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2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas Gifts for Oldies music lovers and retro enthusaists


Wondering what to give that oldies lover for the holidays? Here's a handy guide to Christmas / Holiday gifts for people who love oldies music from the '50s, '60s, and '70s, selected by me, your Oldies guide at About.com. These items are all brand-new for 2012, so you can be sure they haven't been given as gifts before! As always, if you have a suggestion for upcoming lists, feel free and e-mail me!

1. The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set

Apple actually sent double-decker buses around London to give consumers their first crack at these, the Beatles' officially-remastered UK record albums, done up right on stereo in 180-gram vinyl. And you can see why: now that vinyl's become the hipster calling card, who wouldn't want to have the original UK stereo issues? ("Magical Mystery Tour" takes the form of the US LP, and both "Past Masters" are included.) Complete with an exclusive book detailing the making of their albums and their extensive restoration, these are the band's historic albums preserved for future generations of album lovers. Exact right down to the White Album poster and the Sgt. Pepper "inner groove"!

2. Prince From Another Planet

America loved Elvis, even when it hated him, but even after The King made his defiant, home-run of a comeback in 1968, finally becoming an acceptable part of the mainstream, he still never journeyed to what is arguably the country's cultural capital of New York -- at least not to perform a concert. This is why 1972's Madison Square Garden concerts were so historic, and Prince From Another Planet finally presents all the surviving footage from those four weekend shows. These two concerts have been released before, but in rush jobs; the remastering here is now better than any other live Elvis available, and there's also a DVD featuring footage from the show, a press conference, and recently-unearthed 8mm footage of yet another show, synced to the actual audio!

3. Who I Am: A Memoir

From the Mod scene of the mid-'60s, to Swinging London, Woodstock, America's stadiums, and finally Broadway -- Pete Townshend, guitar, pen, and soul of the Who, has seen it all. And he was an active participant, watching his best friends destroy themselves with rock excess while battling his own demons. Definitely the rock survivor's autobiography of the year, Who I Am" is as confessional as the band's music, maybe even more so, as Pete delves into years and years of personal diaries, letters, and unfinished works to paint the clearest portrait of the man himself. Having partially revealed himself in Who songs for years, this is where Townshend finally puts all the pieces together.

4. Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart & Mickey Gilley

The three cousins who changed America's relationship with R&B and country forever were so iconoclastic, for want of a kinder word, that their hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana has been cursed (or some say blessed) with the legacy of their own madness. It may not be something in the water, but as author J.D. Davis points out, there was definitely something in the blood: all three were enormously successful, relentlessly self-mythologizing, and endlessly tormented by the battle between their spiritual and secular sides. A true Southern Gothic tale, Unconquered features an exhaustive amount of interviews with friends, family, and associates, and by addressing all three legacies at once, it paints the clearest picture yet of how they came by them.

5. Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981

The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band was riding high on its Tattoo You artistic rebirth when it took a detour from its North American jaunt and sat in with one of its idols, bluesman Muddy Waters, in his Chicago element. Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Ian Stewart join the architect of electric blues for jams on some of his greatest songs, including "Mannish Boy" and "Got My Mojo Working," along with guests Buddy Guy on guitar and Junior Wells on harmonica. A chance meeting that could never be duplicated -- Muddy died just two years later -- this combination CD/DVD artifact is an essential part of both legends.

6. Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the '60s

Manhattan's Peppermint Lounge was only supposed to be a gambling den for high rollers when it opened in 1960 -- mobsters, movie stars, business magnates. But it also cashed in on the rock craze, and when it became the birthing ground for a new dance called "The Twist," the old world of American mafiosi and the new world of teen culture clashed, and clashed big. Certainly the only history that attempts to tell the story of a dance craze and the rise of the Mob simultaneously, "Peppermint Twist" offers a never-before-seen look at Sixties culture and how it was changing everything for good.

7. The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret

They played on just about every hit song that came out of Los Angeles in the 1960s, which is to say, most of what was heard on American radio. And yet, few people outside of music obsessives know about the "Wrecking Crew," even though some of its members went on to become solo stars in their own right -- Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Larry Knechtel of Bread. Fortunately, a lot of them are still alive, so you can now find out what exactly went on at those Phil Spector, Beach Boys, Monkees, Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, and Mamas and the Papas sessions. Female bassist Carol Kaye's story alone is worth the price of the book, as is the appreciation of legendary drummer Hal Blaine. If someone you love has already devoured the legends of the Funk Brothers or Booker T. and the MGs, this is the next logical step.

8. Rolling With the Punches: The Allen Toussaint Songbook

Now that Allen Toussaint's finally gotten the recognition he deserves as one of the greatest pop-soul songwriters, arrangers, and producers of his time, this ace import from the highly-esteemed Ace label is a great way to introduce someone to one of the founding fathers of New Orleans Soul. No mere tribute album, it culls the best two dozen Toussaint covers from the '60s through the '80s and throws in just enough of the big hits (Lee Dorsey's "Holy Cow," Glen Campbell's "Southern Nights," the Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can Can") to show off both his stylistic range and his ear for a tune. If your friends and family like their soul funky, look no further!

9. Pyle Home PTCDS7UIB Retro Vintage Turntable with CD/MP3/Casette/Radio/USB/SD

There have been a number of attempts at creating home electronics that'll play music in any format, but this may be the final word: not only does it feature a working turntable, cassette player, and CD tray, but it works with USB devices and SD sound cards, meaning that it can record any of your loved one's treasured old songs onto new formats or directly to a hard drive! The cabinet even looks appealingly like a classic '30s radio, and that's good, because an AM/FM tuner is also part of the package... if it plays music, you can hook it up to this! Complete with wireless remote.

10. Stylophone Retro Pocket Synth Keychain

Believe it or not, there was a cheap home synthesizer keyboard available in the late '60s and early '70s, and it was operated with a stylus: the Stylophone created a circuit when it was touched, creating a futuristic tone that could be used to play melodies. Now that the retro classic has been reborn, there's a keychain version -- that's right, you can carry this gizmo around and play it right in the palm of your hand, through the tiny built-in speaker. Three AAA batteries (included!) are all you need to sound instantly groovy!
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