Monday, December 19, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is...Elvis on an old 78

One comment on my Christmas Music post mentioned Elvis Presley as their Christmas Favorite.

Elvis has been around for as long as I can remember and his unique style and presence would certainly serve to burn those memories deep if your early childhood Christmas was Elvis themed. shows 483 results for the search of "Elvis Christmas" so there is no shortage of material despite his untimely demise over 30 years ago.

More about Elvis's Christmas Music later on but first I want to talk about my first memories of the King.

In the early 60's as a child I spent quite a bit of time with my Grandparents in a flat above a fish and chip shop in Whetstone London N20. In fact I was living there for the year when I first attended school. To help keep me amused while they worked all hours in the shop below one weekend my Grandmother purchased an old wind up gramophone from the junk shop further down the block. Similar to the one shown here it was a portable version, probably from the 1930's and it played old 78 RPM discs. Powered by a spring, if wound tight you could play a whole song at a time. The discs were large, hard and brittle. If dropped onto a hard surface they would chip or smash. Being hard they did not scratch as easily as the softer vinyl LP's I later became familiar with. In fact it was the needles that suffered each time the record was played. The needles were small pieces of soft metal pointed at one end. They had to be inserted and tightened into the arm and they had to be replaced after a few songs as they would bend out of shape.

Possibly purchased with the player from the Junk shop I now had a number of 78's to play. These included Gracie Fields singing "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World", The Laughing Policeman and Elvis Presley's 1957 smash hit Teddy Bear. Shown here on a much later turntable, the copy I had was in a simple paper cover and backed with "Loving You". Now to this day I have a soft spot for Gracie Fields but over the course of the next few years I'm certain that pounds of needles were sacrificed playing Teddy Bear. (they were purchased half an ounce at a time)

Moving on through 45's, LP Albums, Cassettes, CD's and digital downloads this has remained my favorite Elvis song. There was even a time when I created an Elvis mix tape which consisted of 23 straight recordings of Teddy Bear.

Now back to Elvis and Christmas. There are three different types of Christmas Music from the King:-

1. Traditional Carols - Elvis brings his Gospel background to these and sings them straight. So while the voice is unmistakable they are perhaps the least 'Elvis' of his Christmas offerings. Not a lot of hip movement here.

2. Other Christmas songs like Silver Bells where he tries to put his style on a classic. Sort of half traditional and half Elvis. Some hip movement.

3. Then there are the numbers where he goes Elvis all the way. Sometimes when I listen to his version of "White Christmas" it seems so exaggerated to almost be a caricature of himself. But I just have to remind myself that he was the original and back then everything he was doing was revolutionary and not seen through the prism of all the impersonators and imitators that have followed.

Whichever type of Elvis Christmas music you prefer I can certainly see that if your first Christmas Album was Elvis then that would stick with you to this day and for you that would bring back the ghosts of Christmas past...but hopefully in a good way.

Of the 483 options at here are a few to consider listening to again...

1 comment:

  1. yes, and i know who got the tape with the 23 Teddy Bears on it!!!!