I'm excited to share my second mix for Christmas this year, which features seasonal tunes from international female pop singers of the 1960s. This was harder to put together than I thought! Being a big fan of both sixties girl pop from around the world and Christmas music, I figured this would be a piece of cake. But I soon realised I only had songs that fit the bill from a limited number of countries. Branching out more broadly was quite a fun adventure, and I really adore some of the songs on this mix that are new to me, like the stunning tracks from Monna Bell and Maria Dolores Pradera. I know some Rita Pavone but her 'White Christmas' cover, 'Bianco natale', had escaped me, and it's just gorgeous. It was also interesting to get a sense of which places went for Christmas pop singles, and which didn't. Italy, for example, had a booming young beat music scene but I found very little in the way of yuletide pop tunes. Most of the Italian stuff I found was very traditional, even, surprisingly, from some rock bands. Perhaps in some more religious countries, too contemporary an approach to Christmas songs was deemed too irreverant. I lucked out with some countries altogether – some places did not produce enough girl pop for their singers to also dabble in Christmas singles, others I don't really know where to begin exploring. If you know of any sixties holiday songs from female pop singers from countries I'm missing here, I'd love to hear your recommendatons.
The gorgeous illustration of Sylvie Vartan accompanying the mix is by the very talented Olivier C. You can check out and support his amazing work here.
The name of this mix was inspired by the delightful titles of Japanese retro comps like Japanese Pop Cuties in Swingin' 60s or Japanese Pop Christmas In Dreamy '60s. I'm not intending to make fun of Japanglish at all; in fact, I found the syntax (or my attempt at it, which lacks the Japanglish flair) made more sense to me in trying to convey what this mix was about than conventional English structure would allow.
- Miki Obata & The Van Dogs - Santa Claus is Comin' To Town (1967)
Sixties Japanese pop sometimes saw female solo singers paired with Group Sounds bands, with magical results like this take on the oft-covered Christmas staple. Here, Obata, a teen model born to an American father and a Japanese mother, is backed by GS band The Van-Dogs.
- Michèle Richard - C'est Noël rock (1966)
The French-Canadian songstress, voted the most popular local singer of 1966, celebrates a "Noël yé-yé" with this cover of 'Jingle Bell Rock'.
- Carla Thomas - Gee Whiz, It's Christmas (1963)
I think the way Thomas sings "and by the way, it's snowing" might be my favourite line delivery in any Christmas song. The title references her hit from three years prior, 'Gee Whiz' – though her festive song did not replicate its success.
- Betty Chung - Bell A-Go-Go (1967)
This song from Hong Kong actress and singer Chung is via a great blog that is sadly no longer updated, Mod-ified Music.
- Eydie Gormé and the Trio Los Panchos - Melchor, Gaspar y Baltazar (1966)
The American singer best known for her 1963 hit 'Blame It on the Bossa Nova' teamed up with Mexico's Trio Los Panchos for several Spanish-language albums, includng 1966's Navidad Means Christmas.
- Rita Pavone - Bianco natale (1963)
This version of 'White Christmas' by Italian teen sensation Pavone was included on her 1963 album Non è facile avere 18 anni ("It's Not Easy Being 18 Years Old"). What a vocal performance! It's impossible to pick a favourite song from this mix, but this one is definitely up there.
- Danièle et Michèle - La Neige sous mes pas (1965)
Québecoise sisters Danièle and Michèle Laprise released a Christmas album in 1965 called Noël à deux, which you can listen to in full on this old blog post.
- Maria Dolores Pradera - Cholito toca y retoca (1966)
Starting out in film, the Spanish actress tried her hand at singing in the 1950s, and by the 1960s, switched her career entirely to music and never looked back.
- Alice Dona - Le Noël des copains (1964)
This was on the French-language sixties mix I posted last year, but it's too good not to include here as well. You can read about the song, and watch a great video for it, here.
- The Ronettes - Frosty The Snowman (1963)
With Phil Spector at the helm, The Ronettes turned a cute children's song into something else altogether – something soulful, joyous and completely their own. Originally from A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records, this vinyl rip is taken from a seventies reissue single.
- Renée Martel - As-tu vu le Père Noël ? (1968)
Another Québecoise singer, Martel released a Christmas single that featured this cover of The Beach Boys 'The Man With All The Toys' on the B-side, and 'Le Petit Train Bleu', a cover of Roger Miller's 'Old Toy Trains' on Side A.
- Margo Guryan - I Don't Intend to Spend Christmas Without You (1967)
Producer Tommy LiPuma asked Guryan to write a Christmas song for Claudine Longet with "no snow, no mistletoe, no presents under the tree", and the result was the brilliant 'I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You', released by Longet in December 1967. Guryan's original demo of the song surfaced on 25 Demos in 2001.
- Elisa Gabbai - Winter in Canada (1966)
The Israeli singer had a successful pop career in Germany in the late sixties, including a big hit with this song. Sales were boosted again in 1967 after Israel's victory in the Six-Day War.
- Connie Francis - Omoide no fuyuyasumi (1963)
Francis achieved huge success in many non-English-language markets, thanks to her father's inspired idea of having her record her songs in multiple languages. She cut versions of her 1962 seasonal song 'I'm Gonna Be Warm This Winter' in Italian, French and Japanese.
- Gigliola Cinquetti - A casa per Natale (1968)
A sweet version of 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' by the young Italian star who was responsible for her country's first ever Eurovision win. Cinquetti was very popular in the sixties not only in Italy, but throughout Europe and in Japan.
- Brenda Lee - Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day (1964)
By 1964, the singer dubbed Little Miss Dynamite as a youngster struggled to make much impact on the charts. But she had a modest hit with this catchy, deceptively upbeat Christmas tune about months of post break-up heartache leading to a lonely Christmas.
