How about a bunch of Christmas songs not from Burl Ives (Communist!), Frank Sinatra (Womanizer!) or any of those other heathens? Yeah, this list of pure, clean, and wholesome artists are the real makers of Christmas music.
All right, I didn’t pick them because of their moral standings. Some are outright degenerates. But darn it if they didn’t make some great music.
My all-time top Christmas song from a rock band is probably "Fairy Tale of New York" by the Pogues. The first lines are “It was Christmas Eve babe / In the drunk tank / An old man said to me: won’t see another one”. Sure it’s not all warm and fuzzy and mistletoe. The song is about loss, failure, and broken promises, with a backdrop of the NYPD choir. And guest singer Kirsty MacColl tosses in a bit of a bit of a vulgarity. It’s a real, honest, and darkly beautiful song.
Best guilty pleasure tune is "Christmas in Hollis" by Run D.M.C. Drop a needle on that record and watch everyone in the room start smiling.
Adam Sandler’s "Chanukah Song" could be updated each year for the celebrity cattle call it might create. Verses such as, “David Lee Roth lights the Menorah / So do James Caan, Kirk Douglas, and the late Dinah Shore-ah” might not be exactly timeless. Still, Sandler’s comedy beats out Weird Al Yankovic’s ‘The Night Santa Went Crazy’, and Randy Brooks’ ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’.
Some other tracks for your Christmas playlist:
“Father Christmas” – the Kinks
“Christmas Wrapping” – the Waitresses
“Hallelujah” – Written by Leonard Cohn, but I’ll take the breakout John Cale version or the ones from Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – U2
“Christmas All Over Again” – Tom Petty
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town (live)” – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. (Clarence singing “ho-ho-ho”. Come on. How cool is that?)
“A Great Big Sled” – The Killers
“Run, Rudolph, Run” – Chuck Berry
“Things I Want” – Sum 41 and Tenacious D (explicit lyrics – it’s Tenacious D, so of course there’s swearing)
“Jingle Bell Rock” – the Ventures’ version is a nice addition.
“I Believe In Father Christmas” – Greg Lake
“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You” – Billy Squire
“River” – Joni Mitchell
“Christmas In Prison” – John Prine
You might say, “Hey, Tim, this list is all over the map. I can’t play this playlist during Grandma’s Christmas Eve dinner.”
Dude, I didn’t ask you to do any such thing. Sheesh. It’s just an hour of music that might make you feel something. Laughter, sadness, joy. Whatever. It’s Christmas. Add to this list or go to my Spotify playlist and hear all of them.
Special thanks to Charlie Mosbrook, Bryn Wilson, Devin Grant, Anthony Rich, and John O’Flaherty for adding in their two cents through my Facebook status. (John, sorry about excluding Tom Waits’ "Christmas Card From A Hooker." As great a song as it is, I never considered it a Christmas song, other than the title. And dang, if that’s a Christmas song to you, then you my friend are darker than I thought. Congrats.)
Merry Christmas all.
Next thought for a blog... what to get the musician on your holiday gift list?