The Christmas Song (R Wells/M Torme) and In The Eyes of A Child ( G Russell/N Strimple/R Bloom) – Air Supply 1987.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/ Jack frost nipping at your nose/ Yuletide carols being sung by a choir/ Folks dressed up like Eskimos.…” was the lyrical opening to this song, written in the middle of a July heatwave in California by lyricist Bob Wells who showed it to jazz singer Mel “The Velvet Fog” Torme, who was impressed. Below Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Bob Wells
Wells had tried to capture all the vivid memories of cold winters spent in New England and his mother had brought over a bag of chestnuts to stuff a turkey for dinner, further reinforcing his memories of colder months and the festive season. Thirty-five minutes later they had written one of the great traditional Christmas songs, which they gave to Nat King Cole, a black man whose silky- smooth baritone voice had erased the racial barriers in music at the time. Cole recorded it for the first time in 1946 but a later recording by him which included strings became the big hit, and soared into the charts, opening doors for Lou Rawls, Ray Charles, and Ethel Waters, to put their unique spins on holiday classics. The song has featured in many movies, and numerous cover versions abound, including Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Justin Bieber and Australia’s Air Supply.
Air Supply were one of Australia’s most successful international acts in the 1980’s, taking no less than eight original songs into the top 10 in the USA in the period 1980-85, where the romantic words and music of Graham Russell were matched with lush orchestration and the soaring, plaintive tenor of Russell Hitchcock. As their name implied Air Supply were a breath of fresh air in a scene crowded with pub rockers and spandex-clad glam rockers, their template for success was founded on easy-listening melodies and romantic lyrics set to sculpted, seamless, light orchestration, focused on a theme of the starry-eyed troubadour, reflecting on matters of the heart. By 1987 they would record their tenth and last studio album with Arista Records, it would be The Christmas Album, a collection of seasonal holiday classics faultlessly produced, polished to perfection, and highly accessible to their fans, Russell Hitchcock’s vocal performance of the Wells/Torme classic, The Christmas Song, was the standout track.
The original Graham Russell composition, The Eyes Of A Child, was also popular, and although not lyrically a Christmas song, the musical arrangement by co-composer Nick Strimple and John D’Andrea and lyrical sentiment were right on the money. Its simple melody and lyrics beautifully captured the central place that children occupy in our lives, especially on Christmas morning when they share their sense of wonder, hope, and appreciation with all of us “In the eyes of a child there is joy, there is laughter/There is hope, there is trust, a chance to shape the future/ For the lessons of life there is no better teacher/ Than to look in the eyes of a child.”