Elvis' Christmas Album

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Elvis' Christmas Album
Studio album by Elvis Presley
Released October 15, 1957
Recorded 1957
Genre Christmas music, rock and roll
Length 30:09
Label RCA Victor
Producer Steve Sholes
Elvis Presley chronology
Loving You
(1957)
Elvis' Christmas Album
(1957)
Elvis' Golden Records
(1958)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]

Elvis' Christmas Album is the fourth studio album by Elvis Presley on RCA Victor Records, LOC 1035, a deluxe limited edition, released in October 1957, and recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. It has been reissued in numerous different formats since its first release. It spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, and was the first of two Christmas-themed albums Presley would record, the other being Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, released in 1971. The publication Music Vendor listed Elvis' Christmas Album on their singles charts for two weeks in December 1957-January 1958, with a peak position of #49.

According to the latest certifications by the Recording Industry Association of America, Elvis' Christmas Album has shipped at least 10,000,000 copies in the United States (3,000,000 of the original 1957 release on RCA Records, plus 7,000,000 copies of a "budget" edition first released by RCA Camden in 1970 and then by Pickwick Records in 1975).[2] It is the first Presley title to attain Diamond certification by the RIAA, and is also the best-selling Christmas/holiday album of all time in the United States.[3]

Content[edit]

The original 1957 LP consisted of eight Christmas songs, and four gospel songs which had been previously released on the EP Peace in the Valley, catalogue EPA 4054, issued March 1957, peaking at number three on the Pop albums chart and at number 39 on the singles chart.[4] The two album sides divided into a program of secular Christmas songs on side one, with two traditional Christmas carols and the gospel numbers on side two. Those included two spirituals by innovator Thomas A. Dorsey, "Peace in the Valley" and "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." Coincidentally, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra released the previous month by that other 1950s singing icon, also divided into a secular and a traditional side.

While most of the songs selected were traditional Christmas fare, such as "White Christmas" and "Silent Night," two new songs by regular suppliers of material for Presley were commissioned. One was "Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)" and the other (selected by Elvis to open the album), was a blues-based rock and roll number, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. This writer/producer team was responsible for some of 1950s rhythm and blues and rock and roll's most finely-honed satire in their work with The Coasters, as well as penning "Hound Dog" for Willie Mae Thornton and providing Elvis with some of his biggest hits, including "Jailhouse Rock" and "Don't."

Elvis had asked the pair to come up with another Christmas song during sessions for the album; within a few minutes, they had the song written and ready for recording. Originally titled "Christmas Blues", this slyly risqué number is given a full-throated treatment by Elvis who, aided by the gritty ensemble playing from his band, was determined to ensure that this Christmas album would not be easily ignored.[5] Much of the remaining program was performed in a more traditional manner appropriate to the solemnity of Christmas, although Elvis' innate sense of occasion shone through on his left-of-centre reading of Ernest Tubb's 1949 hit, "Blue Christmas."

"Silent Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" were arranged by Elvis Presley.

Controversy[edit]

Irving Berlin, the composer of "White Christmas", was outraged at Presley's rendition of the song, which is based on an earlier recording by The Drifters rather than the more famous version by Bing Crosby.
The end of The Drifters' version featured a brief snatch of "Jingle Bells" ...

... as did Elvis Presley's similar rendition.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The Bing Crosby holiday perennial "White Christmas," which appeared every year on the Billboard charts from 1942 to 1962, became the center of controversy upon the album's release, with calls by the song's composer Irving Berlin to have the song, and the entire album, banned from radio airplay.[6] After hearing Presley's version of his song, which Berlin saw as a "profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard", he ordered his staff in New York to telephone radio stations across the United States, demanding the song be discontinued from radio play. While most US radio stations ignored Berlin's request, at least one disc jockey was fired for playing a song from the album, and most Canadian stations refused to play the album.[7]

The controversy was, ironically, fueled by Elvis' performance of the song in a style mirroring the version by Clyde McPhatter's group, The Drifters, which had been a Top 10 hit on the R&B singles chart in 1954 and 1955. Unlike Elvis' recording, however, their version attracted virtually no adverse reaction, and certainly no reported opposition from Irving Berlin. Part of the reason that The Drifters' version of "White Christmas" was less controversial was because that version was played only on black radio stations. Elvis Presley's version brought greater attention to The Drifters' version which gained prominence with its inclusion in the 1990 movie Home Alone.

