Monday, December 13, 2010

Whoah yeah!

Many of my earliest J5 memories involve being awakened by my clock radio on a school day to the sounds of a brand new release from the Jackson 5. In the days before internet, we never really had any idea when a new song was scheduled to be released, so most singles we heard for the first time on the radio came as a complete surprise.

I remember being jolted from my sleep one morning in late November by the a tripped-up version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," a popular kids' Christmas song that I was used to hearing droned out off-key by a fifth-grade chorus at a school holiday program. I had never heard the song sung with such vigor and soul, and I was pretty sure from the first few measures that it was being sung by the Jackson 5. But by that time there were so many J5 imitators you couldn't always be sure. It wasn't until I heard Michael belt out the first "Whoah yeah!" that I knew for certain it was the Jackson 5.

A new single from the J5, and a Christmas single to boot! As soon as school was out that day, I rushed to my neighborhood dime store to buy it. Luckily, they had it in stock, so I plunked down my 49 cents and ran the two blocks home to play it.

I must have played it four or five times before I tried out the flip side. I had never heard of the song "Christmas Won't Be the Same This Year" but then I had never heard most of the songs the Jackson 5 sang before I played their new releases, not even the cover versions of Motown standards. Of course, I loved the B-side even more, since it was a soulful slow-tempo song with Jermaine singing lead. And I loved, loved, LOVED the spoken-word intro, with the other brothers chiding Jermaine for not feeling the Christmas spirit. It felt like they were in the room with me, talking to me.

I didn't know then -- or even suspect -- that within the week I'd have an entire LP of Jackson 5 Christmas songs to enjoy. If I'd looked closely at the label, I would have gotten a major clue that there was a Jackson 5 Christmas Album out there, but I was just a clueless kid who didn't read boring record labels. For the time being, I was happy playing both sides of that Christmas single, over and over again.

It was only later when I became a serious adult collector that I acquired a copy of the white label promo, the sort of record the A.M. radio d.j. woke me up with all those years ago. This promo is distinctive because it's marked "Audition Copy." It's a designation Motown frequently used on their promo releases, but I believe "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" is the only J5 promo so marked.

In my next post I'll write about the first time I saw the Jackson 5 Christmas Album. Whoah yeah!


  1. That was truly an awesome read! I love stories of memories like that. I can only imagine waking up to a Jackson 5 song that's ckassic (current - as in not from today, but being there in 1970) and then finding it right away. Seriously, this album is golden. When St. Nick brought it to me early one December, it was the greatest gift. I jammed all Thursday night and in to Friday with it! My favorite as always been their version of Someday At Christmas and Give Love on Christmas Day. I love it! Today, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is a normal Christmas song on the radio for the holidays!

    Thank you so much J5C!

  2. You are AWESOME!! I was 3 years old, the first Christmas in my memory so you can imagine that this version is the 1st version of the song I ever heard. My 1st Christmas songs were from the J5, Stevie Wonder and the original jazz soundtrack of "It's Christmas Charlie Brown" by Vince Guaraldi. So, for me, I don't feel that childlike magic until I hear the J5 Christmas album or Stevie's Christmas album. Thanks again for sharing your collection.