It’s that time of year again! ‘Tis the season to be jolly!
Christmas only comes round once every year. Last year, I brought out what I considered my personal top 12 Christmas songs (plus top 12 episodes as well). I’ve decided to construct another list of Christmas songs that I truly admire. Why another one? Because there are so many awesome songs out there. So sit back and have a view of my personal other top 12 favourite Festive songs. Why top 12? Because it’s Christmas!;
Walking In The Air – Aled Jones / The Shadows
Now I’m cheating a bit. I’m referring to both the version by Aled Jones and the one by The Shadows.
Walking In The Air was written and performed originally for the short cartoon film The Snowman. For those who don’t know, the original artist was Peter Auty. That too was released as a single, but it does contain a bit of the score from the Snowman. To me, Peter’s version sounds better when you’re watching the film. Both versions by Aled Jones and The Shadows start off as much calmer before the bit that goes We’re Walking In The Air / Without My Underwear (just kidding!).
Of course, The Shadows’ version doesn’t include words. They’ve forever been an instrumental band. So why put that and Aled Jones together? Because they’re so equally atmospheric.
Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues
Next, we have an epic Christmas song by an Irish punk band. Fairytale Of New York is more of a celtic folk/rock song and is very different to many other festive songs. This one has lyrics which sound much like a drunk conversation between two customers at a local Irish tavern. Obviously, Shame McGowan often sounded drunk when he sang. No offense Shane.
One thing that annoys me is that when it was played on BBC Radio, they censored out the terms ‘Slut’ and ‘Faggot’. C’mon BBC, they’re such harmless words. Either that or you’re just too Scrooge-y to understand the spirit of Christmas. Even Jesus Christ would’ve been more tolerant of so-called bad language.
The Pogues captured the spirit of Christmas just fine.
Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie & Bing Crosby
Now here’s a fun fact; before the two deep-voiced music geniuses collaborated, Bing Crosby apparently had no idea who the hell David Bowie was. Plus, and alas, he died sometime after the recording.
This one is an impressive combination of two traditional Xmas songs, Peace On Earth and Little Drummer Boy, (duh!). David mostly does the Peace On Earth segment, while Bing stays focused on Little Drummer Boy. It’s quite hard to combine two songs together, but then, David was so musically gifted. He knew what he was doing and it’s a rare song for him. Probably the only festive one he’s done, I’ve yet to dig deeper. Of course, the guys who wrote Pack All Your Troubles and/or It’s A Long Way To Tipperary were able to combine the two together and it worked! And so does Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy.
There’s another awesome version of Little Drummer Boy, but we’ll get there later.
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer – Elmo & Patsy
Here’s a song which I could class as black comedy, even the title says it all. When I first came across Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, I laughed so much and thought; “I’ve so got to check this one out.” And it’s comedy genius!
The title does say it all. It’s basically about a family celebrating Christmas Eve, then a grandmother gets high on egg nog and staggers outside the house, while still drunk. As a result, she is discovered to be trampled by Santa’s reindeer the next morning. During the next two verses, the family are debating whether the gifts for Grandma should be returned or not.
Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer does play part in the ongoing debate on the existence of Santa Claus. The narrator admits he never believed in him until the accident. The Jingle Bells-style melody also plays a festive part.
There was also a short animated film of the same name. I never saw it myself, but the Nostalgia Critic did give a hilarious review on it. Apparently, the film was first broadcast on Halloween. I suppose it’d make a little sense considering the dark theme.
The Little Drummer Boy – Johnny Cash
I did say there was one more great version of Little Drummer Boy, and this I believe is the one. Good old Johnny Cash!
Johnny Cash is without a doubt one of the greatest country musicians to have ever lived and it ain’t hard to see why. Ring Of Fire, I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, I could name so many of his songs, but let’s just stick with this song for now.
Through this version, Johnny goes by his traditional country roots, but adds something more unique to Little Drummer Boy. Considering the term ‘drummer’, there are some distinctive drum beats added and dominating the song. Not only that. Many of us know by now that Johnny grew up within a pure working class background and I believe that this can relate to Little Drummer Boy. The song is about a poor boy who gets involved in sort-of show business – in this case, the nativity play, and as part of his role, plays the drums.
