Posts Tagged ‘Darlene Love’

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24th, 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 . . .’

Monday, December 24th, 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 . . .’

Friday, December 19th, 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 . . .’

Monday, December 24th, 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

Saturday, December 24th, 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. 217

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

There’s been precious little commentary over the nearly four years I’ve been writing this blog about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve made a comment here or there, perhaps noticing one group or performer’s induction. But I’ve not made a big deal out of it, and I don’t pay nearly as much attention to the Hall as I used to during the Hall’s early years. So it took me a couple of days to notice earlier this week when the Hall announced its 2010 inductees.

They are performers Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love and Tom Waits; record executives Jac Holzman and Art Rupe; and, in the category of “Award for Musical Excellence,” Leon Russell. (That last category used to be called Sidemen, and I think changing it was a mistake; “Award for Musical Excellence” makes it sound like a lifetime achievement award or something that’s of lesser merit than the performers’ category, and a “Sidemen” honor – at least to me – did not sound as it if diminished the individual’s contributions.)

I can’t really speak to the careers of the executives; I know Holzman was the founder of Elektra Records, which was a good label, and I recognize the name of Art Rupe but don’t know anything else about him. So I’ll pass on comment there.

But I can speak to the list of performers. I think it’s a good group. I don’t necessarily know a lot of work by all of them – I’ve never been a fan of much that Alice Cooper did, and Waits can be a challenging listen – but I don’t think this is a group of performers that caused a lot of cringing among fans and critics when it was released this week.

For me, it was difficult to sort out which name on the list was most pleasing: Neil Diamond provided solid radio fare during my few years of devoted Top 40 listening, and after a few years when I paid little attention, his work in the past few years has pleased me as well. Dr. John and Leon Russell are unique musicians who bring with them expressions of their roots and individual visions; those are roots and visions I happen to like a great deal.

But probably the name on this year’s list that made me smile widest was that of Darlene Love. A member of the Blossoms and a solo artist for Phil Spector when that mad genius was perfecting his Wall of Sound, Love was – as a blogging friend once told me – Spector’s “go-to girl when the vocal had to get done right now.” Along with her work with the Blossoms and on her own, she also sang lead vocals on Spector’s “He’s A Rebel,” which was credited to the Crystals. She was – along with Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes – the female voice of the Wall of Sound.

And she gets some extra affection here for providing me with one of the three Christmas recordings I offer here each year. On the 1963 album, A Christmas Gift For You, Spector had Love sing what is in my mind the greatest pop song ever written or recorded about the holiday season: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

I’m not the only one who thinks so. The song and recording receive pretty much the same accolades each December when Love performs the song on David Letterman’s late-night television show, a performance that has been an annual event since 1986. (A writer’s strike in 2007 resulted in a tape of her 2006 performance being offered, according to Wikipedia.) This year’s performance will take place next Thursday, December 23.

So, because only a few posts remain until Christmas and to honor Darlene Love on her selection for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, here is last year’s performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”on the Late Show with David Letterman. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.