We all know what the best Christmas song is. It’s ‘Fairytale of New York’. There is no debate. That is the best one. However, there is a tendency at Christmas to fall back on the same old songs and the same old bands. Rather than doing that this year, here is an alternative to the normal rabble. The only rule is no covers, and nothing that clogs up all the usual festive playlists at Christmas times. Let’s go…
10. Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis
It’s possible that I have included ‘Christmas in Hollis’ in a desperate attempt to appear to be hip and groovy. That’s what the kids say right? It is also worth considering that there is probably loads of great hip-hop Christmas songs that I just don’t know about. Mostly however, ‘Christmas in Hollis’ is just a great song. It’s funny, festive and is definitely the best Christmas rap song (that I have heard.)
9. Los Campesinos! – A Doe to a Deer
Ahh Los Cam. A band that can be relied on to get it right, even when tackling the notoriously murky waters of a Christmas album. A Los Campesinos Christmas is a gorgeous and maudlin six track EP, the highlight of which comes in the shape of ‘A Doe to a Deer’. A catchy, lovelorn ode to romance at Christmastime. Would make a suitable pairing with Mud’s ‘Lonely This Christmas’, incidentally a song that Los Cam have covered.
8. The Crookes – It’s Just Not Christmas Without You
Even casual readers of this blog will be aware of my worrying obsession with all things Crookes. I’m not going to delve into that particular can of worms this time but let’s just say I am a fan. I don’t think that it is solely bias however that compels me to say that ‘It’s Just Not Christmas Without You’ is one of the all time great underrated Christmas songs. The sweeping, melodic chorus works as a worthy introduction to a wonderful band. God knows, its just not Christmas without the Crookes.
7. Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis
The evocative title ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’ isn’t a metaphor, that’s pretty much the song. While it may not contain something as crude as sleigh bells or as cloying as mince pies, it is a beautiful and inspiring touch of magic from Waits. Rather than me banging on about it though, just check out the opening lyrics and tell me you aren’t smitten:
Hey Charley I’m pregnant
and living on 9th street
right above a dirty bookstore
off Euclid Avenue
and I stopped taking dope
and I quit drinking whiskey
and my old man plays the trombone
and works out at the track.
6. The Futureheads – Christmas Was Better in the 80s
If the manic energy of a frantic child unwrapping long awaited presents could be personified in song form, the Futureheards would be the band to capture that essence. This memorable slice of Christmas finesse is the perfect track to get the party going before your dad has too much eggnog and falls asleep to the Queen’s Speech. As to whether their claim is true, I can’t comment. I only had two Christmases in the 80s, by all accounts I spent them crying and shitting. Depressingly, not much has changed in the Christmases that have followed…
5. Everclear – I Will Be Hating you for Christmas
Everclear are one of those great 90s bands who fell by the wayside simply because there were so many other great artists around at that time. For a while there though they released some of the most abrasive and life affirming albums of the decade.
‘I Will Be Hating You For Christmas’ is the perfect anti-christmas song. The Grinch and Ebeneezer Scrooge love it apparently…
4. The Wombats – Is This Christmas?
You know when you love a band but nobody else seems to share your love? Well, that. With the Wombats. Me. So it goes without saying that I adore their yuletide jingle ‘Is This Christmas?’ What I love most about it is the fact that it sounds exactly the same as all their other songs. Sometimes familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.
3. Killers – Joel, the Lump of Coal
The Killers are surely one of the most prolific Christmas song writers in musical history. The Vegas stalwarts are now in double figures so it is difficult to pick just one for this list. Surprisingly though, none of their festive efforts have ever really captured the imagination of the record buying public. That being said, ‘Don’t Shoot Me Santa’ and particularly ‘A Great Big Sled’ deserve more attention but it is ‘Joel, the Lump of Coal’ that is the fairy on top of the indie Christmas tree.
Recorded with Jimmy Kimmel and boasting an excellent accompanying video, ‘Joel, the Lump of Coal’ has a narrative and atmosphere that recalls classics such as ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’. Deserves a positive reappraisal in the future.
2. The Kinks – Father Christmas
I have always been an indie cindy, hence the inclusion of the Wombats, Futureheads et al but if you want something timeless, you really can’t beat the classics. The Kinks are quite simply one of the greatest singles band ever and have arguably been just as influential as the Beatles and the Stones, particularly in this country. It is surprising then that their exemplary Christmas single ‘Father Christmas’ is often overlooked. As expected the Davies brothers perfectly capture the minutiae and idiosyncrasies of a working class, British Christmas. Top stuff.
1. Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)
The great thing about this song is that it is exactly the same as every other Ramones song. Namely, fast, furious and fucking brilliant. I genuinely believe that being about Christmas has hampered this song. Were it about haircuts or leather jackets or any other stock Ramones subject it would be a classic. As it is, it is heartwarming to see a different side of the Ramones. I promise that if you are that person that hates mulled wine, hates turkey and most of all hates Christmas songs, ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t want to Fight Tonight) is the antidote to commercialised hubris. Absolutely superb.