Thursday, December 25, 2014

Liberty Records: A Not So Merry Christmas

One of Liberty Records’ biggest stars of the early ‘60s was Bobby Vee; however, his music was filled with stories of bad relationships. Notwithstanding, Bobby struck a chord with the record buying public. Maybe it was his boyish good looks, his smooth voice, or possibly consumers identified with the content of his message.

And let’s take a look at his message. Consider “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “Run to Him” – he was giving his gal up to some other guy without an argument. At other times, he wasn’t quite sure of the stability of his partner or his relationship status; think of “Devil or Angel” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” – with the latter tune implying that Bobby was a stalker.

On another occasion, he is the constant rebound lover in “Rubber Ball” – there to always pick up the pieces when an old girlfriend ends a relationship with another guy; he would later become a victim. To heap coals on the fire, just remember “Please Don’t Ask about Barbara.” Finally, there’s “Come Back when You Grow Up” girl. Let’s not even go there.

Do we see a theme developing? This guy keeps chasing the women away. Today’s Christmas selection is no better, as Bobby was planning to have “A Not So Merry Christmas.” Unable to repeat the mirth of the previous holiday season, the sad “A Not So Merry Christmas” leads off the second side of the “Merry Christmas from Bobby Vee” album, which was released in December 1962. Vee is backed by The Johnny Mann Singers on all of the cuts.

Actually, “A Not So Merry Christmas” would have made a great Christmas single, as it modeled Vee’s formula hits. Originally, Liberty had intended issuing it as a 45, but shelved that idea, as “A Night Has a Thousand Eyes” was released the day after Thanksgiving 1962. A Christmas single would certainly erode sales of this up-and-coming hit record and in essence, Bobby would be competing with himself – and we see what happens when he competes with other guys – he loses.

Since the “A Night Has a Thousand Eyes” LP would not hit the stores until April 1963, the release of a Christmas album fit into Liberty’s overall marketing schema. Unfortunately, the release only charted at #136. While 13 of his 25 albums never made the charts, “Merry Christmas from Bobby Vee” had the third worst position of the 12 that had placed on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. Be that as it may, “A Not So Merry Christmas,” even with his characteristic sad undertone, is still a classy tune. Here’s wishing that you have a better Christmas than Bobby Vee did in 1962.

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