Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: You recently wrote about the success, or lack of it, of some very familiar Christmas records.

As a big fan of nearly all of the British Invasion acts of the 1960s, I don't ever recall hearing a single Christmas or holiday hit by any of them. This seems a bit odd since, for much of that decade, the Brits dominated our pop music.

Are there ones that I just somehow missed?

Also, how many U.S. Christmas hits also made it big in the UK in the '60s?
—Geoff Walley, Show Low, Ariz.

DEAR GEOFF: If there are any you missed, then I must have also missed them.

For that entire decade, only three U.S. artists, and five Christmas songs, entered the British New Musical Express (NME) Top 30:

Brenda Lee did so twice, with “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree” (1962) and “Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day” (1964).

Elvis Presley also scored with two tunes, “Blue Christmas” (1964) and “If Everyday Was Like Christmas” (1966).

The fifth is Roy Orbison's “Pretty Paper” (1964).

By drastically expanding your parameters, one might consider Engelbert Humperdinck's “Winter World of Love” a candidate, but I can't quite make that leap.

Granted, Engelbert is indeed British, by residence and not birth, but he is still not one normally lumped in with British Invasion groups and singers.

“Winter World of Love,” about a winter romance sans holiday references, came out in December 1969, the last month of the '60s.

Conspicuous by their absence are several American classics whose fame surprisingly didn't traverse the Atlantic: Beach Boys - “Little Saint Nick”; Brook Benton - “You're All I Want for Christmas”; Carpenters - “Merry Christmas Darling”; Chipmunks with David Seville - “The Chipmunk Song”; Nat King Cole - “The Christmas Song”; Bing Crosby - “Do You Hear What I Hear”; Drifters - “White Christmas”; Elmo & Patsy - “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”; Jose Feliciano - “Feliz Navidad”; 4 Seasons or Bruce Springsteen - “Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town”; and Bobby Helms - “Jingle Bell Rock.”

A fellow named Max Bygraves did make the NME survey with a version of “Jingle Bell Rock” (1959).

DEAR JERRY: In a previous column you told of how Linda Laurie's “Ambrose (Part 5)” was her first “Ambrose” record, and, despite the subtitle, no previous parts existed.

How about Little Stevie Wonder's smash hit “Fingertips Part 2”? Is there even a Part 1? If so, I have never heard it.
—Judy Phillip, Milwaukee

DEAR JUDY: Unlike the “Ambrose” example, there is a “Fingertips Part 1,” and you'll find it in the most logical of places: on the reverse side of “Fingertips Part 2” (Tamla 54080).

The original recording, from a June 1962 Chicago concert, runs about six-and-a-half minutes, all of which is fine for a track on Stevie's “Jazz Soul” album. “Fingertips” was, however, much too long for a single release.

They solved the problem by splitting the track roughly in the middle and assigning each half a part number, with “Fingertips Part 2” being the more commercial side by far, and a No. 1 hit.

IZ ZAT SO? When “Fingertips Part 2” topped the charts (August 1963), it became the first live performance recording to reach No. 1 since Johnny Standley's “It's in the Book” (November 1952).

Ironically, “It's in the Book,” a comedy routine, also runs over six minutes and, like “Fingertips,” ended up on a single in two parts.

Unlike “Fingertips,” both sides of “It's in the Book” enjoyed equal popularity.

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