Posts Tagged ‘Darlene Love’

‘The Snow’s Coming Down . . .’

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 23, 2009

We may be snowed in for Christmas.

For the past few days, the National Weather Service has been warning of a winter storm heading our direction, and this morning’s forecast predicts snow accumulations of fifteen to eighteen inches between tonight and Friday evening, with – says the weather service – accumulations of twenty or more inches becoming likely in some locations.

It seems to me that it’s been a while since we had a good-sized winter storm and blizzard around here. We’ve had a few heavy snows in the past few years, but the one heading our way sounds like the biggest in a while. We’ll see as things develop if it rivals the Super Bowl Blizzard of January 1975 or the series of storms we call the Halloween Storm of 1991.

In any event, if the forecast is correct, we’re likely not going to my sister’s on Friday for Christmas. She’s talked about postponing the family celebration until Saturday, and that might work, if the fellow who plows our driveway – I’m going to guess it’s about two hundred feet long – gets around to our place in time. If he doesn’t, well, we’ll hunker down and make the best of it.

That would make this Christmas a rarity, though. From many annual celebrations down on the farm at Lamberton and then at my grandparents’ new home in town through years of gatherings at the house on Kilian Boulevard in St. Cloud and recently at my sister’s home in Maple Grove, I’ve been away from my family for Christmas only a very few times. One was in 1973, when I celebrated the holiday with my Danish family in Fredericia. Another was in 1999, when I was dealing with an illness and was unable to travel. And then last year, for health reasons, the Texas Gal and I stayed in St. Cloud for the holiday.

It won’t be a tragedy if we’re unable to leave St. Cloud or even leave our home on Friday morning. It will be an unhappy inconvenience. Life intrudes on our plans every once in a while, and as long as we have warm shelter and our health, a snowstorm is a mild intrusion. And just in case it happens, we’re making a few plans: Soon after I finish this post, I’ll head out to the nearby grocery and pick up some treats and the makings of a modest holiday dinner for the two of us.

Those who’ve read this blog for some time know that I’m not big on Christmas music. In fact, there are only three holiday recordings I ever share here, and I do so every year. One of those has been the video of Darlene Love’s annual performance of the Wall of Sound classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s television show.

I decided this year to go back to the original. So this morning, I pulled out my copy of the Phil Spector box set, Back to Mono, which includes a copy of his 1963 album, A Christmas Gift For You. Here then, from near-mint vinyl, is the first of three Christmas songs I’ll offer this season: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love from A Christmas Gift For You [1963]

Saturday Single No. 767

December 25, 2021

It’s early, just a little before 7 a.m. as I write this. I heard cats slinking about the house and instead of mushing up my pillow and trying to go back to sleep, I decided to go ahead and give them their breakfast.

As they ate and I made a cup of coffee, I recalled that on Christmas mornings long ago, it was about this time that I’d awake at my grandfather’s house and quietly make my way downstairs to see what Santa – I never really believed in Santa, but it was a nice story – had left in my Christmas stocking.

And I thought about the passage of time, as I often do anyway, remembering the eight-year-old me who found a Danish troll in his stocking sixty years ago and the slightly older me who found a copy of Ian Fleming’s Dr. No in that same stocking about five years later. That decorated stocking – along with the one my sister made for the Texas Gal about twenty years ago – is in one of the boxes in the garage; for about fifteen years now, the Texas Gal and I have found gift bags at my sister’s fireplace instead of stockings.

There were none last year, when we sheltered in place. This year, our gift bags are waiting for us on our living room table; leery of the larger gathering my sister has planned for today, we made a masked midweek trip to drop off gifts and brought back this year’s gift bags from Santa.

So, for the second year in a row, the Texas Gal and I will be spending Christmas by ourselves, That’s okay. Yeah, I’ll miss seeing my niece and her family, but I’ve been battling an (non-Covid) infection for about a month, and there’s no point in risking my health or the health of the others. So when the Texas Gal gets up in a little while, we’ll go through our “stockings,” scratch off the lottery tickets that are sure to be part of our booty, then have a late breakfast and prepare for a quiet day.

We have only two things planned. We’ll have a dinner of King Ranch casserole, a favorite dish of mine since the Texas Gal brought it along with her when she came into my life almost twenty-two years ago. And we’ll find a streaming service that’s showing the 1969 film Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. I mentioned to her yesterday that I’ve never seen the whole thing, having fallen asleep in a theater in Winnipeg, Manitoba, during a long-ago high school choir trip and having never bothered to find the movie to see what I missed. She said she wouldn’t mind seeing the movie again.

