How a song is written

The obituary of Donald Yetter Gardner tells how.

He wrote the song in 1947 while filling in for his wife as teacher of a grade-school class in Smithtown, N.Y., during the holiday season. He asked the class what they wanted for Christmas, and when they hissed and lisped their answers, he noticed that almost all of them had at least one front tooth missing.

Gardner then wrote All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, a song that once drove my extended family bonkers at the annual Christmas tree cutting — long story involved a poorly drawn awl — but has gained popularity nonetheless.

The song has been recorded dozens of times by artists as diverse as Spike Jones, George Strait and Mariah Carey. Mr. Gardner’s favorite version was recorded by Nat King Cole.

Gardner died earlier this month at age 91.

In addition to reprinting the famous song’s lyrics, the Los Angeles Times noted that he was 31 years old when he wrote the song. His local paper, the Wellesley Townsman, noted his sons’ memories of him and how he once made a hole-in-one.

If Casey’s grandmother had Pitchfork

NewtCase is on haitus while Casey goes home to help celebrate his grandmother’s 85th birthday. In his absence, let us discuss his grandmother.

If you expect any disrespectful comments here, I must assure you that you are mistaken. Anyone who disrespects a grandmother should be run over with a little old lady cart. Instead, I wonder how much his grandmother is similar to her grandchildren, especially in regards to at least one grandchild’s affinity for Pitchfork Media.

Reading Pitchfork has been an interest long shared by myself and I’m sure by many of you as well. The site regularly brings us the two sides of Hip musical criticism, the insightful and the elitist. For every applause-worthy analysis (such as the effects of relativity on N.E.R.D.), there’s another critic who proclaims tape disintegrating to be the greatest sound since bread slicing.

With as much in mind, I wonder what Pitchfork would have been like when Casey’s grandmother was our age.


“¢  Bing Crosby: “White Christmas (live in New York, Dec. 25, 1941)”
See, what had happened was, back in December, we used to have a wire recorder. Or more like “access” to one. The sweetest, most cutting-edge nectar of 1941-cum-1942 magnetic recording equipment. So we taped the Croz off the radio. But then the war came, and suddenly we lost our “access” to the local armory. Which was where the Croz tape was. In an effort to retrieve the tape, your Pitchfork staffers then stripped their cigarette packs over the subsequent four months to compile an 8-foot-high ball of Lucky Strike tin foil. Last night, the ball persuaded the armory sergeant to give us back our tape. War is hell, motherfuckers. But now we’ve got the tape.

How does it sound? It sounds like Croz found the Maltese Falcon under the tree this year when maybe all he wanted was a war or two to get snowed out. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” he barintones, “Just like the ones I used to know.” We still can’t figure if Bing’s promoting coke or white power, but we know Irv Berlin’s got his usual Oedipal-orchestra going on– rhyming “treetops glisten” with “children listen” over cherub harp and piano. A little plinky-plinky in a crowded house, you think? As metaphors go, you wouldn’t expect a Christmas song to get political. But this one lays it out– how’s Shangri-La, Mr. President?

Happy holidays from Irv and Croz.

Our recording of the song’s Christmas radio debut is a little sparse; indications are the final sound will be serious but Yule-log warm. According to Pitchfork sources, the singer’s lined up the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers to back him on the record; the whole circus is scheduled to enter Decca’s studios in May. Here’s to wishing for what we used to know. [Chester Langdenfetten; April 25th, 1942}


The King, the droid and the dictator

The NYT covers the Elvis master tape fiasco today but doesn’t talk to the Elvis Hunter. Instead we only get a statement from RCA. Has the Post staked out Ernst?

But the Times does talk to Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh, and Marsh sums the situation up well: “Either they’re destroying history or this is a fraud,” Mr. Marsh said. “They can’t have it both ways. If it isn’t valuable, why are they selling it? And if it is valuable, why are they destroying it?”

Speaking of being history or a fraud, in case you were wondering, the Tony Bongiovi involved in the tape cutting is a cousin of the oft-debated Dr. Jon Bon Jovi.

From the good doctor’s Wikipedia entry:

By the summer of 1982, out of school and working part-time – including in a shoe store – Jon finally got a job at the Power Station Studios, a New York recording facility where his cousin, Tony Bongiovi, was the co-owner. Jon made several demos (including one produced by Billy Squier) and sent them out to many record companies – but failed to make an impact.

At 19, Jon had his first recording experience, singing the song “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on a Star Wars Christmas album, “Christmas With the Stars”, with music by John Williams, produced by Tony Bongiovi at the Power Station and released on the RSO label.

