It’s that time of year again as we enter December and Christmas is once again on its way. Which is why this time, I’m reviewing what I personally regard as the best Christmas songs. Last year, it was films, so I thought I might have a go at the songs. So here’s my personal top 12. Why Top 12? Because Christmas is coming!
I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas – The Three Stooges
I begin this list with an amusing one by a classic comedy group from the golden age of film-making; I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas by The Three Stooges. Shame about Curly though, but with that said, the Stooges sang this version so darn well. It goes to show that just because one’s a comedian, doesn’t mean they don’t have talent in singing whatsoever, ditto Laurel & Hardy, Billy Connolly and the Monty Python team.
As for the song’s subject matter, we’ve all made our Christmas lists in the past and put certain items on them, including pets, And yes, the idea of wanting a hippo for Xmas, oh my god, that’s so funny!
Getting Ready For Christmas Day – Paul Simon
This is one of the more recent Xmas songs (from 2011) and Paul Simon remains as great a music artist as ever, even over four decades since he last performed with Art Garfunkel, hence his album Graceland. It does sound different to many other Christmas songs. I mean there’s no sleigh bells or percussion instruments imitating such a thing, traditional xmas melodies or church bells, but who cares? David Bowie proved that it’s okay to be different. One main difference from Getting Ready For Christmas Day is the awesome guitar rhythm!
Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney
I’ve got fond memories of this song. Okay, I maybe more into the Beatles stuff than them as solo artists, but this is one of Paul’s best songs as a solo artist. I may not have practised this song all year long, but all they years since I first heard it, I’ve known the lyrics and the impressive synthesised rhythm. It’s truly a memorable one!
What else to say about Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time, it’s just great!
Merry Jingle – The Greedies
How’s about a bit of punk rock Christmas music? Well, technically, it’s two bands performing together to form one band, one, a punk rock band, the other, an Irish hard rock/heavy metal band; Sex Pistols and Thin Lizzy, and you get the Greedies. And speaking of combining two things together; they manage to blend two traditional Christmas carols together; We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells and they turned it into an underrated Xmas masterpiece!
My only nitpick with the song is that I would’ve personally preferred the Jingle Bells bit if The Greedies sang the Batman version, ya know, Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg, the Bat-mobile lost its wheel and the Joker got away. It’s how I kinda remember Jingle Bells, but oh well. it still holds up.
Ring Out Solstice Bells – Jethro Tull
Another criminally underrated Christmas song. Jethro Tull, mainly remembered for their psychedelic/blues/folk material (i.e. Living In The Past), first performed this one back in 1976 and came from the album Songs From The Wood, later appearing on their final album, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. But the strangest thing is, it never charted. It’s possible that that’s the reason why it seems so overlooked.
Personally, I don’t think the charts should ever have to affect people’s views in music. I suggest you try and get hold of one of them two albums or even a Christmas compilation CD which features this masterpiece. It features a beautiful flute melody from Ian Anderson and piano riff which are enough to sound Christmassy. In fact, I’d also recommend it’d make a great Christmas carol to sing in church.
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Earlier on, I mentioned a punk rock Christmas song. How’s about a new wave one from the American band, The Waitresses? Christmas Wrapping is one such jazzy yarn, I mean listen to them guitar riffs and especially them sax riffs!
But it’s more than just the instruments that make this song so awesome. The song is sung from the point of view of a woman who gets so stressed during the Christmas period. Patty Donahue starts off by singing Bah humbug! No that’s too strong, cause it is my favourite holiday, which shows that she does indeed love Christmas, but due to all the Christmas shopping and the many invites she’s received, she thinks I’ll miss this one this year, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas. And while preparing Christmas dinner, she realises she forgot the cranberries (Oh damn, that’s what I forgot!). While rushing back to the shops for the cranberries, she meets the same man who she collided with through the song, who also happened to forget the cranberries, which leads to a happy ending to the song;
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Couldn’t miss this one this year.
2000 Miles – The Pretenders
Another new wave song, 2000 Miles is often considered just a song about a couple of lovers living such a long distance between each other. But this Pretenders classic has appeared on a lot of Christmas compilation CDs and there’s a mentioning of Christmas time through the choruses. Basically, the two protagonists want to spend a Christmas vacation together, but it’s hard for them considering the 2000 miles apart they live from each other and considering how bitterly cold and snowy it is outside.
Robbie McIntosh’s guitar riff adds a magical touch to 2000 miles. The song is dedicated to one of The Pretenders’ ex-members James Honeyman-Scott who died of heart failure at an early age.
Christmas Day – Squeeze
Here’s another Christmas song that doesn’t receive much to any attention. Squeeze’s Christmas Day is a modern retelling of the Nativity story (Mary & Joseph drove into town searching for a place to stay / they tried the hotels, motels, the bed and breakfast), which I believe that, through the lyrics, is so damn creative. I also love how the chorus is constructed; Where would be Christmas be without, Mary & Joseph, Morecome & Wise, Laurel & Hardy, cracker surprise, lights on a pine tree and no after-shave, and not forgetting Jesus who was born on Christmas Day. I find the chorus quite amusing, considering that Glenn Tilbrook mentions the comedy duos i.e. Laurel & Hardy, but also unique and subtle for a Christmas. They often show their material on British TV each Christmas.
One possible reason why this song didn’t sell so well was because it was only released in one country, the UK, and ironically didn’t chart, despite Squeeze’s previous two UK#2 songs (Cool For Cats and Up The Junction). And it’s possible that the mentioning that Morecome & Wise are not so well known worldwide than they are in the UK and therefore the public may have ignored this song. Or maybe that they don’t see the comedy duos as anything to do with Christmas. But so what? It mentions the nativity story, the stuff they show each Christmas, it has them harp riffs at the start and sleigh bells, what more could people possibly want from a Christmas song?
