Monday 22 December 2008

News, Views and Music Issue 17 (Intro)

Ho! Ho! Ho! Welcome to the second, final and

                        distinctly seasonal AAA Christmas special of 2008.

                   Just the thing for music lovers who are patiently

                   waiting for their online and mail order presents to

               arrive, for the turkey to shrivel enough to fit in the

               oven and for the local carol singers who’ve called at

              your house five times already this week to get

             laryngitis. Have you all been good boys and girls this

       year? Well, alarmingly, so have the AAA musicians who have

      been uncharacteristically quiet this yuletide – let’s hope

      they’re up to something interesting in the new year. In the

         meantime, enjoy your presents, especially the ones that

         are CD-sized, and we’ll see you in 2009. Keep rocking!

Beach Boys news: Brian Wilson has just announced that a DVD filmed on his latest tour will be available on January 27th next year. The DVD, to be named ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ is based around Brian’s latest solo concept album of the same name (released in the Spring of 2008, but don’t worry if you missed it because it didn’t stay in the shops for very long and so did I). Like Brian’s last two live-in-concert DVDs ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Smile’, Brian will be backed by his band The Wondermints. It has not yet been revealed if there will be any ‘bonus’ features on the disc – more news next year.

Moody Blues news: Seasonal greetings Moodies fans not only from me but from original band keyboardist Mike Pinder, who is celebrating the festive season with the release of a new song ‘Peace Planet Proclomation’ and video celebrating the very Moodies-like theme of a universal peace this Christmas between all nations and races. The video     is available to watch at youtube (

 Look out too for the release of an album earlier in the year by Mike Pinder’s son     ’ (with Mike as guest – his first recordings for quite some time).

Top Of The Pops 2 News: Some programmer at the BBC seems to have been hit with the ghosts of Christmas past this yuletide, as the history of this year’s festive Top of the Pops Specials sounds like a multimedia Charles Dickens novel. Not content with cancelling the programme five or so years ago, the BBC announced in November that they were also planning to cancel the annual Christmas TOTP special which they had promised in lieu of continuing the series. The public complained in such numbers that the BBC put it back on the schedule – agreeing instead to cancel their planned series of TOTP2 compilations of older material. The public complained in large numbers again so, like Scrooge transformed, the BBC have decided to show no less than seven TOTP/TOTP editions this Christmas. This marks, by my reckoning, the first ‘new’ (ie new collections of old material) showings of TOTP2 on our screens since early 2006. AAA artists set for screening this yuletide include Paul McCartney on 23rd December, 7.30pm on BBC2 (most likely the ‘Wonderful Xmas Time’ promo seeing as it’s a ‘Christmas’ edition of the show), John Lennon on Christmas Eve at 11.15pm, The Kinks on Christmas Day-into-Boxing Day at 12.55am and The Who on Boxing Day at 12.40pm. Hurrah!

Happy yuletide-week birthdays go to Ian Burden (Human League 1979-80) who turns 51 on Christmas Eve, Mike Pinder (Moody Blues 1964-78) who celebrates his 66th birthday on December 27th and fellow Moody Ray Thomas (Moody Blues 1964-2004) who also turns 66 on December 29th. Anniversaries of events this week include the 29th anniversary of the Kampuchea Benefit concerts at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, starring The Who and the last performance of Wings as well as an all star ‘rockestra’ performance (December 22); the release of ‘Hey Schoolgirl’ written by two teenage performers Tom and Jerry (better known as Simon And Garfunkel – December 23rd 1957) and it’s a quarter of a century since Beach Boy Dennis Wilson drowned trying to rescue possessions thrown off his houseboat (December 28th 1983). For those of you who have a birthday during the next fortnight when this site is temporarily closed, fear not – there will be a special three-week version of ‘anniversaries’ in our next issue. 

News, Views and Music Issue 17 (Top Five): AAA Xmas Songs

Not many AAA artists have issued Christmas-                        

                                      themed albums (so watch us struggle filling these 

                                   pages this time next year!) But loads of them seem

                               to have issued at least one festive-related single at

                        some point or another. So, with the special exception of the

                       Beach Boys’ Xmas repertoire (discussed above) and the

                        Moodies’ Xmas album ‘December’ (which disappeared from

                       the shops quicker than you can say ‘snowflake covered

                       mellotron’) here is a handy guide to every AAA-related

                  Christmas song we can think of – and where to find them so you

              can make your own Christmas Compilation:

                 Beatles: The fab four released a special fans-only Christmas

                 flexi-disc every year between 1963 and 1969, delivered free to

                 members of their official fan club every year and – amazingly – even Apple haven’t got their hands on the copyrights for them yet, so they’re unlikely to see a proper re-issue any time in the next few years. However, only one issue (the 1967 disc) comes close to sounding like a proper festive ‘song’ (most of the rest sound like a hilarious drunken Christmas party with a few pantomimesque spoofs thrown in – usually by Lennon). That song is ‘Christmas time Is Here Again’, a track credited to all four Beatles which un-surprisingly comes out sounding a bit like all of the festive songs they did solo (Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, Macca’s ‘Wonderful Xmas Time’ and Harrison’s ‘Ding Dong’, not to mention Ringo’s rarely heard and poorly received Xmas record). Ringo takes the lead on the Beatles’ composition, a song that’s hardly a missing classic but still has just enough goodwill and Christmas cheer to overcome the fact the band actually recorded it in September at Abbey Road studios. You can find an edited version (the original kept getting interrupted by lots of sketches and fab four banter) on ‘Anthology Two’ (EMI/Apple, 1997).     

