Sunday, December 14, 2014

Okay, you can play Christmas music now

Now that we're less than two weeks away from Christmas instead of the day after Labor Day, I think it's finally appropriate to play Christmas songs. Here are some of my favorites and not-so-favorites. What are yours?

Personally, I get a warm feeling when I hear Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song”, which was written by Mel Torme. One Christmas night I saw Mel eating alone at Delores coffee shop. It was ironic but sad.

The Phil Spector Christmas album is still my favorite. Putting aside that he killed someone, we thank Phil for a real musical gift.

And Darlene Love's , "Christmastime for the Jews" which is a recent parody of her own work on the album is maybe the funniest Christmas song ever.

I fancy the oldies. Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, Bobby Helm’s “Jingle Bell Rock”, and the Beach Boys’ “Little St. Nick”.

The Boss’s Xmas ditty is pretty catchy as are the King’s.

Re: “White Christmas”, give me the Drifters over Bing. (Interesting that so many classic Christmas songs were written by Jews.)

Some obscure holiday songs I recommend: “Run Run Rudolph” by Chuck Berry, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by the Four Seasons, “Monster Holiday” by Bobby Boris Pickett (that one always tears me up), and “Santa Claus is Watching You” by Ray Stevens. Super obscure but worth finding is “Lost Winter Dreams” by Lisa Mychols. And for the motherlode of bad taste fun, try to find Claudine Longet singing “Winter Wonderland”. Before she shot skier Spider Sabich in cold blood she and husband, Andy Williams, were the first couple of the season. Their annual family Christmas special was a must-see. They even have a kid named Noel.
Songs I can’t stand: “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, “Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney, and “the Little Drummer Boy” by anybody. Whey do stations overplay TO DEATH the songs that are the most repetitious? I seem to recall Paul Anka singing Christmas in Japan, which was like a drill to the head. Also, anything sung by kids usually makes me cringe.

I’m only sorry Kurt Cobain left us before he could give the world his Christmas album.

For a more vocal pop sound, you can’t beat Linda Eder’s holiday album. Her version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” would bring a tear to a glass eye. Listen for it the next time you’re in an elevator. Streisand is great but there’s more ornamentation than on the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Johnny Mathis is a little too sugar plum fairy for my tastes, and you can always count on “Mr. Peace and Goodwill to All Men”, Sinatra. The Carpenters have their fans too. And The Manhattan Transfer's acapella album is gorgeous.

But if I had to pick my all-time favorite Christmas song, the one that most expresses my feelings about the holiday season, it would have to be “The Christmas Song” by the Chipmunks. Sometimes the right song and the right performers just combine for sheer perfection.


This is a repost.  From July.

70 comments:

BigTed said...

It's funny how difficult it is for new Christmas songs to catch on, even with all the pop stars making holiday albums (with some original music) every year. (Kelly Clarkson has a good one out right now.) Of course, if Melvin Dummar hadn't been trying to make "Santa's Souped-Up Sleigh" a hit, he might never have become Howard Hughes' buddy in "Melvin and Howard."

But for me, the holiday season doesn't really start until I hear "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses.

jjg90278 said...

Elvis had two great Christmas songs. "Blue Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Back In Town."

jjg90278

JazMac said...

Mostly agree, although I do have a soft spot for the Bing and Bowie "Drummer Boy." But I think my favorite is the Barenakec Ladies' "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

Greg Ehrbar said...

• The Happiest Christmas - Petula Clark

• Follow the Star - Sally Field and The Bob Mitchell Choir

• Sing a Kris Kringle Jingle - Gabe Drake

• Somewhere in My Memory from Home Alone

Best new Christmas album of the year: Adele Dazeem

Highly Recommended on CD: All the "Broadway Cares: Carols for a Cure"

Highly recommended on vinyl: Any Goodyear/Columbia Christmas LP

Best Christmas Special score that NEEDS to be released on CD, either as a soundtrack or a new recording: Styne/Merrill's "Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol"

JonCow said...

My favorite is Perry Como's "Christmas Dream," a teutonic little polka written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice for the film "The Odessa File."

Scott Cason said...

It's not Christmas until I hear "Christmas in Dixie" by Alabama. Whoever wrote "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" needs to be beaten with a rubber hose.

Mark Perna said...

