Top Ten 'Auld Lang Syne' videos of 2012

Videos from Scotland dominate this year's list.

WASHINGTON, December 30, 2012 – 2012 is nearly over and it’s been a heck of a year, hasn’t it? Who can’t wait for this year to pass and the next one to get started?

That said, the U.S. at least will begin 2013 as it ended 2012: still perched in some way, shape, or form on the edge of a “fiscal cliff” that folks won’t understand until they take a gander at what are likely to be much smaller paychecks in January or February.

Thankfully, if we need to recharge, we’ll always have the party-time atmosphere of New Year’s Eve when, on the stroke of midnight January 1, we pass from the old and into the new, bringing into the transition fond (and not-so-fond) memories of times past and hopes for the new days to come.

Soaked with eggnog, booze and nostalgia, most of us, at least, will be able to escape current realities for at least a few hours before the wild rumpus begins anew.

Speaking of booze and nostalgia, the traditional tune that’s played at the stroke of midnight as the New Year begins is “Auld Lang Syne,” of course, bringing about thoughts of, well, booze and nostalgia. With traditional lyrics freshened and immortalized by Scottish bard Rabbie Burns, “Auld Lang Syne” fondly and sometimes sadly recalls the old times, old friends, and old memories that pass into personal legends as the calendar turns. 

Forget Times Square. This is how Scotland celebrates the New Year in Edinburgh. Cool, eh? All you need is a flask of single malt to make this party turn out right.

Such moments can turn bathetic, to be sure. But so do most of the self-serving speeches we hear in Washington these days, so we can roll with it.

About Mr. Burns, BTW: This writer referred to him as “Robbie” Burns in last year’s piece, bringing more than one overflowing chamberpot down upon his sadly graying head. Each steaming vessel was deftly pitched into the comments section by moderately outraged Scotsmen who curtly informed me that this usage was entirely inauthentic and incorrect.

In the U.S., such distinctions aren’t usually all that important when it comes proper names, proving that we Yanks are either blessedly above the linguistic fray or that we’re all simply a bunch of yahoos (the Swiftian kind). European elites tend to support the latter opinion with near unanimity. That said, Burns is Scotland’s poet, not ours, so it’s either Robert this year or “Rabbie,” which we have seen in Scottish publications on many occasions. 

Actual yahoos, not search engines. As depicted in the 1996 made-for-TV version of Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ Ted Danson starred, remember. That was before he was discovering dead bodies in the Las Vegas desert but after he served many a pint in ‘Cheers.’ (PR still from the Jim Henson Prod./Hallmark Entertainment TV program.)

Upon this rock we rest whatever case we have.

It should be noted, however, that, back in the day, desirous to learn a bit more about the poet and his environs, your globetrotting columnist actually visited Burns Country—specifically Dumfries and nearby Lockerbie—back in the early 1990s.

This all too brief excursion, just over the English Lake Country border, fulfilled a nearly lifelong desire to get a feel for the area that Burns for a time called home. Explorations included the Burns House museum in Dumfries as well as a pair of monuments to the poet there, including the one depicted near the center of town in our nearby photo.

(Our visit to Lockerbie–still damaged at that time but even then having unveiled a beautiful, tasteful, understated monument to the infamous midair passenger jet attack by Libyan terrorists–was more poignant, a very different remembrance of times past. But that’s a different story.)

Burns monument, Dumfries, Scotland.

Robert Burns’ timeless version of “Auld Lang Syne” is still sung worldwide, even though a likely 90% of those who sing it don’t really have a clue as to what the words—penned by Burns in Scottish dialect—really mean.

The following brief, delightful scene from the film “When Harry Met Sally” may come the closest to conveying what the song and lyrics are really all about, even in our current century.

So let’s pause our narrative to pan in on Billy Crystal and a charming Meg Ryan in her younger, somewhat sweeter days.

Billy Crystal totally gets it, and so does Meg. The answer occurs at about the 2-minute mark in the video, but the whole clip is priceless.

It’s a magical movie moment. Let’s watch:

Now that you have the setup, let’s explore our Top Ten List of 2012’s best available “Auld Lang Syne” videos, revised from our then-immortal picks of 2011. We list them here in order of interest, originality, and effectiveness, at least in our opinion. There are tons more of these videos, of course, and you’re welcome to add your own choices in our comment section below.

