Category Archives: 1971

Top 3 Classic Rocker Christmas Songs


Top 3 Classic Rocker Christmas Songs

 – Once my head hit the pillow Thanksgiving night, I never dreamed there was a chance I wouldn’t wake up from my turkey hangover this year. But the overindulgence of tryptophan had me stirring the next morning to what I assumed were angels singing in the background. It was a festive sound, but then I realized there were no harps or even Victoria’s Secret models with wings. And since I long ago passed the requirement for Billy Joel’s “Only the good die young,” there was a better chance I had made a U-turn on the stairway to heaven and was heading in the opposite direction.

Then again if I wanted to declare Billy Joel my spiritual advisor and musical guru, this could be a joy ride where “sinners have much more fun.” And besides, maybe I could melt off a few pounds in the heat.

When my head cleared from the turkey fog, I realized I hadn’t gone to Rock’n Roll Heaven or hell. I had only slept through the official change in holiday seasons and the classic rock station on my clock radio had changed formats.

I must’a had too much to dream last night.

It’s officially Christmas Season and a simple sleigh ride through the radio dials brings that message home faster than if you were living next door to Clark Griswold. It’s the only time of the year when Burl Ives, U2, Mariah Carey, Willy Nelson and Perry Como can co-exist on one single airwave.

You wanna hear some Bruce? Okay, he’s in the mix. But instead of arriving in a pink Cadillac he’s riding with Santa Claus all the way to town. The Beach Boys are there too with Little Saint Nick sitting shotgun in their surf woody.

I don’t know when this conglomerate of standard, classic and modern holiday jams started, but guess it was a commandment from the higher ranks of Clear Channel or another radio god. I don’t have it in front of me, but somewhere there’s an office memo stating after the last bite of Thanksgiving turkey knocks everyone semi-unconscious…

Thou shalt not play nothing but Christmas music on thy classic rock radio station.

At least that’s what happened in my demographic and I’ve been living with it. I have to, since I padlocked my station of choice on my vintage boom box so the kids can never change it.


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Based on what I’d learned in required college math classes and unused since graduation (until now), we spend one-twelfth of the year listening to Christmas songs. Some are pretty good, while others remind us that life’s not all that bad when Christmas vacation is finally over and you voluntarily have to attend school assemblies if you want to hear children’s choirs.

In case you missed it, that was a well hidden reference to my personal music hangover caused by hearing the children’s dirge from A Charlie Brown Christmas over and over again on the radio without benefit of watching the animation on the tube. I just felt it might have been too hidden for some of you, so I tore off the gift wrapping and just said it.

As my kids would say, that’s real talkAs Charlie Brown disciples might say, get over it Mr. Grinch.

It may not sound like it, but The Classic Rocker is into the holiday spirit and hasn’t even thought about breaking off the dial padlock on the vintage boom box so I can listen to songs we hear during the other eleven-twelfths of the year. There are some definite favorites and hearing them slip-sliding over the airwaves is like welcoming an old friend home in time for the next family sanctioned holiday feeding frenzy.

Some Christmas songs are classic just because of the circumstances. For example, the pairing of David Bowie and Bing Crosby for Little Drummer Boy can still cause more second looks and confusion than trying to figure out how Charlie Brown’s pal Schroeder can outplay Billy Joel on a toy piano. And Keith Richards‘ holiday ode to Chuck Berry with Run Rudolph Run only shows that a rock star’s eggnog is more potent than what we can legally purchase in the grocery store.

I would say those two songs are worthy runners-up for the list I’m about to rock around your Christmas tree. And I’m also tempted to give a shout-out to Mariah Carey for All I Want For Christmas Is You, except that would be like inviting one of your kids to the office Christmas party. It ain’t gonna happen, but here’s a gold star for your effort anyway kid.

There are a few Christmas songs that pass the strict criteria I’m laying down to differentiate between what’s naughty and nice. Naughty means you’re only allowed out for one-twelfth of the year.


