Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
This week saw the 50th anniversary airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the animated special that’s become a part of the national fabric. We all know what a Charlie Brown Christmas tree looks like; we all know how the kids dance, and we all know “Linus and Lucy,” the jazz composition by Vince Guaraldi. Originally written for a documentary on Charles Schulz, the jazz piano instrumental now serves as the unofficial Peanuts theme song, as well as being the centerpiece on the special’s soundtrack (one of the top ten bestselling holiday albums).
In honor of the show’s golden anniversary, and in anticipation of holiday mixes, here are five more takes on the track named for the van Pelt siblings.
Suddenly, Tammy! – Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi cover)
We’ll start with the most traditional (i.e. piano-based) version, from Suddenly, Tammy!’s 1995 promo EP Shut Up, It’s Christmas. The bass gets to play those insistent high notes, and watch out for that last drumbeat at the end, but overall you won’t find too much different here than with the version you know; it’s still just as nice and moderately peppy in an indie-piano kinda way.
Los Straitjackets – Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi cover)
Now we start moving away from the traditional with this garage-surf cover of “Linus and Lucy” by the luchado-masked Los Straitjackets, released not a month ago on The Quality Holiday Revue, their pairing with Nick Lowe. “The best thing about covering this song,” says their guitarist, Greg Townson, “is seeing everybody doing the Peanuts dances when we play it.”
Love Tractor – Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi cover)
Love Tractor’s cover of “Linus and Lucy” comes from their 2006 release Before and After Christmas (which, if you know Brian Eno’s Before and After Science, has a hilarious album cover). It’s heavier on the percussion, but consistent with the moderate lilt. The abrupt ending is due to the song being part of a medley titled “Seven Pieces of Peanuts Candy.”
Asylum Street Spankers – Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi cover)
The Asylum Street Spankers gave us A Christmas Spanking in 2001, treating each song with their old-time-radio ambiance. They stretch out “Linus and Lucy” to nearly five minutes, giving the melody to the harmonica and taking time for a little scatting along the way.
moe. – Linus and Lucy (Vince Guaraldi cover)
moe. brought their prog/jam roots to bear on the sounds of the season with 2002’s Season’s Greetings from moe. Recorded in a flurry of sound checks at the suggestion of bassist Rob Derhak (“a complete Christmasaholic,” according to guitarist Chuck Garvey’s liner notes), the album shows no signs of being rushed, and in the case of “Linus and Lucy,” it settles into a very pleasant groove.