If you have fun with these, we’ll consider providing an updated list at the end of 2013, assuming we survive that fiscal cliff at least partially intact as opposed to joining “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.”

Here goes:

10. Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin improvises on the tune in 2009 video. The video portion here is lame, but the young pianist’s improvisation on the tune is exquisitely original. The photos show him as a kid. Now he’s an adult who looks like a kid. When I hear all the rock amateurs out there and then listen to this kind of musicianship, I sometimes wonder where each successive New Year is going to take what’s left of our kulcha. (See “yahoos” above.)

9. Beethoven Arrangement. Returning from last year and revealing this writer’s esoteric musical tastes as if one can’t figure that out from the previous entry. Yes, even the great Beethoven spent some time as a starving artist before he assumed his accustomed role as the dominant European composer of the 19th century. To make a few bucks in the meantime, even the Big B could stoop to penning singing arrangements of popular songs. Here’s his spiffy version of “Auld Lang Syne.” Hack work never sounded so good. And look what happened after he cashed his royalty checks. We should be so lucky.

8. Schwinn Bell Choir. We have no idea where this came from, but it’s certainly the most original riff we’ve yet found on this year-end favorite tune. This writer actually directed a bell choir for many years, but never one that looked like this. Although the video below seems to be quite contemporary, the musicians are all riding on old, heavy-duty Schwinn bikes that look like the one this author owned back in the day when no one ever heard of a 10-speed. It helped that we rode our Schwinns for miles and miles through the generally flat terrain of northern Ohio. But we never played in a bicycle bell choir.

7. Red Hot Chili Pipers. Yep, you read that right. Not “peppers.” “Pipers.” People accused us of a big typo last year. If you’re so inclined this year, look it up before lobbing a nastygram into the comments section. Whoever these dudes are, they sure give a genuine Scottish flavor to Bobby Rabby Burns’ poem and its accompanying tune, that’s for sure.

6. Shirley Temple, Wee Willie Winkie (1937). Although she was getting a bit older as the 1930s drew toward their uncertain close, Shirley Temple was still America’s Depression Era darling in 1937. In each and every film she appeared in, she always made the Great Depression seem that much more bearable with her impossibly bubbling optimism and her willingness to look ahead to the future rather than behind to the Wall Street Crash and everything else that was odious. Here, though, she sings “Auld Lang Syne” to Victor McLaglen’s Sergeant McDuff who, sadly, doesn’t have much longer to reside on this planet. Queue a remembrance of old times past. Take it away, Miss Temple:

5. Performance at the Scottish Parliament, circa 2007. This is neither the most brilliant nor the best performance “Auld Lang Syne” we’ve seen or heard, but it’s a standout for one simple reason: All the politicians in attendance, no matter what their party, are standing and singing together. If our own pitiful U.S. excuse for a House and Senate could do the same metaphorical thing for about 15 minutes, we might be looking forward to a truly magical 2013, eh? Anyhow, one can fantasize. BTW, this clip takes place in the Scottish Parliament, BTW. That said, please don’t make us try to explain the ins and outs of how the UK is actually governed. (See Isle of Man, etc.) Maybe the Brits thought out the 10th Amendment before we did. Maybe we could get it back.

4. Barenaked Ladies in Tempe, Arizona with fireworks. We can’t verify the authenticity of this clip, but it’s an alleged live recording of a Tempe New Year’s Eve celebration, circa 2008. If you listen carefully, you’ll note the addition of some original lyrics. Anyhow, it was time to introduce some fireworks here even if they are in Tempe and even if the Scots will be upstaging us in the next video.

3. Edinburgh, Hogmanay celebration, 2006.

With all due respect, forget Times Square this year. If you want to see a really massive, city-style party that’s meant to bring in the New Year with all the proper revelry, you need go no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. The national sing-along in this video is taken from the 2006 celebration of Hogmanay 2006. We’re not Scotsmen here, but from what we understand, Hogmanay—which we’re glad we don’t have to try to pronounce—is to New Year’s Day in Scotland something like Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. I.e., participants don’t limit the par-tay to just December 31, but carry on at some length leading up to and including that magical date. Pancakes are probably not involved.

