This is the week before Christmas and quite a few radio stations across North America are playing NOTHING BUT Christmas music. Some of those songs have become annual classics, such as Bobby Helms “Jingle Bell Rock”, Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” and nothing can beat those Singing Dogs barking out “Jingle Bells” for a holiday treat. Who will ever forgot those immortal lyrics: Arf Arf Arf, Arf Arf Arf, Arf Arf Woof Woof Woof! And where are the Singing Dogs today anyway? Probably enjoying the annual residuals from that song living the life of Riley in Dogpatch, USA. So for this pre-Christmas week, our quiz is about contemporary Christmas songs (from the 1960’s ‘til the 2000’s), some you might even call rock’n’roll Christmas. All of these songs are played every holiday season, so get in the yuletide spirit, but not too heavily, there are RIDE programs out there (for those outside Canada, those are police checkpoints/roadblocks set up on a regular basis over the holidays to see who’s been naughty while drinking and driving when they shouldn’t).
Ho ho ho, a very merry Christmas to everyone.
1. This holiday ditty was # 1 on the Christmas charts for 5 weeks in 1967. The lyrics to the majority of the choruses were: “Christmas bells, those Christmas bells. Ringing through the land. Bringing peace to all the world. And good will to man”. It was a story about a certain fearless pooch from the Charles Shultz cartoon strip “Peanuts”. It was the holiday version of a previous hit for this ‘Royal’ group. Can you name this Christmas song?
2. This annual Christmas classic has been around since 1934 and has been recorded by dozens of performers, including The Supremes, The Four Seasons, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, The Jackson 5, The Partridge Family, Mariah Carey, Gene Autry, Stevie Nicks and Bruce Springsteen. What’s the title of this song? I suppose you want a lyric or two to help you out. Well, since it is the season to give...here you go: “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why...” Sing the next line and you’ve got the answer.
3. Just about every major British pop star appeared on this 1984 charity Christmas single, including Sting, Bono and Adam Clayton from U2, Phil Collins, Boy George (who flew in from New York that same day at the insistence of co-organizer Bob Geldof), George Michael, Paul Young, Simon LeBon and the rest of Duran Duran, plus the members of Bananrama and many more. In Great Britain, the song sold a million copies the first week of release and raised many more millions for the starving people in Ethopia. ‘Do you know’ the name of this important fund raising Christmas song?
4. Paul McCartney sang this song on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend. He wrote it (naturally) and first released it in 1979. In 1984, it made it to # 10 on a special Billboard Christmas singles chart. It’s a ‘wonderful’ up tempo holiday hit that you just have to sing along with every ‘Christmastime’. So what’s the title of this one already? (HINT: I already gave you two hints in that last sentence, don’t get greedy).
5. Every year around this time, David Letterman features legendary singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Darlene Love belting out this Christmas classic on his nightly TV show. It was originally recorded for Phil Spector’s 1963 album, “A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records” and then in 1987, recorded by U2 for the Special Olympics charity compilation album, “A Very Special Christmas”. What’s the name of this Christmas ‘baby’?
1. “Snoopy’s Christmas” by the Royal Guardsmen made it to # 1 on the Christmas charts of 1967. The previous year, “Snoopy Vs The Red Baron” made it to # 2 on the pop charts. The Royal Guardsmen were from Ocala, Florida and took ‘Snoopy’ to the charts several times. In early ’67, they released “The Return of The Red Baron” which went as high as # 15. In 1968, they recorded “Snoopy For President”. Not many people bought it apparently, since it only made it to # 85 on Billboards Hot 100 chart. But “Snoopy’s Christmas” appears on the radio every year at this time. The reason I said ‘the majority of the choruses’ in the question is because the first chorus is slightly different: “Christmas bells, those Christmas bells. Ring out from the land. Asking peace of all the world. And good will to man”, so it is slightly different than the rest of the choruses.
2. Both The Jackson 5 AND Bruce Springsteen took “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” to # 1 on the Christmas chart. The original title was “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” but the ‘g’ on ‘coming’ has been dropped for most contemporary versions. The song was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie and, according to Wikipedia, was first sung on Eddie Cantor’s network radio show in November 1934. By that Christmas, 400,000 copies of the sheet music had been sold. Every year, the Rankin-Bass animated feature based on the song plays on TV. That tradition began in 1970 and will most likely show up on your TV every Christmas until well past 2070.
3. The song in question was, of course, “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, which started a major fund raising trend among pop stars at the time. It was co-written by Bob Geldof (of The Boomtown Rats) and Midge Ure (of Ultravox) to help supply food for the famine in Ethopia. It was recorded and mixed in one day and night (November 25th, 1984). It was released on December 3rd and went straight to # 1 on the UK charts, where it remained for 5 weeks, eventually selling over 3,000,000 copies, becoming the fastest selling single of all time in the UK. The total number of records sold around the world were in excess of 6,000,000 copies. The song made it to # 13 on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart in December of ’84. After “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, American pop stars got together the following January as USA For Africa to record “We Are The World”. Canada’s major music artists came together as Northern Lights for the song “Tears Are Not Enough”. All 3 charity singles raised tens of millions of dollars for African famine relief with a percentage of the monies received from Canadian sales remaining in Canada to assist Canadian food banks.
4. Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” is more of a holiday pop song and not meant to be taken as seriously as Paul’s former Beatles band mate John Lennons’ classic, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. Paul recorded it during June and July of 1979, while working on his “McCartney II” album. Paul played all of the instruments on this song. “Wonderful Christmastime” was featured in the 1998 animated feature, “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer: The Movie”.
5. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is the song we were looking for. It was written by Hall of Fame songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, along with producer Phil Spector. Originally recorded by Ronnie Spector, producer Phil re-recorded the vocals with Darlene Love and that’s the hit version that’s been played every year since 1963. In December of 2010, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) # 1 on its list of ‘The Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs”. Darlene Love, as part of The Blossoms, sang back up for many music legends, including Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Duane Eddy and Elvis Presley and has sung “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) on the David Letterman show every holiday season since 1986 (the one exception was during the writers’ strike in 2007).