My favorite Christmas song is "Christmas Time is Here" by Vince Guarldi. He's the guy who wrote and recorded all of the music for the Peanuts TV shows from the 60's. The song itself premiered in A Charlie Brown Christmas but has been covered a million times by others. I'm a musician and it's the only Christmas song that I don't mind playing 40,000 times every December.

mark perna said...

Sorry. Vince Guaraldi.

Richard Y said...

Straight No Chaser with their Twelve Days of Christmas

Diane D. said...

I always think of Woody Boyd's favorite--Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and Frazier's hilarious rant on the subject, "…not only did they NOT love him and shout out with glee…"

Whenever I need a Cheers fix, I only re-watch the Shelley Long years so I've never seen that episode again, but it was one of the funniest Frasier moments I ever saw.

mmryan314 said...

Pavarotti version of " O Holy Night" and Bocelli`s " Silent Night".

Katherine said...

Nat Cole's version of "O Holy Night" is good.

My favorite Christmas album is Ella Fitzgerald's. Her version of "What are You Doing New Years Eve" and "Let it Snow" are especially good. The Persuasions have a good version of "What are you doing..." as well.

The Roches' Christmas album has a few good ones.

For singing along to, I've always liked Brenda Lee's "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree."

For dancing, I like the Andrew Sisters' (with Bing Crosby) version of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town."

There you have it.

Julian Brown said...

a few added ideas:

i have a friend with a retail shop who shares my general distaste for xmas tunes, and we both agree that listening to country music [circa: hank to patsy] creates basically the same feeling.

or just throw on some bach pipe organ music and be done with it. i recommend E. Power Biggs [organist] if you can find it.

MikeK.Pa. said...

These are the Christmas albums on my playlist.

Sinatra - Holly Jolly Christmas (he owns The Christmas Waltz, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, I'll Be Home for Christmas, and Mistletoe & Holly.

The Carpenters - wonder what kind of Christmas shows Karen Carpenter would be doing in her middle years.

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass - The Bell that Couldn't Jingle (a Burt Bacharch song) is never played, which is a shame.

Nat King Cole - he makes any song sound like a classic.

Streisand - she can be a little over the top, but some little played songs like The Best Gift are worth the listen.

Speaking of Claudine Longet, she always sang as if she was whispering (probably the same voice she used on the defense stand), but she did a song called "Snow," that isn't bad. (Trivia note: she married her defense attorney - the ultimate thank you).

It's not Christmas though until I hear Nat King Cole sing "O Holy Night." It brings home the solemnity of the holiday.

Friday Question: Seems like TV shows are all other map with Christmas themed shows. Some do one almost every year; others never do more than one. What was your experience on M.A.S.H, Cheers and Frasier and what was the rationale/discussion why/why not do them and how frequently?

thirteen said...

The reason there are so many bad Christmas songs is that, if yours catches on, it's money in the bank forever and ever.

BTW who was eating alone at the coffee shop on Christmas? Was it Mel Tormé or Nat King Cole?

Matthew E said...

I support JonCow's recommendation, above, for "Christmas Dream", but with one important difference. Never mind the slow draggy Perry Como original. Track down the cover by the Toronto-based a cappella group The Mistletones, on their album A Cappella Christmas. The whole album is good but that one song is tremendous.

I could sit here recommending Christmas songs all day. Short version: the two Christmas albums by Canadian folk-family group The Barra MacNeils.

Cap'n Bob said...

Favorite: O Holy Night.

Most despised: The 12 Days of Christmas.

Terrence Moss said...

Josh Groban's holiday album from a few years is wonderful.

i love "oh holy night". And "little drummer boy".

DwWashburn said...

Good, non traditional songs
A Baby Just Like You - John Denver
The Lord's Bright Blessing - Cast of Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol
Mary's Boy Child - Harry Belafonte

Hideous songs
Fleas Navy Dad - Jose F
The Christmas Shoes - Some country guy
The 12 Days of Christmas - any version except the Muppets

Andrew Krigel said...

With you 100%. The Chipmunks, Phil Specter Christmas album, but don't forget Darlene Love's annual visit to David, Letterman. PS while unable to sleep last night I saw the Everybody Loves Raymond episode you directed where Debra chokes on the orange. Great fun. Miss you, buddy.

DwWashburn said...

