Well, ho ho ho. Another Christmas/Holiday season (take your pick) is upon us once again. Since Christmas is so close, our quiz this week is about classic Christmas songs. There’s really not much more to say. These songs all made Billboard Magazine’s Christmas chart. Some even made it to Billboards’ Hot 100 (and since it’s the holiday season, the questions are not really very hard). Grab yourself a glass of eggnog, curl up by the firplace and have at it.
1. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”. Those classic Christmas lyrics are from “The Christmas Song”, written in 1944 and has been recorded by the likes of Nat ‘King’ Cole, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Frank Sinatra, The Partridge Family, Carpenters, Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, Herb Alpert and James Brown. Bob Wells was one of the two writers of the song. The other is a singer whose nickname is ‘The Velvet Fog’. This singer became an obsession for the character of Judge Harry Stone on TV’s “Night Court”. Judge Stone kept a photo of this singer on his desk and the singer appeared on the show many times throughout its TV run (1986-1992). Can you name this singer/songwriter?
2. “Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glowed”. Those lyrics come from the Christmas classic “Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer”. Many performers have recorded “Rudolph” but the first (and possibly the most famous) version was recorded by a singing cowboy star. But which one? Was it: a. Roy Rogers b. Gene Autry c. Tex Ritter
3. “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun.” The lyrics to this Christmas song was written and recorded by a former member of The Beatles, but which one? Was it: a. George Harrison b. Paul McCartney c. John Lennon
4. The singer’s real name is Ross Bagdasarian, but that’s not the name he used on the record label for his 1958 Billboard Magazine Hot 100 # 1 single. There are only 4 singers on the record and all four are Bagdasarian, better known under his show buiz name David Seville. Three of the voices were sped up to sound like, well, chipmunks. What is the name of this million selling # 1 Christmas hit? Is it: a. Alvin’s Harmonica b. The Chipmunk Song c. The Chanukah Song
5. Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” is the most successful Christmas single of all time, having sold over 50 million copies (although the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records says over 100 million copies have been sold, but that would include vinyl albums, cassettes and CD’s and I assume now, downloads). It was originally written by composer Irving Berlin for what Academy Award winning motion picture? Was it: a. The Road to Morocco b. White Christmas c. Holiday Inn.
1. That would be Mel Torme. The hero of Harry Anderson’s character on the TV series “Night Court”, Torme co- wrote “The Christmas Song” in the middle of a blistering summer. Torme is credited with writing or co-writing over 250 songs, many of which have become jazz standards. Herb Alpert’s instrumental version with the Tijuana Brass took “The Christmas Song” to # 1 on Billboards Christmas chart in 1968.
2. Gene Autry is that singing cowboy. His version of “Rudolph, the Red Nosed sold 2 and a half million copies its first year (1949) and went on to sell 25 million copies in total. Rudolph had his start as a colouring book for the U.S. department store chain Montgomery Ward in 1939. Robert May created Rudolph and it was his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, who wrote the song.
3. The song is “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” and was co-written by former Beatle John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono. It was recorded at the Record Plant in New York City in late October 1971 and released (in the U.S.) on December 1st that year on green 45 rpm vinyl singles. On the label, it’s listed as John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir. Phil Spector (the legendary record producer now serving a life sentence for murder) produced the original recording session. Most radio stations usually cut this part out, but at the beginning (before the singing), Yoko whispers “”Happy Christmas Kyoko” to her daughter and John whispers “Happy Christmas Julian” to his son (second son Sean wouldn’t be born for 4 more years). In 1974, George Harrison wrote and recorded “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” (actually more for New Years than Christmas). Paul McCartney’s annual musical contribution to the Yuletide season is 1979’s “Wonderful Christmastime” and in 1999, Ringo Starr recorded an entire album of Christmas songs entitled “I Wanna Be Santa Claus”
4. It’s b. The Chipmunk Song. Ross Bagdasarian, using the name David Seville, had experimented with a sped up voice on his previous 1958 # 1 hit, “Witch Doctor”. For “The Chipmunk Song”, he created The Chipmunks – Alvin, Simon and Theodore, all named for executives at his record label, Liberty in Los Angeles. Alvin was named for Al Bennett (then President of Liberty), Simon for Si Waronker (a co-founder of Liberty records) and Theodore for engineer Ted Keep. The voices were created by playing the musical background at half speed while Ross Bagdasarian/David Seville sang the three parts (separately of course) at normal speed. When the music was played back at its normal speed, the voices sounded like chipmunks. “The Chipmunk Song” sold 4 million copies in the first seven weeks of release and remained in the # 1 spot for 4 weeks (Dec 22nd and December 29th, 1958 as well as January 5th and January 12th, 1959). The following year, at the very first Grammy Awards, “The Chipmunk Song” took home 3 statues for ‘Best Recording For Children’, ‘Best Comedy Performance’ and ‘Best Engineered Record – Non Classical’. Ross Bagdasarian aka David Seville passed away in 1972, but The Chipmunks have continued under the direction of son Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and his wife Janis Karman.
5. It’s c. Holiday Inn, a 1942 Paramount Picture that starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The movie “White Christmas” came along 12 years later and starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt). “The Road To Morocco” was released the same year as “Holiday Inn” in 1942 and starred the comedy duo of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, who then went on to film several more ‘The Road To’ pictures.