And . . . the fifth choice . . .
5 Must Be Santa Brave Combo
This is from something no modern Christmas is musically complete without — an extract from Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour Christmas & New Year’s two-hour special first broadcast, from the Abernathy Building, on December 20, 2006. It played between Huey Piano Smith and The Clowns’ New Orleans re-work of Silent Night and the Enchanters’ Mambo Santa Mambo.
I thought it was traditional kids’ song but it’s not. Not that it doesn’t have a pre-history. As you might suspect from its sound, it’s based on an old German drinking song. The new version was written, in 1960, for Mitch Miller, legendary A&R man and TV singalong host. Tommy Steele had the UK hit with it, a minor one. That must be where I first heard it.
Dylan liked it so much he did his own version — in which the reindeers are given the names of US presidents.
If you haven’t see the video for it, you have a real treat coming your way. It’s quite mad. Dylan himself has long straight-haired wig, wears a new hat for each verse and dances a kind of hora. There’s a serious punch-up — a kind of follow-up to the seeming murder in the video for Beyond Here Lies Nothin. That’s the one that, er, borrows the tune of Black Magic Woman.
Brave Combo have featured in The Simpsons and were David Byrne’s wedding band. They have done the Rolling Stones as cha-cha-cha and Tennessee Ernie Ford as cumbia. But, mostly, they do polka. They did a whole Christmas album some twenty years ago. I haven’t got round to listening to it yet. A man can enjoy only so much polka. Yet . . .
Next (probably tomorrow) A man who might be black or might be white but whichever it was he did the polka.