Christmas Songs That Don't Suck, 2008

I'm beat, and I have a ton of stuff to do today, so here's some seasonally-appropriate filler. I spent a while in a big chain bookstore's cafe area yesterday, doing some edits on the book-in-progress (I can't do this effectively anywhere where I have Internet access), and was stuck listening to some sort of "quirky" piped-in Christmas music-- "O Holy Night" played on a banjo, or some such.

So, here, as a palette cleanser of sorts, is the official list of Christmas songs that don't suck, as determined by me. These are the four- and five-star rated songs from my iTunes Christmas playlist (there are a bunch of three-star songs as well). Suggestions of things that ought to be on the list are welcome.

  • "Valley Winter Song", Fountains Of Wayne
  • "Fairytale Of New York", The Pogues
  • "only you can bring me cheer", alison krauss
  • "christmas comes but once a year", amos milburn w. charles brown
  • "yeah, i know, it's christmastime", andrew dost
  • "donna and blitzen", badly drawn boy
  • "in the bleak midwinter", the blind boys of alabama w. chrissie hynde & richard thompson
  • "I Won't Be Home for Christmas (Previously Unreleased)", Blink-182
  • "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch", Boris Karloff
  • "I'll Be Home for Christmas (Ohmega Watts Remix)", Charles Brown
  • "Merry Christmas Emily", Cracker
  • "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", Darlene Love
  • "Christmas Song", Dave Matthews Band
  • "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", Death Cab for Cutie
  • "Christmas Light", Deegan DeWitt & The Sparrows
  • "I Saw Three Ships", Don Dixon
  • "Christmas Is Going to the Dogs", Eels
  • "everything's gonna be cool this christmas", eels
  • "I Want An Alien For Christmas", Fountains Of Wayne
  • "The Man In The Santa Suit", Fountains Of Wayne
  • "Xmas", Jesse Malin
  • "Wintertime Blues", John Hiatt
  • "Father Christmas", The Kinks
  • "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Psapp's Lady Remix)", Les Brown And His Band Of Renown
  • "Just Like Christmas", Low
  • "merry christmas baby", otis redding
  • "2000 miles", the pretenders
  • "spotlight on christmas", rufus wainwright
  • "Wintersong", Sarah McLachlan
  • "All I Want", The Weepies
  • "Christmas Windows", Youth Group

What am I missing?

More like this

Christmas Song - Jethro Tull
(I know, I know, dating myself)

Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses

By Dan Geiser (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

Christmas Song - Jethro Tull

Haven't heard that one. Well, I may have, but it's not one I own.

Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses

I hate, Hate, HATE that song.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Ronnie James Dio / Tony Iommi / Rudy Sarzo / Simon Wright is actually very good. There's some info on the whole Metal Xmas album here.

Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight) by the Ramones

Oi!to the World by the Vandals

I Want a Hippopotomus for Christmas - Gayla Peevy

The 12 Pains of Christmas - Bob Rivers

I'm Getting Nothin' for Christmas -NOT THE ROSIE O'DONNELL COVER!

and of course, my personal favorite:

Snoopy vs. the Red Baron - The Royal Guardsmen

Joni Mitchell - River

Anything from the Phil Spektor Christmas album. I see one track on your playlist, but it would be euqally good to forget the playlist and just put the album on repeat.

Salsoul Orchestra - Merry Christmas All

The Salsoul track was my secret weapon for Xmas sets when I used to moonlight as a DJ in my student days. It is from the album "Christmas Jollies", which is a bit cheesy in places but has a few standout tracks and is less well-known than Spektor.

TMBG- Santa's beard

"The Angels Cried" by Alan Jackson and Alison Krauss hits the spot for me. And I'm not particularly fond of A. Jackson in general.

Gaminggirl beat me to my favorite, "The Twelve Pains of Christmas", by Bob Rivers. Of course, there' s also the "What's It To Ya? Chorus" by the same gang.

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

By David Raitt (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

What do you hate about "Christmas Wrapping"? Just curious.

