Monday, December 24, 2007

BOB BRAUN, "The Spirit of Christmas" b/w "Welcome Home" (7" vinyl, 1973)

I watched a lot of Star Trek as a kid (no surprise there, I'm sure). One episode in particular I remember is the one where Spock goes into that Vulcan mating psychosis and has to fight Kirk to the death over his wife. At the end, after Spock thinks he's killed Kirk and his wife tells him she's hot for some other dude, Spock just shrugs, lets her go, and tells the other man that, "You may find that having is not so pleasurable a thing as wanting. It is not logical, but it is true."

And that's why Christmas Eve is the greatest day of the year -- better than your birthday, better than Halloween (though it's admittedly a close call), better even than The Day itself. Even when I was a kid, it didn't take too many Christmases for me to realize that no matter how great my presents would turn out to be, nothing was so good as the anticipation. Waking up on the morning of Christmas Eve and knowing that Christmas was almost here but not quite here was better than waking up Christmas morning and finding what Santa left (though I have to say that was pretty good too).

Of course, the older you get, the less the gifts matter. But for me at least, that just makes Christmas Eve better. If the 24th falls on a weekday, what Scrooge termed "the even handed dealing of the world" still continues. You can go out, or you can go to work if you have to, but for that day at least it seems people take everything a little less seriously because most everything will come to a halt the next day. Got to file that report? Got to write that paper? Fuck no! It can wait 'til the 26th! Even the most obnoxious Type-A's among us have to goof off a little. And compared to the way we are the rest of the year, it makes work almost a pleasure.

So if you are at work right now and reading this blog, good for you! Goof the fuck off as much as you want. That's what Christmas Eve is all about. Today's download is an absolute pile of dung! Download it and force everyone at your workplace to listen!

Today's download comes to us from the collection of Ms. Gail Dafler, who found this little treasure while thrifting some time in the mid-'90s. Okay, not only is it neither punk nor indie rock nor anything approaching that, but it's also technically not from Dayton. So it really has no place on this blog.

Then again, maybe it does. Anybody who had grown up in Dayton and was making music fifteen years ago doubtless grew up with Bob Braun, the ubiquitous TV personality from Cincinnati whose eponymous talk show aired weekday mornings in both the Cincinnati and Dayton markets (and undoubtedly many other places in the tri-state area). No doubt every city had (still has) someone like Bob. He was cheese personified. His non-threatening voice and commanding good looks tended to grace anything that could be dubbed "community related." He opened supermarkets and city centers, had recurring guest opinion spots on radio and television, judged baking, livestock, and sewing contests. I distinctly remember he sliced up the pie that went for $2000 at the 1979 Ohio State Fair (I was there). Bob was the happy mask behind which hid the grime, decay, and desperation of urban life in Dayton of the 1970s. He was the face of denial in a grasping, scratching, wheezing, post-Vietnam, pre-tech boom Miami Valley.

We hated him, but in a fucked up way, we loved him. I'm going to go out on a limb here and declare that my generation was the first to openly acknowledge and even promote the legitimacy of irony as an art form. And even the most primitive sense of irony had to respect the perverseness lurking behind the ridiculous veneer of civility that Bob Braun stood for. He is a treasured cultural icon 'round these parts precisely because he could not possibly be confused with anything that should have serious artistic value. Even better, just like Big K Cola and the venerable Voss Hoss, he was all ours -- whether we liked it or not.

Of course, as Bob's Wikipedia entry notes, he would not be ours forever. In 1984 he left southwest Ohio to pursue a career in Hollywood. Although he landed jobs in commercials (even if you don't live around here, you may know him as the former spokesman for Craftmatic Adjustable Beds), local talk shows, and a few feature films (he had a bit part in Die Hard 2), by 1994 he was back in Cincinnati hosting a radio show with his nephew "Bucks" Braun (himself a noteworthy radio personality in Dayton at the time). He retired in 1997 and died of Parkinson's Disease in 2001.

Now lest anyone think I speak ill of the departed, I'll also add that although I question the value of Bob Braun's contribution to culture, no one can question the good he did in his lifetime as a staunch supporter of the Ruth Lyons Children's Fund (to which you can make contributions at the preceding link). And at no time did Bob do more for the fund than he did at Christmas...

...which, of course, leads us (finally...) to the record itself, a 7" vinyl record recorded by Bob Braun with The Cliff Lash Orchestra (I dunno...) and something called "The Fun Bunch" (and if you're expecting me to make some parenthetical joke about that, you'd be right except that I can't think of anything that's really funnier than just typing "The Fun Bunch"). "The Spirit of Christmas" appears to be a Cliff Lash original. It's seasonal schlock from the '70s at its schlockiest and '70s-est. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The label places this in 1973, which would be six years into Bob's seventeen-year stint as host of The Bob Braun Show on WLWT-TV in Cincinnati (check out this customer review of a Ruth Lyons Christmas album at for more information on the show and its peculiar Christmas traditions).

Download It! (15 MB) (link re-upped on 3-29-2010)

Okay then, that's about it. I'm posting this just after midnight, Christmas Eve. If you read this early in the day, do yourself a favor: drop whatever you're doing right now and go have a Christmas adventure. No shit. If you can at all manage it, do at least a little something you hadn't planned to do today. Doesn't matter what it is. If you're cynical about holiday commercialism, go downtown right now and give somebody fifty bucks (doesn't matter if you think they'll spend it on booze, doesn't matter if there are billions of others still starving -- give somebody fifty bucks). If you can't get out of work, give it to the person sitting next to you. If you're the kind of person who regularly does unto others, go buy something for yourself. If you can't do any of that stuff, do something else. Do something you didn't know you would do when you got up today. And if you can, make somebody happy -- doesn't matter who.

Merry Christmas,



A Late One said...

Bob's voice took me to new heights! Want some real Daytonian class? Go check out Herbie Smith at the Dayton Airport Inn lounge! It's like comparing Faygo to Big K!

Anonymous said...

link doesn't work - please repost!