1954: the Hydrogen bomb is tested and beats the atomic bomb squared. Joseph McCarthy is finally and fully censured. The Lord of the Flies and The Lord of the Rings get published. Both Ed Sullivan (Toast of the Town) and Steve Allen (The Tonight Show) get televised.
And Bill Haley and the Comets drop ‘Rock Around the Clock.’
It’s a new age.
Even the total squares of (British) pop like Alma Cogan are getting jazzy with the likes of “Christmas Cards.” It’s Glen Miller-ish, but portends girlish rock breakouts like Cathy Carr and Dodie Stevens.
The churchified country of Eddy Arnold in “Christmas Can’t Be Far Away” smacks of soulful singing like what Elvis will do. Not just gospel, but hopeful.
All that progress… despite the honky tonk whining of Sonny James in “Christmas in My Hometown.” In a couple years this Chet Atkins discovery would crossover to #1 on the pop charts (with ‘Young Love’), but for now his hillbilly dread dirge will help keep country in the outhouse.
“Christmas Bells” reveals that those who should have been breakouts, like Patti (1950’s ‘Tennessee Waltz’) Page, continued to get stuck in Lawrence Welk-y tame, lame, same ol’ same ol’. That’s a beat you can sleep to.
Arthur Godfrey’s pet sirens, The McGuire Sisters, never became the Andrew Sisters, who were pretty hip. Their “Give Me Your Heart for Christmas” hearkens backward to the ’40s pretty hard.
’54’s official Christmas Seals song “The Spirit of Christmas” by Kitty Kallen is pretty tired and by the numbers as well. I feel like it’s got subliminal tryptophan in the lyrics.
Worst of all this year, Rosemary Clooney drawls out syrup for young and uncool alike with “Let’s Give a Present to Santa Claus.” She was there, man, with 1951’s ‘Come on-a My House,’ but in ’54 she’s backsliding making the movie ‘White Christmas’ with Bing and Danny Kaye. Bored now. Want to rock.