Today, January 6th is the feast of Epiphany, the day after Twelfth Night when Christmas officially comes to an end. Yes! Now we can take the Christmas Trees and all the decorations down. I’ll have none of that “these decorations must be down by New Year’s Day” foolishness. The twelve days of Christmas start, not end on Christmas day. So in a little bit, I’ll be out in the front taking down the outdoor decorations much to the relief of my neighbors who I’m sure were taking bets on whether or not I’ll leave them up all month.
Taking Christmas decorations down is always a little sad for me. It marks the end of the best part of the winter; the Christmas Holidays. Once again, no White Christmas for me. Now it is all cold and ice until the end of March. Historically the coldest time of the winter and the time most likely to see snow or ice is near the end of January and the beginning of February. The rest of the winter here is filled with crisp days with blue skies and a brilliant sun. Highs will be in the forties and lows in the thirties or upper twenties. According to the Farmer’s Almanac February 2019 average temperature will be 49° (3° above avg.) and precipitation for the month will 3" (1" below avg.) so it doesn’t look too good this year. We could use the cold and ice to hold back the onslaught of Palmetto Bugs, otherwise known as roaches this year. By the way, for those uninitiated to southern bug life, these puppies can actually fly.
Also, by now the few local radio stations that did not go cold turkey on the Christmas music on December 26th have cleared their studios of all the holiday CD’s and except for those stations that have changed formats, they have replaced their holiday automation playlists of all the seasonal tunes and we are back to their regular music. Even Sirius is shutting down all sixteen of their holiday channels. The last one flips back to normal tomorrow, January 7th.
Back in the day, after a month of diving into the cardboard box of Christmas 45’s on the control room floor, I found myself turning around in the air chair to grab a record. I was a little disappointed that they weren’t there any longer. Offsetting that was the waxing tide of new releases arriving in the up and coming box. It seems that the record promoters knew better than to try to compete with Christmas Music with new offerings. So Januarys were a little brighter, music-wise. If my memory serves, the January releases generally were more “feel good” than the rest of the year. For example, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” was released as a stand-alone single on October 22, 1966 just in time to make the charts in January 1967. Later when the time from release to charts grew shorter, the Bangles released their version of the song in November 1987 just in time for the January 1988 charts.
Likewise, “The Choir,” a garage rock band from Cleveland released their first single "It's Cold Outside" on Roulette Records in December 1966. I remember playing that song on WCOS in January 1967, thinking that it was a great winter song. The Choir is well known for containing three of the four original members of Raspberries Dave Smalley, Wally Bryson and Jim Bonfanti, (all except lead singer Eric Carmen). I never understood why that song did not break onto the national charts. It remains one of the long lost garage band oldies of the late 60s.
Maybe I’ll play it on WUSC-FM tomorrow just for old time’s sake. Thanks to Rich Spina, the current keyboardist of Herman’s Hermits, who is from Cleveland himself; who supplied me with a copy of the song four years ago when I could not find it anywhere else.
A final example of what I call Winter Music is “Popsicles and Icicles” by the Murmaids. The songs began receiving airplay in Los Angeles in October 1963, breaking nationally in November, and reaching its peak at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and The Cash Box Magazine charts on January 11, 1964. Again, we see perfect timing to be a January “feel good” song.
I tell you, you can’t sit still listening to these songs, the feet are a-thumpin’ and the heart’s a-pumpin’, and you are definitely doing the “DJ Air Chair Behind Boogie” when these tunes are spinning at 45 RPM on the turntable. Well, at least in the hallways of our memories; they are all computer files these days.
But that doesn’t matter; the headphones are firmly on my head, turned up way too loud. My eyes are closed and I’m singing along at the top of my voice. I am transported from the WUSC-FM control room at Russell House to the old WCOS studios on the second floor of the Cornell Arms Apartments just a couple of blocks to the northwest. The smell of vinyl is in the air and my feet are warmed by the hot water heating system that was in the floor of the Air Control Room. Back to the present! The flasher on the phone blinking to let me know there is a listener calling with a request! Life is good. Oh MY!