Packaging of original album[edit]

Original 1957 copies of Elvis' Christmas Album (LOC-1035) were issued with a red booklet-like album cover (as shown above) featuring promotional photos from Elvis' third movie Jailhouse Rock. Even rarer than the cover and record itself is a gold foil price tag-shaped "gift giving" sticker attached to the shrink wrap, reading "TO __________, FROM _____________, ELVIS SINGS", followed by a list of the tracks. Original copies with the gold sticker intact on the shrink wrap have proven to be among the most valuable of Elvis' albums. Adding to its already high value are limited red vinyl albums and album covers with gold print down the spine.

Record labels for all original 1957 pressings are black with all-silver print, the famous "His Master's Voice" dog logo at the top of label, and "LONG 3313 PLAY" at the bottom.

45 RPM releases[edit]

The other new composition on the album, "Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me" was paired with "Santa Claus Is Back In Town", and issued as a UK single concurrently with the album's release. The single reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart in November 1957.[8]

No United States singles were issued from the album until 1964, when "Blue Christmas" was paired with "Wooden Heart," and reached number 1 on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart; however, a pairing of "Blue Christmas" b/w "White Christmas" became a Top 20 UK hit in late 1964. "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"/"Blue Christmas" was a 1965 single release for the US market, and reached number 4 on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart. "Blue Christmas" would re-enter the Christmas or Holiday Singles chart many times in the years that follow.[9]

Two different EPs, Elvis Sings Christmas Songs, EPA 4108 in December 1957, and Christmas with Elvis, EPA 4340 in December 1958, divided the eight Christmas numbers between them. The former topped the newly established Billboard EP Chart, while the latter failed to chart.

Reissues[edit]

First reissue on RCA Victor[edit]

Elvis' Christmas Album was reissued two years after its first release, replacing the iconic cover of the original with a close-up of Elvis as he posed against an outdoor, snowy backdrop. The album continued to reach the album charts each year until 1962, eventually selling more than three million copies in the U.S.

Second reissue on RCA Camden[edit]

The original Elvis' Christmas Album was out of print by the late 1960s. Interest in the album prompted RCA to re-release it in an altered version on its budget label RCA Camden in November, 1970. This version eliminated the four gospel tracks from the Peace in the Valley EP and added the 1966 holiday single "If Every Day Was Like Christmas," along with the 1970 non-seasonal B-side "Mama Liked the Roses", issued as the flip to Elvis' top ten single "The Wonder of You." With ten tracks and a shorter running time, it fit the standard for the budget label issues. The religious and secular Christmas songs were also mixed. The initial cover of this revised version echoed that of the 1958 reissue, except a more recent mid-60s vintage photograph with Elvis wearing a blue racing jacket with two white stripes on the left was used from the set of the 1967 movie Speedway. The album was also released in the UK with an album cover that featured Elvis' face from the 1970 Camden release in a circle in the middle surrounded in white with the title and the song selections in red, RCA Camden 1155.

Third reissue on Pickwick[edit]

In the mid-1970s, RCA leased the rights to some of its Camden albums to the budget label Pickwick Records, which reissued the record in 1975 with yet another cover design, Elvis' face from the RCA Camden version surrounded by red ribbons with holly underneath with a blue background. Before and during the holiday season after Presley's death in 1977, the Pickwick LP was advertised and sold on television via mail order to enormous sales, now recently certified by the RIAA as selling in excess of ten million copies. RCA soon reclaimed the reissue rights to its Camden line. The collection was reissued as an RCA Special Products release in 1986. The revised album with its Pickwick cover art continued to be in print until the late 1980s, and was issued on compact disc.

