My best friend when I was eleven in 1987 was Tamara. Both of our Dad’s were in the Navy and so we both were experienced with ourselves and our friends moving away to different locales throughout the world when our parents received new active duty assignments to Navy stations positioned globally. My family had moved to the Bay Area that year and being ten going on eleven, and just starting that awkward puberty faze, my Mom, in her infinite wisdom, decided that to help me with making friends that I would be part of a Girl Scout Troop when entering middle school. Needless to say, I was expecting to no longer be a scout after elementary school as I thought it was not a cool thing to do in the 6th grade. Fortunately in Troop 1337, where I pledged to live by the Girl Scout Law, Tamara was also a member. We got on quick and were way too cool for this Girl Scout stuff but were stuck at our mother’s whims. Turned out both of our Dads were stationed the same aircraft carrier that was deployed out to sea for 9 months, so it was just our Moms at home.
Our Moms chauffeured us after our weekly Girl Scout meetings and every weekend to locales that pre-teen girls liked to hang out at. You know, like, malls and pizza parlours and music stores and the beach. I LOVED being able to hang out and play over at Janelle’s house. While my Mom played the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp and Steely Dan through the car stereo; Tamara’s mom was getting down to the likes of Prince, Chaka Khan, and Rick James.
Come holiday time that year, her Mom was driving us around the East Bay Hills one evening to look at all the hella badass Christmas lights up there. Holiday music in my world up until that point had been the likes Barbara Streisand, Bing Crosby, and Willie Nelson Christmas albums plus Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” and Wham’s “Last Christmas” (which will have it’s own posts in a few days coming up). The music playing through in the car that evening was a tape of a really soulful man’s voice singing standards like “Winter Wonderland and “Jingle Bells.” I had heard those songs a million times but this was funkier.
I asked her Mom who this was singing on the album we were listening to and she answered something along the line of "my dear, this is the Reverend Al Green." Then the last song of the tape came on and it was “Feels Like Christmas." Oh man, I giggled and bounced around in the back seat of that car when I first heard it. Even then I had a thing for a swinging, shuffled four on the floor. I begged my Mom to buy that cassette, "White Christmas," the next day and she did.
Kitschy disco strings, intimate crooning, the nasal twists, the syncopated entrances and exits, the sudden leaps into falsetto...it’s all there.