They burn Viking ship replicas in Edinburgh during Hogmanay, at least according to this fairly recent photo. That’s one heck of a Yule log, we’d say. Why don’t we do fun stuff like this on Times Square? Or DC for that matter?

(Or is that Guy Fawkes Day? Or Shrove Tuesday? Never mind. Yours truly is sipping a couple authentic fingersworth of The Glenrothes as he writes this, which may in part account for this year’s veritable plethora of Scotland-centric clips.)

This video, BTW, is ID’d as being sung by Donnie Munro “and the crowds in Princes Street Gardens.” Not sure who our lovely hostess is, but she can ring in the New Year with this writer any time. (For God’s sake, don’t let the esteemed spousal unit in on this tiny faux pas. Note to self: must lay off the single malts when writing New Year’s columns.)

2. Recording by Scottish folk group “The Cast.”  Hard to get a complete handle on this, but the striking version of the song in this recording would appear to be an earlier, sadder, and perhaps more authentic rendition of the tune we’ve become familiar with in another fashion. (We’re open to more info on this, particularly from our friends in Scotland who’d ought to know.) Meanwhile, this version is so hauntingly different that we think it belongs in this year’s Top 10, right up there next to our favorite. Video in this clip, alas, is merely the album cover. But if you close your eyes while listening, you can actually whisk your spirit off to Scotland without having to worry yourself about the current, miserable £/$ conversion rate.

1. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (1953). Why not end with this time-honored classic version of “Auld Lang Syne?” Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians rang in the televised New Year celebrations seemingly forever way back when, meaning the 1950s and 1960s. Our Boomer brains dimming with age, we forget precisely when their long run ended, but recall that the band performed the official version of the tune on national TV for quite some time, even after its leader passed away.

Eventually, the Lombardo ensemble’s Big Band sound gave way to Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. And now with Dick Clark himself having departed to that great dance hall in the sky, younger viewers today probably don’t even remember a time when you could hear Lombardo’s traditional sound at the stroke of 12 in New York.

Sorry, but as far as we’re concerned, all the celebrations today are entirely bollixed up with noise and bombast signifying nothing except the mass extermination of gray matter. Such thunder and bombast no longer recalls those poignant bits of nostalgia that the Lombardo version of our tune once recalled for each and every one of us as we resolutely put away the old and embarked upon the new always with a kind of hope that rarely took into account what we were already learning from experience.

So for those who never encountered it, here’s a look back at the Real Deal a glimpse into those thrilling days of yesteryear before we learned that all Americans were really hopeless jerks who never saved the world from the bad guys at all because we had been the bad guys all along.

Yeah, the video is lame. And yeah, the Lombardo band took things kinda slow. But even jaded, aging Boomers will remember how they gave into Lombardo for that first post-New Year dance before the rest of the long night began to rock.

Comments at the current YouTube video site of this clip say it all:

“I remember, as a kid, staying up on New Years Eve… watching on TV as the big ball in Times Square in New York City dropped, signaling the New Year, and listening to Guy Lombardo and his orchestra play this as the new year rang in…. Not the big parties & noise & rock bands, etc. of today, but a more civilized, gentler celebration.”

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

“I just LOVE this version done Lombardo it takes me back to a simpler time in the world back to the 1960’s when I was growing up. Where I lived was torn down because of Agnus [sic] hurricane [1972, ed.], but I would go to Yetter’s beer garden and this song would play at midnight. We would hoist a cold mug of Budweiser and toast the new year, boy if I could go back in time for two hours on new years eve I would not even think twice. Just to  see all my friends from back then would be heaven. Salute to times back then!”

Yeah, dude, that’s about right.

Here’s the clip, lame video montage and all. (You can override the short ad that insists on popping up.) Just listen to the music. Remember whatever it is that you want to remember. And Happy New Year!



Read more of Terry’s news and reviews at Curtain Up! in the Entertain Us neighborhood of the Washington Times Communities. For Terry’s investing insights, visit his WT Communitiescolumn,The Prudent Man in Politics.

Follow Terry on Twitter @terryp17



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Terry Ponick

Now writing on investing, politics, music, and theater for the Washington Times Communities, Terry was the longtime music and culture critic for the Washington Times (1994-2009). 

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