‘Pretty Lights On The Tree . . .’

Our very minimal celebration of the Christmas season continues here today with a look at covers of the song that in recent years has become my favorite Christmas tune: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, the song’s first appearance was in a performance by Darlene Love on the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. It’s become better known in recent years for Love’s annual Christmas week performance of the song on The Late Show With David Letterman. (This year’s performance is scheduled for Friday evening.)

Over the past few years, we’ve decorated our tree sparely here at Echoes In The Wind with Love’s live versions of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and with John Lennon’s original version of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” as well as some covers of the latter tune. This year, I thought, we’d find a cover of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” to hang on our tree.

As thorough as All-Music Guide might be in its listings (and I sometimes wonder about that), it’s hard to know exactly how many cover versions there might be of any song. In the case of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” AMG notes that there are just more than a hundred CDs that offer a version of the song. There are also listings with other punctuations, about twenty-five of them. Many of those listings will be duplicates, of course. Just at a guess, I’d say one can find references to maybe forty different versions of the song in the AMG listings. (I also looked at Amazon, and found a list there of about a hundred mp3s of the tune, many of those duplicating each other.)

Maybe half of those listings at AMG are of the original Darlene Love version. In the other half, we find covers of the tune by Mariah Carey, the New Bomb Turks, Leighton Meester, Brenda K. Starr, Flash Cadillac, the Desires, Death Cab For Cutie, Joey Ramone, Sha Na Na, and many other performers, including some whose names I don’t recognize. I passed those by.

I did take a listen to quite a few covers of the song in the past few days, including versions by Hanson, Michael Bublé, Melissa Etheridge, Cher and Dion. Of those, I’d recommend the Dion version.

The cover I liked most, however, was one I would have guessed I wouldn’t like at all when I began to dig. In 1989, the album A Very Special Christmas was released as a benefit for the Special Olympics. Among the acts who appeared on the album were the Pointer Sisters, the Eurhythmics, Run DMC, Sting, John Mellencamp, Bon Jovi and Stevie Nicks.

Also on the album was U2, which put together its own version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” one that I like quite a lot (though I can do without the spoken introduction):

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