It’s not the holiday we had planned, but – like many around the world – it’s the holiday we’ve got. I imagine it’s the same for whoever stops by here: For the second holiday season in a row, things are out of whack.

All I can say is that, whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you can celebrate it with people you love in a place you call home.

And here’s Darlene Love with the original version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from Phil Spector’s 1963 album A Christmas Gift For You. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2019

It’s quiet inside and out this morning. The Texas Gal is sleeping in, and the cats are scattered and napping after their breakfast. Outside, our alley is undisturbed, a nearly constant state, especially in the colder months.

And we are almost prepared for the holiday tomorrow. We will be in the kitchen this afternoon, preparing a potato dish, some deviled eggs and a dessert that we will take with us tomorrow when we go to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities’ suburb of Maple Grove, some fifty miles away.

As for our own Christmas celebrations, this evening we will forsake the cold dinner of shrimp and potato salad we’ve had on Christmas Eve for each of the last ten or so years and instead will dine this evening on a ribeye steak we picked up the other day. (Side dishes are yet to be determined.)

And our gift-giving is done. In the waning days of November, we decided that we would each choose a small addition to our individual hobby collections, augmented by an experience that the Texas Gal would choose for us.

Unsurprisingly, she added a tool to her sewing room, an attachment to her machine that enlarges its base, making quilting and other tasks easier. Also unsurprisingly, I chose music, adding to the CD stacks two albums: First, Bob Dylan’s Travelin’ Thru, the most recent of his Bootleg series, this one featuring alternate versions of songs from the sessions for the albums John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and Self Portrait as well as sessions with Johnny Cash and Earl Scruggs; and second, the fiftieth anniversary release of The Band’s second, self-titled album. Along with the original album, the new release includes alternate versions and out-takes from the sessions as well as the original rough mixes of The Band’s performance at Woodstock. I have yet to thoroughly digest either of the packages.

And there was the experience. With the Texas Gal keeping our destination a secret, we left St. Cloud for Minneapolis the other morning, and met my sister and brother-in-law for lunch at Murray’s, a legendary downtown Minneapolis steakhouse. I’ve heard talk of Murray’s since I was young and had long wanted to dine there. The Texas Gal and I had the lunch portion of the restaurant’s Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two, a twenty-eight ounce strip sirloin that was carved at our table. It was worth the wait (and pricey, though not as much so as it would have been at dinner-time).

And unless the Texas Gal has more surprises planned, that’s our Christmas celebration. Except that, more importantly, we’ll spend time tomorrow with my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew, my niece and her husband and their two young sons.

May you all spend your holidays at a place you can call home with those you love and who love you back.

And here’s the original version of Darlene Love’s “Christmas Baby (Please Come Home)” from the 1963 Phil Spector album, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records.

‘And So Happy Christmas . . .’

December 24, 2018

As Christmas Eve day heads toward twilight and evening here on the North Side, we – the Texas Gal, my imaginary tuneheads Odd and Pop, and me – hope all of our friends in both the virtual and real worlds find peace. It’s a rare commodity these days, I know, with the events of the world buffeting our souls day after day.

I remind myself day after wearying day that – as the ancient Greeks told it – after Pandora had inadvertently released all the ills of the world by opening the infamous box, there was one thing left in that box: Hope. Sometimes it feels like hope is all we have left. Hope for ourselves and our friends in our immediate lives; hope for the lost and the wounded near us and around the world; hope that somehow in this increasingly mad world that sanity and truth will prevail; hope that Dr. King was right when he told us that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice.

May all of us carry that hope with us as we celebrate tonight and tomorrow. May we all share it with our families and friends as we hold them near. May we spread it as best we can in our communities, in our corners of the world. If all we have these days is hope, let us embrace it, and may it bring us peace.

And now to music. I wrote the other day: “I am not a fan of holiday music unless it was produced by Phil Spector, sung by Darlene Love, written/adapted from folk songs by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, or has a big honking saxophone solo by Clarence Clemons.”

Here’s one that hits two out of four. It’s Darlene Love’s cover of John and Yoko’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over.)” It’s from Love’s 2007 album It’s Christmas, Of Course.

Merry Christmas to all of us!

‘Baby, Please Come Home . . .’

December 19, 2014

One of my favorite Christmas traditions – and I have very few – comes to an end tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman: Darlene Love’s annual performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Love has performed the song on Letterman’s shows on NBC and CBS since 1986, and with Letterman retiring in the spring, Love said that this year’s performance will be her last of the song on any talk show, according to a piece in this morning’s New York Times.

The Times reports: “People say, ‘He can’t demand that’,” Ms. Love explained, sweeping back her curly platinum hair. “I say, ‘He’s not demanding.’ I made a point myself, and I want to do it just for David.” (The Times piece is here.)

