[Author’s note: Granted, there is an endless well of seasonal tunes, and this compilation is admittedly incomplete. I confess that it was written while I was sick and under the influence of a combination of over-the-counter cold medications. I laughed, I cried, I wrote. I hallucinated. James Stewart and I sat under my Christmas tree and rang jingle bells while yelling, “Get me. I’m givin’ out wings!” So this is the result.]
Everyone has their favorite holiday songs. You are understandably welcome to express your personal opinion about the selections below and the particular artists that performed them (as long as you realize that you are wrong if you disagree with me).
Rocking-est Christmas Songs
I love rock and roll Christmas music because I came of age in the 70’s, listening to the stuff. Or maybe because the program director at my old radio station was the first guy to let me play “Merry Christmas, Baby” by Bruce Springsteen on the air…
1. Run Rudolph by Chuck Berry
There are lots of great versions of this tune from the likes of Dave Edmunds, and Chuck’s disciple Keith Richards, but Berry, the daddy of duck-walking, string-bending lead guitar riffs plays my favorite version
2. Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses
I didn’t even know other songs by these women, including the “Square Pegs” theme, when I started loving this tune. Featuring some great electric guitar and walking bass, a cute little holiday story, where girl gets guy while her small turkey roasts in the oven. While I sat in our apartment on Christmas eve, with all the presents under the tree exclusively for my wife and I, since the Bunt Girls had not yet made their appearance on earth, this was playing on the radio. And I still love the song. The intro is the coolest thing to skip down the street to, in perfect time, which I did last night downtown while listening on my iPod. For some reason, nobody even laughed at me. Maybe it was the big, vicious dog, skipping along with me at the end of my leash?
3. Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys
Filled with their signature tight harmonies, Santa’s sled will walk a freaking toboggan with a 4-speed stick. She’s candy-apple red with a ski for a wheel…and when Santa hits the gas, man, just watch her peel. Just get the hell off Pasadena Boulevard or else.
4. Merry Christmas, Baby by Bruce Spingsteen on NBC
I’ve always loved the Boss, and in this video I get to see Clarence Clemons come alive again and even watch Conan O’Brien playing with the band.
Coolest Christmas Songs
I don’t mean to be racist here, but men of color have always been smooth vocal artists. In the words of Mr. Potter, speaking with George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, “Do I paint a correct picture, or do I exaggerate?” Here are my favorite cool-assed soul holiday songs…
1. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer by The Temptations
As Smooth and natural as Metamucil. With the internet just a gleam in young Albert Gore’s eye, this was this was among the coolest Christmas records that I could find when I was growing up.
2. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas by Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters
Not enough O’s in smooth to describe this one.
3. Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC
Mom’s in the kitchen cookin’ chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese? Oh hell, I’m there. Maybe I’ll even catch a glimpse of Russell Simmons.
Most Fun/Odd/Inappropriate Christmas Songs
In past years, I’ve spent some holiday time at the State Street Tavern in North Adams Massachusetts, with Bill Hulse, the King of Christmas. Between that beloved watering hole jukebox and on the internet, I’ve heard some seriously strange and wonderful seasonal music. For example…
1. Dominic The Christmas Donkey by Lou Monte
Bill was winning friends and influencing people in this Patriots bar with his NY Giants Santa cap when we first heard this song and were totally flummoxed. I still don’t know why there is a song about an Italian Christmas donkey (Maybe it was just some cool shit that the Sicilian mob sang as they tortured some poor bastard). To paraphrase Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, “When you heard ‘Dominick,’ it was your ass.”
2. Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby
My fave crooner from 20th century. For me, a swinging tune. With the Andrews sisters backing up Der Bingle, I’m digging the idea of stringing some holiday lights on my palm tree.
3. Ukulele Underneath The Christmas Tree by Creamed Corn
This is the type of thing that I could only find on the internet. Then I tortured my daughters with it for years. Just keep rockin’ that Uke, boys.
4. Rusty Chevrolet by Da Yoopers
We received this record at the town radio station where I worked. It was on an independent label, and so odd that I couldn’t help but love it. The station owner was not amused. I imagine this band is a sensation on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.
5. Baby it’s cold outside by Dean Martin
I like to imagine that Dino sang this with a cigarette in one hand and a highball in the other. But this is a date rape song, plain and simple. Look at some of the lyrics, as this poor woman tries to escape from Dean’s apartment:
“My mother will start to worry-” “Beautiful, what’s your hurry?”
“Say, what’s in this drink?”
It’s called Rufinol, my dear. For chrissake, your mom and dad are home pacing the floor. When you are dumped on your front lawn at 4 AM, glassy-eyed, your clothes mis-buttoned, and with no memory of the last six hours, you’ll never leave your cocktail glass unattended again.
Santa Baby by Michael Buble
It’s just plain wrong. I get douche chills listening to Mike’s version of this tune. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Buble is a super-talented, award winning singer, songwriter and actor, but Santa Baby is just not a proper song choice. The slinky Eartha Kitt and a younger Madonna do the song justice. A guy singing, “Santa! Hurry down the chimney tonight!” just sounds desperate.
This list could continue. There are other songs that bear closer inspection. In the interest of full disclosure, I had a previous life as a city event planner and was responsible for leading a large crowd in a forced chorus of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” while we lit a Christmas tree. I felt like Joseph Goebbels.
Coming to town indeed.
You’ve already been warned to watch out. Not to cry. Hell, this sounds like something told to a child as they’re pushed into the back of a van with no windows in some shopping mall parking lot.
Have some of your own favorites? I’d love to hear them. Happy Christmas!