26 December, 2010

Advent Calendar in Song: Addendum: What Are You Doing New Year's Eve

I wasn't sure whether to wrap this up on Christmas, where all the proper advent calendars end, or to overdo it and hit the 12 days of Christmas, right up to Epiphany, which happens to be the birthday of two of my brothers-in-law. Travel plans allowing, I will be at the New Forest Point-to-Point race today, one of the only surviving point to point races in the world. I've decided that I can't do the proper thing, but, for once, I'm not going to over do it.

I'm leaving this thread with Mary-Margaret O'Hara's cover of the Frank Loesser song, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

Mary-Margaret O'Hara is the younger sister of actress and comedienne (SCTV & Christopher Guest regular) Catherine O'Hara. As a singer/songwriter she released one incredible album, Miss America, in 1988. It is full of haunting tracks about emotional insecurity, and some actually sound as if they were written or performed during electroconvulsive therapy, there is something harrowing about the glimpses of rawness, and it is brave and unique in its elliptical and teasing song structures. Her high airy vocals convey a fragility, as if her identity was shredding in front of your ears. It was critically hailed, but she has not produced a full album since.

I saw her perform, headlining a special Canada Day concert, 1st July 1992 at the Hammersmith Apollo. One of the unknown support acts, Barenaked Ladies stole the show. The other support acts weren't memorable but were straight ahead rock. The audience didn't really seem ready for Mary Margaret's post Patty Smith soul bearing and downbeat sound. They responded with indifference or rudeness, and I felt quite bad for her, as a fan of her work, I just wanted those who didn't like it to piss off, and leave us for a more intimate gig. Instead I think she just cut short her set, which cast a pall over the evening.

Here's a video of a live gig of her covering Somewhere Over the Rainbow, by turns beautiful and funny:

In 1991 her only other major release, Christmas EP came out. It consisted of only 4 tracks, covers of Blue Christmas, Silent Night, and What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?, and one original: Christmas Evermore. I could only find it on a cassette in a cardboard sleeve with all four tracks on both sides. If I do this again next year, her cover of Blue Christmas is sure to be on that list, because it's one of the best versions. In the mean time, you can plan your resolutions....

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