there through January of 1943. It was so popular, Decca wore out the original masters and called all the parties back into the studio to recreate the recording five years later.
'Holiday Inn" would go on to inspire a chain of motels, and a remake released in 1954. That version, "White Christmas", was released in VistaVision and Technicolor. It almost didn't get made - after the death of his wife, Crosby withdrew to spend more time with his troubled sons. Fred Astaire was unhappy at Paramount and withdrew to go to MGM. When the project got back on track, Donald O'Connor was hired to replace Astaire, but illness intervened. Danny Kaye was brought in. When I worked in film distribution, one of the companies I worked for specialized in repertory and art product. They got the theatrical rights to Paramount Pictures (well, at least the ones that hadn't been sold to Universal). The rights to the "White Christmas" movie were another matter. From what I heard, Mr. Berlin, the Crosby  estate, and Mr. Kaye all had percentages, and all wanted One Million Dollars each. Upfront. And that cost would be on top of dealing with VistaVision, an early widescreen process which had a distortion free image by exposing a larger area of 35mm film and running it horizontally through projectors; i.e. equipment that no longer existed. Somehow it all got done. Truth be told, it's not a particularly good movie, but audiences love it. With a limited amount of time for a release window, it was the company's biggest grosser until they put the classic Warner Brothers cartoons back on screen.
At any rate, I digress. After 1942, pop Christmas songs began to fill the charts. Until recently it seemed like every performer who ever existed had to release a Christmas album. There are country Christmases, Hip Hop Christmases, Bebop, Jazz, Lounge, Accordion Christmases, drunks performing Christmas songs, and etc. - the variety is quite incredible and possibly worth some work as a study in mores and marketing.
My Holiday shows are comprised of (mostly) non-threatening secular pop songs which are gluten free as an added bonus.
As always, I hope any listeners enjoy the show.
With Bestest Wishes for an extravagantly Merrie Christmas
and a Most Excellent New Year

p.s. Dear Santa, if you take requests, please put some coal into the stockings of the folks responsible for spell check programs. They can be quite wonderful, but sometimes.....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to you and many thanks for making the entire year jolly with your entertaining broadcasts. You'll find a couple of oldies but goodies on my blog today.