137: Same Old Lang Syne

It’s kind of melancholy for a song that many consider to be a Christmas song, isn’t it?

What you have in this tune is the true story of two people who re-encounter each other after several years of separation. And as they spend some time re-connecting, they both recognize that despite opening up to each other, it doesn’t mean that anything else is going to happen for them. The moment has passed them by, and they’re mostly just left with the restlessness and maybe even some self-pity that they hadn’t even realized they were experiencing earlier.

They’re glad they saw each other, and they still manage to come away sadder about their own situation, having gained and lost a shred of hope that this is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.

Jill Greulich, the woman in the Dan Fogelberg song "Same Old Lang Syne."

Fogelberg always insisted that the story was true, but he never revealed the identity of the woman in the story. But shortly after he died in 2007, she came forward and did an interview with a Peoria, Illinois newspaper. Her name is Jill Anderson Greulich, and she says she hears from Fogelberg’s fans all the time, with almost invariably positive messages, and especially around the holidays.

It’s not really a Christmas song in the sense of Christmas songs we typically think of. It’s set during Christmas, but it’s not the overly-happy, sanitized Christmas we’re used to singing about. It’s more like the Christmas that actually happens to us.

And that’s not always a bad thing.

I meant what I said about the cookies. If you come up with a guess, hit me up on the social media and I’ll let you know if you got it.

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135: Lesser Known Christmas Pop

Merry Christmas!

I actually had a different show in mind but I got to listening to some old radio airchecks (not my own) and I was inspired to do something different from the usual show.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s a half-hour long. That’s because I’m playing songs in their entirety and not really talking very much. (If any episode is going to net me a C&D letter, this’ll be the one.)

In this year’s Christmas episode, I’m playing eight songs that don’t get airplay anymore for some reason. A few of them are kinda goofy, a couple are kind of derivative, and I daresay a few of them are seminal to their genre. And while I share a little history with you here and there, the intent this time is to just sit back and wonder why the All Christmas All The Time station in your area is sticking with the same twenty songs, and not playing any of these guys.

All of these songs can be found without too much hassle on Amazon Music or YouTube. If you want to revisit them, here’s the playlist:

  • Merry Christmas, Mary—Tommy Dee and Carol Kay
  • Merry, Merry Christmas, Baby—Dodie Stevens
  • Santa’s Song—The Oak Ridge Boys
  • Yulesville—Edd “Kookie” Byrnes
  • Santa Claus Meets the Purple People Eater—Sheb Wooley
  • Please Come Home For Christmas—Charles Brown
  • White Christmas—The Ravens
  • Silent Night—The Ravens (flip side of White Christmas)

    And just for the giggles, here’s one more song that didn’t make it into the show itself. It’s Bobby Helms’ other shot at a Christmas tune, from 1965. He wasn’t the original artist (I think he was the fourth) to release this song. I think the most popular version came from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in 1968, though Bobby Vinton’s version is kind of well-known, too. At any rate, here’s Bobby Helms:

    Sorry, no transcript of this episode, since it’s mostly music.

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128: In Your Eyes

By 1985 Peter Gabriel had released four solo albums, all of them titled Peter Gabriel. Nowadays most people subtitle them based on the cover artwork (e.g. Peter Gabriel (Scratch), Peter Gabriel (Melt), etc.), and while I suppose that amused Gabriel, it did not amuse the folks at his label.

They pushed back hard to get him to take marketing his work more seriously, so he came up with a title that wasn’t really much of a title: So. But Gabriel had, perhaps because of his work on Birdy, had caught on to the worldbeat sound, and incorporated it into the compositions on So. In addition, he got ridiculously lucky with some very creative people to direct and produce the videos that supported the singles. “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” in particular were very MTV-friendly, and all of a sudden Gabriel is himself on his way and making it in the Big Time, with So going Top Five around the world.

And the fact that the “In Your Eyes” single was a tonal changeup from most of the other singles (“Don’t Give Up” notwithstanding), meant that Peter Gabriel was being taken more seriously as a versatile performer than he was previously, when he was thought of largely as a cult favorite.

I didn’t promise this during the show, but I’m throwing it in here anyway. Here’s the source material for some of the “In Your Eyes” video.

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127: Foreign Influence

I don’t know why it fascinated me so much recently to poke around with songs that had foreign lyrics in them. But, here we are. This week’s show (and I promise I’m done with the premise for awhile) looks at four songs between 1969 and 1984 which have non-English phrases in them. Some of them have been hilariously misunderstood for a long time. One of them is pretty obvious but I decided to throw it in anyway. And one may come as a surprise to you, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.

As promised, here’s an episode of the European game show Jeux Sans Frontières from 1975. This episode comes from Engelburg, Switzerland:

And here’s another, airing from Vilamoura, Portugal in 1980:

And just for laughs, here’s this week’s episode:

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126–Kyrie

Mr. Mister is kind of a peculiar name for a band, but a lot of them have peculiar names, so there’s that. This particular band, originally from the Phoenix, Arizona area, got their name from an inside joke about the Weather Report album Mr. Gone.

