This Week in Music History: Bing Crosby Got Runover By A Grandma; Virgin Megastore's 10-Year Plan
This Week in Music History: Bing Crosby Got Runover By A Grandma; Virgin Megastore's 10-Year Plan

1985: Bing Crosby Got Run Over By A Grandma
Billboard, Dec. 21, 1985, page 57

Christina Aguilera

Which holiday favorite tops the Billboard Christmas singles chart in the Dec. 19, 1985 issue? In a shocking turn of events, it isn't Bing Crosby's traditional evergreen, "White Christmas," the record-holder for best-selling single of all time (until Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" in - um, 1997). For the third year in a row, Der Bingle's rendition of the Irving Berlin favorite is outsold by a novelty effort - Elmo & Patsy's somewhat silly, mildly offensive and very annoying "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." The Elmo & Patsy single was first released in 1979, while Crosby's perennial holiday song has been a regular chart visitor since 1942. The Christmas singles list published in this issue of Billboard features more vintage titles, including the Singing Dogs' "Jingle Bells" from 1955, Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" from 1956, Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" from 1957 and Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," also from 1957. New to the Christmas singles sales tally this year are two 1985 releases: Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and Bryan Adams' "Christmas Time."

Some 26 years later, which holiday songs have stood the test of time? On Billboard's latest 2011 Top Holiday Songs chart, ranked alongside freshman entries like Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" and Michael Buble's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," are Cole's "The Christmas Song" at No. 4, Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" at No. 5, Crosby's "White Christmas" at No. 13 and Presley's "Blue Christmas" at No. 19. That same quartet of classics are all in the top 30 of the Holiday airplay chart, with Cole at No. 4, Helms at No. 5, Crosby at No. 11 and Presley at No. 27. Springsteen's 1985 song is No. 17 on the Holiday Songs chart and No. 21 on the Holiday airplay chart. As for the barking version of "Jingle Bells," one could ask who let the Singing Dogs out. They haven't been sighted on a Billboard chart since the dawn of the SoundScan and BDS era in 1991.

Diana Ross, Linda Ronstadt, The Who Prepare For Their Close-Ups
Billboard, Dec. 19, 1970, pages 1, 3, 8

Portishead
Diana Ross in "Lady Sings the Blues" for which she received a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Motown Productions, Inc. is launching with a $15 million budget for various projects, including Diana Ross' ABC-TV special starring Bill Cosby, the Jackson 5 and Danny Thomas, scheduled for airing on ABC March 21, 1970 (the actual airdate turned out to be April 18). The special is a pilot for a weekly series. Motown VP Sheldon Roshkind also revealed that Motown Productions is financing development of a major motion picture for Ross. The weekly series never happened, but the film did. Diana was nominated for an Academy Award for starring as Billie Holiday in the 1972 biopic "Lady Sings the Blues.

In the same issue, Billboard reports that manager Burt Zell has negotiated a development deal with Screen Gems, the TV arm of Columbia Pictures, for Linda Ronstadt. Zell blames the TV industry for not understanding contemporary artists. "Television has made some feeble efforts toward presenting contemporary music," Zell told Billboard. "That industry will be in a lot of trouble if it doesn't get with the contemporary people because the advertisers aren't selling enough of their products. The young audience isn't watching and isn't buying." And finally, a page one story reveals that the Who are involved in two film projects, one an original for Universal and the other an adaptation of their rock opera, "Tommy." The latter was optioned by producer Jerry Gershwin, whose credits included "Harper" (1966) and "Sweet November" (1968). Ultimately, "Tommy" did become a film, though not until 1975, and without Gershwin in the credits. Ken Russell directed and all four members of the Who appeared in the film, with Roger Daltrey in the title role, playing alongside Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, Elton John Tina Turner and Jack Nicholson. The Universal project was to star the Who and feature their music. With the working title "Your Turn in the Barrel," the script was to be developed from an original idea by Pete Townshend. The film was never produced.

Virgin Megastore's 10-Year Plan
Billboard, Dec. 23, 2000, page 54

Portishead
Virgin Megastore's ill-fated 10-year plan was just one year too long

Glen Ward, CEO of the Virgin Entertainment Group, tells Billboard's Ed Christman that his challenge to his Virgin Megastore employees is, "How are we going to fill the store with excitement" for the next 10 years. Turns out the plan didn't need to be that long; by 2009 all of the company's U.S. outlets had closed, including the flagship location in Times Square. "While many pundits think digital downloads will replace record stores," Christman wrote, "or force them to smaller spaces…Ward argues that 'reducing the store to 1,000 square feet is letting technology drive the business. Our Times Square store is a great store because it provides a great shopping experience. We still believe in the Megastore concept.'"