YULETIDE MEMORY

The year I undertook a part-time theatre/drama/acting course at the National Theatre Drama School was, without doubt, one of the best for quite a while*. Yet at the end of the year I was uncertain about the future. Was it worth trying to further develop my acting skills? Could I sandpaper them into something that might actually earn me a living? It seemed a dubious prospect and by this stage I knew what it was like to live on the smell of a greasepaint rag. My parents provided a roof and meals (in exchange for board) but little else. Things were tight in that pre-Christmas season of ‘78.

But if you actually engage with people, stuff happens. One of the drama group was a cheerful woman named Katy who managed a shop in an eastern suburbs retail precinct called Tunstall Square. I knew she sold women’s clothes so I was initially puzzled why I was being asked whether I wanted a job.

“Not a job selling clothes, silly. We want a Santa Claus for Tunstall Square!”

Even a week of work was too good to refuse, so despite horrifying images of vomiting children and endless Christmas mall-music I signed up.

There was no mall, it really was a square, and the kids were lovely. Only those young enough to truly believe were willing to climb on a stranger’s lap and whisper secret wishes into his acrylic beard. Hovering mothers (and the occasional father) smiled encouragement to their progeny and sympathy to me. Why sympathy? Because being an outdoor Santa in the Australian summer is no easy gig. I was young and slim in those days so padding was essential for the full-bodied Santa experience. And the suit was the complete felt regalia: no board shorts and thongs here cobber! I lost so much fluid that they had to shorten the daily shifts so I didn’t pass out. My sonorous morning ‘Ho Ho Ho’ became, by mid-afternoon, a hoarse desert whisper. And that is with a year of voice production classes under my wide black belt. Katy the shop manager brought me drinks and took the suit home at night for a quick rinse. That December week was so hot it was always dry next morning.

Santa staggered home, drained in every sense. But before collapsing into bed I’d slump in front of the stereo and listen to an LP. And what did I spin most often? Why, the recently released seasonal LP from Aussie jazz-man Don Burrows, Cool Yule.

Don Burrows - Cool Yule

Yep, not content with days of Santa summer sweat and the tinny strains of canned carols emanating from the shops, most nights I played a side of Christmas jazz at home. Dazed and drifting, I laid back on the swinging flute and jaunty clarinet of the Don, ably accompanied by George Golla on guitar and Tony Ansell on electric piano and synth. Cheerful, cheeky and even politely funky in places, it eased my tinsel-tousled mind. In all likelihood I was suffering from heat stroke. But you know what? It’s still my favourite Christmas record. So much so that after drawing a blank on You Tube, I resolved to remedy that lamentable absence and made my first ever music video. It has been uploaded for your Yuletide enjoyment.

 

God rest you merry gentlemen and women, let nothing you dismay.

* This is an edited version of a post from about this time last year. The original has a longer pre-amble.

13 comments

  1. I’ve never heard it, but I like it. After that long day in the hot sun, I would have thought you would have slid on some Floyd though. Good on you for sweating it out and not passing out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. D’you know, Mr Boppin’, there may well have been some Floyd in the evening mix (and some Santana too – Caravanserai is one of my all time fave summer records) but, as they say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story! Best to you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you like Santana, I have an upcoming post that you might enjoy. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but if you can imagine Santana in the studio with an early 70’s heavy band, you will like the new band I am going to review.

        Like

  2. I was lucky enough to see Don Burrows play quite a few times in the 70s and later too. The best Christmas music I’ve heard today. Thanks VC.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chuffed you enjoyed it DD. Hope your day has been much more than tolerable.

      Like

  3. Perfect music to wake up to on Christmas morning. Thanks, Bruce!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, C-Man. Hope your first Christmas in the new environment is smashing.

      Like

  4. I preferred the 12″ version of this post!

    My word, that’s the much-maligned jazz flute being deployed there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed it is. I like a bit of jazz flute, despite it’s relentless purity of tone. Don Burrows is quite a mean clarinet player too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I tip my hat to you, Bruce – I don’t reckon I could have seen that job out! Likely cause I’d be fired for falling asleep on day one!! The heat would have been too much for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes the worst gigs make the best stories, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I reckon I’d agree with that!

        Liked by 1 person

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