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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Peppermint Kandy Kids - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Do any of you remember having a Christmas album that for whatever reason sticks with you?  A holiday soundtrack that takes you back to a carefree time in which you were, say, seven years old?  A soundtrack that makes you remember fond memories such as writing a letter to Santa Claus, watching "A Garfield Christmas" on television, and chewing the corners off of all of your Christmas gifts in hopes that you could tell what gifts you were going to get before Christmas came.

(For the record, yes, I did do all of those things right down to the corner chewing.  It's a wonder that I didn't get a lump of coal for that particular Christmas!)

Anyway, for Day #14 of THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, I am going to share with you a memory of a holiday album that I can remember from way back when.  Interestingly enough, the album technically wasn't mine, but I listened to it enough that I still have great memories of it.

And to think that I had no idea who the singers were until just a few months ago!  But, we will get to that a little bit later.

Anyway, getting back to the subject of holiday albums that made a permanent imprint on your childhood Christmases, I want to ask you all a question.  What was that album for you?

Perhaps it was Dave Seville and his trio of chipmunks singing about how Christmas time was here, and how Alvin wanted a hula hoop.  Or, maybe you were dancing along to the classic tale of a dog named Snoopy going up against the Red Baron.  Or, maybe you were trying to imitate the dance that 3, 4, and 5 were dancing along to during a rousing chorus of "Linus and Lucy".

I honestly don't know if I ever really owned a Christmas album in its entirety.  I suppose that if you counted that group that called themselves the Mini-Pops, I could say that I did own at least one album. 

(The Mini-Pops were a group of kids between the ages of seven and thirteen who usually sang pop classics, but released a Christmas album circa 1985.  The Mini-Pops still exist today, but I would assume that they would be the children of the original Mini-Poppers.  A 42-year-old a Mini-Pop does not make.)

Oh, and I suppose I could also add the album "A Very Special Christmas", which was released in 1987 to my list of holiday albums that stuck with me as well.  It is the only complete Christmas album that I have downloaded onto my iPod, and it contains classic hits performed by Whitney Houston, The Pointer Sisters, Bryan Adams, and U2, among others.

But when it comes to Christmas albums, my older sister certainly had her fair share of them.  She has Christmas music playing at her house all the time during the month of December, and I am fairly sure that she still has her original record (yes, I said record) of "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band-Aid.

But interestingly enough, one album that I remember vividly was an album that was released nine years before I was born.  And yet, I probably heard that album so much during my childhood that it seemed brand new to me.

By the time I was old enough to use a ghetto blaster, I knew what that Christmas tape looked like.  Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out who the artists were that sang on it.  The cassette tape was purchased back in the 1970s, and the writing that listed the songs on the cassette had rubbed out a long time ago.  To me, it didn't look any different from a blank cassette tape that one would purchase from Radio Shack.

That mystery would remain until about a year ago.  Back in the 1980s, it was near impossible to find out information about older albums unless you were lucky enough to check out the right book from the public library.  Thanks to the Internet, finding information out has never been easier.

I had a couple of leads to go on.  I couldn't remember what all the songs were that were listed on the album, but I did know two.  One was "Up On The Housetop", and the other one was a song called "Santa's Magical Bag".

Of course, "Up On The Housetop" is a standard Christmas classic, so trying to search for that song would have been like finding a needle in a haystack.  But I knew that "Santa's Magical Bag" seemed like a more unique title.  I think that back in the 1970s - when the album was first released - it sounded like it would have been a contemporary Christmas song for its time.  So, I opted to search for that song on Google to see if I could find the album.

And wouldn't you know it?  It took me to this video.

It also gave me the name of the album and group that did all of the songs for this album.  The name of the album was "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", released by Peter Pan Records in 1972.

And the name of the group that sang all of these songs was "The Peppermint Kandy Kids". 

So, now that I had the album name, as well as the group that recorded the album, I tried to find out more information about the group.  Unfortunately, I came up with very little information.  There's not even a Wikipedia entry on the group, which is quite surprising to me. 

I did come to find out that "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" was not their only holiday release.  Would you believe that this group released no less than five holiday albums in the early 1970s?  I couldn't tell if they were released all at once, or if they were released separately, but it appears that all five of them were released between 1971 and 1973.

For reference, here are the other titles released by the Peppermint Kandy Kids.


(NOTE:  The colours of the titles represent the colours of the original album covers.)

I also discovered that each of these albums were re-released and re-recorded in the late 1970s.  How you could tell the difference between the original album and the re-release?  The second print albums incorporated dialogue in between songs so that it appeared as though they were telling a story.  This tells me that my sister had the 1977 re-release, as I vividly remember there being narrative in between songs.

It was actually quite cool the way that they did it, as the narrative made it appear as though it was taking place at the North Pole just before Santa's 24-hour long sleigh ride on Christmas Eve.  I seem to remember hearing Santa and Mrs. Claus's voices on the tape, which I have to admit made me smile as a kid.

I suppose that based on that, the Peppermint Kandy Kids were sort of like the Mini-Pops of the 1970s.  After all, most of the songs were recorded by grade school aged children.  But unlike the Mini-Pops in which you were a has-been by the age of fourteen, the Peppermint Kandy Kids did allow adults to sing along with the children.  After all, a 10-year-old playing Santa Claus would have been very unrealistic.

But you know...even though the albums were more or less filler on album shelves during the 1970s, the Peppermint Kandy Kids were a huge part of Christmas in my family.  And, as a special treat for all of you, I found some more of the songs from that album that I will post for you below.  Maybe some of you who owned that album too will remember it as well.

There's only a few days left in the advent calendar.  And on Day #15, I aim to make you laugh.  Whether I will succeed...well, we'll find out tomorrow.  

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