Well, the following songs are still not gonna be heard on my vintage boom box in June. But if by chance some deejay was just regaining consciousness six months after attending Keith Richards’ Christmas party and in his eggnog fog broadcast the wrong playlist, I could be sitting by the pool drenched in sunblock, sipping an umbrella drink and still reach over to turn up the volume.

The Top Three Classic Rock Christmas Songs

No. 3 – Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley.

“Ah’m’a havin’a ba-loo Christmas, without you…”

When you hear The King hittin’ the low notes to start this holiday cry fest, you forget all about the wobbly voiced sopranos that kept Snoopy voluntarily out of hearing range and in his doghouse. It brings images of a solo Santa in a sparkling jumpsuit aching for a Mrs. Claus to share a cup of eggnog with. Then again, in an effort to spread holiday cheer, I can also imagine this Santa packing a sack of car keys for a fleet of pink Cadillacs triple parked in the driveway of Graceland as gifts for The Memphis Mafia.

If I could dream…

This song was included on Elvis’ Christmas album that caused more explosions in 1957 than New Year’s Eve at The Griswold’s. It was only a year after his epic breakthrough that had little girls swooning and crying while their parents trembled and cried in horror at the image of a white guy with greasy hair and sideburns singing “race music” to their children. At that time you didn’t see Perry Como or Bing Crosby wearing tight slacks and shaking their hips in time to a stand-up bass, but Elvis broke a holiday sound barrier that year that has never snapped back into place.

It was a scandal and Elvis was scandalous. Ed Sullivan practiced television parental control by only allowing him to be shown from the waist up. Milton Berle tamed him for the entire family by making Elvis The Pelvis focus his singing on a top hat wearing hound dog. The gimmick worked, earning Uncle Miltie big television ratings instead of supermarket tabloid headlines.

So when this hellion of rock’n roll tackled Christmas as flamboyantly as he did rockin’ and rollin’ in the jailhouse, the moral majority said enough was enough. There were demands to ban his holiday music collection and send him back to where he came from, which was driving a truck and singing to his mama.

But that didn’t happen. Swooning teens pushed the album to number one and Blue Christmas has gone on to become a standard heard every year. In fact it’s used by the same swooning teens that are now the horrified grandparents of Lil Wayne fans as an example of the good’ol days of family holiday music.

Here’s Elvis performing Blue Christmas during his amazing Come Back television special in 1968…


No. 2 – Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John and Yoko

This one was another lump of coal for the Geritol Generation in 1971. It had only been a few years earlier that John and Yoko, better known as johnandyoko, rattled and rolled parental moral fibers by displaying their naked selves on the cover of their Two Virgins album. Even though it had been gift wrapped in brown paper by the censors, it probably had Hugh Hefner thinking about dress codes and gave a young Richard Simmons his idea for a career.

But if that wasn’t enough to earn Lennon a coveted spot on Richard Nixon’s naughty list, this song helped. After years of bed-ins, protests, marches and songs like I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama and Power To The PeopleHappy Christmas (War Is Over) still carries their message to more people than all their other “happenings” put together.

It’s become a standard Christmas song thanks to the johnandyoko original and more cover versions than names on Nixon’s vintage enemies list. And you know what? It’s actually a protest song with the same message johnandyoko were telling us since their public honeymoon bed-in at the Amsterdam Hilton.

War is over if you want it.

What they wanted was for us in 1971 was to end the war in Vietnam. Since this was a sugar plum fairy coated protest song, there’s a chance Nixon’s wife Pat might have thought it was Bing, Perry or Frank. I have visions of Tricky Dick reacting with an eggnog spit take the first time Pat had it piped through the White House sound system.

In an interview Lennon said he had learned the message of his song Imagine got through to more people because of the catchy melody and pop production. So instead of screaming, ranting and chanting to end the war, he said it with a catchy and now classic holiday melody and pop production.

