I first fell in love with Christmas music at the age of five. It was December of 1968 and â€• like many households around North America â€• our family was listening to Nat â€˜Kingâ€™ Cole. But what captivated me wasnâ€™t his â€œchestnuts roasting on an open fireâ€ but the flipside, an obscure Yuletide melody called â€œThe Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgotâ€.
Its a sombre song, about a young boy, fatherless, and alone at Christmas time. And because of his circumstance, for some reason, Santa actually passes him by.
The notion that Santa could forget anyone, let alone a child like me, was terrifying. Between choruses, Coleâ€™s rich baritone delivers several spoken word stanzas and it was hearing these â€• for the very first time â€• that made me feel he was right there in the room, speaking (and singing) directly to me.
This particular Christmas season coincided with the crumbling of my parentsâ€™ marriage and I became obsessed with the idea that, like Santa, Nat King Cole had some magical insight into my own life. That if I listened to the record hard enough, or long enough, Iâ€™d come to understand my predicament more clearly.
Not grasping the fact that Natâ€™s soliloquy was actually a pre-recorded track, I pestered my mother to play the record over and over again, day after day, hoping to find out how the boyâ€™s story, and my own, would end.
Skip forward twenty years and the magical appeal of Christmas music became a full-fledged mania when, in a flea market, I discovered Miles Davisâ€™s â€œBlue Xmas (To Whom it May Concern)â€ featuring caustic vocals by Bob Dorough â€• who also wrote the tune.
This mid-â€™60s bebop classic put a decidedly unsentimental spin on the season. And the idea that someone would be critical of Christmas, especially in a song, was a revelation to me.
The funny thing is, for a long time, I hated Christmas music. It was either really cheesy, or it conjured up a holiday experience that was impossible to achieve.
It also seemed that the true spirit of Christmas was getting lost â€¦
I was desperate to hear some music that was honest and real.
So when I stumbled on â€œBlue Xmas,â€ I was blown away. And I just knew there had to be moreâ€¦so I started huntingâ€¦
As I began to uncover track after track of hip, heartfelt and irreverent music, I also found a community of musicians and fellow collectors who shared my passion.
Jingle Bell Rocks! is our story.