Time for another post in Balladeer’s Blog’s annual orgy of entries on various versions of THE Christmas tale. The Charles Dickens classic has a certain timeless charm that ensures it will continue to be adapted for at least another few hundred years.
Scrooge’s Rock & Roll Christmas grows on me more and more each time I watch it. It’s value as a version of A Christmas Carol is virtually nil, but it features some wonderful renditions of a variety of Yuletide songs along with some striking wintry scenery. Most sources list this made-for- tv special as a 1984 production, but the actual copyright date on the VHS copy I tracked down says 1983, so that’s what I’m going by. If it first aired in late December 1983 it’s almost a 1984 product anyway so I can see where the confusion might come in.
A better title for this 45 minute novelty item would be Have Yourself A Has- Been Little Christmas since it features appearances by several rock singers who were already two decades past their days as chart- toppers. The premise of this telefilm is that a young lady looking for a record store (and how old does THAT sound these days) instead finds the establishment to be occupied by Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Jack Elam … yes, Jack Elam. Through some Twilight Zone style shenanigans our heroine – called simply The Girl in the credits – is face-to- face with the actual Scrooge from 1843. It’s pointless to wonder if Scrooge & Marley’s establishment was in the same building that the record store (snicker) is now located in or if The Girl was transported back through time when she entered the place or what. It’s all just a half-assed excuse to have our heroine teach the crotchety Scrooge about the Christmas Spirit by using her magical snow-globe to show him videos of aging rock singers performing holiday standards. No, I’m serious.
The segments featuring hilariously lame dialogue between Ebenezer and The Girl serve as bridges between each of the videos, like a late- night B-Movie host’s sketches before and after commercial breaks. Those segments give this thing a heavy dose of Bad Movie Appeal, while the videos provide genuine Yuletide enjoyment because they’re filmed in various wintry setttings, often with fake snowfall adding atmosphere. We see has- beens, I mean our stars, involved in sleigh rides, snowball fights, snowman construction, singing beside warm hearths with frost- tinted windows in the background and much more.
Here’s a rundown of the songs and performers: 1. Three Dog Night performs Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree in front of a huge decorated tree while snow falls all around them since the tree is outside … 2. Merrilee “Angel of the Morning” Rush sings White Christmas beside the afore-mentioned hearth … 3. Paul Revere and the Raiders do a rendition of Jingle Bells while pretending to be repairing a broken wheel on their horse-drawn carriage. They’re in a beautiful wintry forest while doing this and don’t look at all silly being a bunch of out of shape, middle- aged men still wearing the Continental Army uniforms they wore in the 1960′s … really … honestly … why would you think I’m being sarcastic?
The fourth song is set up by The Girl telling Scrooge he’s about to see “the first twinkling of a major new star” as she introduces a young lady named (no, not The Young Lady) Bridget. Just Bridget, like Cher or Sting or Prince. All of you who laughed at the thought of Bridget becoming a “major new star” back when this show first aired owe her an apology don’t you? Oh, wait … Anyway, Bridget kicks off her career as the Lady Gaga of the 80′s by singing Some Children See Him near what look like Druid stones. (?) For song number five The Girl wants to prove to Scrooge that Paul Revere and the Raiders can also sing soft ballads since I guess Jingle Bells was too much of a hard- rocking hit. This time they sing The Christmas Song while literally roasting some chestnuts on an open fire. During this video I noticed one of the band was sporting a mullet as a concession to 80′s fashion. I can’t help but wonder if he’s still sporting it … assuming he’s still alive that is.
Our next song is performed by the duet of Mike Love, from the world- famous Beach Boys and Mary MacGregor, whose family thought she was great. They sing Do You See What I See while participating in that ages- old Christmas custom of holding a baby lamb while standing around in a lot selling Christmas Trees. When I was a little kid I remember my sisters and I were always arguing over whose turn it was to hold the baby lamb while we picked out that year’s tree. Ah, memories! Next, Mike Love, whose nephew is now in the NBA by the way, performs another duet. This time Love strikes a blow for peace and understanding by ending the Cold War between the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean by singing Jingle Bell Rock with Dean Torrence himself. The two are seated in a one-horse open sleigh, surrounded by admiring Snow Bunnies (or maybe it’s their granddaughters). Mike Love apparently won the major creative duel in this collaboration, since they start the song with a jaunty “Welllll” like in 90 % of the Beach Boys’ hits.
The Association belt out the 8th and 9th songs, Sleigh Ride, while enjoying one, and There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays while hanging out at a wonderfully decorated ski lodge with Mike Love and Dean Torrence’s granddaughters from earlier in the show. Bobby ”Tony Orlando’s Doppelganger” Goldsboro, who inflicted Honey and Watching Scotty Grow on an unsuspecting world, performs community service by walking amid snowy evergreens and singing Winter Wonderland.
For the grand finale, Mike Love now walks through the door of the time-lost record store (or whatever) and sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas to Jack Elam and The Girl at point- blank range. Think of Paul Anka singing Ave Maria to Mamie Van Doren in Girl’s Town but even more awkward. (Bad movie buffs will get it) I’m guessing Love told his agent “I’ll only appear in this holiday special if I get to do a scene with Jack Elam, dammit! ” Looking at the two of them you’d never guess Elam was only ten years younger than Mike Love. I’m kidding! Scrooge, now filled with the Christmas Spirit (and who wouldn’t be after having a former Beach Boy invade their personal space for several uncomfortable minutes), happily says “God bless us, everyone!” and the credits roll, accompanied by The Association singing a medley of We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Auld Lang Syne.
Okay, so maybe Scrooge’s Rock & Roll Christmas isn’t exactly Gary Glitter’s Rock & Roll Christmas (rimshot), but the songs are nicely done and the seasonal backgrounds are well-rendered. And maybe it’s pretty stupid how Scrooge keeps insisting that it’s Christmas Day even though the bigass calendar behind his desk clearly says December 24th. And sure, the creative team behind this venture lacked the common sense to just jump in with both feet and call the female lead Tiny Tina or the Ghost of Christmas Rock or Chris Rock’s Ghost or something instead of The Girl, but what can you do? This baby has cultural kitsch value combined with some genuine entertainment value so it might appeal to people who aren’t necessarily big fans of the Carol.
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