A Christmas Gift For You
From Phil Spector
By Jack Coll
We listen to it every year, some of us in bits and pieces, some of us like me listen to the entire album, a few times during the course of the holidays, “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector.” The Album is loaded with talent, you know the artist, Darlene Love, The Crystals, (That would be Darlene Love) Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans, (That would be Darlene Love) and The Ronettes. You know the songs including Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Ronnie Specter & the Ronettes up-tempo Frosty The Snowman, Darlene singing Marshmallow World.
This is in fact one of the greatest albums ever recorded, Larry Levine was the engineer, Spector produced it, every fast song on the album has the Spector trademark “Wall of Sound” and very few people know that a young Leon Russell played piano on the tracks or that Sonny Bono played percussion.
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys has publicly stated that this was his all-time favorite album, Wilson was obsessed with Spector’s Wall of Sound and would often play back-up instruments for the Ronettes and Spector. As a matter of fact in 2003 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked this album at number 142 of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Gifted musicians played on the Album, Spector was the hottest producer in the world at that time with the eyes of the Beatles, Rolling stones, Beach Boys and many other great bands of the day watching Spector’s every move and sound, and praise coming from high places like Rolling Stone Magazine 40 years after the album’s release, but it didn’t start that way.
The album “A Christmas Gift For You” was released on November 22, 1963, that’s right, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the album flopped. But if you have one of the original copies they are currently selling for $400-500. Spector later released it on the Apple label and the album grew in popularity.
Several of the songs have become holiday icons like the Ronettes “Frosty The Snowman,” and Darlene Love singing “Marshmallow World.” The song best known and perhaps getting the most airplay at Christmas time would be Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).
The song was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich with a little help from Spector, the song was written for Veronica, Spector’s future wife (Ronnie Spector) but according to Darlene when Ronnie recorded it, she just couldn’t put the emotion into the song, Darlene was called into the studio and the rest is history.
By the mid 1980’s Darlene had had enough of the music business and at that time the music business had had enough of her. As Darlene tells it she was cleaning houses to get by, it was Christmas time, and her song, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) came on the radio, and she just said to herself I don’t belong here cleaning houses, I’m a singer.
By chance Darlene landed an acting job and appeared in the Lethal Weapon movies starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Darlene played as Glover’s wife in the films. But then the real break came sending her permanently back into the music business when in 1987 David Letterman called upon Darlene to sing her signature tune to close his holiday show, Love has been performing “Christmas” (Baby Please Come Home) for 28 years now on the Letterman Show, up until Letterman went off the air.
Darlene’s Christmas song has been covered many times over, a few of the most popular would include Quiet Jungle in 1968 for the LP “The Story of Snoopy’s Christmas,” the group U2 recorded a great version of it in 1987, and while never released Bruce Springsteen has often sang it at Christmas time in concert. A few other artists covering the song would include Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Cher, Dion, Hanson, Lady Antebellum, R.E.M., Joey Ramone, Sha Na Na, and Last Train Home.
In the end, the good news is that the song “Christmas” (Baby Please Come Home) in December 2010 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked the song first on its list of The Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs, noting that nobody can match Love’s emotion and sheer vocal power displayed not only on the record but every time she sings it.
Of course the bad news is that Phil Spector shot and killed actress Lana Clarkson back in 2003, and has been rotting away in prison since he was convicted in 2009 serving 19 years to life. During Spector’s music career he worked with everyone from the Beatles on down and was often referred to as a music genius, a label cast on very few people in the music business, Stevie Wonder and Brian Wilson come to mind.
I’ve met and talked to Darlene on several occasions and found her to be a very interesting and upbeat person. When Darlene was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame several years ago it was an honor long overdue, Bruce Springsteen did the honor of inducting her.
The album “A Christmas Gift For You” is worth checking out, as for Phil Spector, rot in hell.
This was an encore post… This was originally posted in 2013
Talkin’ Music has been a well-received column exclusively at Conshystuff.com, Merry Christmas and we’ll see you all in 2017.