Every year, Christmas time (as defined by our corporate overlords) starts earlier and earlier. Despite Black Friday typically being the traditional start to the Holiday season, many advertisers begin their Christmas campaigns prior to Halloween, which is ridiculous. The ads on TV are one thing, but in my mind, there’s nothing more annoying than hearing only terrible Christmas songs on the radio and in most retail stores for a good two months out of the year.
I’m not actively trying to be a Grinch here, so in keeping with the spirit of the season, here are some Christmas songs/albums that I thoroughly enjoy and haven’t been fully ruined (yet):
“Snoopy’s Christmas” – The Royal Guardsmen (1967)
During World War I, there was the famous “Christmas Truce” between the British and the Germans along the trenches, where, on and around Christmas, a temporary ceasefire was made between the two factions. During this time, the battling armies enjoyed each other’s company, traded things like tobacco and liquor, and even played soccer together. The Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy’s Christmas” uses this moment of humanity in the face of devastating warfare as the backdrop to a similar truce between Snoopy and his arch enemy, the Red Baron.
“Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” – The Darkness (2003)
For about a year’s time, British band The Darkness had it. Without any warning, their instantly recognizable glam rock hit “I Believe In A Thing Called Love,” was in the mainstream, and their debut album Permission to Land was one of the most successful rock albums in their native UK that year. Using prior experience he had gained as a jingle writer, lead singer Justin Hawkins followed up that album with this addictive glam/guitar heavy single in December 2003. Despite being the odds on favorite to become the prized UK Christmas #1 single that year, it lost a close race to Gary Jules’ cover of Tear for Fears “Mad World.” This single would represent the last pinnacle the band would reach; success drove Hawkins into a life of heavy drug and alcohol use, and their sophomore album, the cocaine driven One Way Ticket to Hell (and Back) didn’t measure up, leaving the glam revival of the early 00’s as nothing but a distant memory.
A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)
This snappy 13 track, 34 minute album features a cavalcade of Christmas standards sung by some of the most popular girl groups (namely The Ronettes and The Crystals) of the early 60’s. Without even realizing it, you’ve probably heard most if not all of these renditions over and over again, but it’s producer Phil Spector’s patented “Wall of Sound” production technique that really brings these songs to life, making them hand and foot better than any subsequent covers over the past fifty years. Put this album on, sit in front of the fire with a cup of hot cocoa, and you’ll be getting a reliable and efficient dose of Christmas cheer in no time.
“All I Want For Christmas is You” – Mariah Carey (1994)
Overplayed to death, but one of, if not the best, Christmas songs of all time despite that fact. It would be a disservice to pop music as a genre if I didn’t include it on this list. Fully ingrained in the public consciousness, Mariah Carey is at the top of her game here, but, the ultimate success of this song is due to its simplicity and it being ridiculously catchy. Surprisingly, the structural basis of the song was fleshed out in a fifteen minute writing session. Despite it’s nearly fully synthetic instrumentation (electronic drums, keyboards, chimes, etc), its boogie-woogie based melody and lavish production takes direct inspiration from Phil Spector’s techniques, making it a pitch perfect combination of the retro and the modern.
“Don’t Shoot Me Santa” – The Killers (2007)
The Killers have made it a tradition to release a charity Christmas song every year (except for this year, coincidentally). While they’ve generally been of mediocre quality, their 2007 effort, “Don’t Shoot Me Santa” revolves around an unconventional plot of Santa judging someone for their actions (“Oh Santa, I’ve been killing just for fun”), and that person begging Santa to not shoot him with a gun. This already ridiculous song is supplemented by an equally ridiculous music video, which features Santa kidnapping lead singer Brandon Flowers and the rest of the band doing their best to rescue him.
Other songs for your consideration this Holiday Season:
Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights,”
Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,”
The Beatles’ “Christmas Time Is Here Again,”
Wham’s “Last Christmas,”
Blink 182’s “Happy Holidays, You Bastard”
John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”
Happy Holidays Everyone!