Fantasy 2012 edition LP

Vinyl Madness

By Derrick Bang

It began innocently enough.

In 2012, Fantasy issued a new pressing of A Charlie Brown Christmas on green vinyl. It was an affectionate nod to Fantasy's early days, when owners Max and Soul Weiss -- having named their company after the popular science-fiction pulp magazine -- would produce records in unusual colors: green, red and blue translucent vinyl. The initial pressings of Guaraldi's early Fantasy LPs followed this pattern: usually red vinyl for the monaural version, and blue vinyl for stereo. I don't believe Fantasy ever granted Guaraldi a green LP, back in the day, so Concord deserved credit both for reviving this tradition, and giving it a holiday vibe.

But they created a monster.

In 2015, to take advantage of the album's 50th anniversary, Concord released a sumptuous digital Charlie Brown Christmas 50th Anniversary Gift Pack. But that wasn't all...

Vinyl fans must've torn out their hair, because the same day marked the debut of three colored vinyl, retailer-exclusive editions of the soundtrack:

1) Red and green vinyl, available only at F.Y.E. stores

2) Red vinyl, available only at Urban Outfitters

3) A "pink ribbon candy" swirl, available only at Newbury Comics (and a successor to their 2014 red/white split LP, both pictured below)

And, of course, the existing green vinyl version remained available to all via Amazon.
50th Anniversary colored vinyl

Then the dam really burst.

In 2016 Barnes & Noble got into the act, with this gorgeous picture disc version:
Barnes & Noble 2016 picture vinyl
Craft high-end vinyl

Audiophiles and vinyl fans likely took notice in late 2017: Craft Recordings, the catalog division of Concord Music, produced a high-end vinyl reissue. The LP was released on 180-gram vinyl, and housed in an old-school style, tip-on jacket, featuring the artwork from the original 1965 LP. Lacquers for the album were cut by George Horn and Anne-Marie Suenram at Fantasy Studios, while the vinyl was pressed at Quality Record Pressings.

This gave Concord a good excuse for some proud boasting: "A Charlie Brown Christmas, certified 4X Platinum by the RIAA in 2016, is one of the best-selling jazz albums in history, second only to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. It's no surprise: Guaraldi's engaging score to the synonymous holiday television special has introduced generations of children and their parents to the joys of jazz, with tracks such as the instantly recognizable "Linus and Lucy," and the yuletide favorite "Christmas Time Is Here." The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry five years later, and continues to be a perennial favorite, thanks in part to annual airings of the TV special."

Actually, 2017 was a good year for vinyl fans, because Barnes & Noble also released a new picture disc LP:
Barnes & Noble 2017 picture vinyl

And Dillard's released one in "winter white," while Cracker Barrel responded with one in gold:
Dillard's and Cracker Barrel

2018 also was a good year. First up was Barnes & Noble (left), which released a tempting version that boasted a cute "limited edition picture disc." Two weeks later, it was joined by a Target exclusive (right), which featured the classic cover and LP on green vinyl, and also came with a "limited edition original art poster."
2018 vinyl

Not wanting to be outdone, Cracker Barrel responded with a red/green split LP:
Cracker Barrel 2018 vinyl

And check this out! Best Buy brought out an exclusive green LP bundled with a "replica LP" bonus CD:
Best Buy 2018 vinyl

The "vinyl revival" went into overdrive in 2019, with eight specialty discs. Newbury Comics offered a "green, red and white starburst" edition (left below), while Vinyl Me presented a specialized "audiophile edition" in translucent red vinyl.
2019 vinyl

Urban Outfitters produced a limited-issue version in metallic silver vinyl; not to be outdone, The Sound of Vinyl offered an "exclusive picture disc."
More 2019 vinyl

Kohl's introduced an limited-edition "blue blanket colored vinyl" (in honor of Linus, no doubt); even more droll, FYE's entry is an "exclusive (Lucy's) yellow dress vinyl."
Even more 2019 vinyl

WalMart contributed a snowflake picture disc variant, while Barnes & Noble brought out their own two-sided picture disc.
Yet more 2019 vinyl

The situation wasn't quite as busy in 2020, with "only" six variant discs, one of which was a 45 single. Barnes & Noble offered a truly lovely double picture disc (below left), while Craft/Concord went for a sesonal "snowflake burst" image (below right).
2020 vinyl

