"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"You'll Know It's Christmas Time" w/ music

Debra Gordon sings my song.
The photo at right shows your blog host, Brian Williams, meeting Santa Claus at Dayton's Department Store, Minneapolis, in about 1958. I remember being scared of ol' Saint Nick. See that in my eyes? I'm sure the character was played by a real nice gentleman.
 
Every songwriter should try to ply his craft with a Christmas theme. I have done so with a song called "You'll Know It's Christmas Time." I invite you to listen to this song from YouTube. Get in your frame of mind with Christmas cheer and click on the link below. Thanks to Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for getting my music online.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEuxg0dL9SQ
 
Nothing is more personal than Christmas. It inspires memories that can make you misty. "I'll be Home for Christmas" makes me misty.
Last year I wrote a post about my favorite Christmas song: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." That song conjures up an image of stillness and of contented contemplation.
In my song, there is the repeated line: "Look around and you'll know it's Christmas Time." Originally I planned this line as the full title for the song. In my last email communications with the demo recording producer, he had a notation at the bottom referring to the song as "You'll Know It's Christmas Time." I don't know if he did that for brevity or if he thought this would be a better (more compact) title.
One other twist: All through my creative process I had "Christmas Time" as one word: "Christmastime." Mr. Michels in Nashville TN had "Christmas Time" in his notation. Hey, I think I like that better! Whether he really intended to modify my song title, or was just engaging in hurried communication, he influenced me to make the changes.
A songwriter can get so involved in his song through development, you can't see the forest for the trees sometimes.
It is very common for musical works to go through an assortment of "tweaks." When Paul McCartney was developing "Eleanor Rigby," he used the name "Miss Daisy Hawkins" for a time. "Eleanor Rigby" sings better. Paul saw the name "Rigby" on a storefront, legend has it.
The Lennon/McCartney collaboration was so terrific because the two could iron out each other's flaws or tamp down each other's excesses. Some of those flaws came out after the two went their separate ways. McCartney in particular could get careless and loose at times.
I have learned to greatly respect the music talent in Nashville TN. It covers the spectrum today, not confined to what might be called the "twangy" country of days gone by. There is nothing wrong with the "twangy" genre if the songs are composed tastefully. A steady diet of any kind of music can get to be too much.
 
"You'll Know It's Christmas Time"
My song begins with a reference to tinsel, those silver-colored adornments on the Christmas tree. My late father was fond of that decoration. We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning. In my adult years, my father began a practice of making sure I got a 12-pack of Mello Yello soft drink every Christmas. Peanut brittle was another staple for us. 
I move on to the subject of Santa Claus. Look at the photo accompanying this post. Enough said.
"There are presents lying on the floor," my song continues. Yes, we placed the gifts at the base of our Christmas tree. You could find the jigsaw puzzle by shaking them! "Carolers at the door." The neighborhood kids of Northridge Drive made the rounds in the 1960s. We'd sing "We wish you a merry Christmas. . .We won't go until we get some!"
I'm pleased to include a direct reference to the Christ child in my song. My favorite Christmas video is "The Little Drummer Boy" with narrator Greer Garson. It gets at the essence of Christmas. BTW the drummer boy story isn't in the Bible.
"In the eyes of the little ones. . ." Yes, Christmas is for children, which I make clear in my chorus. "Say it loud, say it all around." Yes, openly share the spirit of Christmas.
The last verse begins with a reference to "oyster stew." I wouldn't be familiar with this Christmas staple were it not for the late Delmar Holdgrafer, the cartoonist/artist of Donnelly.
"It's a sentimental journey every year." Remember the song "Sentimental Journey" sung by Doris Day? It was a rather somber WWII-era song.
"Watch the spirit of the season come to every man and beast." Our family pets added to our tapestry of Christmas immensely: Sandy, Heidi and Misty.
The Christmas spirit envelops us, as you will note if you pay a visit to Northridge Drive, out by the soils laboratory. We're counting down the days.
 
The timing for Christmas music
How soon is too soon to start enjoying Christmas music? Certainly you shouldn't play any of this before Thanksgiving. I used to think any time after Thanksgiving was OK. This is all very subjective of course. A daughter of a co-worker once admonished me for playing some pure Christmas carols at a time she thought was a little premature, perhaps the first week of December. I was playing a Garth Brooks CD.
I can see where these carols are best enjoyed in the days leading up to Christmas. I used to play Christmas CDs late at night at the old Sun Tribune building in the time leading up to Christmas. Today I'd be told I'm crazy to consider working such late hours. I would be prohibited from even doing it. I'm an "old school" journalist who feels our craft needs to be plied at odd hours sometimes. Such a disposition is quaint. The public doesn't want its journalism provided by sleep-deprived or manic people.
I used to produce two full pages of sports for the Hancock Record every week - a task that (among other tasks) kept me working until about 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning. I remember once riding home on bike on that dirt road in the field in front of ShopKo, and a police car took chase. Today, given the behavior of police officers, there's a chance I could be shot and killed.
Of course, I no longer work for the newspaper. Today the paper's top priority is to see we get our Elden's advertising circular every week. And Fleet Farm, and Target, and Trumm Drug, and Running's, and Sears, and Menards et. al. Where are all these stores in Morris? (Who shops at Sears anymore?)
 
A monotone memory (charming)
We all have unique Christmas memories. I'll never forget a classmate whose initials were S.S. being a complete clueless monotone singing as part of an elementary Christmas concert. I had to bite my cheeks to keep from laughing during "Silver Bells." Close your eyes and imagine a monotone singing "Silver Bells." Priceless.
Nevertheless, the Christmas spirit is all that matters.
Merry Christmas, and "look around and you'll know it's Christmas Time." God bless all those who make music. The singer of my song is Debra Gordon. I can tell she's a vivacious individual.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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