Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where the Heck Is Santa Claus?

When you’re two years old, and you know that Spanish has upside-down question marks, you clearly have been exposed to the vast world community. Unless you are a native speaker of Spanish, of course. I sure wasn’t.

One of my early musical gifts from my mom was a 45 with a blue-and-silver label, with a lion’s head on it. I can’t remember a time when the single didn’t have a crack running through it, but it was one of those marvelous cracks that behave well enough to let you play the 45, if you get the two edges of the crack even enough.

Even though the song was about Santa Claus, I didn’t reserve this one just for Christmas. Oh, no, I cranked this little rocker whenever I was in the mood for some Latin vibes. (This was before I got my 78 of “Why Wait” by Pérez Prado y su Orquesta.)

The record had an ¿ on the label because the title of the song was a question, and it was asked in Spanish. Awesome, ¿no? I dug listening to this little kid ask his mamacita where Santa was. I played the record bunches of times, babying that crack for ten years. Then the sun took my ¿ away with the rest of the vinyl-styrene lump that used to be my record collection.

Though I forgot some of the records (and I’ll try to elicit your help with a few at year’s end), I never forgot this one. I started doing searches for “¿Dónde está Santa Claus?” on CDnow, and there I found a version completely in Spanish by a young lady named Tatiana. That was not what I sought. My version was bilingual, sung by a little boy with a gravelly voice.

Then, one day, holy cow, CDnow had a Christmas compilation CD that included the version I needed. I bought myself that CD for Christmas. And research showed me that the single was by Augie Ríos, Metro K20010, from 1958. Then began the search for that blue-labeled original, preferably sans crack. (How many more readers will I get if I put “crack” in the keywords?)

Sure enough, I found the single. And the guy who was selling it kindly offered me a better-sounding DJ copy for less money. Since I was after authenticity, I did what you would expect: I bought them both. Metro Records is, of course, a subsidiary of MGM. The label looks a lot more slapped-together than those of such MGM artists as Connie Francis. I don’t care. The record is back where it belongs.

From my current perspective as a near-native speaker of Spanish, which I began to learn in earnest in 1976, I can see that the label would have had Spanish speakers shaking their heads at the silly gringos. While the words “dónde” and “está” have accent marks over the correct vowels (making the typists more accurate than my students), the marks face the wrong way, which makes me think that Metro’s French Music Department lent someone out to do the typesetting. The DJ copy has no accent marks and is missing the ¿. Sigh.

I won’t even go into how patronizing it sounds to hear about Santa clacking his castanets and calling his reindeer Pancho and Pedro. I still dig the song. And you will as well, in a couple of minutes, if you read fast.

Augie Ríos appeared on Broadway as a child actor, and he’s on IMDB as having appeared in an episode of the TV series Naked City. He recorded some other singles, according to this tasty bio (scroll down). The song was written by Gordon Parker, Al Greiner and George Scheck. Parker wrote some TV themes, and Greiner co-wrote Parker’s non-TV titles, as did Scheck. Scheck’s name is attached to some really old Italian numbers as well, which makes me wonder.

That’s all I have on this song, other than to say: Enjoy it! It comes back every year for a reason. I don’t mind that I don’t hear the periodic click of the needle passing over the crack on my original 45; the smooth CD transfer from the original tapes is heart-warming and—


Today, I heard “Carol of the Bells” on the radio, and I realized how much I miss the André Champagne commercial. I first heard it in 1971. I know it was 1971, because my cousin was housesitting for friends, and she invited me and Irish Sister over for a few days, shortly after SWAT Team Brother was born. That was the weekend the house was burglarized, and that was cool.

I knew it was The Season every year from then on when the ting of glasses came accompanied by this Christmas tune I did not know by name, and then came the quavery voice of the young lady narrator, a voice I learned to like based on familiarity. And then, one year in the late 1980s, the commercial simply did not come on. I have been flippant in this post, but I really did feel a sense of loss with the removal of this commercial.

I have the first version on my hard drive, but I don’t know if it can be viewed if I upload it, so here’s the second version, with Cold Duck added to the vast array of André products. You can still buy it, but remember, at $6 a bottle, you are not getting Dom.

Saturday, the flip of Augie’s single, about some fat guy. And why not—a song about the ramifications of said fat guy’s rotundity. Cheers!

Augie Ríos, ¿Dónde está Santa Claus?

1 comment:

musicobsesion said...

Santa Clause are not true I think he is in Denmark right now.