‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ was written for the MGM musical Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, USA, 1944). The song is performed by Judy Garland in a touching scene set on Christmas Eve as she comforts her sister as the family fear they may be leaving their happy home in St Louis and moving to New York City. Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane the original lyrics are very different to the version we know today: ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas. It may be your last. Next year we may all be living in the past.’ These lyrics were rejected as being too depressing.
A million miles from the now legendary hard-edged performance at Sunbury and his dynamic wild-man-of-rock persona, Thorpe’s vocal performance on this track is subdued yet captivating. It showcases the timbre of his voice and is well suited to this song which requires a traditional ‘crooning’-style vocal. Thorpe holds true to his blues roots with the guitar arrangement which consists of muted chords and soaring guitar lines and solo.
Becoming disgruntled with his career direction and middle-of-the-road image in the mid-1960s, Thorpe saw rock’n’roll gaining strength in the USA and UK and was ready to take a leap of faith with his own musical future. Having just been declared bankrupt Thorpe was certain the only way was up from this point. A seminal moment for Thorpe’s band The Aztecs came in 1968 with the addition of Australia’s loudest guitarist, Lobby Loyde. The reinvention of Billy Thorpe is a story which shows the tenacity and vision of the man as an artist.
This is the second Judy Garland track that Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs have covered; back in 1974 the band had a hit with ‘Over the Rainbow’ from another MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz (1939). ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ has been covered by many artists such as Frank Sinatra, Kelly Clarkson, Rosemary Clooney, Christina Aguilera and Michael Bublé. The Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs version stands proud amongst these artists. No Christmas ‘Bah! Humbug!’ around here.