Again, in case you were wondering, here are the lyrics to the R2-D2 song. “And if the snow becomes too deep, just give a little beep / We’ll go in by the fire and warm your little wires….”

In other news, via the fabolous, AP’s Paul Garwood and his mysterious cadre of headline writers have brought joy to my heart: Elvis, Castro Visit Last Saddam Hideout. A picture is included.

If I ever win the lottery, I plan to buy myself a gold lamé suit.

But winter’s not the worst thing

I know I wasn’t liking winter this morning, but then I cheered up a little bit. I got Santa Claus Is Coming to Town in my head ““ the Bruce version, of course. And I got to thinking of Clarence ho-ho-hoing and the shaggy dog Christmas stories Bruce used to tell before singing the song.

Here’s the story as told in Portland on December 19, 1978, and as now available on Crystal Cat’s Paramount Night bootleg:

It was about … when did we live down on 6th Avenue? We had that place … ’69 … ’68 … ’68 … 1968 and me and Steve we were living in Asbury Park on this place down on 6th Avenue, 1610. I remember that place because it was the only time we used to live together. Was in the attic. We had this place up in the attic.I had the couch ““ did you have a bed? I don’t think you had a bed. We had two couches, and I remember the joint for two reasons. One, because it was the only time I ever washed the dishes. I flooded … I left the water, uh, I went and talked on the phone for an hour. Flooded all the apartments downstairs. The other reason was I went to the dentist. Now you guys go every month or something. That was in 1968. I went again last month. Passed the test.Anyway, we were living down in this joint and working down, down along the beach in this bar. And I remember it was Christmas Eve, and we were feeling low ’cause we didn’t have no girl friends, we didn’t have no money and had no folks and that and so we were sitting there.

We went home early, you know, put the, uh, put the old Pop Tarts in the oven, you know, the toaster and we went to bed. It was the night before Christmas and all through the house there was nothing to eat but Pop Tarts.

So anyway we’re sleeping ““ this is the quiet part, give me a few minutes will you? We always slept standing up with our guitars on, so we’d be ready for action in case anybody wanted to sign us up.

Anyway we hear this noise up on the roof, right? Now we’re old, I mean we were eighteen right? He was seventeen. We don’t believe in none of this Santa Claus stuff. We didn’t go for any of that stuff, you know? But just in case I left a little note underneath my pillow saying what I wanted. We hear this sound up on the roof ““ we figure it’s burglars trying to break in … steal our guitars, steal our amps … steal our money.

So anyway, we climb out on the roof.

Now out on the roof is real dark. There’s no big light like that and we can’t see too good, but we see somebody trying to stuff something in that chimney. Now we know it’s these burglars coming to rob us so we sneak up on this dude. I say, “Steve show him the karate move man!”

We get him! “All right, Steven come on! Oh oh shit, oh we got his ass … you got him, man, you got him, no you got him, go on, go on see, see is he out? Is he out?

“Oh oh! Oh shit! We fucking knocked out Santa Claus, man!”

Oh man, I thought he was dead a long time ago. My father told me he was dead when I was six years old, that’s how come I never got presents after that. Goddamn it. I don’t know what to do now. Wait ’til my little sister hears about this. Probably supposed to be like in China by now or something.

“What the hell was he stuffing in the chimney? Hey, he was stuffing my present in there … ’57 Chevy … with a brunette in the front seat. Oh! Some Christmas!

“Oh shit, Santa, you all right, man? Better try and wake this cat up man. Santa, ho-ho-ho, all that stuff. Give me some of that snow, bring it on over here. Not THAT kind! Jeez! Sorry, Santa. Think he’s coming around man. Hey Santa, let me hear you baby.”

(Clarence: Ho-Ho-Ho!)

“Oh the dude’s all right, man!”

(Clarence: Ho-Ho-Ho!)

You better watch out, you better not cry….


My coat:

My winter coat is big and green. It has other qualities, but Enron probably has a good dental plan too. The problem about the jacket is that it makes me look like a Christmas tree. Skinny trunk surrounded by a whole bunch of green. After making the mistake of admitting my self-consciousness, Lindsay now shows how much she cares by singing “O Christmas Tree” when I wear the jacket.

I think that’s why I always comment on people’s red shoes. If I was wearing those shoes, then I’d only be a white hat away from having my halls decked.

Musical notes:

“O Christmas Tree” is one of those songs that people know the first verse of and then mumble the rest, usually because everyone seems to be saying something different. Apparently they are.

Spurred by a SNL rerun: Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” with hard rock vocals, electric guitar and no bass line — better song? I think it would be. (See what she’s up to these days.)