All 18 of the Christmas recordings made by Brenda Lee for Decca Records in the 1950s and 1960s are now available on vinyl for the first time. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree: The Decca Christmas Recordings is released by Decca/MCA Nashville/UMe and marks the 20th anniversary of its first appearance on CD in 1999.
The compilation includes the entertainer’s first holiday single ‘Christy Christmas’ and its twangy b-side ‘I’m Gonna Lasso Santa Claus,’ both of which came from the first-ever recording session of the child star, when she was just 11. It also features every track from her 1964 full-length holiday album Merry Christmas From Brenda Lee, which has been unavailable on vinyl for more than three decades.
That album features Lee’s take onsuch holiday staples as ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,’ ‘Silver Bells,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘Blue Christmas,’ ‘A Marshmallow World’ and ‘Frosty The Snowman.’ Other highlights of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree: The Decca Christmas Recordings include the orchestral ‘This Time Of Year,’ the melancholy ballad ‘Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day’ and a particular favourite among Brenda’s audience, ‘The Angel and the Little Blue Bell.’
The new release also offers three tracks there were originally only available on the Japanese release of Lee’s 1964 album, all appearing on vinyl in the US for the first time, ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Jingle Bells.’
Brenda recorded ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,’ a new song by Johnny Marks (of ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ fame, among other festive classics) when she was just 13. “Little Miss Dynamite” and her producer Owen Bradley both heard its potential, and she remembered: “It was just one of those magical moments in the studio when everything came together. The sax solo, the little guitar lick that’s in there. Everything just sort of fell into place.”
The song failed to chart when first release as her second Christmas single, backed with the Cajun-flavored ‘Papa Noel,’ but became a top 20 hit in 1960 in the wake of her No. 1 smash ‘I’m Sorry.’ Its first UK top ten appearance was in 1962, when it reached No. 6. It’s been a holiday perennial ever since, featuring in the hit movie Home Alone and resurfacing in the charts on numerous occasions. Last year, marking its 60th anniversary, ‘Rockin” climbed to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, the same peak it had reached in the UK a year earlier.
UMe has created a new animated clip for ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,’ its first-ever official video. It was created by Ingenuity Studios and inspired by the vintage UPA cartoons of the 1950s and 1960s, featuring a merry trio of performing musicians who encounter scenes from favourite holiday movies.
“When I recorded ‘Rockin’’ in 1958, I never could have dreamt that it would become a Christmas standard that would be listened to year after year and loved by generation after generation,” says Lee. “I always loved the song and knew it was great, and that was the main criteria for me and Owen, but we never imagined it would become the quintessential Christmas song it has become.
“It’s been an amazing journey with this song. I thought Home Alone was a pretty darn good video so I never brought up the idea of a video but I’m honoured that Universal has created ‘Rockin’’s first-ever video.”
Lee, now a youthful 74, will be signing copies of the album at an in-store event at Madame Tussauds in her home town, Nashville, this Saturday (23 November). More information is at the Madame Tussauds website.
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree: The Decca Christmas Recordings is available on standard weight black vinyl now. Scroll down for the tracklisting, and buy it here.