Speaking of Christmas music, I’ve just put together a new mix CD of some of my favorite holiday tunes. Some of them traditional, some of them… less so. Does Christmas music make you ill? You’ve been warned.
1. The Closing of the Year – The Musical Cast of Toys with Wendy & Lisa
It’s too bad that Toys‘ box office failure dragged this song down with it. It’s classic Christmas in style and sound. For that matter, most of the Toys soundtrack was pretty good.
2. Welcome Christmas (Reprise) – from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
I never could tell what they were chanting in this song. But like most kids of my generation, the Grinch special was a Christmas ritual not to be missed. It’s just not Christmas without this.
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl
Possibly the only Christmas song to have the words “slut” and “faggot.” And yet it’s wonderful. Really, who could sing this better than Shane MacGowan? (Not to neglect Kirsty, may she rest in peace. She’s also great here.)
Do They Know It’s Christmas (Long Version) – Band Aid
First that unmistakable bass and bell strike, then the combined voices of the era’s Britpop stars. It should be cheesy; its American follow-up, USA for Africa, certainly was. Yet “Do They Know…” has a certain uncalculated honesty that “We Are The World” could not match, and for that reason, it’s still listenable today. The long version has the middle section in which the stars give their spoken greetings, and at the end when the voices come back in song, it still gives me chills. Well, I’m kind of a sap, yeah, but you all knew that. By the way, if you are looking for a copy of this on CD, it’s on the album If I Was: The Best of Midge Ure.
Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie & Bing Crosby
This was on Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special in 1977, the year he died. I remember watching it on TV and thinking “What is David Bowie doing on a Bing Crosby special?” Of course, when you hear it, you realize that Bowie really is a crooner. Born 20 years earlier, he might have been Bing. Anyway, the medley is nice.
Someday At Christmas – Stevie Wonder
This has the descending chord pattern that always gets me (in just about any song). And the anti-war message is good, too. This song was on our wedding music mix tape (Jason and I were married on December 27, 1996).
Christmas – The Posies
This song gives me chills. I’m not sure it’s really a “Christmas song.” It mentions Christmas, it takes place at Christmas, but it’s not about Christmas. It’s not a Posies original, but a cover. It doesn’t matter. It’s amazing.
I [Love] Xmas – Screaming Santas
The Screaming Santas are a variety of Seattle power pop luminaries, including members of the Posies, Tubetop, and Superdeluxe. The EP they released is a nifty selection of hooky, jangly should-be-classics.
Linus And Lucy – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Like The Grinch, A Charlie Brown Christmas is inseparable from Christmas for gen-xers. Hence the inclusion of its fabulous theme on this cd.
River – Travis
This is the newest one on the cd, downloaded just this week from the iTunes Music Store. The file says that Joni Mitchell composed this. I have had a lifelong dislike for Joni, for some reason (yes, yes, I know, I can’t explain it, sorry), but I do like this, with its simplicity and the mournful piano accompaniment.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon
Well. If you’ve been reading for a while you already know how I feel about this one. Damn Mark Chapman, and damn him more for shooting John in December, making it impossible to hear this Christmas song without instantly flashing back to 1980. “War is over, if you want it.” May it be so.
Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal) – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Another Charlie Brown Christmas tune.
Christmastime – Aimee Mann And Michael Penn
I’d love to hear Aimee and Michael do a whole Christmas album, actually. I love the sound of this.
Christmas In Suburbia – Martin Newell
Another jangly power-pop song. Notice that he pronounces the “t” in Christmas. Is that normal in England?
Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You – Billy Squier
Remember the early MTV days when they played this all the time at Christmas?
The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) The Chipmunks
This one is 100% cheddar cheese, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Chipmunks. Hey, I used to own Chipmunk Punk!
A Christmas Carol – Tom Lehrer
Now to balance out the cheese with some cynicism… Tom Lehrer is great for this, as always. “Angels we have heard on high/tell us to go out and BUY…”
Christmas Day – Squeeze
The piano intro goes well with the previous song. Difford and Tilbrook have certainly written better songs in their career, but this one isn’t bad, and hearing Glenn Tilbrook’s voice always makes me happy.
Thanks For Christmas – XTC
I wouldn’t like this song if not for the great middle eight, which saves it from “Wonderful Christmastime” purgatory.
Ave Maria – Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder. In Latin. Seriously. He pulls it off, too. I’m sure an opera purist would find a lot to criticize, but it sounds pretty damned good to my uncultured popster ears.
Fairytale Of New York – No Use For A Name
Yeah, it’s the same song as the Pogues. But punk. You gotta love it. (Still, no one can sing this like Shane.)
You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch – Thurl Ravenscroft
The credit says Boris Karloff, but he only did the spoken narration. Thurl, most famous as Tony the Tiger, sang this.
(LGH) For Christmas – Screaming Santas
The LGH stands for “Let’s Get High.” Whether you indulge or not, it’s got a great hook.
So there we go. I left off “2000 Miles” by the Pretenders, “Gloria” by Elastica, and some others. This should barely fit on a cd. Happy Holidays!