Folk,s we got to turn this around. We got to try and increase the CD / download / whatever sales. Check it out, you won’t regret it.
In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield
Okay, more of an instrumental a song, but In Dulci Jubilo did use to be a Christmas carol. Years later, we had pop composer Mike Oldfield, best known for Tubular Bells, jazz the carol up a bit and turn it into something phenomenal! I mean, listen to the beautiful melody, two recorders, a kortholt, Mike Oldfield on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and ARP string synthesiser, and William Murray on snare drum. Every time I hear it, it makes me so happy. I can’t think of a better way to describe it!
Try and get a hold of a YouTube clip which features a Top Of The Pops performance from the Pan’s People.
Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie
As a kid, I never saw Jona Lewie’s Stop The Cavalry as a Christmas, but considering that the chorus features the line; wish I was at home for Christmas, followed by a synthesised melody and sleigh-bells which add a snowy touch, and considering the opening which consists of a staccato synthesiser and drums also sound snowy, I’m convinced.
Though in actual fact, Jona never intended this song to be a Christmas one. More of an anti-war anthem. It’s set during the First World War and concerns a soldier who is caught in the tension between the West and Soviet Unions and has had to fight, almost every night, down throughout these centuries. Although the protagonist tries to be brave in attempting to ‘stop the cavalry’, it does go to show that war is not only hell, but can also interfere with families’ Christmas vacations (wish I was at home for Christmas). And speaking of cavalries, do I need to mention how atmospheric the trumpet melodies are?
I Won’t Be Home For Christmas – Blink-182
Good old Blink-182. How I love their music and their sense of humour. But those ain’t the only reasons why I place I Won’t Be Home For Christmas at number 2.
I Won’t Be Home For Christmas, not to be confused with a Simpsons episode, is an obvious parody to the classic song I’ll Be Home For Christmas (probably the same with the Simpsons ep). Its narrative follows a guy who lashes out at a group of carol singers for disturbing him and his girlfriend and gets put in jail as a result. In a way, I do empathise with the bloke. I know it sounds a bit Scrooge-like, considering that he claims to be growing tired of all this Christmas cheer and warns people that if they don’t want to get beat down, to just leave the presents and let me be alone and that the carollers don’t bring him joy. But all he wants to do is spend a nice peaceful Christmas with his girlfriend.
Then there’s the next act; the cops arresting the protagonist for snapping at the carollers and nearly beating them up. Yet he questions the arrest (they had an unfair advantage) considering that he didn’t even touch them (the lyrics don’t exactly state that he did). My guess is that he has uncontrollable anger management problems and not everybody who has them issues can help it. Then when he spends his time in jail, he tries to end a package (presumably a present for one of his relatives or friends), but a guy named Bubba (who I presume is a fellow jail-bird) intervenes.
I can’t believe how much I Won’t Be Home For Christmas is widely ignored. Even my family don’t seem to admire it that much and seem to dismiss it. Probably the reason is because it only charted in one country; Canada, at number 1 (lucky position!) and not anywhere else. Also because MSN Canada once called it ‘a high energy of punk war on Christmas’. But I’m sure Blink-182 were doing it, for their sense of humour, something I feel listeners lack. If they overlook it so much in music, what’s with their high admiration on them Christmas specials for them British comedies?
I Won’t Be Home For Christmas is a criminally underrated masterpiece which highlights the reality of things; that not everybody has a very merry Christmas each year. It has a great sense of humour, well thought through storytelling and a splendid tune behind the lyrics.
Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;
And One more for the kids;
And my number one favourite Christmas song is;
Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid
Ding Dong Merrily On High! In heaven the bells are ringing!
Some of you are probably smiling about the fact I put such a classic charity song on the very top. Well, as a matter of fact, I’ve loved Do They Know It’s Christmas ever since I first heard it. Maybe it’s because of the Feed The World bit which closes the song. It always brings a smile to my face. I of course am referring to the 1984 version.
But it’s more than the Feed The World bit which makes the song so awesome. Band Aid wrote it for charity for the famine in Ethiopia which was so serious back then and what a stupid cow Margaret Thatcher was to ignore such an issue. Luckily, Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure had a heart and he and his friends saved at least some Ethiopians from hunger. The whole point of Do They Know It’s Christmas is that no they don’t because they’re dying of starvation, which is what they’re trying to get across to the listeners. It still goes on there, but Do They Know It’s Christmas demonstrates how important it is that every person should have the right for a happy occasion. The fact that it reached number 1 isn’t important to this ranking, but it was great that it did, because more money was going to Africa and famine would start to decrease.
Another thing cool about Do They Know It’s Christmas is how Bob managed to get so many famous musicians to participate in the recording; U2, we of course know the line Bono sang, George Michael, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paul Wellar, Boy George, them two guys from Status Quo, Sting, you name it. And yet, they sang this anthem so darn awesomely! I’d avoid listening to the 1989 version, because it ain’t well constructed as this one.
I’d also recommend having a look at the Live Aid version as shown in the clip above. It may have been a strange time to perform a Christmas song in the middle of the summer period, but of course, Live Aid was a charity concert, also in aid of the Ethiopians suffering from famine, just like the song. David Bowie makes a great start on the song, with Bob singing the next lines. Bono still sings Well tonight thank god it’s them, instead of you. It’s as entertaining as the original recording, which will get you bouncing on your feet.
So after reviewing my personal top 12 Christmas songs, here’s to you all, let’s raise a glass for everyone, and to them underneath that burning sun. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!