She'll Grow Back: Multiple Mondays: Must Be Santa!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Multiple Mondays: Must Be Santa!

This will absolutely be the silliest Multiple Monday ever, and it's also another oddball one. We're looking at some wildly different (but all closely-related) versions of a call-and-response style of song. (Next week I can put up a regular MM post, I think.)

So, sometime in the last four hundred years (estimates vary and historians are widely divided on the genealogy of the song), German-speakers came up with a call-and-response song named "Schnitzelbank." It's known in America these days as a drinking song heard at Oktoberfests all around the country.

First, we'll hear a traditional Oktoberfest version from Schwarze Schafe, then a kiddie parody from The Biscuit Brothers. Bill Haley and His Comets rewrite it and rock it up as "Rockin' Rollin' Schnitzelbank." Next, the version probably best known to Americans under 35 and not of German heritage, the version from Animaniacs.

Okay, so in 1953, Mel Blanc recorded a holiday version of "Schnitzelbank" entitled "Ya, Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree" which is an excuse to showcase his incredible voice talents. And that was in turn parodied decades later by Joel Kopischke as "Stupid Christmas Song."

Somewhere in the middle of all this mess, our patron saint, Thurl Ravenscroft, added his own version of the song, a silly love song called "Oh You Sweet One."

Now, finally, we come to the point. At least by 1961, which is when Mitch Miller committed his version to tape, we got around to hearing "Must Be Santa." It retains the structure and polka style of "Schnitzelbank" but changes the tune a little and the lyrics a lot. Now it's all about the fat man in the red suit. (I know, I know, I'd never have guessed I'd post a Mitch Miller track on this blog, but it really brings out the call-and-response aspect, and I don't have another good classic take on the song.)

I'd intended at this point in the post to write a long review of Bob's album, but it's been done other places by better, more knowledgeable writers and this post is already a leetle long. So, let me just say this: it's not a particularly good Christmas album, and it's not a particularly good Dylan album. (Bob is one of those people like Tom Waits or Lou Reed, who has the ability to make sweet pretty music but doesn't do so very often. He doesn't try to make any of these songs particularly pretty, and most of them were written to be pretty.)

It is, however, all for charity. A good charity. There's no buy link today, just a link to donate to that charity. "Must Be Santa" is the best track on the album, largely because (in my opinion) it doesn't express or try to inspire reverence for the holiday which means a lot of different things to a lot of different people (and has meant several different things to Bob over the span of his career, I'd bet).

Then, after Bob finishes up, we have the triumphant return of Glenn Campbot, with his ladyfriend Linda Ronbodt, singing "Must Be Giftbot." I love me some singing robots. As always, I recommend the zipfile.

1. Schwarze Schafe - Die Schnitzelbank 1 2
2. The Biscuit Brothers - Schnitzelbank 1 2
3. Bill Haley and His Comets - Rockin' Rollin' Schnitzelbank 1 2
4. Animaniacs - Schnitzelbank 1 2
5. Mel Blanc - Ya, Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree 1 2
6. Joel Kopischke - Stupid Christmas Song 1 2
7. Thurl Ravenscroft - Oh You Sweet One 1 2
8. Mitch Miller and The Gang - Must Be Santa 1 2
9. Bob Dylan - Must Be Santa 1 2
10. Glenn Campbot and Linda Ronbodt - Must Be Giftbot 1 2


Mark H. Besotted said...

Aha! This eBay auction claims "Must Be Santa" was written in 1959, but I can't find a 1959 recording anywhere.

Tommy Steele had a minor hit in England in 1960.

Eh, if I hadn't spent so long uploading Mitch Miller I'd take him out and put Tommy in, but that'd mean reupping the zip too. I'll come back and fix it eventually, probably.

vilstef said...

A small item of interest. Here's a link to one of my favorite sharing blogs. This is for a Myron Floren album from 1972 which has Thurl Ravenscroft in the chorus. Just bought the album at a thrift store recently, and spotted him in the credits.

Mark H. Besotted said...

Thanks for the link. Not a lot of recognizable Thurl in that album, but I'm an insane completist, so it's good to add something else.

Also, thanks for all your comments -- they came as I was on my honeymoon, which is why I didn't respond to each one immediately. Hope you're still enjoying what I'm posting.

olaf675 said...

Thank for this thread. I found a registration number for the song from 1960, plus a variety of other versions and news clippings that I posted in this other forum.

Mitch Miller: Must Be Santa

If there was an even earlier version, it would be nice to hear.

The '1958, 1959, 1961' copyright notice here makes me wonder, but it might be for all songs on the album. Must Be Santa MP3

I am surprised there weren't more American versions from that period.

I hope some of this is of interest.

Mark H. Besotted said...

Thanks for the info, Olaf! Always nice to have someone else do my research for me...

I hope that sometime soon I'll get around to posting things on this blog again.

olaf675 said...

Thanks for the history of 'Schnitzelbank' and all of those versions. I like finding stuff like that.

I've seen some mention that 'Must Be Santa' was copyrighted in 1959 and others in 1960, but I guess I'd have to contact Hollis Music Inc to know for certain.

Anyway, here are some audio clips for the early versions of 'Must Be Santa':

Alma Cogan - Must Be Santa (1960)
Joan Regan - Must Be Santa (1960)
It's too bad this podcast is no longer available that included it - Why Fidelity 102 - A Kiss For Christmas

Sadly, I haven't been able to find any samples of Paul Rich's version.

Here's even a Finnish version -- Laila, Brita ja Vieno - Tuttu vieras varmaankin - Must Be Santa (1961)
Details of Laila, Brita ja Vieno - Tuttu vieras varmaankin - Must Be Santa (1961)

And here's are some versions that probably would have William Fredericks, Hal Moore, and the 'Schnitzelbank' authors cringing.
Skerik - Must Be Santa (2004)
Billy Nayer - Must Be Santa (1995)

RIP Mitch Miller

Seeing how many versions are above, I imagine there are (at least a few) more 1960s versions from around the world that are lost to time.

You also might enjoy this song by your 'patron saint' that I imagine you've never heard before (as it's not mentioned on your blog) --
Teenage Brain Surgeon - Thurl Ravenscroft/Spike Jones

Mark H. Besotted said...

Wow, that's incredible. I wrote the post in less than a day, so I didn't have the time or the space to research or talk about everything. Thanks again for all that.

And, for the record, I LOVE Teenage Brain Surgeon. That's from the tail-end of Spike's career, which is usually not well-respected (understandably -- of course he couldn't do anything as good as "Cocktails for Two" ever again). I included it in my Halloween Thurl mix (I didn't include a tracklist, which is why you didn't see it noted there):