Monday, December 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "Linus and Lucy" Live!

Happy December!

Today is the first of the month which means it's time for another installment of The Battle of the Bands (BOTB). This blogging event was originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013. It occurs on the 1st and the 15th of every month, and I think it's a fun way to share and discuss music. Each of the bloggers taking part offers their readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.

With it being December, it's also a great time for a battle of Christmas music, or at least in this case, some music which has a tie-in to Christmas (for my BOTB post on December 15th, I'll feature a much more traditional Christmas song).

One of my favorite Christmas things is the TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. First broadcast in 1965, this animated special of 'The Peanuts' gang drawn by Charles M. Schulz  is something I love to see every year.  Part of it is tradition -- it's one of the earliest TV specials I recall seeing, and it's been on every year since I was 5 years old.  But besides nostalgia, I also love the gentle, warm way it touches on the importance of friends, redemption, acceptance, and it's timeless message about the over-commercialization of the holiday and what the true meaning of Christmas really is.

And also, there's another reason to love A Charlie Brown Christmas -- the fabulous music!!!

Composed and performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio, the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas is filled with wonderful, timeless songs.  In fact, I even featured "Christmas Time is Here" from this soundtrack last year for my very first BOTB post, and so I thought I'd visit it again this year. 

In this battle, I'm using one of the most iconic tracks from the album -- the Linus and Lucy theme.  It's probably the least "Christmas-y" song since it features no words and seems to have little to do with the holiday other than it's association with this TV special.  But it's also probably one of the most well-known tunes from this album -- it went on to become the theme for the Peanuts and virtually every other Charlie Brown special.

I'm not going to use the original in this battle since I think it might win over any contender, but for your reference (and listening pleasure), here is that original jazzy version by the Vince Guaraldi Trio:

Great song, isn't it?  I love the vibe, the changes, and the soulful playing -- even if someone doesn't like jazz, they often like this. It transcends genre.

There are a LOT of covers of this song that I could use for a battle, but being a guitarist, I'm going with two very different interpretations of it, both of which are done live.

Let the Battle Begin!

First up is guitarist Gary Hoey, with a live performance of the song.  Gary's done a lot of Christmas covers, with several "Ho Ho Hoey" CDs available along with Christmas shows. This might not be a song you would expect to hear Hendrix references, but Gary pulls it off. Here's a live video from 2009:

Another guitarist who covered this song was the phenomenal Tele-master Danny Gatton. During the late 1980s and early 1990's, he typically incorporated it into a medley that ended his concerts -- he'd work in snippets of "The Orange Blossom Special," and many other bits into a blazing song that covered 8 to 10 minutes. Here's a video from You Tube which showcases mainly just the "Linus and Lucy" beginning, done live in Washington DC in 1989. While it doesn't have all the amazing playing that would typically come after, it does focus on the song-at-hand, which prevents clouding the waters of this battle.  See what you think:

Your Vote

So now it's your turn to add your input: Which cover do you like better?  Gary Hoey's hard-rocking version with the great playing, or Danny Gatton's telecaster-shredding rendition from the beginning of his show-ending medley?

I invite you to listen to both of these and give them each an honest chance. And remember that this is a contest about the music -- not the images in the videos, Please use your ears to judge, not your eyes.

After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above videos strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- afterwards, check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:

Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again next week to find out how the voting has gone.  I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner.

And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the Christmas season: Its great music, its wonderful traditions, the joy of family, and -- of course -- The True Meaning of Christmas.


  1. Both songs have their pluses and minuses, but I think Danny Gatton's rendition resembled the Vince Guaraldi Trio enough allowing me to identify with the song. So, Gatton gets my vote! Totally interesting battle duo of a childhood classic!

    1. Thanks for the vote, Cathy! I'm glad you enjoyed the battle, and I'll put you down for Danny Gatton:

      -- Hoey 0; Gatton 1

  2. I did participate today!
    Gary Hoey's version is so different - but it rocks. Gets my vote.
    I think every person on the planet knows that song.

    1. I saw that, and I voted in your BOTB part!

      I figured you lean towards Gary Hoey. ;)

      -- Hoey 1; Gatton 1

  3. GgC ~
    Like you, I love 'A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS' and watch it every single December. If the Vince Guaraldi Trio original had been included, that's unquestionably where my vote would have gone.

    I was already familiar with BOTH of these covers and I like Hoey and Gatton both. (In fact, from the very beginning of BOTB I have been planning to someday use Hoey in a Battle against the band War - I'm sure you know which song I have in mind to use.)

    Both of these were good but... let's be honest, Gatton is clearly the better, more imaginative player. I likes me some Hoey and I LOVES ME his soundtrack album to the movie 'ENDLESS SUMMER 2', but as good as he is - as well as he shreds - Gatton is better, more creative, more nuanced (some of those little licks he puts in there he just tosses off like they're nuttin', when most other guitarists couldn't even conceive of them to begin with).

    Great melody, cool guitar work from BOTH players, but one is a true genius on the fretboard, and that's the one who gets my vote.