Musician-wise, Johnny’s take on Little Drummer Boy is quite economical, but was so worth it! All that was need was drums, a guitar, some backing singers and of course Johnny.
Mary’s Boy Child – Boney M
There was quite a lot of versions of Mary’s Boy Child. The Boney M version, I think it’s the best one. Why?
If you compare this one to the Harry Belafonte version and a few others, including Matt Monro, they’re kinda slow and sound too much like a traditional/religious carol. Boney M’s one, on the other hand, has a bit more rhythm added to it. There are also a few more lines added; “Oh my Lord” etc. We know that Mary’s Boy Child is the obvious tale about Jesus Christ’s birth and I don’t listen to a lot of religious music, but a bit of gospel does often spice things up. And that’s exactly what Boney M did.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard
How’s about a bit of glam rock for our next entry?
For those of you who don’t know, Wizzard is an English rock band, formed by Roy Wood, ex-member of The Move and The Electric Light Orchestra. Is it wrong of me to describe them as epic rock? I wonder, because Roy Wood is joined by quite a lot of musicians for much of the material they released; Ball Park Incident, See My Baby Jive, and so forth. About eight musicians built up Wizzard, including brass instrumentalists.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is probably the first song that comes into mind each time Wizzard is brought up in conversation and, alas, the only one. It’s a shame, because Wizzard released so much more and my mom recalls growing up with Ball Park Incident and all that. With that said though, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is a marvellous treat and it ain’t just the beautiful sounds we hear. If you look at the above video, you’ll see that Wizzard are joined by a group of kids who take over during the second half, one of them playing drums, another playing a minuscule saxophone. Speaking of the video, what uplifts the spirits is that Roy Wood is dressed as Santa Claus.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday did face some competition with another glam-rock festive anthem, which I’ll get to later on.
Another Rock & Roll Christmas – Gary Glitter
Yes I know. Kid related crimes and all that. The reason why this song along with many other songs by Gary Glitter are no longer receiving radio play.
But let’s try not to think about what Gary did during his personal life for one moment. Yes, he’s done some sinful things and I don’t endorse his crimes.
I of course recall listening to this song when I was nine and singing along to it. I do love this song and have loved it since the time I first heard it. Some people are probably going to press stop on that. But of course if you listen to the opening melody of Another Rock & Roll Christmas, it’s quite similar to the traditional festive bells we sometimes hear each festive season and it’s done so well on the keyboards. The ‘Christmaaaas’ bit added to that certainly hyped me up.
Another Rock & Roll Christmas also harks back slightly to the times when Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and other rock and roll musicians constantly released some Xmas-themed songs, i.e. Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me and Run Rudolph Run, hence ‘Another Rock & Roll Christmas’. To me, rock & roll’s always a lot of fun and Gary did in fact prove so. Shame about the you know what. But surely, this one could get you in the groove and I’m sure personal lives couldn’t put us off. There was always some musicians causing some controversy. Gary’s certainly no exception. Would it make listeners better if there was a cover of this song? Because you could always pretend it was that artist who performed it originally. Just a thought.
Okay that’s enough said.
Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) – Ramones
Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) is quite different to other Xmas songs. Most of them are extremely jolly, though in the Ramones’ case, things aren’t always okay during the holiday.
This punk rock song concerns a couple who have got issues with each other and want things to be okay during Xmas. They remind each other that Xmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s not the case between the couple; Where is Santa at his sleigh? / Tell me why is it always this way? / Where is Rudolph? Where is Blitzen, baby? / Merry Christmas, merry merry merry Christmas.
Even the video addresses the arguing issues. The lady bitches to the man about party arrangements and the man acts quite defensively, even though they do still love each other. It ends with them making up and giving each other a present only to discover that the gift happens to be inappropriate and then they start bickering again.
A lot of punk banks address some of the belligerence and problems that go on during the season. Blink 182 for instance released a song about a man who lashes out at a group of annoying carol singers and gets put into jail as a result. The Ramones sang a lovely song about an arguing couple trying not to fight over Christmas. More of those please!
