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unpretentious little gem sat in my collection for several years before its
pure beauty finally
struck me. Sure, Rockin'
Little Christmas has just 12 songs (all from the MCA family of labels)
and is packaged rather, um, economically. But, each and every one of those
12 songs qualifies as "essential" in my book, and the slim liner
notes include track annotation and a personal note from Brenda
Lee, the unofficial Queen Of Rock 'n' Roll Christmas (who says the CD is
dedicated to me!). Anyway, the 12 songs in question originate
from the pre-Beatle era of rock (meaning, they're fun) and cover a wide range
styles - from both doo woppin' sides of a 1953 Moonglows single to two obscure,
gnarly surf songs from the early 60's. Not to be overlooked, though, are three
records that - though overplayed and commonly collected - are hugely
important: Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree," Bobby Helms' "Jingle
Bell Rock," and Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run."
Together, these twelve songs make a helluva CD - one that might arguably be
the first rock Christmas CD you should buy (if you haven't already started),
though certainly not the last. What makes Rockin'
Little Christmas great, though, isn't necessarily the music (and it damn
well isn't the packaging). It's the way that, within its brief program, the
album communicates so well what makes Christmas rock 'n' roll special - the
energy, the humor, the fuck-all optimism in the face of harsh reality. Whether
facing impending nuclear doom or pimply adolescence (and teenaged record buyers
in the late 50's and early 60's faced both every day), these songs made our
of lives brighter and our trials easier to bear. And that - not flying reindeer
or decorated evergreens - is what Christmas (and rock 'n' roll) is all about. [top of page]
- Hey Santa Claus (Moonglows,
I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus (Brenda Lee, 1956)
Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms, 1957) Top 100 Song [close]
Though he remained active through the 1980's,
never had a lot to show for his career
besides "Jingle Bell Rock," his rockabilly-flavored smash from 1957. A few months earlier he had launched his career,
promisingly enough, with "Fraulein"
and "My Special Angel," both of which made the Top
10. Then, "Jingle Bell Rock" zoomed
to #6 and charted again four of the next five years. Oddly,
Helms never graced the pop charts again, though he remained
a fixture on the country circuit. "Jingle Bell
Rock," however, became a musical archetype, one which
shows up frequently on Christmas albums (such as Rockin'
), either with Helms' snappy Decca original, his remakes for Kapp (1965) or Little Darlin' (1967),
or in one of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of cover versions. (The original
Decca 45-rpm record, by the way, featured Helm's wonderfully goofy "Captain Santa
Claus And His Reindeer Space Patrol" on the flipside.
Both songs are included on Bear Family's Fraulein: The Classic Years
Just A Lonely Christmas (Moonglows, 1953)
Love For Christmas (Gems, 1964)
Mambo Santa Mambo (Enchanters, 1957)
Merry Christmas Baby (Chuck Berry, 1958)
Merry Merry Christmas Baby (Dodie Stevens, 1960)
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee, 1958)
Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry, 1958)
Surfer's Christmas List (Surfaris, 1963)
Surfin' Santa (Lord Douglas Byron, 1964)
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Now, you can hear the Christmas music I write about! My Christmas Jukebox is bulging with over 350 tracks, and I'll be adding more rockin' Yule tunes throughout the year. [listen now]