Oops Forgot this.

About ten years ago a Beatles tribute band called the Fab Four released two CDs on the low-rent label Laserlight where they take traditional Christmas songs and give them a Beatles' flair. Each song starts with a false start from a Beatles song and then the Christmas song is sung in its regular tune but "Beatle-ized".

Examples - Away in a Manger is played like You've Got to Hide Your Love Away. When "John" gets to the line "Asleep in the hay" he shouts HEY a la Hide Your Love.

And you must hear Jingle Bells played a la "Tomorrow Never Knows". Instead of repeating "It is knowing" at the end, it is changed to "It is snowing"

These can be found on YouTube.

J.K. Hyde said...

Not nearly enough Motown & Memphis soul around here. Two to start: Otis Redding's "White Christmas" is my favorite rendition of all, and Marvin Gaye did a live version of "The Christmas Song" that's perfect.

Mitchy said...

Friend of mine on Facebook runs a friendly competition every year to see who can get through from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Day without hearing "Little Drummer Boy". I'm still in but there's still time...

Kyle said...

Ken - I'm surprised The Ventures Christmas album isn't in your favorite list. For an obscure song, you can't go wrong with Bob Seger's Santa's Got A Brand New Bag.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Phil Spectors's Christmas is the best. It's the only Christmas music I'll listen to, but nobody's got the guts to play it. "Jack FM" are listing (reading)??

pumpkinhead said...

Wait... a repost from July? You wrote something in July that said it is okay to play Christmas music now that Christmas is two weeks away? Was that meant to be an ironic statement and I'm so gullible I failed to get it (entirely possible)?

Two other great Christmas songs:

Christmas on the Block, a true story song from a local boy in Philly about a house where blind children decorate a tree they can't see

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvYPf5dtg_k

And from The Killers - Don't Shoot Me Santa, if, for nothing else, being truly bizarre (sorry for the 30 second commercial that precedes the video - couldn't find another)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cglLJJ0Czo8

YEKIMI said...

Had an original pressing of The Chipmunks song till someone stole it. My Christmas likes tend to be on the strange side......Weird Al Yankovic's "Christmas At Ground Zero", Singing Dogs " Jingle Bells", anything Bob Rivers puts out, Red Peter's "Holy Shit, It's Christmas" (which never gets any airplay...I wonder why), The Kinks "Father Christmas", etc.
I think the earliest flip to Christmas music this year was by a station in NJ on October 1st. And for the people that can't get enough of it there is a website that plays Christmas music 24/7 year round.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

And Darlene Love's , "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" which is a recent parody of her own work on the album is maybe the funniest Christmas song ever.

I'm gonna have to look for that, as I'm one of if IRRC a lot of regular readers of this blog who loves Darlene Love's (sorry) annual visit to Letterman. Also, I'm pretty sure it's Darlene Love who sings the lead on this parody of three or four or more different things from SNL and Robert Siegel, Christmastime for The Jews

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/christmastime-for-the-jews-song/n12006

vicernie said...

3946seventy years ago my, then, 7 year old sister recorded "Jolly Old Saint Nicolas" and I offer it to you with best wishes for the season. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDodFVLdzDI

D. McEwan said...

Songs I can’t stand: “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, “Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney, and “the Little Drummer Boy” by anybody.

That was the playlist on the radio playing in the car I was driven home in from the doctor's office the other day. Fortunately, the diagnosis I'd had put in such a good mood, I didn't even scream when Little Drummer Boy ran through its monotonous course. (But really, why would anyone want some kid banging on a drum around a new born baby? That's not music; it's noise.)

D. McEwan said...

And really, Darlene Love singing anything is fine with me. Well, anything but Little Drummer Boy. Even she can't save that one.

Charles Emerson Losechester said...

"Santa Claus Is A Black Man" by Akim and Teddy Vann, circa 1973. It's a perennial favorite of mine, and a perfect antidote to "White Christmas".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz04BwDgRkI

Anonymous said...

may your yuletide be gay...
another favorite lyric, "There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago " yes, wonderful time of the year with ghost stories

Canda said...

Someone said, "Boy, I bet Brenda Lee has become rich from the amount of times they play 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' on the Radio".

This is just a reminder that the singer doesn't get the royalty, or residual, from the amount of times the song is played. The song writer does. The singer gets nothing.

