A Christmas Gift To You Ronettes Crystals Santa Clause Sleigh Ride

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift To You

A Christmas Gift To You Ronettes Crystals Santa Clause Sleigh Ride

Phil Spector’s Christmas Album A Christmas Gift To You is an all time classic

Although he wasn’t the first person to give Christmas tunes a Rock n Roll flavour (Both Elvis – in 1957- and rival record label Cameo Parkway Records – in 1961, featuring Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell – had released Christmas records) there’s little doubt that Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift To You is The Christmas Rock n Roll Record.

Spector took a bunch of corny Christmas songs such as Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and magically turned them into rock n roll. Darlene Love of The Crystals sang White Christmas, The Ronettes sang I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and LaLa Brooks (with The Crystals) sang the lead on Parade of Wooden Soldiers, amongst others.

In celebration of this, I have been doing a little digging around to present Ten Things You Didn’t Know (You Didn’t Know) About Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift To You:

1. Despite all appearances, the album was recorded in August, in the sweltering heat of high summer.

2. Sparing no expense, Spector kept the studio booked for 24 hours a day, sometimes working through the night. One of the three piano players was Leon Russell who more recently recorded an album with Elton John and was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Sonny Bono plays percussion.

3. A flying wig was the only thing that called a halt to proceedings: After an especially late night Darlene Love became somewhat tired and delirious waiting for Spector (a notorious perfectionist) to come back with the music tracks. Ronette Nedra Talley remembers seeing “Darlene throwing back her head back laughing at something and her wig flying off. That was it. There was no more recording after that, nobody could get their composure”.

4. The project became a nightmare for recording engineer Larry Levine: “It got to the point where Phil and I were at each other’s throats because night after night we were in for six weeks doing that album” he said.

5. The album finishes on a cringeworthy soliloquy from Spector. According to Larry Levine, the soliloquy originally lasted over five minutes with Spector “extolling his virtue, how great he was, while trying to sound humble” before he was persuaded to trim it back to two minutes.

6. Afterwards, according to Arranger Jack Nitzsche’s room-mate Denny Bruce, Spector and Nitzsche amused themselves by recording alternative versions. “Hello, this is Phil Spector. It’s Christmas – why don’t you go f- yourselves”…

7. The record was shipped on the first week of November 1963. On the 22 November, President Kennedy was assassinated. In a mood of national mourning Spector immediately withdrew the Christmas album from release.

8. A Christmas Gift For You was listed at #142 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, and Brian Wilson has described it as his favourite album of all time.

9. Because A Christmas Gift To You was never a great seller in its time and was withdrawn from sale it became relatively scarce. Although there have been many re-releases, if you wanted to buy an original UK copy on the London (plum coloured) label in mint condition now it would set you back £100.

10. The album first charted in the UK forty years ago – in December 1972 – after Apple records secured the UK rights to A Christmas Gift… after The Beatles worked with Spector on their Let It Be album.

Christmas just isn’t the same without it…

Record #131: The Ronettes – Sleigh Ride



14 responses to “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift To You”

  1. Simon Avatar

    I just converted the vinyl to CD for my mother-in-law (cos that’s the kinda guy I am). It’s certainly a great album and you’re right, the Phil Spector soliloquy is dreadful! Ronnie Spector’s voice still sounds amazing. I have a live recording from 2010 on Christmas Day in Las Vegas and she’s still got it.


    1. mikeladano Avatar

      I’ve always had a thing for Ronnie! She’s awesome.


    2. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      You’re a very sweet guy. Merry Christmas to you – and your mother-in-law..


  2. mikeladano Avatar

    Thanks for posting this. 10 facts I did not know. Your have done your civic duty of the season!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Thank you. All in a day’s work…


  3. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) Avatar

    Excellent post. This has been my favorite Christmas album since college…a long time ago. Just listened to it again last weekend and it still sounds fresh. I didn’t realize until recently that “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” was the only original on the album. I had always assumed it was a cover like the rest of the songs, especially since there have been so any covers of that song over the years that it’s become a holiday standard.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Thank you. Glad I didn’t include that fact now – otherwise it would only have been nine things you didn’t know. But for other people there are now eleven things – so thank you again! Merry Christmas!


      1. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) Avatar

        Thanks…and Merry Christmas to you as well. By the way, do you have a particular favorite from the Spector Christmas album? For me there are four standouts, even though every song is a gem: White Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). My holiday season isn’t complete until I hear all four of those.


      2. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

        I think I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) stand out – but it’s all good….


      3. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) Avatar

        Agreed. Holiday albums really don’t get better than this. Hopefully some of your readers who hadn’t previously heard it will check it out now.


      4. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

        Do you think there are people out there who haven’t heard it?


      5. KamerTunesBlog (by Rich Kamerman) Avatar

        Absolutely. For every record we think is a classic, there’s someone who’s never even heard of it. Maybe they’ve heard a couple of the songs on the radio but aren’t aware of how solid the album is from top to bottom. Plus there are younger generations who need to be exposed to all this great music.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: