Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A Christmas Musical Mystery

Last year, Keith and I had a Crosstalk about whether Christmas music is awesome or awful, and during the course of the discussion, I brought up the song that's arguably my favorite retro-pop Christmas song of all: a Jack Jones-sung number called "This Is That Time Of The Year," which I found on one of my grandfather's old Texaco holiday albums when I was a teenager. I recorded that song onto a cassette back in the '80s, burned it onto a CD in the '90s, then transferred it to MP3 in the '00s. The original album is long gone in some family garage sale, and over the years, I've wondered if I'd remembered the song's origin wrong. Was it really sung by Jack Jones, or was his name just stuck in my head because of that old Royal Crescent Mob song "Big Show," which name-drops him?

Then over the weekend, my wife found this image on-line.

Illustration for article titled A Christmas Musical Mystery

In the past, I'd done fruitless searches for just such a picture, or for any confirmation that "This Is That Time Of The Year" was sung by Jones, and appeared on a Firestone holiday album. I'd checked the tracklists for old Jack Jones Christmas albums on AMG, Googled the phrase "this is that time of the year," entered the lyrics into lyrics databases, and so on. Most often I got back "This Time Of The Year," a soft-pop standard written by Cliff Owens and Jesse Hollis, and sung by the likes of Brook Benton and Johnny Mathis. It's a pretty song–I should know, I've downloaded enough copies of it, searching in vain for "This Is That Time Of The Year"–but it doesn't have the same bells and bustle as my favorite.

Even after Donna found the image from my Daddy Bill's old record–which, if you look close at the bottom, mentions my song by name, and more or less indicates that it's exclusive to this album–I still don't know much about "This Is That Time Of The Year," or why it never became a standard. (One possible reason: Because it kind of rips off "The Most Wonderful Time of The Year," written four years earlier. Personally though, I prefer the Jones song's specificity, which mentions little Christmas-y details like Grandpa's singing voice, and the way mother deposits less money in the bank come December.)

I did find another site which mentions "This Is That Time Of The Year," and says it was written by Edward Thomas and Martin Charmin, and that Jones was the first to record it, in 1967. Further research reveals that Bing Crosby may have sung the song on a 1968 episode of The Hollywood Palace, and although I can't determine when they recorded it, The Bee Gees are apparently associated with "This Is That Time Of The Year" for some unknown reason.

In a way though, just knowing that my memories of where I found the song are correct is good enough. Last year I wrote, "Much of what I love about popular culture is how it records fragments of time that even people who lived through them don't always recall, and that Jones song is like a trip into Christmas past." Somehow it's appropriate then that I now know just as much about "This Is That Time Of The Year" as I did when I first discovered it. I mean, I don't necessarily need to know the history of the Nerf Man toy I got for Christmas in 1977. It's enough to know that I had it, and kept it until the cape fell off.

Anyway I present now, as my gift to you, my favorite forgotten Christmas song, complete with the crackle of the vinyl I first found it on. It's "This Is That Time Of The Year," sung by Jack Jones, and it appeared on the sixth volume of the Firestone Your Favorite Christmas Music series. Technology has confirmed it.


Joyeux Noel.

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