"The First Noel" by The Crash Test Dummies. In my opinion, Brad Roberts's voice, plus the rich harmonies in the last verse, makes any other version pale.

"Silent Night/Six O'Clock News" by Simon & Garfunkle. A more poignant Christmas recording you may never hear.

"Gaudete" by The King's Singers. (Steeleye Span also do it, but I like the Singers' version better.)

I like both "Elf's Lament" and "Footprints" by the Barenaked Ladies, from their Barenaked for the Holidays album.

And for pure, fluffy, airheaded, bouncy bubble-gumminess that it's impossible to keep from moving with, there's no beating "Merry Christmas, Everyone" by Shakin' Stevens.

If you want never to hear the word "scallions" the same way again, I highly recommend "Christmas Dragnet" by Stan Freberg, but it's not really the sort of thing that works on a repeated playlist.

I second the "What's It To Ya? Chorus" for hilarity although the original Chorus on which it is based is well worth listening to at any time.

And Matt Heath gets my vote for best comment. Kirsty's at least half of why that song's worth listening to.

By Wilson Fowlie (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

Also from Barenaked Ladies with Sara McLachlan: O Holy Night/We Three Kings.

There are several versions of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" that are good - probably the most famous recent version is the Zooey Deschanel/Leon Redbone duet from the movie Elf, but the Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald versions are classics.

Cry of a Tiny Babe by Bruce Cockburn
Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne (or by Kate & Anna McGarrigle & family)
Cherry Tree Carol by Joan Osborne
Merry Christmas Mr Jones by The Nields
A Change at Christmas by the Flaming Lips
Jesus Christ by Big Star; speaking of which, I usually hate the Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire song, but I have a nice recording of Alex Chilton singing it

For silliness:
The Only Law That Santa Claus Understood by Ted Lyons
anything from It's Christmas, Man! by Brave Combo

Zat You Santa Claus? by Louis Armstrong. Or alternatively by Smash Mouth

Matt Heath @12 beat me to my suggestion (and reassures me that I'm not just an insane fangirl with no sense of perspective -- or at least if I am, we are legion).

My favourite is;

Super Sunny Christmas by Redd Kross

Still available on the compilation;

Santa's Gotta GTO. Haven't heard many of the bands on it but got the SSC and Cranes songs from radio play.


Are you in fact Kirsty MacColl?

"The Christmas Singles" by Spitting Image

It's Christmastime, but happiness
Is still so far away
So many awful things go on
In this old world today.

But we can change it for the good
If everyone hangs tough
Let's put an end to suffering
It's time we said "Enough!"

No more Christmas singles!
They're worse than any war
If we hear Alec Jones again
We'll throw up on the floor
We warn you, we're not bluffing
Cliff Richard will get stuffing
No more Christmas singles any more!

[rats, now I need to track down the rest of the lyrics]

Enya has a new album out, full of Christmas and/or wintertime songs: And Winter Came.

I particularly like her version of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

I can second the Jethro Tull sugestion, it also has a great double take effect when you bring it out, my copy is currently loaned out and I'm having trouble getting it back. #18 Alpabitch suggested Joan Osborne's "Cherry Tree Carol" which is good, but also check out "Christmas Means Love" and "Christmas Must Be Tonight" from the same album. From the same Sarah McLachlan - Wintersong album, look at "The First Noel/Mary Mary". But what is new for me this year is Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridges new albums. Sheryl is fairly traditional and classy, Melissa turns it up with a Hendrix-esq 'O-Holy Night' that she calls "O Night Dive"


Father Christmas by Greg Lake

Mr. Grinch was actually sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, the same voice as Tony the Tiger. (OK, was that nerdgassing?)

Two of my favorites:
What Would Santa Clause Say? - Louis Prima
Everybody's Waiting for the Man With the Bag - some woman who sounds like Ella Fitzgerald, but who isn't

@28: Maybe Kay Starr?

By Wilson Fowlie (not verified) on 12 Dec 2008 #permalink

The Night Santa Went Crazy - Weird Al Yankovic

I love how there are 3 Fountains of Wayne songs in your list. I don't think I have heard the last one though. I should look it up.