I imagine I’ve seen Love’s last twenty or so annual performances of the song she first recorded in 1963 for the Phil Spector album A Christmas Gift For You, most of them when the show was aired and some of them afterward. It seems to me that my first viewing of one of Love’s performances came in the late 1990s, when I was flipping among the six channels on my TV late one December evening. I came across Letterman – whose show I generally ignored – promising viewers that Darlene Love would perform after the commercial break.

When the break was over and Love took the stage, I was overjoyed. And I’ve been so every year since. (I should note that in 2007, when Love was unable to perform on the show because of a writers strike, a recording of her 2006 performance was aired instead. I loved it anyway.)

And tonight, I’ll watch the last time as Love, 73, and a large cluster of musicians recreate – as closely as a live performance can, I think – Spector’s Wall of Sound. And I imagine, me being me, I’ll be a little misty-eyed as the performance comes to close. That’s okay. I’ll make sure I have some tissues at hand.

Here’s Love’s performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from last year:

‘The Snow’s Comin’ Down . . .’

December 24, 2012

We’re almost ready for the holiday. I have a last little bit of shopping to take care of and another few gifts to wrap. And both the Texas Gal and I are anxiously waiting for the mail carrier today: Two last gifts are supposed to arrive by mail. But that’s the only concern we have today.

A couple of years after the Texas Gal and I moved to St. Cloud a decade ago, we decided that we needed to develop some holiday traditions of our own. By that time, my family had begun spending Christmas Day at my sister’s in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove, so the Texas Gal and I laid claim to Christmas Eve.

We don’t do anything too out of the ordinary, but we spend the late afternoon and evening together, first sitting down at the dining room table for a special meal and then watching a movie or two and exchanging a few presents. Eating at the table is rare for us; we generally eat off trays in the living room, watching the news. But once a year (and we should likely do this more often), we turn everything off and dine at the table. In the past few years, the menu has been cold shrimp and potato salad; this year, the Texas Gal had something different in mind, and I’m not allowed to ask questions.

So we’ll be home this evening, she and I and our furry family: Clarence, Oscar Charleston, Cubbie Cooper and Little Gus.

That means we don’t have to plead for somebody to be here, as Darlene Love does in her 1963 classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” from Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You. But even though that part of the song doesn’t fit, it’s still one of my favorite Christmas tunes. And it puts me in mind of a wish: Wherever home is for you, may all those who are wanted there be there for Christmas.

Saturday Single No. 269

December 24, 2011

By one very simple measure, I’ve been fortunate in my life: I’ve only once spent Christmas alone. That came during an odd year not all that long ago.

During my childhood and my young adult years, our family’s Christmas celebration took place at my grandparents’ home, first on the farm outside the small Minnesota town of Lamberton and then – for a few years, after Grandpa and Grandma sold the farm – in Lamberton itself.

After my grandparents had passed on, the celebration moved to my folks’ house in St. Cloud, and since the early part of this decade, when Dad passed on and Mom moved, we’ve shifted our celebration to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove.

Among all of those years and celebrations, I’ve only been absent four times: The first came in 1973, when I was in Denmark. But I was living with a Danish family at the time, and that felt like home. And in 2001 and 2004, the Texas Gal and I were with her family in Garland, Texas.

And then there was 1999. I’d developed a chronic ailment that autumn, one that made it difficult – and in fact, a little scary – to travel too far from my apartment in Minneapolis. My sister had hosted Thanksgiving that year, so I’d been able to get to that get-together, but I was unable to cope with a drive to St. Cloud. It was only seventy miles, but I was in the early stages of learning to manage things and that was a longer distance than I was willing to risk.

So I stayed home, spending the day with my cat, Simmons, and – I would guess – whatever I was able to find on television. It wasn’t the worst day of my life, but I’d guess it ranks among the worst twenty-five. (That’s one list I’m not going to take the time to compile.)

Early the next year, I met the Texas Gal and she moved to Minnesota. Since then, we’ve spent Christmas in St. Cloud a couple of times, in Texas twice and the rest of the time in Maple Grove. And no matter where it is, as I recall that last Christmas before we met, I do not take for granted the comfort of spending Christmas with her.

And to close our minimal Christmas celebration at EITW, here’s last year’s performance by Darlene Love on The Late Show with David Letterman of her holiday classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Saturday Single No. 105

November 9, 2011

Originally posted December 20, 2008

I believe I mentioned last year about this time that I don’t do a lot of Christmas music. I used to, and I’ve still got a fair number of Christmas LPs. Some I bought myself over the years, generally at garage sales. And some I got from my dad. When I was a kid, Dad would head out every December and get the annual holiday LPs that Goodyear and Firestone issued. When Dad’s records came to me, I got those, too.