There is one more coming up.
You’ll Know It’s Christmas – Deacon Blue
Here’s a fun fact. I saw Deacon Blue playing in Birmingham back when I was 17. And my god, they was amazing. And they continue to be.
In case you’re wondering who they are, Deacon Blue are a Scottish pop/rock band that started in the late eighties, with hits such as Real Gone Kid, Dignity and Fergus Sings The Blues. They took a break during the mid/late 90s and then reformed. They now work on a part time basis.
You’ll Know It’s Christmas is the most recently released entry on this list (2013). It’s gentle, atmospheric and also subtle for a Christmas song. It’s not so in-your-face. If you listen to the guitar melodies and occasional bells, you can still feel the Xmas spirit. Even the above video helps. So what if it’s in black and white.
You’ll Know It’s Christmas is an underrated festive song by an underrated band.
Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
Always a lot of fun this one. And this is the song that kept Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday off the top of the UK Charts.
Shame that this is the only song by Slade that many kids of today remember. They was so popular once upon a time, during the early seventies, when glam rock was so dominant. Slade had so many hits i.e. Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Coz I Luv You, Gudbuy T’Jane and so forth. Merry Xmas Everybody was their sixth and, ironically, final UK#1 single. Soon afterwards, their popularity waned and their later material got ignored.
That being said, Merry Xmas Everybody was one of the first festive pop songs I ever heard on the radio. I remember myself and some mates singing that song on the way to and from school and we would make up our own versions. We would sing So here it is, Merry Christmas, Everybody’s having… and then we would replace fun with something nonsensical. Good memories.
It’s a very entertaining and catchy tune which never gets boring. And apparently it’s still charting. Even during it’s original release, many fans were entertained, despite the fact that the UK was suffering a financial crisis. I would’ve thought Slade calmed them down with the lines Look to the future now, It’s only just begun.
One thing I love about this song is when Noddy Holder (the singer that is) belts out It’s Chriiissssmaaaaaaassss (!) towards the end of the song.
Now some of you are probably wondering, what could possibly top Slade’s festive masterpiece on a list like this. But…
Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;
And the number one Christmas song for this list is;
Father Christmas – The Kinks
And Thunderbirds they are go!
I just had to place this one at the very top! And who says punk rock musicians can’t contribute to Christmas music, even from a band who inspired the genre, i.e. The Kinks.
Father Christmas tells the story of a department store Santa Claus who gets mugged by a group of working class kids who are desperate for finances and view the toys as futile in their lives. At one point, one of the boys asks if his dad can have a job, considering that he’s got a lot of mouths to feed. Either that or if he can have a machine gun to scare out all the kids on the street.
Father Christmas is an extremely entertaining festive song with a strong message and it amazes me why this one and so many other punk rock festive songs are so ignored by the public and radio stations. What’s the matter? Do you find that sort of music too rough? Is punk rock too anarchic for you? It’s only a genre for crying out loud!
And here’s the reason why I placed Father Christmas by the Kinks at the very top. Not only is it entertaining, but it does concern the working conditions that certain people have had to go through during the years. You can easily see from both sides; the department store Santa Claus who’s only trying to do his job and is probably poor himself, and of course the kids who mug him, considering that they need to survive, some of them who probably believe in Santa Claus.
And that’s another reason why I’m surprised this song is often ignored. If you think about it, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas is about the Ethiopians starving during the season. Father Christmas gives us the message that the working class deserve as much happiness as other people do at Christmas and they deserve survival. And we can easily relate to this song nowadays, because thanks to the Tories, people are out on the streets with nothing much to afford. Teresa May, if you’re reading this, think about it, it’s the truth.
Guys, I really think we should be grateful to the many punk rockers who have given us as much of a jolly time as the non-punk rockers have. The Ramones and Blink-182 and of course The Kinks. If the Stranglers or even the Aquabats were to release an Xmas song, I would buy it.
I would also recommend checking out the Man Overboard version.
So that was my secondary personal top 12 Christmas songs. If there are some I’ve missed out, there’s always my other list. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!