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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Snoopy's Christmas

Here we are on Day #22 of “THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR”, and as of right now, we're still bathed in light. We've been getting some really wacky weather over the last couple of days (in the formation of freezing rain), and the last time we had a major freezing rain spell was “Ice Storm '98”, which knocked out power in my area for at least a week! All signs say that this storm will not be AS bad, but I don't want to take any chances. I suppose worst case scenario, I can use my iPad to post my blog for today.

So, we're on Day #22 and the final Sunday Jukebox entry before Christmas. And because it's the final holiday song of the season, I really wanted to go all out and choose a song that was well-loved and incredibly symbolic. But, what song would actually make people sit up and take notice? Which song would be universally well-liked enough to have everybody singing along to the chorus and getting into the spirit of things?

Maybe this one?

Hmmm...not bad. But I prefer Eartha Kitt or Kylie Minogue's versions over Madonna's. How about this one?

Um...yeah, no. Okay, maybe this one?

YIKES! That's just plain disturbing! Sorry Cheeky Girls!

Sigh...maybe if I put on a Christmas special, it'll help me think of a possible song to talk about in today's entry.  Hmmm...

What about the Charlie Brown Christmas Special?  Oh, sure, today's song was never really featured in the television favourite - which has remained a holiday staple since its debut in the 1960s.

But what if I told you that one of the biggest stars of the holiday special ended up being the star of a single that originally debuted in 1967?

Well, Snoopy - the lovable beagle whose best friend is a bird named Woodstock and whose worst enemy is the annoying Lucy Van Pelt - became so popular that a particular group from Ocala, Florida decided to record a series of songs about him...including this holiday themed favourite below!

ARTIST:  The Royal Guardsmen
SONG:  Snoopy's Christmas
ALBUM:  Snoopy and His Friends
DATE RELEASED:  October 1967

(I should probably note that while circumstances prevented the single from charting on the Billboard Hot 100, the single did become a #1 hit on the "Best Bets for Christmas" chart!)

Anyway, would you like to know more about the band known as "The Royal Guardsmen", as well as the inspiration behind the song?

Okay, so the band was formed in Florida in the mid-1960s, and they adopted their name as kind of a spoof towards the British invasion that was taking place right around this time with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Dave Clark Five making their mark on the pop charts.  After all, what name sounded more British than the Royal Guardsmen, right?

The band's original line-up consisted of Bill Balough, John Burdett, Chris Nunley, Tom Richards, Billy Taylor, and Barry Winslow.  And, they had a bit of a tough time trying to get their name out there without the assistance of a familiar cartoon beagle.

It's not as though they didn't try.  But when their first single failed to make a dent on the pop and rock charts, the group decided that they would make their second single one in which they inserted Snoopy into the lyrics...and ended up getting into a small battle with the Peanuts creator in the process.

That song was "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron", which actually became a #2 hit on the Billboard charts during the first week of 1967!  And, just as the song lyrics said, the single was inspired by the Peanuts cartoon strip in which Snoopy imagines himself as a fighter pilot locked in combat with the Red Baron.  You know the comics I mean?  Where he pretends his doghouse is a plane and he puts on his helmet and shoots the enemy before the enemy can shoot him?  I used to love those comics!

But here's the shocking twist.  Around the same time that the song was gaining speed on the charts, Charles M. Schulz and United Features Syndicate threatened the band with a copyright infringement lawsuit, claiming that the Royal Guardsmen had used the name Snoopy without permission or an advertising license.  Of course, the band did lose their case, and the punishment was quite swift - all publishing revenues for the song would go to United Features Syndicates.  

But here's the funny part about the whole thing.  Charles M. Schulz actually liked the song, and not only allowed the band to record more Snoopy songs, but he even did the illustrations on the album covers!  Have a look!

And, this lead to the Christmas follow-up for the song, "Snoopy's Christmas".  And, here's an interesting bit of trivia about this song.  It's loosely based on a true story that took place during the first World War!  Or, at the very least, it makes reference to the event that took place during the first year of combat in 1914.

You see, on Christmas Day, 1914, German and British soldiers initiated "The Christmas Truce".  Soldiers exchanged small gifts with each other, bodies were cleared from "No Man's Land", and some soldiers even engaged in friendly football matches.  It was a rare moment of cease-fire during the war that would eventually span a four year period.

Interestingly enough, the "Christmas Truce" were the German soldiers...and in the song, it was the Red Baron himself that extended the olive branch to Snoopy.  

So, with that, I close the chapter on another Sunday Jukebox entry.  And, provided that the ice doesn't knock out my power, stay tuned for Day #23 in the advent calendar.  And in this edition, we'll be looking at what I consider to be one of the weirdest made for television movies I've ever seen...

Stay safe, Ontario!  And, don't go out unless you absolutely have to.  This freezing rain can be quite nasty.

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