Alan Mann “Christmas On The Block” (1983)
Rarebird’s Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews would like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, or whatever you personally call this time of year.
I’m sure that most of you have been hearing plenty of holiday music lately. I’d like to share with you a Christmas song that most of you probably haven’t heard lately, if ever: “Christmas On The Block” by Alan Mann, from 1983.
This song was released only as a 7” single by a small indie label, and it is now very hard to find. However, the miracle of YouTube enables you and me to hear the song and watch its video right here and now.
Alan Mann was a musician based in the Philadelphia, PA area who was little-known outside of that region. But he did gain wider fame during the Christmas seasons in the mid-1980’s, when the then-young MTV network would air the video for “Christmas On The Block”. It’s a moving, one-of-a-kind song inspired by the people who then lived in a group house for the blind in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby. Each year, the residents of that home would decorate a Christmas tree that would be displayed in front of the house. Even though the blind residents could not see the lights and colors themselves, they still showed their holiday spirit by making this tree look pretty for others to see. Mann was so moved by this annual gesture that he wrote and recorded this song about it, and had this video filmed outside of the house.
This poignant Dylanesque song is a precious gift to the world from Mann, who usually displayed a more punk-like aesthetic (as evidenced by the single’s B-side “No Deal – No Sleep”). Tragically, Alan Mann passed away four years after the making of this song and video. In October 1987, at the age of 33, Mann apparently jumped from the second-story window of a burning building. Less than two weeks later, he died from complications caused by his injuries.
Alan Mann “Christmas On The Block” (single) (A&R 0020) 1983
a. Christmas On The Block
b. No Deal - No Sleep