CSOTD 12/6/2015: Where did the purple people go?

I always like finding versions of seasonal chestnuts as performed by unlikely artists. It’s even more fun when there’s an unusual story behind them, and my Christmas Song of the Day for December 6 definitely qualifies.

As best as I can tell, this performance by singer-songwriter Tori Amos has appeared on only two different compact discs: a British CD single from 1998 and a U.S. radio-station charity compilation from 1999. The former contained a printer’s error that, because the single was released only once, was never corrected, and thus has confused legions of Amos’ fans ever since.

In the late 1990s, it was common in England to release at least two different CD singles for each new song. These would always contain songs unavailable on album, so die-hard fans would have to buy the singles to keep their collections complete. Such was the case with the song “Spark,” which came from Amos’ 1998 album From the Choirgirl Hotel.  The first of the CD singles contained the following track listing:

Purple People (Christmas in Space)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

The problem, as Tori Amos herself confirmed later that year, is that the typesetters put the parentheses in the wrong place with the wrong title! It was supposed to be thus:

Purple People
Christmas in Space (Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)

If you’ve ever looked at the lyrics of “Purple People” or heard the song, you’ll see that it has nothing to do with Christmas – or space, for that matter. However, Amos’ version of the 1944 chestnut has sound effects that give it a “spacy” effect, thus the title “Christmas in Space.” Otherwise, it’s simply her and her piano in a studio setting.

Two places did get things right, more or less: The U.S. 45 of “Spark” has “Purple People,” with no subtitle, as the B-side. And the only place that I’ve ever seen “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the U.S., a radio-station charity CD called Kevin & Bean’s Last Christmas, lists Amos’ rendition as simply “Christmas in Space.”

And here it is, Tori Amos’ 1998 version of “Christmas in Space (Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas).” Note: the video says it appears on her seasonal CD Midwinter Graces, but it doesn’t.



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