Today marks the end of six years’ worth of the Christmas Song of the Day. I hope that at least a few of the 186 helpings of Christmas cheer I have served over the years have helped brighten your holiday season.
Why my Christmas Song of the Day for December 31 isn’t all over the airwaves during the last week of the year is a mystery to me. It’s catchy, has big production values, and feels familiar all at once. Could it be the silly-sounding, though appropriate, title?
Unless something still resides deep in the vaults, the only former Beatle who never recorded a true Christmas song is George Harrison (1943-2001). Ringo Starr is the only one to record and release an entire Christmas album; Paul McCartney has done a few holiday tunes over the years, including the ubiquitous “Wonderful Christmastime”; and John Lennon did the epic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” which was not so loosely based on the old folk song “Stewball.”
Today’s featured song, “Ding Dong, Ding Dong,” also has “borrowed” elements to it. All of the lines in the simple verses came from inscriptions Harrison found on the walls of his Friar Park estate, which he bought in 1970 and was once owned by the British eccentric Frank Crisp (1843-1919). Crisp had taken some of those lines from the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). Meanwhile, the melody for the singalong chorus came from the Westminster Quarters, the chime melody that was rung by the bell Big Ben at the famous London clock tower at Westminster (now known as Elizabeth Tower). And the production, with many overdubs and horns, is reminiscent of the style of Phil Spector (born 1939), who had co-produced Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album in 1970; George admitted he was also influenced by Spector’s legendary 1963 Christmas album, which had been reissued by the Beatles’ Apple Records in 1972.
“Ding Dong, Ding Dong” was the first single from the album Dark Horse in much of the world except in North America, where it was the second. It was released too close to New Year’s Day to become associated with ringing out the old and ringing in the new; it didn’t enter the Billboard Hot 100 until January 1975, and it peaked at only #38. My own recollection is that I heard the song exactly once either right before or right after the New Year in 1974-75 and then rarely again.
If given the chance, I could imagine hundreds of thousands of revelers in Times Square singing this song’s chorus over and over again. If not there, then I could hear it somewhere — London, perhaps. How about it?