Merry Christmas from Apollo 8

Published December 24, 2009 by kaigalles
Apollo 8 Photo of the Earth, 1968

Apollo 8 Photo of the Earth, Christmas Eve, 1968

“We are now approaching lunar sunrise and for all the people back on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you…”

Christmas Eve, 1968. The crew of Apollo 8 send a Christmas message back to the Earth from the other side of the Moon, reading the first ten verses of Genesis and showing images of a fragile Earth hanging in the empty blackness of space. Suddenly the universe felt that little bit smaller.

“A merry Christmas. And God bless all of you, all of you, on the good Earth…”

Crew of Apollo 8 – Genesis MP3

Article on the broadcast from the Guardian

Not Christmas, but the video for Trentemøller’s amazing ‘Moan’ centres on the sadness of Laika, the first dog in space, and is almost as spectral as the Apollo 8 Christmas broadcast

Trentemøller – Moan

“Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it… We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.” Oleg Gazenko, 1998.

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Jazzmas..

Published December 21, 2009 by kaigalles

christmas jimmy smith

The mulled wine is cooking, the candles are flickering and sending dancing shadows around the room, the TV is turned down low but you can make out an excitable Jimmy Stewart running up a snow-strewn street. There’s a hush of expectation about Christmas all over the house and then you click ‘play’ on the hi-fi and the warm grooves of Dexter Gordon move in close. This is Jazzmas, best heard late at night with a fine brandy, a good book and not a care in the world.

Jazzmas can be chilled and slow, à la Dexter or Rollins, mischievous like the Hammond-led funk of Jimmy Smith, or pure olde-time: welcome Ella and Basie. Vince Guaraldi’s wondrous O Tannenbaum, from A Charlie Brown Christmas, is perfect. And of course, every Jazzmas Eve we all need a little Coltrane circling around us. We end with Louis Jordan’s amazing Zat You Santa Claus?, a song which we can only hope Tom Waits will cover one day…

Dexter Gordon – The Christmas Song

Sonny Rollins – Winter Wonderland

John Coltrane – Greensleaves

Vince Guaraldi Trio – O Tannenbaum

Jimmy Smith – Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Ella Fitzgerald – Santa Claus Got Stuck Up My Chimney

Count Basie and the Mills Brothers

Louis Armstrong – Zat You Santa Claus?

A Verve Christmas

Little Drummer Boys

Published December 14, 2009 by kaigalles

Little Drummer Boy

Christmas slows everything down. The best mulled wine is always so hot that you have no option other than to pause and literally sip at Christmas. Some of the finest, heartaching Christmas songs are so slow you could steer an overladen sleigh between them and still have some room for that portly chap in the red and white. Maybe it’s the reminiscing of the end of the year or the giddy high, but some of those fine yuletide songs are as solemn as they are slow. And none more so than Little Drummer Boy.

Composed by Katherine K. Davis in 1941, its slow, purposeful march provides an uneasy tension and melancholy, a story of a simple drummer boy who can ill afford the” finest gifts” others bring for the “new born king” and instead plays his simple drum, while “the ox and lamb” keep time. It’s a story that reminds us that Christmas doesn’t have to be maximised, full of nuclear reactor decorations and expensive gifts. The spirit of Christmas is the simplest of things.

Of all the Christmas standards it’s Davis’ evocative ode to minimalism that many artists are drawn to reinterpret. Whether that is through the sensuous, sombreness of Low, Misty Blue‘s downtempo Korean pop, Marlene Dietrich’s sultry cabaret or Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s connection of the generations. Yet hardly has it been approached with such intense density as with Lindstrøm’s version, which comes as a bonus disc on the limited edition of Real Life Is No Cool, from Lindstrøm & Christabelle.

Lindstrøm takes that purposeful march and evolves it into a burning, ticking crescendo; 42 minutes 42 seconds of circular motion and cosmic, hypnotic melody. It’s a full 25 minutes before any voices appear – those familiar ‘pa rum pum pum pum’s’ – and when they do they’re slipped into the tune under the ethereal hum of an organ. Lindstrøm’s take on Little Drummer Boy echoes the nature of the Christmas season itself. Slow-burning for maximum enjoyment, while deliciously building to a climax of explosive, thundering drums in the final few minutes.

You can get Lindstrøm and Christabelle’s Real Life Is No Cool from Rough Trade or hear a sample of Little Drummer Boy here. But for Christmas you can have these sublime versions of Little Drummer Boy. All are great, but if you only choose a few start with Misty Blue. Low, Tori Amos, Misty Blue, Jimi Hendrix, Sufjan Stevens and Bing & Dave also crucially let the song swim through them.

There’s a Johnny Cash version out there as well which I’d love to have if you’ve got it.

Little Drummer Boy – Low

Little Drummer Boy – Deerhoof

Little Drummer Boy – Tori Amos

Little Drummer Boy – Misty Blue

Little Drummer Boy – Bright Eyes

Little Drummer Boy – Jim Hendrix

Little Drummer Boy – Greg Laswell

Little Drummer Boy – Sufjan Stevens

Little Drummer Boy – Dandy Warhols

Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby & David Bowie

Little Drummer Boy – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Little Drummer Boy – Josepth Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts

Little Drummer Boy battles a robot (without Yoshima) (Music by Low)

Tori Amos – Little Drummer Boy

Misty Blue – 여름 궁전 (Not Christmas, but still incredible)

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

Published November 30, 2009 by kaigalles

Charlie Brown Christmas

Snowflakes don’t have to fall. Bells don’t have to chime. Trees don’t have to glitter and portly bearded chaps definitely don’t have to don red and white suits. Christmas is a simple frame of mind: a wamth that can be felt all year round; a glow of hope and wonder; a stirring fireside glow of peace and tranquility. And a quality whiskey.

If you want to believe in Christmas – if you truly want to believe – dismiss the kitsch and the materialism, the crass marketing and insincerity, the cynicism and the stress. If you want to believe in Christmas just stand still for a moment on a crowded shopping street and look around and watch as people collectively ignore their own inane, selfish lives, and begin to think of others.

The true Christmas is not a Coca Cola dream, it’s a warm cwtch on a cold day. It’s family and friends. It’s recognising each other and wishing people well. The true Christmas is not an expensive gift, it’s a happy smile. The true Christmas is an emotion that can be felt all year round. Some people keep that spirit, others let it go. The songs however, can always be with us.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas x

Glasvegas – A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)

Sufjan Stevens – Christmas in July

Sufjan Stevans – It’s Chrismas! Let’s Be Glad!

Evan Dando – Silent Night

John Prine – Christmas in Prison

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!!” Linus responds to Charlie Brown’s plea from the magical 1965 film A Charlie Brown Christmas. Light’s Please.