- Naomi and The Boys - Mary's Boy Child (1966)
Naomi Suriya, around 17 years old here, was the vocalist for this Singaporean group whose members included her brother Robert on lead guitar. Robert composed original songs, including 'It's All Over', a number one hit for the band according to this article. Their 1966 cover of 'Mary's Boy Child', originally by Harry Belafonte, is again via Mod-ified Music.
- Emy Jackson - Blue Christmas (1965)
Jackson was "the first pop star in Japan that sang in English that sold a million records", as she told Garage Hangover. The bilingual, English-born singer sang original songs in English, in an approach that went against the grain of covering foreign hits in Japanese, according the fascinating liner notes by Sheila Burgel for the Nippon Girls compilatons. However, she covered two songs (in English) for her 1965 Christmas single, including a dynamic version of 'Blue Christmas', where she's backed by ereki band Blue Comets. The B-side is a cover of 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'.
- The Supremes - Little Bright Star (1965)
The Supremes' Merry Christmas is one of the best Christmas albums ever, and the only one I know of by a sixties girl group. The Motown release combined updated versions of well-known yuletide songs, reimagined The Sound Of Music's 'My Favorite Things' as a Christmas tune, and included some fantastic originals like 'Little Bright Star'. Diana Ross' vocals are captivating as always.
- Valerie Masters - Christmas Calling (1964)
British singer Valerie Masters released this Joe Meek-produced single in 1964.
- The Peanuts - Santa Claus ga yattekuru (1960)
It took me a little while to realise I had two Japanese covers of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' on this mix, because they are quite distinctive from one another. Japanese girl pop duo The Peanuts recorded two versions of the song, one in 1960 and another in 1962.
- The Orchids - Christmas Is The Time To Be With Your Baby (1964)
I don't think there are too many Christmas songs by sixties girl groups aside from those by The Supremes or on the Phil Spector record, so this is a welcome treat. This was the B-side of the New York group's single 'It Doesn't Matter', released in November 1964.
- Darlene Love - Marshmallow World (1963)
Love has some truly outstanding cuts on A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records, including her exuberant take on 'Marshmallow World'.
- Sylvie Vartan - Noël sans toi (1966)
Vartan indulges in some unapologetic French melancholy on this song about feeling lonely and devastated at Christmas after losing love. This appeared on her 'Par amour, par pitié' EP, released in December 1966.
- Toni Wine - My Boyfriend's Coming Home For Christmas (1963)
Wine wrote some well-known hits including 'A Groovy Kind Of Love', and can be heard on vocals on The Archies' smash hit, 'Sugar, Sugar'. She had a minor hit her debut single at just sixteen years old, a self-penned tune about a boyfriend in the service returning home for Christmas.
- Claire Lepage - Les Anges dans nos campagnes (1968)
A modern take on the traditional French carol, later adapted into English as 'Angels We Have Heard on High', from this Québecoise pop girl.
- Tina Roberts - Snow (1966)
Hmm, a bit of a mystery, this lady. The most I could find is that she was also known as Tina Leverett and was part of an act called The Leverett Sisters. Leverett is credited as a songwriter of this excellent wintertime soul number. Thanks to Stephen Grasso for putting me onto this track!
- Monna Bell - Jerusalén (1966)
- Pattie Bersaudara - Gembala Dipadang (1968)
This Indonesian track comes from the album Christmas With Pattie Bersaudara & Bob Tutupoli, which you can hear in full at Irama Nusantara. It's an amazing site where you can listen to a large archive of digitised vintage Indonesian records.
- The Crystals - Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1963)
Yet another marvel from A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records. The combination of the magic touch of Phil Spector and the talents of The Crystals, one of the most popular girl groups of the 1960s, takes this simple song to another level.
- Zsuzsa Koncz - I've Fallen In Love With A Snowman (1965)
The Hungarian singer, who went on to make some great, politically-charged psych-folk-rock records in the seventies, released some more conventional pop earlier in her career. This cover of Millie Small's song is from Koncz's EP of tracks sung in English, released in 1965.
- France Gall - Il neige (1966)
This song sounds sweet and comforting, but the lyrics are quite gloomy! Not exactly a Christmas song, but it has 'snow' in it and a sort of twinkly sound, so it feels like it suits this time of year.
- The Flirtations - Christmas Time Is Here Again (1968)
This girl group trio, originally from South Carolina, are best known for the Northern Soul staple 'Nothing But A Heartache'. It was originally released in December 1968 with 'Christmas Time Is Here Again' as the B-side, but got little attention. A reissue early the next year, with a different song on the flipside, fared a little better. Thanks Allison Brice from Lake Ruth for reminding me of this gem!
- Angélica Maria - Paseo en trineo (1967)
Born in New Orleans, Angélica Maria moved to her mother's homeland of Mexico as a child, and went on to become a highly successful actress and singer there.
- Nana Mouskouri - Christos Genate (1969)
A pretty, spirited folkish pop seasonal tune from the Greek superstar.
- Dany Aubé - Dans le vent d'hiver (1968)
Another singer from Québec, Aubé released an album of Christmas songs in 1968, Noël avec Dany Aubé. There are some interesting moments where the song shifts to a minor key that give it a slightly haunting feel.
- Dusty Springfield - O Holy Child (1964)
What better way to finish off a mix featuring 1960s women than with that voice. Released in late November 1964, this single was written by Dusty's brother Tom, with all proceeds donated to a charity for disabled children. The B-side is a cover of 'Jingle Bells' by their former act The Springfields, recorded before they broke up.