But I don’t play them. I really can’t say why. I just don’t.

Maybe I’ve been over-holidayed over the years. The local oldies station, for several years now, has played Christmas music twenty-fours a day from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. That, I’ve long thought, is a bit much. And this autumn, I heard a Christmas carol – I’ve forgotten which one – used as background for a television commercial on November 1. Way, way too early.

It’s not like the Texas Gal and I are Scrooge and Scroogette. Over the years, we’ve shared celebrations with our families both in Minnesota and in Texas. We gather with friends during the busy time of December, trying in our small ways to create the spirit of peace called for by the season. We share gifts – both spiritual and tangible – with each other and our families. But sometimes it seems that the sheer mass of holiday busyness outside our doors overwhelms us, and we retreat from the madness when we are home.

So we don’t play a lot of holiday music at home, and I don’t post a lot of it here.

With that said, there are two Christmas records I still do love enough to post here, one today and the other next Thursday. I have no doubt that other blogs will also post them this season, but that’s okay. The more often these two songs are heard, the better.

The first is a single pulled from the 1963 album A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. Here’s the Wall of Sound behind Darlene Love on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” today’s Saturday Single.

Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” [Philles 4005, 1963]

‘Pretty Lights On The Tree . . .’

May 27, 2011

Originally posted December 20, 2007

As the pages in the daily calendar dwindle and the holidays draw closer, I find there’s really no question for me as to what I should post as this week’s video.

For seventeen straight Decembers, Darlene Love has visited David Letterman’s late night show and performed her holiday anthem, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” originally recorded in 1963 for the album A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. Each year, Letterman’s music director, Paul Shaffer, augments the regular band with strings and a chorus, and the result – to my ears – is a live performance that comes closer to Spector’s Wall of Sound than anything else I’ve ever heard.

As a result of the writer’s strike, Love may not perform this year on Letterman’s show, although it would seem a given that Letterman will air a recording of one of Love’s earlier performances. This one is from 2006, and the video also includes a brief excerpt from Love’s commercial break rendition of “Silent Night.”

Saturday Single No. 46

May 27, 2011

Originally posted December 15, 2007

I don’t do much with Christmas music, either as a listener or a collector. We have a few CDs of holiday music, both current and traditional, but we rarely play them; the same goes with the few traditional LPs I have. It’s not like the Texas Gal and I are auditioning for the roles of Scrooge and Scroogette or anything like that – we celebrate the holidays with our families and everything. We just don’t do it with the soundtrack most people have.

As the season approached, I began to wonder what I would do to mark it here at Echoes In The Wind. Of the 20,000 or so mp3s I have in the player, only three could be classified at all as seasonal. (I’ve since grabbed a few that I like at some of the blogs I visit, most notably from the Three Under The Tree series at AM, Then FM.) So it’s not like I have a wide range of stuff readily available.

I could, of course, dip into the vinyl I have, as I do love some of the traditional Christmas songs and carols. Not many pieces are as melodically beautiful as “O Holy Night,” and the chromatic harmonies in “O Little Town of Bethlehem” are also a treat to my ears. But I’ve decided that holiday music, in general, doesn’t move me enough to do that. I’ll share the three pieces I truly love over the next week and let other bloggers dig deeper into the Yuletide canon.

Back in 1963, when Phil Spector was atop the recording world with his Wall of Sound and his stable of groups and performers – the Ronettes, the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans and Darlene Love (he’d begin to work with the Righteous Brothers in the next year) – he put together his famous A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. The record offered listeners holiday songs performed by those singers and groups and backed by the studio musicians who helped Spector create his Wall of Sound. Among those musicians were Sonny Bono, Jimmy Bond, Jack Nitzsche, Leon Russell, Tommy Tedesco and drummer Hal Blaine.

Of the thirteen songs on the record, only one was custom-written for the album, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” a tune written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Spector himself. Spector’s plan was to have the Ronettes record the song. But – according to numerous sources I’ve seen – All-Music Guide gives Darlene Love as its source – lead singer Ronnie Bennett (who was also Spector’s girlfriend and later his wife) was unable to find the power and emotion Spector wanted in the song’s vocal. So Spector had Love sing the song.

Love’s performance of the song is the best on an album full of great performances, and the song has become one of the enduring pop anthems of the holiday season (and is further secured in that place by Love’s annual performance of the song on David Letterman’s late-night television show). So here’s Darlene Love and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” today’s Saturday Single.

Darlene Love – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” [1963]