Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Top 10 Favorite Rock'n'Roll Christmas Songs

In my day job listening to FM radio stations, 'tis the season for Christmas songs. It's the only time of year commercial stations get to play recordings from the '40s (this ain't Radio Dismuke), by artists such as Bing Crosby and Gene Autry. In this post, however, we'll look at the best rock era songs.

This is a list of my personal favorites, not a list that pretends to be objective by using record sales or number of spins as criteria. These are the songs I like best.

A lot of songs did not make the cut, especially novelty songs such as "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" by Gayla Peevey (recorded in 1953, so it's actually pre-rock). Anything by the Jackson Five is not making my list.

The songs on this list are mostly from the '50s and '60s. The Classic Rock era has failed dismally at Christmas songs. Bruce Springsteen has covered a few standards and the Eagles' "Please Come Home For Christmas" gets a lot of play because it sounds like a '50s song.

10. "Father Christmas" by the Kinks. The only hard rocker on this list. Ray Davies makes it work -- barely. (To be honest, it's only on the list because I couldn't find a 10th song that was better.)

9. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by U2. It works because it is retro.

8. "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley. Like most of the songs on this list, this recording sounds like a song the artist would do, but it happens to have a Christmas theme. That authenticity is the secret to a great Christmas song. Dig the sideburns and his lopsided grin in the video linked to here. He was the King -- for awhile.

7. "Run Rudolph Run" by Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry's lyrics are often clever:

Out of all the reindeers you know you're the mastermind

Run, run Rudolph, Randalph ain't too far behind

Run, run Rudolph, Santa's got to make it to town

Santa make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down

Run, run Rudolph cause I'm reelin' like a merry-go-round

Said Santa to a boy child What have you been longing for?

All I want for Christmas is a Rock and Roll electric guitar

And then away went Rudolph a whizzing like a shooting star

6. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee. Great melody, great voice, upbeat fun.

5. "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms. After 50 years, this and "My Special Angel" are the only songs by Bobby Helms that still get much airplay. It's a Christmas classic now.

4. "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon. This antiwar song will be unbearable to many readers. That's the John Lennon package deal: he's half genius and half moonbat. The songwriting is the real thing here.

Now, if you want a Christmas song that is truly bad, try Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." You listen to that treacle and wonder why John was the one who got shot.

(Okay, I'm sorry. I crossed the line with that last joke.)

3. "Little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys. It's a first-rate Beach Boys song, and pop-rock does not get better than that.

2. "Sleigh Ride" by the Ronettes. This and the number one song have the Phil Spector "wall of sound" style. These songs are the pinnacle of melodic rock. If you want more Ronettes, check out this video of them performing the pop-rock classic, "Be My Baby."

1. "Winter Wonderland" by Darlene Love. There are a lot of versions of this song, but this is the best. It's got beautiful voices singing a great melody to a driving rock beat. (Avoid the Eurythmics' cover, as they do my pet peeve: they slow the tempo down.)

UPDATE: Holy cow, I forgot about "2000 Miles" by the Pretenders. I didn't even realize it was a Christmas song, but it is. It's certainly better than "Father Christmas" by the Kinks.

6 comments:

Rational Jenn said...

I'm totally with you on John Lennon. His music, for the most part, was brilliant and I have a deep and abiding love of his work. And yet, the crazy. I accept it as a quirk that makes him interesting, not unlike the way I feel about some of my extended family. He was great--my favorite Beatle (George is my next fave.)

About Paul--the humorist Dave Barry once claimed that after Paul left The Beatles, the Pod People took over his body and used his good name to produce such songs as "Wonderful Christmastime" and "Inside Thing" (the "somebody's knocking at the door" "song"). I wholeheartedly agree with Dave Barry's assessment of the situation.

Laura said...

Christmas songs LIVE on radio www.eeradio.com

Anonymous said...

LEAVE PAUL MCCARTNEY ALONE!

Mike said...

Best Christmas rock song ever:

Christmas Eve 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. (sav, etc)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for those, Myrhaf. Quite good.

-Inspector

Myrhaf said...

Thanks for the comments, all. Anonymous, I understand your passionate defense of Paul McCartney. I love Paul McCartney. I think he is one of the best bass players in rock history. His Beatles stuff is brilliant and in his solo word he is capable of breathtaking work such as "Maybe I'm Amazed." I even love the song he wrote about freedom in response to 9/11. Unfortunately, when he brings less than his A game, as Tiger Woods might put it, he is capable of writing songs that are embarrassingly banal.