WASHINGTON, December 31, 2017: We’re back with the latest, greatest edition of our Top 10 Auld Lang Syne music videos to close out 2017 and launch the promising New Year of 2018.
Our revised list differs little from last year’s Top 10. But our last-minute surprise #1 pick for 2017 was time sensitive to events occurring late in 2016, so it’s been replaced. But that video was so moving, particularly for Boomers, that we’ve kept it as an “honorable mention” selection at the end of this year’s list.
2016’s big story, of course, was Election 2016. It was a presidential contest that Hillary Rodham Clinton was supposed to win in a landslide, given her laughable “you can’t take him seriously” opponent Donald J. Trump. At least that’s what almost 99 percent of media and celebrity types kept telling us. But life can be unpredictable, can’t it, #NeverTrumpers and “Resistance” fanatics?
Worse for America’s legion of sore losers, as December 31, 2017 draws to a close, one thing remains crystal clear. For most of 2017, Donald Trump has been this year’s Man of the Year both here and abroad, whether you, I, Time Magazine or anyone else thinks otherwise.
But why worry about political crap this weekend? In reality, both your life and my life don’t actually have much to do with national politics, at least not 24/7. So why fixate on it. Instead, let’s resolve to do what we want to do in 2018 and not worry about people criticizing our choices.
In so doing, let’s also recall that haunting, introspective, classic song still known as “Auld Lang Syne.” To help us reflect upon this song’s thoughtful lyrics and wistful tune, we present CDN’s 2018 edition of CDN’s annual Top Ten CDN “Auld Lang Syne” videos, with traditional lyrics immortalized by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns. “Auld Lang Syne” fondly yet sadly recalls the old times, old friends and old memories that are passing into legend and myth, even as our calendar turns inexorably toward a New Year with its endless possibilities.
And so, to paraphrase that old Washington and New York sportscaster Warner Wolf, “Let’s go to the videos!”
- Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1946). Fewer and fewer people remember this version, the most famous and influential interpretation of Auld Lang Syne ever. For many decades it was the only version of this song that Americans could watch on the telly each year. But ultimately, the aging Guy and his aging guys were pushed aside by time and by Dick Clark. The annual, Times Square New Year’s countdown show gradually turned into today’s vapid and increasingly banal “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” Even Clark has met his maker, and now the Big Show is hardly worth watching, filled as it is with noise and flapdoodle droning at least in background as the hosts of today’s TV extravaganzas gasbagging away. (But at least we won’t have the odious Kathy Griffin to kick around anymore.) A classic Greatest Generation Big Band, Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians celebrate January 1, 1946 in the following film clip. The soundtrack is from a live radio broadcast from Times Square. 1946 was an auspicious New Year indeed. It was the first New Year since roughly 1939 that Americans, and indeed much of the world could freely celebrate without being haunted by the threat of a catastrophic world war. Vaguely similar to 2016-2017, 1946 marked a great transition from the mass violence of World War II to a more domestic, “back to work, back to normalcy” scenario. That, among other things, spawned the tidal wave of American births known collectively as the Baby Boomer generation. Who, back then, ever imagined how that generation would eventually turn out when they allegedly grew into adults?
- Mariah Carey does Auld Lang Syne in a 2010 video. Here’s an arrangement of Auld Lang Syne that gives us the best of both worlds, the old and the new. Mariah begins her version of the song pretty traditionally, save for that constant grace-note styling she has never been able to resist. But then she takes things in a more urban pop direction and niftily transforms the tune into something entirely different. Guy Lombardo it ain’t. If you simply listen to this one, it may help you banish Mariah’s awful flop performance in last year’s extravaganza. After all, even a big star can have an off day, right?
- Beethoven Arrangement. This clip is one we’ve retained for several yearly editions of this feature. Here, we travel farther back in history where we discover an interesting trifle from none other than Ludwig von himself. Yes, even the great Beethoven spent some time as a starving artist before he assumed his role as the dominant European composer of the 19th century. Face it. Even hackwork by a master of Ludwig’s stature never sounded so good. So let’s listen to Beethoven’s outright charming version of Auld Lang Syne as sung by Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott and John Mark Ainsley, accompanied by a small ensemble. Absolutely charming.
- Schwinn Bell Choir. Another returnee, this is the most original riff we’ve yet discovered in our search for unusual interpretations of Auld Lang Syne. Although the video below seems contemporary, the musicians are all riding on old, heavy-duty Schwinn bikes that look like the one this author owned back in the 1950s and 1960s when no one had ever heard of a 10-speed. (Or could afford one if they found one.) We rode our Schwinns for miles and miles up and down the generally flat terrain of northern Ohio, once completing a 50-mile bike hike from Avon Lake down to Lodi and back on state route 83 to earn our Boy Scout cycling merit badge. But I’ll guarantee you, we were certainly never invited to perform in a Schwinn bicycle bell choir.
