Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas [A&M Records SP 3911, 12″ LP, 1987.]
This album has a little something for everyone who is a fan of 80s music or those who don’t mind contemporary Christmas music in general. It’s a modern day classic. You can read the details behind the creation of A Very Special Christmas at the official website. Since this first volume was made in 1987, they have produced 10 more volumes. During that time, according to their website, “Approximately $116 million in royalties and investment proceeds has been generated by the sale of the AVSC albums to support Special Olympics’ athletes with intellectual disabilities.” This series of albums has raised a lot of money and awareness!
I was working in a record store when the album was released and I remember that everyone on the staff found something to like about A Very Special Christmas. It has soul music, pop music, R&B, all kinds of rock ‘n’ roll, synthpop and one truly memorable hip hop tune. And it has an iconic cover that was created especially for the album by renowned artist Keith Haring. It is an instantly recognizable cover to this day. All of the tracks are new versions of mostly familiar traditional and modern Christmas carols and songs, with the exception of that hip hop song, “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. That song was one of the stand-outs on this album and I still love listening to it every Christmas. And you have to remember that this was released in the Age of MTV when music videos played a huge part in the marketing of a song or an album. Many of the songs on this album had videos and that certainly helped make this album a success right out of the gate.
This is a great song. I love how they riff and rhyme on traditional Christmas imagery backed with some heavy rap beats and R&B horns. And it’s humorous!
I was always a big fan of the Eurythmics and their artful New Wave synthpop, and their contribution to A Very Special Christmas is another one of my favorites. You can watch the video for their version of “Winter Wonderland” here. This has the 80s stamped all over it but still sounds fresh today, unlike some of the more poorly realized synthesizer-based tunes from that time.
This video of U2 (one of my favorite bands of all time) performing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will give you a taste of how we might have watched these videos on our little old TV sets at home. This footage comes from a Top of the Pops TV special that coincided with the release of A Very Special Christmas and featured many of the songs from the album. The host seen in the footage is singer Nia Peeples.
I’ve created a playlist on YouTube featuring versions of all the songs from the album. Most are from that time period (the Sting video is also from that Top of the Pops special) but some are live versions that I thought were more interesting than just hearing the audio.
Here’s to A Very Special Christmas and the world of good that it has done.