Holiday Music Countdown: Numbers 19 and 18, ladies night

Continuing my remarkably self-centered countdown of my favorite 25 holiday songs. (Find
previous posts here
.) I skipped posting a countdown song yesterday, so today
we get two. And what do you know! It’s ladies night. (Yes, the feeling’s right.)

19. 2000 Miles (The Pretenders)

I used to want to be Chrissie Hynde. Now I realize I mostly want to have her ballsiness, or whatever it was that enabled her to leave behind everything she knew in Ohio and move to England with (supposedly) nothing to her name but a copy of a Stooges record — and once there, to make herself successful doing what she loved.

Alternatively, I’d settle for her ability to write a beautiful song, one that is tuneful, strong, sweet, and melancholy all in one.

18. Jingle Bells (Ella Fitzgerald)

I confess that I’m not crazy about a lot of Ella Fitzgerald’s studio recordings. I think the people who managed her were a bit too controlling, and as a result both the production of many of her recordings and her performances on them are chilly and too clean.

In videos of her live performances, you can see how in concert she let more emotion come through. Her incredible eight-octave range was not the main focus; she used it, sure, but she brought so much more to bear in expressing her sense of a song.

In contrast, in her studio recordings every note is perfect, every sound is scripted. Which is good, except when it’s too good.

But that crisp style works perfectly in her recording of “Jingle Bells,” which sounds precisely like a brisk sleigh ride through a cold winter night. It moves so quickly that you think the whole contraption might slide out of control, and there’s a little bit of syncopation to jazz things up. Jingle jingle, jingle-ingle all the way!

3 replies on “Holiday Music Countdown: Numbers 19 and 18, ladies night”

  1. My favorite “Jingle Bells” is by Count Basie’s Orchestra — or the one Schroeder plays in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

    But you’re exactly right about “2000 Miles” — it would be on my list too.

  2. About 10 years ago, I picked up a cut-out copy of The Pretenders “Learning to Crawl” on vinyl for 25 cents. I was blown away when the needle came to “2000 Miles” — I’d always known and loved that song, but never knew the title.

    Best quarter I ever spent.

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