As it was explained to me once, the Singer gets all the money from the concerts they do singing the songs the song writers wrote. But only the song writer gets a royalty when it's sung or played. I didn't know that until a few years ago.

Al in Portland said...

Two of my favorites, both, not coincidentally, by Louis Armstrong: "Christmas Time in New Orleans" and "Is that you, Santa Claus?"

LouOCNY said...

The best "Beatleized' Christmas song is their version of Silent Night done ala Norwegian Wood. Its not available on YT, because it got put on a collection released Miami Steve Van Zandt (aka Little Steven) of Spingsteen's band who 'runs' a Sirius station called Underground Garage. this CD is very cool, as it also has such tracks such as Soupy Sales doing 'Santa Claus is Surfing to Town', a Ramones Christmas song, etc. (album is called Christmas a Go Gom btw)

Another great CD to find is Leon Redbone's "Christmas Island' - very mellow, and Leon sounds like, as someone put it, Bing Crosby after several hot toddys. A great on to play in front of the fire with an egg nog or two: very mellow, and very non-commercial...

Bob B. said...

R:E Anonymous - One of the most famous Christmas stories IS a ghost story -- Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Marty said...

another favorite lyric,
"There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
of Christmases long, long ago."

yes, wonderful time of the year with ghost stories


Actually, ghost stories are traditional at Christmas, particularly in England.

RCP said...

Christmas music has been playing on a loop for eight hours a day at the office, but all was quiet on Friday - did enough people complain or was it sabotage? I do like the choirs and carols like "Angels We Have Heard on High" - and in general prefer instrumentals like George Winston's "The Holly and the Ivy."

Matthew E. said...

I could sit here recommending Christmas songs all day. Short version: the two Christmas albums by Canadian folk-family group The Barra MacNeils.

That was fun to read - my Mom is descended from the McNeills of Barra.

Curt Alliaume said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curt Alliaume said...

Willie Nelson does a lovely version of "Deck the Halls." And nobody's mentioned John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over If You Want It)."

Among the least favorites: Paul's "Wonderful Christmastime" and George Michael's "Last Christmas" - if Kool & The Gang didn't sue because the melody's nearly identical to their "Joanna" (which had come out the previous year), they missed a golden opportunity.

Mel Blanc noted in his autobiography that he and his wife named his son Noel, so his name translates to "White Christmas" in French - which they didn't realize until years later.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Xmas music on the radio: fine. I can turn it off. Xmas music from a demented neighbor who thinks he's doing the block a favor? Give me a gun. Have you ever heard "Jingle Bells" barked incessantly by dogs?

When do pitchers and catchers report to spring training?

Anonymous said...

In the mid 70's I was at the Gaudio's Christmas Center in Cherry Hill, NJ and was waiting in line to pay for our purchases. I started going thru the old bins of albums they had that were selling for 2.99 or some small amount. The albums were horribly un-hip. I picked up Phil Spector's album not knowing anything about it. Best Christmas album ever.
Janice B.

Anonymous said...

Other songs I really like are: Joni Mitchell's River, Karen Carpenter's Merry Christmas Baby, Donnie Hathaway's This Christmas and Stevie Wonder's Someday at Christmas.
Janice B.

Anonymous said...

The Spector Christmas album was essentially buried for years - it was released 11/22/63

Sleigh Ride by The Ventures- nothing says Christmas like a surf guitar

Victor Velasco said...

You want obscure? Try "Santa, Bring Me Ringo" by Christine Hunter; music by, amongst others, Angelo Badalamenti of "Twin Peaks" fame

David P said...

There are two songs that set the mood for the holidays for me:

Christmas on Acid, by The Vestibules

Why do I see these things?
It's not the rum and egg nog
It's not the holiday fun
It's Chrismas on acid
Christmas on acid



And of course, that insightful reflection on how you'd celebrate the birthday of a single friend in his '30s:

Jesus' Birthday by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie

You're spending time
We're spending money
On a big-boobed tight assed honey
Pouring me and Jesus margaritas
At the Hooters in the mall

'Cause it's Jesus' birthday
(It's Jesus' birthday)
Jesus wants some boobies in his face...

Anonymous said...

The Black Crowes did a killer version of Clarence Carter's Back Door Santa. It's on youtube and definitely worth checking out!