The "Record Day" special was a lovely 45 single on green vinyl (below left), featuring "Christmas Time Is Here," along with an alternate vocal take never before released on vinyl. Target (below right) responded with green vinyl, a lenticular sleeve and a limited edition poster!
More 2020 vinyl

Finally, Urban Outfitters (below left) came up with a novel "red and green splatter" disc -- which looks a lot like the hard candies I enjoyed every Christmas, as a kid -- while Walmart (below right) went for a more traditional snowflake design.
Yet more 2020 vinyl

The situation went back into overdrive in 2021, once again with eight specialty discs. Wal-Mart's offering was a red glitter vinyl disc packaged in silver foil, while Barnes & Noble produced a limited-edition picture disc, packaged in silver foil, and with an embossed jacket.
2021 vinyl

Urban Outfitters unleashed a clear vinyl disc with red and green splatters -- actually, this was merely new packaging; it's the same "exclusive LP" as 2020, but in a foil sleeve instead of last year's lenticular sleeve -- while Target gave us a metallic gold swirl vinyl, along with a new art poster.
2021 vinyl

You have to love the peppermint vinyl we got from RSD Essentials, while Newbury Comics hit us with green swirl vinyl.
2021 vinyl

Finally, the specialty label vinylmeplease issued an LP on red and green marble vinyl, while Craft hit us with a "glitter-infused clear vinyl." But I can't help quoting the caveat the label included, in the description of this one: "Please note that vinyl additives such as glitter may, but should not, affect sound quality."

Is this what we've come to? "Exclusive" LPs that aren't (necessarily) designed to be played?
2021 vinyl

The offerings were just about as ambitious in 2022, with eight variants:
2022 vinyl

Barnes & Noble offered a lovely picture disc, while Target's green and gold disc came with a poster.
2022 vinyl

Concord/Craft tempted us with a lovely "skating pond" vinyl, while this "snowstorm" disc was a Record Store Day Essential.
2022 vinyl

Urban Outfitters offered this intriguing red and green "splatter" vinyl; Walmart responded with gold flecks on red vinyl.
2022 vinyl

Vinylmeplease unleashed this olive green vinyl (which seems an odd color for Christmas!).
2022 vinyl

And, finally, Kohl's gave us this "icy mint" LP with gold foil colver.

Although these many annual variants may (in some cases) have been aimed at completists with more money than common sense, there was a method to the madness.

A Charlie Brown Christmas didn't achieve any Billboard ranking until 1987, when (finally!) it debuted on the Top Holiday Albums chart. Two decades later -- for the week ending January 27, 2007 -- it peaked at No. 2 on that chart.

Its performance on the Billboard 200 (album) chart is more noteworthy, as this chart clocks all genres. A Charlie Brown Christmas always has posted respectable numbers during the final month of each year, but it finally reached the Top 10 -- at #10 -- on January 2, 2021.

Ah, but its performance the following year was spectacular.

The album entered the Billboard 200 chart on the week ending November 13, 2021, at #159. It rose to #63 the following week, then #51, and then #21. It hit #10 on December 11. Then it rose to #9 the following week, and #8 on Christmas Day.

Then -- wait for it -- the album hit #6 (!) on January 1, 2022. That's amazing. And it still placed a very respectable #8 for the week concluding January 8.

There's no question that all these variants LPs had a great deal to do with that ranking.

But that wasn't the best news.

Billboard's Hot 100 tracks the popularity of individual songs; way back in the day, that was measured by the sales of 45 singles. These days, as explained by Billboard, "The week's most popular songs across all genres [are] ranked by radio airplay audience impressions, as measured by Nielsen Music; sales data, as compiled by Nielsen Music; and streaming activity data provided by online music sources."

Guaraldi's only song to hit the Hot 100 was "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," which entered that chart -- at #94 -- on December 8, 1962. During a 19-week run that finally concluded on April 6, 1963, it peaked at #22 on February 23.

That song remained a Hot 100 Guaraldi one-shot ... until the Hot 100 chart -- also dated January 1, 2022 -- revealed two new debuts: "Linus and Lucy," at #37; and "Christmas Time Is Here," at #48.

More than half a century after they were released.

"Christmas Time Is Here" rose to #41 for the week dated January 8, although (alas) "Linus and Lucy" vanished from the chart.

As for what comes next ... stay tuned!

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