Did you know you know that record labels used to release special commentary tracks to play along with 45s, much like the ones available on your modern DVDs? It’s true! This holiday season, Scratchbomb has transcribed some Yuletide examples of this bygone format and presents them to you now for your reading pleasure. Today, the commentary track for “Deck the Halls.”
RODERICK WINTHROP, ARRANGER/LYRICIST: Years ago, I had the chance to spend a cold winter’s eve at the estate of eccentric old baron who would no doubt wish to remain anonymous in this story. He regaled us with his many tales of frivolity and ribaldry. It was quite the caprice, I should say!
Later in the evening, as we relaxed with a fine amontillado and a few of the less hearty members of our party retired to their rooms, the baron took to his piano and favored us with a few obscure airs. Some were of his own composition, others discovered during his extensive ethnographic travails. We particularly enjoyed his rendition of a song that was part of the scalping ceremony among certain savage tribes of the ancient Picts.
However, we were most enchanted when our host played us a lilting, jaunty tune we’d never heard before. It sounded perfect for the Yuletide season, a sing-a-long for a cheer-filled wassailing.
The baron tried to disabuse us of this notion. According to him, it was a medieval Welsh folk song used to give homage to a feared demon that lived high atop Mount Snowdon. He further told us it was still fervently believed by the few remaining druidic types in the Welsh hills that repeated playing of the song could awaken the beast and set his wrath upon the earth.
I for one have never been much for superstition, and seeing as how the tune itself was in the public domain, I set about writing my own cheerful lyrics to it. The baron implored me not to, and even perished by his own hand when I refused to heed his warning. I assumed that even if there was any truth to the legend, one would need millions of voices reciting it simultaneously, which was frankly impossible.
Of course, now with these newfangled Edison cylinders–such as the one you are listening to right now–it is technically possible to have millions of voices singing the song all at once. So I suppose we shall see if it really is a rallying call to a deathless beast. I shall watch these developments with great anticipation!