Sammy

Mark said...

My take, from 9 years ago...
http://rndmaccess.blogspot.com/2005/12/ae-sine-qua-noel.html

Anonymous said...

Actually, ghost stories are traditional at Christmas, particularly in England.

Yeah well, we ain't in England, Skippy. We kicked their tea sipping asses outa here in 1776.

Pat Reeder said...

Weird. I posted a comment on here last night, and it seems to have disappeared. Anyway, I noted that we just saw Darlene Love from front row center at the Eisemann Center here in Dallas, and last night saw the Brian Setzer Orchestra's Christmas spectacular (with rockabilly carols and a big band swing version of "The Nutcracker"). I normally don't care much for Christmas music, other than Leon Redbone's "Christmas Island" CD, but those two shows were among the best I'd ever seen and actually put me in sort of a holiday mood. Sort of.

Anonymous said...

Boney M's "Mary's Boy Child" is a great vaguely Caribbean song. For those with a more secular taste, add to it one I heard on KOST last night, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."

-30-

VP81955 said...

Actually, Sinatra cut three versions of "The Christmas Waltz" (not unusual for Frank, who recorded multiple versions of many songs, usually with differing arrangements or tempos) -- in 1954 and 1957 for Capitol, and in 1968 for Reprise. The '54 version is the rarest, and my personal favorite.

Jeff Baldwin said...

Ditto on Christmas Wrapping...and the entire Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Christmas album.

Breadbaker said...

I may have said this back in July but it doesn't make it more true: as terrible as McCartney's Christmas song is (and you and I have very similar taste in Christmas songs, as two Jews of a certain age might), Happy Christmas/War Is Over is both wonderful and, like Imagine, totally subversive but has slipped through the radar of those who try to censor subversive lyrics. War Is Over If You Want It is one of the most appropriate themes ever presented in a Christmas song.

Anonymous said...

Fairytale of New York by The Pougues
Is a great song.

Bex said...

Only version of Liitle Drummer Boy I've ever enjoyed was in a WEST WING Christmas episode.

Hated song - Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas”. Yeuch.

MikeN said...

Question:
How receptive are studios to TV shows with black leads? I ask because various writers have said that studio bosses told them they are not interested in movies with black leads. This includes Tyler Perry and George Lucas, who couldn't get money for Red Tails.

Bruce100 said...

The Pogues - Fairytale of New York.

A timeless classic which is everywhere in the UK over the holiday.

David in Cincinnati said...

The Roches' cover of "We Three Kings" is my favorite holiday recording ever.

Their holiday album is also called "We Three Kings"; lots of good tracks on the disc.

Rob said...

Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)

John Prine - Christmas in Prison

Charles H. Bryan said...

James Brown did a Christmas album; that's all I've got to say.

John Hammes said...

Barry Kooda - Santa Claws .

' Nuff Said.

DBenson said...

All the music from "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" is great, possibly the best total score for any holiday special (the half-hour "Grinch" has great songs, but a comparative few).

JC said...

"Merry Christmas Darling" by the Carpenters is one of my favorites. And on a lighter note "12 Days of Christmas" by John Denver and the Muppets always bring a smile.

The worst has to be "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" by Bruce Springsteen - Sorry, he just sounds constipated.

Jason said...

I'll post on my wife's behalf.. any of Dolly Parton's Christmas albums.

Bad Auntie said...

Here are 2 brand new Christmas Carols by Bad Auntie. Sure to be classics. :)

Finally figured out what to get Grandpa for Christmas http://bit.ly/1sw2s2S

Happy Holidays! Cat and Dogs sing for you. http://bit.ly/1uTDmGC

Alan Gollom said...

My two favorites are "Little St. Nick" by the Beach Boys - just good old Christmas fun!! And the Carpentars "Merry Christmas Darling" gives me the chills everytime I hear Karen's beautiful voice and harmonies.

Bob McCormick said...

When my wife asked who I was listening to after growing tired of Trans Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller for a week, I told her our favorite Christmas album of the year was recommended by a great Jewish writer. She told me she wanted to start reading your blog. So, now you have two fans in the Bob McCormick household. Thanks, Ken. Have a great new year.

CarolMR said...

I know this is really late, but I love Marshmallow World by Dean Martin.