George Harrison: Well, actually George released a new year song but as it’s the only AAA-related one we could find we’ve added it to our Christmas list instead. ‘Ding Dong, Ding Dong’ has a mixed reputation among fans, thanks to its rather odd mix of repetition and invention. Based around the sentiments ‘ring out the old, ring in the new’, George actually ‘stole’ most of the lyrics from lines that had been dotted around George’s Friar Park home and had originally been written by its delightfully dotty architect. Find it on: Dark Horse (EMI/ Apple, 1974).

Kinks: The 1977 novelty single ‘Father Christmas’ is very odd as seasonal songs go and yet somehow very Kinks-like too. Like many of the band’s late 70s/ early 80s material it matches a very dry wit with an honest compassion at (yet another) worldwide recession. The song is narrated by a little boy who doesn’t want any toys this year and wished his father would be given his old job after his redundancy – but rather than a tearjerker in the Johnny Cash mould this is a savage song, with a group of bullies attacking Santa and telling him to save his toys ‘for the little rich boys’. This song - which never appeared on an album ‘proper’ - is still blooming hilarious when seen in Kinks concerts of the day, however, thanks to the sight of Ray Davies dressed up in a Santa suit and his brother Dave trying not to keel over with laughter at the sight of him. Find it as a bonus track on the Kinks CD ‘Misfits’ (Konk/Velvel, 1978/re-issued 1998).

John Lennon: ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ is probably the best known song on this list, charting on three separate occasions. Typically for the Ono-Lennons, however, this song started its life as something of an obscurity, released too late in the day for the 1972 Christmas market and at the time was one of the lowest placed singles of Lennon’s solo career to date (it was beaten by everything but ‘Woman Is the Nigger Of the World’). A 1973 re-release really caught the mood of the nation in the middle of the Watergate scandal and the end of the Vietnam and Korea wars, however and it became firmly lodged in the public’s Christmas sub-conscious. This lovely song also became a worthy last choice in the rush of Lennon ‘tribute’ re-releases that came out after Lennon’s death in December 1980, finally reaching #1 the third time around. Lennon always said that he wanted this song to become an ‘alternative’ to record buyers bored of hearing ‘White Christmas’ over and over – more than any other song in the rock and pop market, it’s Bing Crosby’s closest challenger. Find it on any self-respecting Lennon compilation (the 1970s ‘Shaved Fish’, 1980s ‘Lennon Collection’ and 1990s ‘Lennon Legend’ are the best places top start).

Paul McCartney and Wings: Macca, too, got his timing all wrong with this single-only release – the last release by Wings, just before their un-announced split in 1980, there was no band left to promote it bar one slightly dodgy promo video that gets shown every year. Out of fashion for only the second in his long career, this song also got eclipsed by the re-issue of Lennon’s Christmas song he following year. The cheesy synthesisers and (by Macca standards) simplistic tune and woolly lyrics probably didn’t help either, although like many of Wings’ songs the production is fantastic. Against all odds, however, this song has been experiencing a comeback recently, nearly 30 years since its release – proof that Christmas really is a time for forgiving after all. Find it on the ‘McCartney Collection’ CD re-issue of ‘Back To The Egg’, along with the song’s undistinguished instrumental B-side ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae’. (EMI, 1979 re-issued 1990).   


Monkees: Tucked away at the tail-end of the Monkees’ second TV series is a Christmas special is a moral-booming, morale-boosting tale about the band looking after a child who doesn’t believe in Christmas. Never one to short-change their fans (whatever the press of the 1960s believed), the band added a late Christmas present in the shape of a jaw-droppingly beautiful a capella rendition of the traditional Spanish carol ‘Riu Chiu’. Annoyingly the band never issued the song at the time – indeed, this TV version of the carol is only available on the DVD soundtrack – but there is an equally thrilling alternate take available on the band’s out-takes collection ‘Missing Links Two’ (Rhino, 1990).

Simon and Garfunkel: Equally forgotten and neglected are two originally unheard carols sung a capella by two of the finest harmony singers on the planet. ‘Star Carol’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ are among the more understated of S and G’s work but no less beautiful for that – the unusual ‘rounds’ harmony arrangement of the latter is especially thrilling. These two uplifting carols also make for a nicer contrast to the only official ‘carol’ in the S and G canon, ‘Silent Night’, recorded as a peaceful contrast to a fictional news broadcast full of horror, terror and fear at the unsettling events of the late 1960s. Alas, classic as this track is, the original unadorned version of this carol still lies unreleased. You can find the former two tracks on the box set ‘Old Friends’ (Capitol 1993) and the latter on ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ (Capitol 1967, re-issued most recently in 2006).    

And that’s it for this year! We at the AAA wish you a merry Christmas and a musical new year and look forward to seeing you all again next year. And what a year 2009 promises to be – a Beatles CD re-issue bonanza, a CSN concert and possibly a Kinks re-union are all on the cards. See you then!   

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock