The ever-shifting and still-developing scandal over Tareq and Michaele Salahi’s crashing the recent White House state dinner shall hereby be called Gatecrashgate.
It seems this term is starting to pop up here and there, so it’s likely I wasn’t the first to think of it. But still, I think it’s kind of clever and ever-so-slightly meta.
Today is KaTemas (that is, Kate Bush’s birthday), but this year is a little special. Kate is 50 and has been gracing us with her music for 30 years. Here’s the touching (and clever) video of one her most beautiful songs, “This Woman’s Work,” from 1989’s The Sensual World.
A Late Show with David Letterman Christmas tradition is a fantastic performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by the inimitable Darlene Love, gorgeously backed by singers and an expanded CBS Orchestra to re-create live the unmistakable “Wall of Sound”, all expertly directed by Paul Shaffer.
But before this can happen, Paul must remind us of an unforgettable Sonny and Cher Christmas special of yore, and Cher’s very memorable rendition of “O Holy Night”…
This is Darlene Love’s performance from last year.
Sadly, due to the ongoing and seemingly interminable Writers’ Guild strike, there will be no such performance this year.
The original version of the 1984 charity single is still, in my opinion, the best. In aid of the famine in Ethiopia, it was the first of many, many 1980s star-studded benefit songs. There’s a sincerity and innocence of spirit to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that USA for Africa’s schmaltzy me-too! “We Are the World” doesn’t even come close to matching.
I first heard the song soon after it was released in December of 1984 and hit big everywhere. A girl at my school transcribed the lyrics with the names of who sang which lines. (I remember her having put a question mark where Bono’s name should have been. Canadian twelve-year-olds in 1984 could be forgiven for not being familiar with U2. But we sure knew who Boy George, Simon LeBon, Paul Young, and a WHAM!-era George Michael were.) It’s become a Christmas classic in its own right, and never fails to stir up some very pleasant memories.
Bing Crosby’s final Christmas special, in 1977, featured an odd little duet with none other than glam rocker David Bowie. “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” has now become a classic in its own right. This article gives a good behind-the-scenes account of how it all went down. There’s a widely-held notion that Bing was generally out of it and had no idea who Bowie was, but this is disputed here:
It’s unclear, however, whether Crosby had any idea who Bowie was. Buz Kohan, who wrote the special and worked with Fraser and Grossman on the music, says he was never sure Crosby knew anything about Bowie’s work. Fraser has a slightly different memory: “I’m pretty sure he did [know]. Bing was no idiot. If he didn’t, his kids sure did.”
A simple duet of “The Little Drummer Boy” might not have been memorable on its own. The “Peace on Earth” counterpoint is what makes the piece so powerful.
The original plan had been for Bowie and Crosby to sing just “Little Drummer Boy.” But “David came in and said: ‘I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?’ ” Fraser said. “We didn’t know quite what to do.”
Fraser, Kohan and Grossman left the set and found a piano in the studios’ basement. In about 75 minutes, they wrote “Peace on Earth,” an original tune, and worked out an arrangement that weaved together the two songs. Bowie and Crosby nailed the performance with less than an hour of rehearsal.
I don’t know if I saw this particular Christmas special when it aired. The reason I love this bit is not just because of the song itself (with its gorgeous, very 70s arrangement), but because it evokes memories of old-school Christmas specials—the kind that died sometime in the 80s. Sure, they still do specials like Christmas at Rockefeller Center, but these seem more like concerts than anything else. Back in the 70s—the heyday of primetime variety shows—Christmas specials were gaudy, whimsical affairs, with bad comedy sketches and questionable production values. The awkward banter between Bing and Bowie is a good example of the cheese factor inherent in old-school specials.
I have nothing much to do since the end-of-semester-from-hell ended, so I thought I’d dust off the blog and post some of my favorite Christmas videos. I considered doing some sort of “Puck’s Twelve Days of Christmas Favorites,” but that would have involved my finding and rating twelve favorites. After what I’ve just been through with school, I’m in no mood to do anything involving structure, organization, critical thinking, or concentration. So I’m just going to throw a bunch of stuff at y’all: Holiday favorites found on YouTube, with a little blurb on why each is special to me.
Let’s kick it off with Saturday Night Live‘s Sweeney Sisters (Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn) and their unforgettable Christmas medley. This episode of SNL aired December 20, 1986 with host William Shatner, andis probably best remembered for The Shat’s famous “Get a life!” sketch.)
EDIT: Sorry, folks. This is a really popular post on the blog, but the video has been taken down from YouTube due to copyright violation. If I had a copy of the video (I’m not saying whether I do or not) and were to re-upload it, YouTube would immediately and automatically detect it as copyrighted material and reject it. HOWEVER: If you leave me a comment or send me an email, I just might (MIGHT!) have some suggestions on where you might (MIGHT!) look for it.
CHRISTMAS 2012 UPDATE: I am still replying to everyone who comments or emails. Keep it coming!
The associated warm-fuzzy memory is of my sister’s first visit home for Christmas after having moved to Vancouver earlier that year. We were all so happy to see her again, and the mood at home was festive times ten. We watched this SNL together, and for the rest of her visit, she and I kept going up to each other singing, “Hark! how the bells / Here come the bells / There go the bells / So many bells! / Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas! / Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!”