It worked. The message still comes across loud and clear every holiday season.

Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is a beautiful song and a beautiful message. It also serves as a yearly reminder of how much we lost when John Lennon was taken away from us on a December evening in 1980. Our generation was never the same again. Happy Xmas johnandyoko.



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No. 1 – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Darlene Love

What’s this song have in common with Happy Xmas (War Is Over)? Both were produced by that mad little Christmas elf himself, Ronnie’s ex-husband Phil Spector.

They say genius lives on the edge of madness. Then again, maybe I’m just quoting from memory the teacher’s comments on my fifth grade report card. But before Spector hit tabloid headline-worthy crazy, he made some damn good records.

One classic LP that hasn’t lost any holiday cheer over the last half century is A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector. The man behind the Wall of Sound filled two sides of vinyl with holiday pop rock from The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans and the Classic Rocker’s personal favorites, The Ronettes.

But the real favorite on this gift from Phil is Darlene Love’s powerful, rockin’ and soulful plea for her baby to please come home for Christmas. Every listen brings chills, whether you’re opening packages at The North Pole or South Beach. It’s that good and a standard that can’t be topped.

Sorry Bono.

In case you missed it, “Sorry Bono” was a not so hidden reference to the U2 version which is good, but not Darlene Love worthy. And for those speed reading, it shouldn’t be confused with “Sonny Bono,” who was a go-fer for Spector during these sessions that employed his future meal ticket Cher as a background singer.

As fate would have it, this song and the album didn’t get the attention it deserved when released on November 22, 1963President John F. Kennedy’s trip to Dallas sucked the air out of any holiday cheer and Spector’s gift tanked in the sales department. The album didn’t hit the yearly holiday hit parade until it was re-released by Apple Records in 1972, which happened to be owned by johnandyoko and three other guys.

Just another common thread in the web of Christmas songs…

Darlene Love is still belting it out, but we lost a Christmas tradition in our house when David Letterman stepped down as host of The Late Show. Darlene’s annual rendition with Paul Shaffer and the band was must watch television for many years.

The tradition may be gone, but not forgotten. The video below is Darlene’s final appearance during Dave’s final season.

When the fake snow falls on the audience in The Ed Sullivan Theater we’ll go for the rock star eggnog and toast another season of holiday cheer. When the fog clears, it signals the start of summer and raises questions of why I’m waking up next to Keith Richards’ swimming pool wearing a Santa hat.

Happy holiday!


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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing


#173 – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey


#173 – Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey by Paul and Linda McCartney

Paul & Linda

– There’s a short section of road along the south shore of Lake Erie that I drive almost every day. It’s about seven or eight miles from where I’m currently holed-up and for some reason, more often than not, I’m reminded of Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.

This is a bit of a mind game for me because that doesn’t happen anywhere else. Yeah, certain places might remind me of certain songs, but this is a constant. I make a slight curve, glance up a short hill of mowed grass and regardless of whatever one of the thousands of songs on my playlist is coming through the car speakers, the title of this hit from the 1971 album Ram will flash through my brain.

I know… strange.

Smile Away 4 the camera!

In trying to put my memories together I know the album was released that May, less than a month before I graduated high school. I’ve never owned a vinyl copy, but had an 8-track that I played so often the cover photo of Paul holding the horns of a ram showed serious signs of wear and tear by the time I graduated college four years later. By that time, 8-tracks were relegated to either ancient history or collector’s items. It’s now on my digital playlist – which is a current technology that fools me into thinking I’m not that ancient – but I hadn’t heard it in awhile.

So when I woke up with the song playing through my mind on August 25 it immediately went into the subliminal category of Dream Songs. And I guess that makes it a double-whammy when it comes to mind games (and yeah, I was thinking of the John Lennon album as I wrote that) because I also know I’ll drive past that mowed hill of grass within the next day or two and whammy! Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey will be subliminally traveling with me again.

