Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: One of the Sirius satellite oldies channel dee jays played “The Chipmunk Song,” then followed it by saying it is the only Christmas record ever to be the nation's No. 1 hit on Christmas day.

If true, that is utterly amazing! With so many holiday million sellers, it's hard to imagine they either didn't make it to No. 1, or did but not on December 25th.

Please make some sense out of this for me.
—Darlene Watson, Deming, N.M.

DEAR DARLENE: To be truly accurate, the announcer could have said: Since 1948, “The Chipmunk Song” is the only Christmas song to be No. 1 on Christmas day.

Although, I suppose it is reasonable to think listeners would appreciate an amazing Chipmunk factoid, one reflecting over 60 years of recordings. It obviously sparked your curiosity.

First came Spike Jones and His City Slickers, atop the chart December 25, 1948 with “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth).”

The next time, and the last, is when David Seville and his Chipmunks (Alvin, Theodore, Simon) held the No. 1 position for four weeks, beginning December 22, 1958.

Between Jones and Seville are a couple of hits that came mighty close:

Gene Autry missed December 25th by a few days in 1949, but still reached No. 1 with “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Jimmy Boyd did the same with “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” in 1952.

Moreover, not since “The Chipmunk Song” has any real Christmas song even reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100.

One significant sidebar involves some arbitrary years, mostly from 1963 through '73, when, for four weeks (mid-December to mid-January) Billboard relegated Christmas singles and albums to a completely separate section. Over the years, the title of this feature changed four times: “Christmas Records”; “Top Christmas Sellers”; “Best Bets for Christmas”; and “Christmas Hits.”

Cash Box, meanwhile, continued to rank holiday hits among their regular Top 100.

Billboard's section for Christmas records was geared to retailers and coin machine operators, and most of the listings were “catalog” titles — perennial favorites of years past.

Recapping familiar Christmas product with some selected new releases added is fine, but this service could have been accomplished without completely eliminating holiday music from the esteemed Hot 100.

Were this ill-advised plan in effect in 1958, “The Chipmunk Song” would have sold millions of records without even being regarded as smash hit it was.

Nevertheless, I do not believe any of the singles denied a chart opportunity by the Christmas format would have reached No. 1 anyway.

I chose some examples of singles that, if they were eligible, would have probably made the Billboard Hot 100. As an analogous reference, the Cash Box Top 100 peak position of each is given:

1963: Brook Benton, “You're All I Want for Christmas” (59); Bing Crosby, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (66); Beach Boys, “Little Saint Nick” (69); Andy Williams, “White Christmas” (81); Alan Sherman, “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas” (93).
1965: Jim Reeves, “Snow Flake” (58).
1967: Royal Guardsmen, “Snoopy's Christmas” (10); Becky Lamb, “Little Becky's Christmas Wish” (59); Lou Rawls, “The Little Drummer Boy” (78).
1970: Carpenters, “Merry Christmas Darling” (41).
1971: John & Yoko with the Plastic Ono Band, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (36).
1972: Singing Dogs, “Jingle Bells” (72); Leon Russell, “Slipping into Christmas” (94).
1973: Elton John, “Step into Christmas” (56).

Billboard's intent during the years of the separate Christmas listings was to not include holiday records among their Hot 100; however, a couple apparently slipped through the cracks.

In mid-December 1963, the “National Breakout” tune (i.e., highest debut of any new single), Roy Orbison's “Pretty Paper,” began a seven week chart ride eventually peaking at No. 15. It was the only Christmas song on the Pop chart that season, but was reassigned to the Christmas section in December '64.

The same thing happened in 1973 with Merle Haggard's “If We Make It Through December.” Even though Christmas is mentioned twice in the lyrics, this one is more about December, and getting through the winter.

Appropriately, it did well on all three regular charts (Country, Pop, and Easy Listening), plus is in the 1973 Christmas section.

“If We Make It Through December” is the only record ever to appear on all four of those surveys in the same year.

IZ ZAT SO? Today's Christmas singles topic is bound to inspire the same inquiry regarding albums, so let's meet it head-on.

On December 16, 1957, when “Elvis' Christmas Album” began a four week residency at No. 1, it marked the first time a Christmas LP (long play) topped the charts on Christmas day.

It would also be the last time for that rare amalgamation. It never happened again!

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail:  Visit his Web site:

All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2010 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Permission

Rock & Roll Trivia

The studio group who helped Boz Scaggs record the bulk of his hits in the 1970s, including "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown" would go on to form the nucleus of the band Toto. Jeff Porcaro, David Hungate and David Paich scored four Top Ten hits of their own with "I Won't Hold Back" (#10), "Hold The Line" (#5), "Rosanna" (#2) and "Africa" (#1).

In 1984, former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page founded a new band called The Firm with ex Bad Company and Free vocalist Paul Rodgers. Page said the group was to be a vehicle to show people that he was not a washed up drug user. In the fall of the same year, he was arrested for possession of cocaine.

Janis Ian got the inspiration for her hit "At Seventeen" while sitting at the kitchen table reading a New York Times article about a debutante. The opening line of the story was "I learned the truth at 18." Janis wrote the lyrics as "at seventeen" because it flowed better.

Five different record companies, including Decca, Roulette, Columbia, RCA and Atlantic turned down "That'll Be The Day" by Buddy Holly. Finally, Bob Thiele at Coral / Brunswick Records heard the demo and signed Holly to a contract.