Further issues[edit]

In 1976, the album was re-released on cassette with the title Blue Christmas; this re-issue also had an alternate track listing. In 1985, the album was reissued again but with a new title, It's Christmas Time, after which time RCA reissued the 1957 version with a recreation of its original cover art on LP and compact disc. The original 1957 version is once again out of print, however it is available on the 2010 7 disc boxset 'Elvis The Collection'. All of the tracks are also available on several other RCA compilations of Presley's Christmas recordings, Christmas Peace from 2003, and Elvis Christmas from 2006. All the album's songs are also included in the 1992 RCA boxed set The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters. In late 2007, Speaker's Corner Records from Germany reissued the album on a high quality heavy vinyl pressing; this reissue also featured the original album cover and RCA Victor label from 1957. In addition, in 2010, a DVD was released in a series from Sony Music called The Yule Log DVD, in which the music from Elvis' Christmas Album (but without "I'll Be Home For Christmas") is featured with three different holiday visuals (one of them the yule log of the series' title). The original LP cover is featured on the DVD menu.

Personnel[edit]

Track listing[edit]

Original release[edit]

Tracks 3-6 on side two were originally issued on the Peace in the Valley EP, released in April 1957.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Recording date Length
1. "Santa Claus Is Back in Town"   Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller September 7, 1957 2:22
2. "White Christmas"   Irving Berlin September 6, 1957 2:23
3. "Here Comes Santa Claus"   Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman September 6, 1957 1:54
4. "I'll Be Home for Christmas"   Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram September 7, 1957 1:53
5. "Blue Christmas"   Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson September 5, 1957 2:07
6. "Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)"   Aaron Schroeder and Claude Demetrius September 7, 1957 1:54
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Recording date Length
1. "O Little Town of Bethlehem"   Phillips Brooks and Lewis H. Redner (Arranged by Elvis Presley) September 7, 1957 2:35
2. "Silent Night"   Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber (Arranged by Elvis Presley) September 6, 1957 2:23
3. "(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)"   Thomas A. Dorsey January 13, 1957 3:22
4. "I Believe"   Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, Al Stillman January 12, 1957 2:05
5. "Take My Hand, Precious Lord"   Thomas A. Dorsey January 13, 1957 3:16
6. "It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)"   Stuart Hamblen January 19, 1957 3:53

Camden/Pickwick reissue[edit]

"If Every Day Was Like Christmas" was recorded at RCA Studio B in Nashville, and "Mama Liked The Roses" at American Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Recording date Length
1. "Blue Christmas"   Bill Hayes and Jay Johnson September 5, 1957 2:07
2. "Silent Night"   Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber (Arranged by Elvis Presley) September 6, 1957 2:23
3. "White Christmas"   Irving Berlin September 6, 1957 2:23
4. "Santa Claus Is Back in Town"   Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller September 7, 1957 2:22
5. "I'll Be Home for Christmas"   Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram September 7, 1957 1:53
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Recording date Length
1. "If Every Day Was Like Christmas"   Red West June 10, 1966 2:42
2. "Here Comes Santa Claus"   Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman September 6, 1957 1:54
3. "O Little Town of Bethlehem"   Phillips Brooks and Lewis H. Redner (Arranged by Elvis Presley) September 7, 1957 2:35
4. "Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me (to Me)"   Aaron Schroeder and Claude Demetrius September 7, 1957 1:54
5. "Mama Liked the Roses"   John Christopher April 20, 1970 2:47

Certifications/sales[edit]

Country Version Sales Certification
(thresholds)
United States 1957 RCA Victor original 3,000,000 3x Platinum
United States 1970s Camden/Pickwick reissues 10,000,000 Diamond
United States 1985 RCA reissue (re-titled It's Christmas Time) 3,000,000 3x Platinum

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ "RIAA – Gold & Platinum Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  3. ^ "Chart Watch Extra: The Top 40 Christmas Albums". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  4. ^ Guralnick, Peter. The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters, 1992, insert booklet discography. US chart positions courtesy Billboard, compiled by Record Research, Inc.
  5. ^ Guralnick, Peter. The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50s Masters, 1992, box set insert booklet, p.15.
  6. ^ Wolfe, Charles. Elvis Presley: If Every Day Was Like Christmas, liner notes, p.4. As the liner notes are not numbered, page 1 is deemed to be the first page of the text, with page numbers following in ascending page order.
  7. ^ Wolfe, Charles. Elvis Presley: If Every Day Was Like Christmas, liner notes p.7.
  8. ^ The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50s Masters, 1992, discography.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Joel Whitburn Presents Billboard Christmas in the Charts: 1920-2004. ISBN 978-0-89820-161-1. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]