by Jack Sharkey
It would be a fair statement to say that if you are a person, aware of Charlie Brown or Christmas, or were born after 1955 (or any of the above), you have a personal relationship with the song Linus & Lucy from the 1965 Peanuts television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. You instantly become eight years old, with all of the joy and anticipation of the season the second you hear that left-hand opening piano riff.
Therefore, as an eternally wide-eyed and innocent eight-year-old, you may have missed a mistake in the opening minute of the show’s most iconic song that once you hear you can never unhear – and that’s a beautiful thing!
Bebop was mellowing into ‘cool’ and ‘cool’ was the musical flavor of the times. Thick-rimmed glasses, black turtlenecks and outrageous sideburns were what the hipsters were sporting. Television was becoming a cultural mainstay, and the loveable loser in all of us was found in newspapers across the country in Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, A Charlie Brown Christmas was written and produced in less than six months on a budget of $96,000 and premiered in early December 1965.
It looked like a rush job, sounded weird (cool jazz for a kids’ show? Seriously?) and featured unknown child actors voicing the Peanuts gang. Executives at CBS expected a disaster, and at first, reviews and ratings proved them right, but as we all know, fifty-four years later, it’s really not a proper holiday season without the music and story of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
With all of that, it’s easy to see why a fat-finger mistake by one of jazz’s pre-eminent pianists was ignored.
At the 0:50 second mark – as the Vince Guaraldi Trio (Fred Marshall on bass and Jerry Granelli on drums) enters the second verse, Guaraldi’s finger slips off a black key creating an ever-so-slight flubbed note. It’s not much – and it would never make it out of the studio today – but it’s beautifully human and fits the show it was recorded for perfectly. Enjoy it for the statement it makes!
Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas is truly a great album, so do yourself a favor and just listen to the soundtrack album and have yourself the coolest of Yules!
Special Bonus Did You Hear That? – On the opening track O Tannenbaum, there’s another slight flub at the 0:16 mark that would have immediately been comped out of any production done today – which I kind of lament.