In order to give fans a "gold record", the first 100,000 copies of "We're An American Band" by Grand Funk Railroad were stamped out of gold colored vinyl.

Lesley Gore appeared in two episodes of the TV show Batman in 1966. She played the role of "Pussycat", one of Catwoman's henchwomen. She may have had a little help landing the role, as Howie Horwitz, one of the show's producers, was her uncle.

Even though they have such strange names as Moon Unit, Diva, Dweezil and Ahmet Rodan, Frank Zappa once said that he believed that his kids would always have more trouble because of their last name.

Years before scoring 1972's number one smash "I Can See Clearly Now", Johnny Nash entered a talent show in Houston Texas. He lost to a young Soul singer named Joe Tex, who would have a chart topping hit of his own in 1968 with "Skinny Legs and All".

Jimi Hendrix was hired as the Monkees opening act for their 1967 Summer tour. Unfortunately, US audiences had never seen anything like Hendrix before and booed him off of the stage. He quit the tour after two weeks.

According to BMI, the performing rights organization that represents, songwriters, composers and music publishers, Mason Williams' 1968 hit, "Classical Gas" has received more radio airplay than any other instrumental.

Before starting his run at the legendary Whisky A Go Go, Johnny Rivers hired a fill-in bass player named Sylvester Stewart. Things didn't go well the first night and Stewart was promptly fired. A few years later, he would re-appear on the music scene as the leader of his own band...Sly and The Family Stone.

According to guitarist Robbie Robertson, Bob Dylan's backup band resisted all conformity, even naming their ensemble. After landing their own recording contract, record company executives pressed them for a group name, but had to settle for simply The Band.

In April, 1967, the Greyhound bus company began offering a guided tour of what they called "Hippyland" in San Francisco.

According to producer Mickie Most, The Animals went into a recording studio at 8 A.M. to cut "House Of The Rising Sun" and 15 minutes later, the track was complete. With studio time costing the equivalent of $20 an hour, the song cost $5 to record, but would go on to top both the US and UK charts.  Amazing....

Music News & Notes

Green Day To Release Live Album

It is being reported that Green Day are readying a new two-disc set live album for release in early 2011. The album, 'Awesome As Fuck', is listed by online retailers as having a US release date of March 15.
The band first announced they were planning a new live album last August via their official Twitter page, "We've been recording our live shows since the beginning of tour," they wrote. "Possible live album coming."


The Worst Christmas Album Covers Ever

Gigwise gets in the festive spirit...

With Christmas less than a week away and Father Christmas's sleigh bells tinkling away in the distance, Gigwise has gone all festive this week.

Check out some really bad x-mas album cover art:


Yes, this does happen in real life, although my thoughts are that the man knew what he had and wanted to donate to the charity.  Read for yourself and decide.....

Woodbridge: Rare Beatles albums found at charity shop

By Jonathan Barnes

A CHARITY shop received some early Christmas presents when it was donated rare, high-value records by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Staff at the British Red Cross shop, in Woodbridge, UK, were delighted to find many of the vinyl LPs were worth more than £50.

The most valuable is a first pressing of The Beatles’ debut album Please Please Me, which has a rare gold and black label. Experts believe it is worth £230.

Early copies of Fab Four albums With The Beatles, Rubber Soul and Revolver have been valued at £50 each, while three Rolling Stones records – all first pressings – have also been individually priced at £50.

The rare vinyl records on sale also include albums by 60s 
legends The Hollies, The Monkees and Adam Faith.

The LPs, all in excellent 
condition, were among bags and boxes of records brought into the shop, in the Thoroughfare, by a man who was seemingly clearing out his record collection.

Staff do not know who the man was, but wish to thank him again for his donation.

Merriam Keeble, manager of the shop, said: “The records were brought in as a job lot – there were bags of them and a couple of boxes.

Read the rest of the article HERE


Abbey Road Zebra Crossing Gets Its Stripes

Kat Higgins, Sky News Online

A zebra crossing in London that became a Mecca for Beatles fans after it featured on one of their album covers has been given "listed" status.

Thousands of people, including other bands, have recreated the photograph of the Fab Four walking across Abbey Road more than 40 years ago.

Now the site has been given Grade II status by the heritage minister John Penrose - a status normally given to buildings.

The crossing is outside the world-famous Abbey Road studios where Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr recorded much of their music.

Sir Paul welcomed the news, saying: "It's been a great year for me and a great year for The Beatles and hearing that the Abbey Road crossing is to be preserved is the icing on the cake."

Read the rest of the article HERE


Showing Love For Your Local Record Store

Published by Kenny Bloggins

Countless online and print music publications, as well as grassroots campaigns such as Record Story Day, have extolled ad infinium the virtues of supporting your local brick and mortar music store – a seemingly altruistic notion in the presence of free and cheap music online. However, when you buy music at the record shop, you’re not just supporting them, you’re helping yourself in the end (at least if you’re a music fan). Some people, as recently demonstrated here in Louisville, don’t see the value in an influential and active physical goods music destination, so The Decibel Tolls is adding another commentary to the fray before our holiday shopping season ends. This one’s for the haters.

Just before Thanksgiving, ear X-tacy – a record store that publications like Rolling Stone, SPIN, and Paste have ranked as one of the best in the country – created a FaCeBoO!k event with this video message from owner John Timmons asking for the city’s continued support.

His plea:

Read the rest of this compelling record store article at: The Decibel