I was born in Vancouver, B.C., many aeons ago in a former world, and immediately put out for adoption; which happening in due course, I found myself with the man and woman whom I remember as my parents. They had a massive RCA console black-and-white TV with built-in stereo, about four or five feet long, something very much like this:
(The stereo was hidden under a hatch in the top of the console – on the left side, if I recall correctly. Radio and turntable only; 8-track tape was an expensive newfangled technology then, and if you wanted it, you had to pony up the big bucks for a colour TV.)
This TV did yeoman service in Vancouver, connected to either a rooftop antenna or that other newfangled technology, cable TV. But then we moved to Calgary.
To be more accurate, my parents moved to Calgary, and I, upon sad and serious reflection, and at the ripe old age of four, decided I had better overcome my reluctance and go along with them. We landed in a townhouse that had no rooftop antenna, and no cable either, and since the TV had not come equipped with rabbit ears, it had to be retired. My father went out and bought a spanking new Sanyo 19" portable TV – our first colour set – and set it up in the living room right on top of the poor old RCA console.
After a few months of this temporary arrangement, my parents found and bought the house where I would eventually grow up (to the extent that I ever have done), and my father built a set of bookshelves with a hutch for the Sanyo set. The RCA console was installed in the wide front hall, where it served partly as a whatnot and partly as an obstruction; but it was at any rate plugged in, and the stereo came back into service.
It was there that I first learned how to play vinyl records.
As Christmas of 1971 approached, my parents showed me how to operate the turntable concealed within the console, and owing to the time of the year, they gave me a couple of LPs of Christmas music to listen to. One was by Andy Williams – the album that inflicted ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ upon the world. The other was by the incomparable Nat King Cole.
It was this album that I rediscovered just last night, when I played part of it to the Beloved Other – who had never so much as heard of Nat King Cole, and now knows what she was missing. I hope you have not been so deprived, but in case you have been, I offer a link here:
The album starts off with ‘The Christmas Song’, with stops at ‘Adeste Fideles’ (Cole, I am glad to report, did a very creditable job with the Latin lyrics), ‘Silent Night’, and a version of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ with Alvin and the Chipmunks style speeded-up backing vocals. It also contains the first song I ever recall that made me cry: ‘The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot’.
If the link above is still live, you can hear Nat King Cole’s version of Christmas there. If the inevitable DMCA takedown notice has occurred, the album, alas, is out of print in North America, but it seems to be still available as an import on CD. Also, most or all of the songs are available on iTunes in recent compilations. I think Christmas With Nat and Dean and The Christmas Song, between them, contain pretty nearly everything on the album.
If you are one of those who celebrate the holiday, I encourage you to give these recordings an attentive listen. And though it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.
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