As noted in last week’s post, there’s lots of Christmas music, even within The Music. The holiday that follows a week later? Not so much.
When I first thought about New Year’s tunes, two came to mind: the 1980 Dan Fogelberg hit that references the song most associated with the holiday, and U2’s 1983 single that uses the holiday in the title.
However, I only had to run the lyric to Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” through my brain to remember that the song is about Christmas, not New Year’s, Eve. And my thought process went from there to “It’s b-----t, anyway”; I was in a sort-of-similar situation once, and it didn’t play out the way the late singer-songwriter described it at all.
It was indeed Christmas Eve, at a mall instead of a grocery store, and the high school girlfriend started to run towards me — then stopped dead in her tracks. Was it that the child of her short-lived — although longer-lived than my first hitch — marriage was with her? More likely, she remembered how shabbily I’d treated her more than a decade earlier.
“New Year’s Day” was, I think, one of the first U2 songs that caught my attention, in particular the music video, which aired a lot on the WTBS’s “Night Tracks” back in the mid-1980s. The song, however, isn’t really concerned with the holiday at all, but is about Solidarity.
That Polish labor movement, of course, was one of the pebbles that started the avalanche that became the fall of the Soviet Bloc. So, six years later, we woke up from history to see the Berlin Wall starting to come down; a week or so before the New Year’s that started a new decade, it was opened.
“Auld Lang Syne,” which is based on a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns, is of course the song most associated with New Year’s Eve. Jimi Hendrix tried to trump Guy Lombardo and did a version of it, on his “Live at the Fillmore East.”
Don’t have that album, and can’t say that I’ve ever heard that cut. And as one who saw Hendrix a couple months before his death in 1970, who hasn’t yet bought into the constant dilution of his oeuvre with reissues and cullings, I don’t know when I will.
I did find a several lists of New Year’s songs online, which included numbers I hadn’t thought of — or, for that matter, heard of. But some are pretty obscure, some aren’t really rock, and some are better just left alone.
Examples of that last category include two songs with the name of the holiday in the title, one by Barry Manilow and the other by Abba. Barry did indeed have some Top 40 hits, but the “Squish Me Like a Bug” parody was on the mark, as was the mangling of his name by some into Manureload. Don’t know if Abba’s New Year’s song preceded “Dancing Queen” or not, but if it didn’t, we were warned.
I found two songs entitled “New Year’s Resolution.” One was by Camera Obscura, which as “indie pop” is outside my experience. (Ditto for the Walkmen, who recorded “In the New Year.”)
The other was by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, two big names in soul music. But it apparently was part of a project put together by Stax Records, which had them both under contract and was trying to do what Motown had done with Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. The album was recorded in six days, and as good as the artists were, it’s hard to believe they could put that much quality into a song that quickly.
You’d have to have lived in a cave not to be familiar with the Eagles, and I have several of their albums, but I’d never heard their “Funky New Year.” Turns out it was the “B” side of their “Please Come Home For Christmas” — another holiday throwaway, also recorded during the sessions that produced a pretty good album, “The Long Run,” which I do own. Well, neither DiMaggio nor Ruth batted 1.000 …
Two others I’ve never beard: “Bringing In a Brand New Year,” by Charles Brown, a blues artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member; and “New Year’s Eve” by Tom Waits. Waits is more Beat Generation than rocker, but he’s fun — we owe him for “Step Right Up” and “Old 55” — and the song reprises “Auld Lang Syne” in the chorus.
A number of other artists recorded songs referencing the holiday, including Ella Fitzgerald, Kid Rock, Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, to name a few. There are also lists of New Year’s Eve party music available on line, if your tastes run to Kiss and The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As.
Whatever you end up listening to on its Eve, have fun, enjoy in moderation and may your New Year be happy and prosperous!