Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rock and Roll Christmas Songs

Christmas is fast approaching, and with it are the at-first pleasant, and soon-to-be annoying strains of Christmas music on the radio and playing over the speakers just about everywhere you go. And when I complain about annoying songs, I'm not talking about traditional tunes, but the incessantly played same ten or so songs that get done to death every year. You know which ones I'm talking about: "Last Christmas," "Jingle Bell Rock," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "All I Want for Christmas is You," and so on.

Well, enough of those, I say! I say let's listen instead to some Christmas ditties from some of the best musicians and bands of all time. Below is the Christmas playlist *I* want to hear during the lead-up to Christmas Day. Have a listen to these and see if you agree...



The Beatles recorded Christmas singles for their official fan club every year from 1963 to 1969. These included spoken messages, jokes, and skits. This song from 1967 was their only legitimate Christmas composition, and while it's a bit repetitive, it's also a lot of fun. Every year I listen to all of their Christmas singles in order and it's a great way to kick off the season!



Leave it to The Kinks to offer up a hilarious story-song about Father Christmas, accosted by kids threatening "Father Christmas, gives us your money!" The opening lines alone are worth the price of admission: "What I was small I believed in Santa Claus, though I knew it was my dad." Classic Ray Davies writing, this one.


Next up is John Lennon's Christmas song from 1971. While it's now a radio staple this time of year, it wasn't an instant hit upon its release. While the anti-war aspect of the lyrics dates it slightly, apart from the presence of Yoko Ono, it's a fine song.


Not to be outdone by his former songwriting partner and lifelong friend, Paul McCartney released an original Christmas song in 1979. While it's a bit chintzy, it's also perfect for this time of year and is always nice to hear around the holiday.



Eels' song is quirky and enjoyable, just like most of their output, and only Mark Everett could write a song with a great title like that and not have it come off any better.


While The Who's "Christmas" is more a song fitting into the narrative of the rock opera from whence it came (Tommy) as opposed to a dedicated song about the holiday, it still is quite atmospheric, lyrically, especially in its descriptions of children's anticipations on Christmas morning. Plus, it's just a fantastic song.




At the end of 1992, Blur gave away a very limited number (only 500 pressed) vinyl single of this traditional English Christmas song. Beyond its physical rarity, it's unique in that all four members of the band take a turn singing a verse, which has never happened again in their career.


Jethro Tull got into the act in the early 1970s with this Christmas song, with their typical blend of British folk and rock into a song with a fitting mood.




Finally, Elvis' classic "Blue Christmas." Because even though you hear this song playing over the mall speakers every December, admit it, you love this song. Hey, it's the King, after all!

Those are my choices...what are yours?

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