Sorry, not all the stories I have are great stories.

“Kyrie” is one of those songs that is very well understood by a certain slice of America. It’s also very misunderstood by the rest of the country, and it largely depends on your religious upbringing, although if you know a lot about classical music, you may also have a clue. No, I’m not going to tell you here. Go listen to the show.

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Also, I probably shouldn’t mention this, but this is one of a few songs that will invariably have me Chasing Amy…so to speak. And if you think you’re Amy, drop me a line.

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Everything Old Is New Again

Phil Collins' 'In the Air' Is a Hit Again, Thanks to Reaction Video

Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” which we looked at back in Episode 5, is not only on the charts again, it’s made it back into the Top 10 on iTunes in the US, nearly 40 years after its release.

Why? You ask. I presume you’re asking because you’re reading this in 2025 or something, and don’t remember this phenomenon. But a pair of YouTubers, Tim and Fred Williams, have been making videos where they listen to older pop songs recommended by viewers, and they’re recording their reactions as they listen to the song for the first time.

The 21-year-old twins already had a pretty respectable following, and then someone edited their response to “In the Air Tonight” down to a roughly 45-second snippet where they hear the drum break for the first time and they’re both surprised and wowed by it.

The video as a whole (all of their stuff, really) is pretty cool, with them stopping and starting the song to comment in-between, but what makes this one extra-good, I think, is that the song is such a slow burn, they’re slowly warming up to it, and then WHAM! They’re literally (their words) woken up by the beats. The whole thing is worth watching, but if you’re impatient, skip to 4:13:

(Fair Warning: They run an intro at the beginning that drops some NSFW language.)

What’s tough to remember, years and years down the road, is how WE first reacted to this song, and I have to think that it was much the same, and that’s the fun of this particular set of reaction videos. These guys know what they’re talking about musically, and they express it in a unique way. And because they’re usually pulling the songs from YouTube (recursive stuff, that), sometimes they spend a little time reacting to the videos (if the song has an official promotional video).

And once you’ve seen this one, go check out some of their other reaction videos over on YouTube. Their YT handle is TwinsTheNewTrend. Good luck getting out of that rabbit hole.

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121–Take On Me

Some songs seem to spring out of nowhere, and then you take a deeper look and you realize that it’s a cover, or a rewrite, or it’s a re-release that flopped the first time. “Take On Me” by A-ha, it turns out, is in the All Of The Above category. It was re-written several times and re-recorded a couple of times, and released three times before it finally became the hit we know today.

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117–Come Dancing

The Kinks are a band that seems to have some huge, HUGE adherents, and others who are more casual fans, and not much in between. And that seemed to reflect in their chart positions here in the United States. They’d get the positive reviews, they’d get the airplay, the singles would do well, but they’d never really tear up the charts. And then a little while later, maybe a year or two, new material would come out and the cycle would begin again.

And every time a single dropped in both the US and the UK, it would do better in the UK.

Except for this one. “Come Dancing” got a boost in the US from MTV airplay, and then in the UK from all the attention it was getting in the US, which prompted Arista Records to re-release the single. And for all that, it’s The Kinks’ highest-charting single, tied with another song from many years earlier. Which one? Go listen to the show.

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Episode 109–Get Go-Going

The Go-Go’s (somehow that always looks wrong) started out in the late 1970s as a punk band in Los Angeles, and they were a pretty solid presence in that city’s Punk scene. But as they started to grow in prominence, they moved away from that edgy sound and into more of the pop scene.

When IRS records finally signed them in 1980, they cut their first album, which included a re-recording of their first single. If you listened to college radio, you probably remember the original version of “We Got The Beat,” which was an import here in the US and was actually part of their demo record. You probably also found yourself wondering what happened to it when you finally heard the song released as a single in the early days of 1982, while “Our Lips Are Sealed” was making its slow climb back down the charts.

Well…wonder no more, because I’ve got that story for you right here.

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Episode 108–Books on Vinyl

Last week’s show was short, time-wise, and I promised I’d make up for it. And make up, I did, because this is one of my longer non-interview shows, clocking in at 20:30. If you listen to this show during your morning commute, you may have to circle the block a few times before going in to work.

But it’s so packed with stuff that I don’t think you’ll mind. This week we’re looking at songs that were inspired by books, a topic that’s turned out to be HUGE, and we’ll be visiting again in the future if you’re digging it.

As promised here are links to the stories I talked about during the show.

This is the link to “The Sound-Sweep.” It’s a little on the long side, but I think you’ll like it.

This is Ray Bradbury’s “Rocket Man.” I think it was scanned into someone’s computer because there are some weird typos.

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