5 Day Advent of Songs – Day 3 Linda Bull

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Christmas (Baby Please Come Home Soon) (P Spector/B Mann/C Weil) – Linda Bull 2021

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Phil Spector was famous for his “Wall of Sound” production techniques in the 1960’s as he churned out hit singles for the Crystals, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner. Albums were not really his thing, but in 1963 he decided to produce the ultimate Christmas album, “A Christmas Gift for You”, an unusual gesture as Spector was Jewish, but he still celebrated the secular Christmas. In addition to the Crystals, the Ronettes, and the incomparable Darlene Love, his session musicians were known as “The Wrecking Crew” and included Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert, Jack Nitzsche, Larry Knechtel, Leon Russell, Barney Kessell, Hal Blaine, and Sonny and Cher who provided additional backing vocals. Below L-R – Spector and the Ronettes, Darlene Love/Spector/Jack Nitzsche, The Crystals.

The songs were mostly unique covers of standard seasonal favourites – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Ronettes), White Christmas (Darlene Love), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Crystals), but there was one original song written by Spector and Barry Mann and Ellie Greenwich (the composers of You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’), entitled Christmas (Baby Please Come Home Soon). Spector had originally allocated this song to his muse and future wife Ronnie Bennett (The Ronettes) and she demoed it many times in the typically arduous recording sessions that were fundamental to achieving Spector’s Wall of Sound. But he did not think that Ronnie was conveying the right depth of emotion in her vocals, and replaced her with Darlene Love, Ronnie was extremely disappointed, as she knew the song was the standout track on the album. It was not a joyful festive song but more a plea for people to reunite with their loved ones at Christmas, but on the day the album and the single were released John Kennedy was assassinated.

Spector withdrew the record from sales, and it laid dormant throughout the 60’s and 70’s, until radio stations began to add it to their playlists at Christmas time and after decades it became a hit and a seasonal classic. David Letterman invited Darlene Love to perform the song on his show every Christmas, and it has been covered by Cher (who sang backup on the original), Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, and U2, and many others.

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In 2021 Linda Bull recorded her version of this song for Paul Kelly’s Christmas Train album, at the same time as her and her sister Vika were grieving the death of Kiwi guitarist Dion Hirini, who had played with Paul Kelly and the Bull sisters on numerous occasions. Below L-R Vika, Dion Hirini, Linda.

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He was regarded as “family” by the Tongan Bull sisters, and Linda’s soulful version of this melancholy song that Darlene Love virtually made her own, became a lush, infectious, rendition by Linda, brimming with the feelings of loss at the absence of a loved one at Christmas, but with the familiar powerful and soulful Bull sister’s cadences and spirited conviction. This recording was very much a family affair and behind Linda’s lead vocals were the voices of her sister Vika, Linda’s daughter Kiki, and Paul’s children Declan, Madelaine, and Memphis.

The Paul Kelly “Wrecking Crew” featured here and included Peter Luscombe (drums), Ash Naylor (guitar), Cameron Bruce (keyboards), Dan Kelly (guitar, ukelele), Bill McDonald (bass guitar ), and the amazing backing vocals of Vika Bull, Kate Miller-Heidke, Alice Keath, Emma Donovan, and others.

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