- Red Hot Chili Pipers. No, not a typo. Not “Peppers.” “Pipers.” Whoever these dudes are in the following clip, they manage to impart a genuine Scottish flavor to Rabbie Burns’ immortal poem and its accompanying tune.
- Auld Lang Syne – Beach Boys cover, arranged by Brian Wilson, as sung by Josh Turner,
posted to YouTube on December 30, 2016. Last year, I stumbled on this wonderful, almost dreamy à cappella arrangement of Auld Lang Syne by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. In my mind, Brian, has long been underestimated for the almost classical-music elegance of the vocal harmonies he created with the Beach Boys from the very beginning. His version of Auld Lang Syne is traditional yet modern, sincere yet slightly edgy. Like a Mac, it just works. Even better, it recalls an America and a California that most of us shared prior to the 1990s. Turner does a great job here dubbing each part of this four-part arrangement.
- Performance at the Scottish Parliament, circa 2007. This next clip, another replay from last year’s column, is neither the most brilliant nor the best performance of Auld Lang Syne we’ve seen or heard. But it’s a standout for one simple reason: All the Scottish politicians in attendance in this clip, no matter what their party affiliation, are standing and singing together, at the Scottish Parliament no less. Even better, no one tries to go viral by taking a knee during this New Year’s tribute. Can you imagine this happening on Capitol Hill or at an NFL game today?
- Edinburgh, Hogmanay celebration, 2006. Forget Times Square. If you want to experience a really massive, city-style party that brings in the New Year with all the proper color and revelry, you need go no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. The national Auld Lang Syne sing-along in the following video is taken from the Jan. 1, 2009, celebration of Hogmanay. That celebration is to New Year’s Day in Scotland much like Mardi Gras is to New Orleans, in that eager Scots don’t limit the New Year’s festivities to Dec. 31-Jan. 1. Instead, they carry on at some length leading up to and including that magical New Year’s date. Let’s help them out this year by downing a wee dram (or two) of our favorite single malt Scotch. When the Scots want to celebrate, they damn well know how to do it.
- Recording by Scottish folk group “The Cast.” The verbiage following this YouTube Auld Lang Syne clip tells us it’s sung by “‘The Cast (Mairi Campbell, David Francis)’” in a “performance recorded at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2008.” We don’t exactly know how important that is, but no matter. This striking version is a bit different in both melody and approach, than the one we’re used to in the States. This one employs earlier language usage and a slightly different, more authentic version, or “mode,” of the ancient tune. Both combine to give us a sadder and more reflective performance than those we’re familiar with here.
- Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Initially posted in 2010, this powerful, emotional and lushly orchestrated version of Auld Lang Syne is a great and (to me at least) authentic way to wrap up this year’s Top 10 tribute to this great tune. The music builds and builds, and, for once, the accompanying video is equally interesting. As we watch the sweep of the Scottish countryside in the video, and listen yet again to this immortal music as it’s performed by the pros,our concluding pick is just the way to end your day before launching a new one in a new year. (It may also inspire you to look into booking a Scottish holiday in 2018.) But stay tuned. Our 2018 Honorable Mention clip follows this year’s winner.
Honorable mention: Dougie MacLean and The Chive remember celebrities we lost in 2016. Posted to YouTube on December 29, 2016, this poignant Auld Lang Syne video suddenly became our surprise, last-minute winner last year. This version (below), courtesy of The Chive, is a lovely, slow, acoustic arrangement of the old tune. Soloist/guitarist Dougie MacLean does us an extra favor here by singing it with Burns’ original Scottish lyrics which, in turn, are translated via subtitles in the video. This approximately 5 minute clip scrolls through the names and faces of the mind-boggling number of famous personalities we lost in 2016. Particularly notable are the final two, the sad and shocking mother-daughter pair of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, both of whom passed away almost simultaneously evenas most Americans were thinking only of Christmas. During this clip, we see for the last time some of the last Greatest Generation celebrities, reminding us that those of us who are Baby Boomers are next in line. Emphasizing the point, this clip includes a downright upsetting number of Boomer celebs. On the upside, though, this could be inspiring. If you’re a Boomer and think (or know) you’ve been wasting your life on petty or meaningless stuff up to now, this video might serve as inspiration that it’s not too late… you can still begin to make a difference in 2018 and beyond. And there’s still time go get through that big bucket list of magical destinations you’ve been meaning to see but have always put off.
On that note, from yours truly and from all our friends here at CDN, Happy New Year! For Auld Lang Syne….