Since the song wasn’t released as a single until later that summer I can only guess it was already receiving radio airplay in advance, or I had propped my state-of-the-art portable 8-track player on the passenger seat of my mother’s car (since I didn’t have my own), using the cigarette lighter as a power source. If Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey was playing all those decades ago while – by chance – I was cruising along this piece of road, it must have made quite the mental impression.

I have no other explanation why that happens. But there is another memory…


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There was bit of a red flag feeling that went up with this song. The Beatles had been the most consistent hit-making band since I was a preteen in 1964. The Rolling Stones had been around almost as long, but were only just moving into their Golden Era off the LP Let It Bleed and released the month before Ram, Sticky Fingers. Led Zeppelin had also become a favorite, but both groups were still in the rear view mirror when it came to The Beatles.

Two thirds of writers

With three major songwriters competing for spots on their albums, you knew there wouldn’t be a dud in the bunch. John Lennon and Paul McCartney regularly supplied number one hits and George Harrison had come into his own as a writer. The winter before he seemed to pass the other two as a solo artist with the classic LP All Things Must Pass.

John had become the Working Class Hero and Paul once again demonstrated his talent with his first self-titled album and the single Maybe I’m Amazed.

And though boomers continued to hold out hope for a Fab Four reunion after Abbey Road and Let It Be, Paul’s second LP Ram (with his new writing and performing partner, wife Linda) really made it clear there was a major separation between him and his former mates as songwriters.

But we should have seen it coming…

When you listen to Abbey Road, the actual final Beatles record (Let It Be was recorded earlier and released later) it was obvious then. Harrison’s Something and Here Comes The Sun, and Lennon’s Come Together are mainstays in Beatles Best Of collections, near the top in Beatles song rankings and highlights in the decades later LOVE show in Las Vegas and the CD.


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McCartney’s main contributions to the album (other than song snippets with Lennon’s on the side two Medley) were Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Oh, Darling! Don’t get me wrong – I love both. But they’re more light-weight pop songs and when compared to the before-mentioned Lennon and Harrison classics they never seemed to rank as high on the Beatles Hit Parade.

There’s no doubt McCartney deserves every award and accolade he’s received. But when the hard rockers were taking over in the early 1970’s he seemed to be moving a few steps back into the pop category. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey has always been a favorite, but releasing it as a single during Spring 1971 didn’t help raise his cool factor.

Rock and rollers

To put it into perspective, as mentioned I was graduating high school. At our graduation parties where dancing and 3.2% beer were legal and common for 18-year olds in Ohio at that time – do you think we were rocking out to Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey or Brown Sugar, Gimme Shelter and Whole Lotta Love?

No need to answer. If you’re a first generation Classic Rocker, I’ll rest my case.

Ram was a huge hit in 1971, along with just about everything involving any of the Beatles during this era. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey may have been too pop for much of the Woodstock Generation and too close on the heels of the bubble gum music fad that drove many of us away from AM radio, but McCartney was still writing great tunes and rocking out. One of them, and undoubtedly my favorite from the album, is Too Many People, which came in at #261 on this Dream Song list. It’s rare when an artist has two songs on this list – let alone two songs from the same album (other than a Greatest Hits Collection). It’s just another example of McCartney’s ability to write catchy tunes.

Oh, there’s one other lasting memory…

My dad had a favorite uncle. He was much older and lived in Michigan, but they were always close. And of course his name was Uncle Albert. The first time my dad heard this song coming from my transistor radio at our family bakery, he stopped working (for a brief moment), looked at me, smiled and said, “Uncle Albert?” Yeah, I’ll always have that memory.

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Since I don’t know if the McCartney’s ever performed the song live or made an official video, here’s something I’ve found online. The song is heard over family home movies, which will give you an idea of what Paul and Linda were doing following the breakup of The Beatles and before the mega-success of their group Wings.



To purchase Ram with Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (along with Too Many People and other great tracks) visit



Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on

Copyright 2018 – North Shore Publishing