Number 39.   This edition is for the week of December 18--24, 2000.
Why all the best Christmas TV specials come from the '60s   by Nolan B. Canova
    My younger friends are always mystified as to why I so embrace my "statistic" as a "baby boomer". "You're labeling yourself", they say, "we don't like being labeled 'generation X' or 'generaton next' or whatever. Why should you LIKE being a baby boomer?"
    I don't remember what I thought of that label as a young man, but yes I do sort of enjoy a certain smugness. A lot of pop culture fans hate that. But when you think about it, 90% of everything we consume in pop culture had its roots in the 50s and 60s--especially the 60s, if we're talking about television. And it all has to do with the timing.
    Yes, there was exhuberant Christmas shopping way before the 60s. But only since the late 50s had TV and newspaper commercials and ads been aimed primarily at a certain demographic group: those post-war babies born between 1945 and 1963 (some say it's 1946--1964)or as is commonly known the "Baby Boomer" generation. So-called for its explosive growth. By the late 1960s, those 25 and under were 70 million strong. Many of those were still teenagers.
   Coinciding with this--in an almost supernatural way--was the side-by-side development of TV as a major source of entertainment and news. An American president had been assasinated. That was televised. The Beatles landed in America. That was televised. While our depression era/WWII parents were snorting about all this "foolishness","we" were at just the exact right age and population number to make differences in this country. Everyone soon came to realize that us "spoiled brats" could and would take over the market.
  Digression: I do a vigorous "sidewalk seminar" on repercussions media advances have had on society, besides what I'm addressing here, especially concerning the pivotal '60s. It usually draws much fire, but I'm unmovable on it. Someday, I'll write about it here. But, I'm digressing....
   Christmas is huge. Always has been. As TV and marketing for it grew and developed, a symbiotic relationship began that could never be over-estimated: the power to promote to children over the airwaves. As TV was rediscovering old movies that had luckluster press in its day, but were re-promoting them to a new generation as "classics"--"Miracle on 34th St.", "A Christmas Carol", and especially, "It's a Wonderful Life"-- it realized new product would be absorbed readily.
     Starting with Rankin/Bass' "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" animated special in 1964, to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in 1965, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in 1966, to "Frosty the Snowman", etc.  These are still being rerun today!!! As far as I know, there were no further Christmas "classics" run every year (excluding the afore-mentioned movies, of course)!!!  Why?
     The generation that could appreciate them has grown and moved on, but remained loyal to their childhood more than any generation in history. The kids alive today have computers and video games. When they do watch television they have a choice of a bazillion channels. Why should the network knock themselves out for that? Back then, you had--if you were lucky--a choice of 3 networks and maybe 1 or 2 independents. And those rarely came in well. (Kids--"came in well" refers to TV via rooftop aerial, not cable or modem.) A TV special was just that--special. The networks relied on them for ratings. We relied on them to be special. And they usually were.
    One other thing that's frequently overlooked. It was the last "golden age" for certain performers either at the peak of their game or retired, but still working occasionally. How lucky we were to have Boris Karloff still with us to do the voice of The Grinch. And Chuck Jones animating it. Or the guy who did the magician on "Frosty" (name escapes me at the moment--Billy something?) as well as Jackie Vernon. Or the late, great Vince Guaraldi's unbelievably classic jazz score for "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Still played every year. Still sounds good. Are there giants on the planet today and we can't see them?
    In any event, Christmas has changed a lot for me since childhood--naturally, it would. It's not the same, but it can be a magical time no matter what I tirade about it. But if I hear Vince Guaraldi's piano playing over any store's loudspeakers, I still have to stop and listen to it all the way thru. That's a legacy from the 60s--among many--I'm very grateful for.
Nolan's Top 11--20 guitarists. (Postponed from last issue.)
  OK, OK, I'm getting to it. Last issue, I promised my Top 11--20 favorite guitarists, but didn't get around to it. My Top 10 guitarists are in issue 37 if anyone needs a refresher. In no particular order, the top 11-20 are:

11.) Leslie West. For some reason appealed to me as a "poor man's Eric Clapton", but fatter. "Mississippi Queen", to me, is a classic.
12.) Johnny Winter. For the longest time known to me as "Edgar Winter's brother". Blues/Rock/Texas badass player virtually without parallel.
13.) Ronnie Montrose. Of the band of the same name (Montrose) and Sammy Hagar's first band. Also some association with the Winter brothers.
14.) Roy Clark. Under-appreciated now, he's much more versatile than people know. Due to being cast as a comic, his guitar talents were tragically overlooked.
15.) Eric Clapton. The earliest electric blues-type playing I heard where I asked a friend, "who's that?"
16.) Jimi Hendrix. I always get shit about putting Hendrix so far down, but truthfully, at the time, I associated him more as a drug culture guru than guitarist. He was a very late influence, but I only realized in the last few years his contributions. And I did learn "Purple Haze"!
17.) Stanley Jordan. Anybody remember this guy? Young black guy, made the rounds on the major talk shows. His gag was he played entire jazz tunes using both his hands on the fretboard at all times. Amazing.
18.) Ben(?) Chapman. It's been so long since I've thought about him, I'm guessing at his first name, but he invented the "Chapman Stick", the first guitar-like instrument designed to be played with both hands on the fretboard.
19.) Richie Blackmore. With the classic Deep Purple, an unmatched virtuoso of lead lines and keyboard match-notes.
20.) Michael Schenker. The Michael Schenker Group, UFO (I think), and little brother to The Scorpion's Rudolph Schenker. I spent many nights trying to pick up this guy's mercurial lead lines. Never quite did.
All contents this page are 2000 by Nolan B. Canova


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