Top 5 Christmas Novelty Recordings

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Top 5 Christmas Novelty Recordings

There is never a greater need for a sense of humor than during the Christmas Holiday season. Over the years many recording artists, the famous and the obscure, have done their best to carve out a few minutes within which we can take a breath and laugh as we are dragged into the desperate, eccentric follies of the modern Christmas Celebration. Here are some examples to get you started – leave your own favorite Christmas Novelty recordings in the comments.

5. Santa Claus and his Old Lady – Cheech and Chong (1971). “The Christmas Story” for the Stoner Generation. This single by the famous counter-culture comedy duo made the Billboard Christmas Chart for three years running – #4(’71) and #3(’72 & ‘73) – and is still dragged out and dusted off annually at most AOR stations.

4. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey (1953). This is one of those recordings for which there seems to be no middle ground: one either loves it, or one hates it. Sung by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey (who in 1960 recorded the song “My Little Marine” using the name Jamie Horton), the song reached #24 on the Billboard Pop charts. The recording often appears on various Internet sites mislabeled as being performed by Shirley Temple.

3. (Tie)“Green Chri$tma$”(1958) & “Christmas Dragnet”(1953) – Stan Freberg. “Green Christmas” is a brilliant satire of the advertising profession and the commercialization of Christmas by the same. Borrowing from Dickens, Scooge is the COB of a large advertising firm, who is confronted by Bob Cratchit, the owner of a small spice company who is resisting the push to use Christmas as an advertising bonanza. Many of the most prominent products being hawked in a Holiday vein at that time (Coca-Cola, Chesterfield cigarettes, etc…) were slyly parodied, and subsequently many advertisers of the day refused to have their commercials air anytime the record was played and as a result the record received no commercial airplay. Nevertheless, the record sold, and there was a newspaper report on December 27, 1958, that the day after Christmas of 1958, Stan Freberg presented a check for $1,000 to the Hemophilia Foundation of Southern California as his royalties from the first year’s release of “Green Chri$tma$.” He gave all royalties from the song to charities to quell any criticism that he was profiting hypocritically from the subject of his satire. “Christmas Dragnet” is a terrific parody of the then popular police drama starring Jack Webb, and is almost as funny as the real Christmas episode from the TV show.

2. A Christmas Carol – Tom Lehrer (1959). Piano-playing humorist Tom Lehrer also found the overt commercialism of Christmas a fat target for his incisive musical wit. His nightclub act at the time consisted predominantly of satirical takes on different popular song forms, and his “A Christmas Carol” combines a merry original song with snippets of familiar Holiday hymns and carols featuring reworked lyrics reflecting the unabashed marketing and consumerism that was suffocating the Holiday even in the 1950s.

1.The  Twelve Gifts of Christmas” Allan Sherman (1963).The late, great Allan Sherman – King of the Song Parody – gave us this reworking of the interminable old workhorse “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and saw it rise to #5 on the Billboard charts in 1963 and back again to #32 in 1965. Though some of the gift items listed in this 47-year-old recording might require a brief history lesson for some young listeners of today, the Christmas Bacchanalia Theme will be universally recognizable, and the gross Holiday Materialism of 1963 seems somewhat quaint by modern day standards. It’s amazing – and sad – what we can become accustomed to.

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Top 5 Christmas TV Episodes

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Top 5 Christmas TV Episodes

(From Sitcoms and Dramas of the Boob Tube)

From its inception Television has offered its own take on the Christmas Season. From sixty and ninety-minute dramas to situation comedies, as well as regular variety shows, Made-For-TV movies and Christmas ‘Specials,’ TV has brought its version of Christmas into the living rooms of those who were not getting enough of it out on the street. Here are a few episodes that I consider worth seeking out. Add your own in the comments.

5. Dragnet – The Big Baby Jesus. All the usual Dragnet self-seriousness, combined with Christmas schmaltz, and we get an episode sure to produce giggles of enjoyment. The Baby Jesus is stolen from the nativity display of a small, poor-but-proud church, and Sgt. Friday and his partner are hot on the case. The investigation turns up lots of Christmas red herrings – but can it be solved before Christmas Mass?

4.The Honeymooners – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Pretty simply a Honeymooners’ version of the O. Henry story The Gifts of the Magi. Jackie Gleason shows off his slapstick skills, as well as his ability to make an otherwise jerk of a character sympathetic. One of the great episodes from the Golden Age.

3. The Brady Bunch –  The Voice of Christmas. One of the penultimate so-bad-it’s-good, guilty-pleasure Christmas TV episodes. Just days before she is to sing the solo at Christmas Services, Carol Brady loses her voice. Home remedies don’t help. Medical science can’t help. Finally, cute little lisping Cindy Brady turns to the only person who can possibly deliver a Christmas miracle – the department store Santa Claus.

2. The Simpsons – Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire. There are many Christmas-themed episodes from this long-running animated TV show, but the first is still the best. Homer’s ineptitude and Bart’s shenanigans conspire to ruin the Simpson Family Christmas celebration, but Dumb Luck proves to be the most resilient Christmas Angel of all.

1.The Twilight Zone – Night of the Meek.  A poignant and ultimately uplifting Christmas episode from this unique program. A disheveled, melancholy department store Santa Claus (Art Carney), tortured by his empathy with and sympathy for the forgotten men and the hungry, sad children he must pass everyday on his way to and from his skid row abode, offers a drunken plea/prayer skyward. Moments later in a dark, filthy alleyway he stumbles upon an old sack that brings forth whatever gift the folks on the street request. Will there be one gift left for the ersatz Santa himself?