    Fun Fact: When Guaraldi was hired to create a musical soundtrack for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, he was so enthused by the 'Linus & Lucy' melody when he came up with it that he called the producer and wanted to play it for him over the telephone. The producer protested, saying he wanted to hear it in a studio with the right acoustics, but Guaraldi was just too excited about it and insisted on playing it over the phone because he couldn't wait to reveal it.

    Pretty neat that a professional musician could get that enthusiastic about a piece of music he'd written for a TV cartoon (not knowing at the time that it was destined to become a genuine American holiday classic).

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Thanks for the visit and the detailed vote, StMc! I appreciate it. It seems most of the other BOTB'ers haven't ventured by yet. But maybe the guitar-centric aspect of this battle has put them off. ;)

      I pretty much had you pegged for a Gatton vote. You're one of the few non-guitarists I know has even heard of Danny Gatton. But he was an amazing player, and I absolutely get why you'd vote for him. I'll add more thoughts when I offer my vote later in the week...

      And you're right -- the original Guaraldi would absolutely still be my favorite. Great fact to learn about, too. That's pretty cool!

      -- Hoey 1; Gatton 2

  4. If someone doesn't know this song they must have been living under a rock. The first version made me feel like Linus and Lucy were getting it on. The whimsy of the 2nd version made me feel more in keeping with the funness of the song so I vote for Danny Gatton

    1. Thanks for the vote, Brigit! And your comment about Linus and Lucy made me laugh. Hoey's version does have a bit more of a, um... throbbing beat... than the original, doesn't it?

      And I love the term "whimsy" -- Gatton's is absolutely a more whimsical version.

      -- Hoey 1; Gatton 3

  5. Such a great song that taps into so many memories. Both versions are good, but I'm going with the Hoey version--more unique and totally different from the Gatton version.

    Tossing It Out

    1. I agree, Lee -- it is a great, classic song! And I'll put you down for a Hoey vote:

      -- Hoey 2; Gatton 3

  6. Gatton is really cute with a treble, treble here and a treble, treble, there - but I'm all about the base - which brings me to Hooo-wee!
    You see, just as my fingers jumped on my air piano with Vince's original - I cranked up my air guitar with Hoey.(Yep, Hendrix wouda been proud too) But while Hoey tracks off into a Jerry Garcia marshmallow world, his bass man picks it up! Listen to that Damn bass! Woohooo.


    1. Hi Dixie!

      I'm glad you enjoyed the bass. Amid all the guitar flash, it's easy for bass players to get overlooked, but they're a vital part and a too-often under-appreciated aspect of great music. I'm glad you found something in the battle offerings that connected with you!

      -- Hoey 3; Gatton 3

  7. I'm late to this party; not surprised are you?

    Anyway, I gotta say that I love Charlie Brown and love the Guaraldi version. Not as excited about the guitar virtuosos here, but I do like the Gatton version better than Hoey's. So count my vote there.

    1. It's alright, FAE -- I'm just glad you stopped by! I love Guaraldi also, and in spite of being a guitarist, prefer it to both of these also. Which is why it was off the table -- it was too likely a landslide winner against any competition. ;)

      And another vote for Gatton, to again give him the lead:

      -- Hoey 3; Gatton 4

  8. I liked the Edward Van Halen-esque riffs in Hoey's Linus and Lucy but Girl is gonna go with Door Number Two!

    1. Hi Suze! Thanks for voting in this BOTB, one of the... Well, I'll save that announcement for next time. ;)

      But glad you enjoyed both versions here, and I'll put you in the Gatton group:

      -- Hoey 3; Gatton 5

  9. Very late to this party. I'm having difficulty while on vacation keeping up with blogging. My apologies.

    I have to shoot straight with you and tell you that I didn't like first one at all. I guess I'm not a fan of that screaming guitar. I've got another pounding migraine today (yeah, it's only 8:35 am, so that doesn't bode well for the day). It's a terrible thing when going on VACATION is so stressful that it is migraine-inducing. But there you go.... I think that it might be just the Go Go Go aspect of it all.) Anyway, back to BOTB, I much preferred the Gatton version, but it is far cry (for these ears) from the original.

    1. No problem, Robin -- you're always a very welcome visitor, no matter how late! I hope you've enjoyed your vacation!

      And no apologies or explanations needed -- I get why Hoey might not appeal to everyone. In fact... Well, read my vote tomorrow for more details. :)

      -- Hoey 3; Gatton 6

  10. I could hear the melody in the Danny Gatton version better than the one in the Gary Hoey version. In fact, I could hear what Danny was playing without all the fuzz Gary had on his. So Danny is my choice.

    1. I totally get it, John. Another Gatton vote to widen the margin:

      -- Hoey 3; Gatton 7

  11. I thought for sure I would vote for Gatton, but I liked the Hoey version better.

    1. I'm always pleased when a battle throws one's expectations for a loop. :)

      Another vote in the Hoey heap:

      -- Hoey 4; Gatton 7


Don't be shy -- feel free to comment. I really appreciate your thoughts.