So This Is Christmas….

‘Tis the season…

Most rock fans assume that all Christmas music is terrible. They’re mostly right, but every once in a while a Christmas miracle happens — and a great holiday song gets produced.

Here’s a look at some of the best and most memorable “rock” Christmas songs of all time.

-‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’  U2

Originally sung by Darlene Love in the 1963 . The song was written by Phil Spector, along with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, with the intentions of being sung by Ronnie Spector.  According to Darlene Love, Ronnie was not able to put as much emotion into the song as needed. So instead  Love was brought into the studio to record the song.

To me though the best version was recorded by U2 in July 1987 during a sound check at a stop during their Joshua Tree Tour in Glasgow, Scotland. Talk about emotion.  That’s Bono’s whole thing.

-‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’  John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Also produced by Phil Spector.   This 1971 tune is as much an anti-Vietnam War song than a Christmas song. John Lennon  and Yoko Ono took out billboards across America declaring “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It).” In the past 40 years it’s become a holiday classic, even if the original message sometimes gets lost.

-‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’  Bruce Springsteen

Recorded at a Long Island gig in December 1975, Bruce Springsteen released the song as the B-Side to “My Hometown” in 1985 and it quickly became a holiday staple. Springsteen will usually break out the song if he’s doing a show around Christmas, though occasionally he’ll do it other times of the year — most famously at Bonnaroo in June of 2009.

-‘Little Saint Nick’  The Beach Boys

Unfortunately released the Christmas right after JFK was killed, this song reappeared on a Beach Boy’s Christmas album in 1964 and flourished.  Yes, it sounds just like “Little Duece Coupe”, but Brian Wilson wrote that one as well….

-‘Here Comes Santa Claus’   Elvis Presley

I know, “Blue Christmas” was the big single from his 1957 Christmas album, but this is his best delivery.  It just makes me smile to hear him slur the name “Santa Claus” over and over.

Later during his ‘jumpsuit period’ he sings the quintessential version of “Merry Christmas, Baby”.  Loose and bluesy.  Probably quaalude induced, but still….he was the greatest.

-‘Run Rudolph Run’  Chuck Berry

Cut at the peak of Chuck Berry’s popularity in 1958, this virtual rewrite of “Little Queenie” stands on its own as a Berry classic. It’s been covered by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hanson, Billy Idol and The Grateful Dead.  If you can go from Hanson to the Dead, you’ve written a timeless song.

-‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’  Band Aid

In 1984 Bob Geldof and Midge Ure had much of British rock elite come together to record a Christmas song to aid famine relief in Ethiopia. The one-time-only supergroup consisted of Bono, Phil Collins, Boy George, Sting, George Michael and many others. The song was a massive hit and gave birth to Live Aid the next year, though 20 years later people are still puzzling over Bono’s line, “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”

-‘Wonderful Christmastime’  Paul McCartney

I know, I know.  It’s pretty mediocre. McCartney himself has said he’s embarrassed by it.   But Christmas wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t hear it on the radio.

Wings were on their last legs when this came out in 1979, and I always thought that it was a Wings song. Nope.

McCartney recorded the song by himself at home while recording his “McCartney II” album.  He plays all the instruments and does all the vocals except his kids sing a little bit.

But since he wrote, preformed, produced the song himself he gets around $400,000 a year from the one song.  THE ONE SONG.

He’s written other songs, by the way.

And it IS catchy…..

-‘Father Christmas’   The Kinks

The beginning of “Father Christmas” sounds like it could be another Bruce Springsteen production.

Then this 1977 song breaks into the classic Kinks sound. Here’s a band that never quite could keep up with the Stones or the Who but were more personal in their writing and built a sound that was unmistakable when it came on the radio.

Intelligently crunching rock, with Ray Davies hitting it out of the rock park.

Have any other all time pop/ rock Christmas songs to add?


10 responses

  1. Pamela

    You left out “Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen. It’s a beautiful song that catches the feeling of the season without being kitschy.
    But who doesn’t secretly love Cheech and Chong’s “Santa Claus And His Old Lady” when no one’s looking I mean?

    December 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm

  2. Jim

    All good songs (except McCartney’s tepid tune). I’d throw “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by John Mellencamp in there as well as The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)”.

    December 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

  3. bob greasy

    How ’bout ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’ by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

    December 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm

  4. Ohio

    I always like “Santa Claus and His Old Lady” from Cheech and Chong and The Waitressess’ “Christmas Wrapping”

    December 15, 2011 at 10:15 pm

  5. Pamela

    I wonder why there are so many sad Christmas songs? You already mentioned Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” but Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Paper” makes me cry every year (but every year I listen to it anyway.)

    December 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm

  6. Patti

    Always get goose bumps when I see the old Bing Crosby/David Bowie Little Drummer Boy…

    December 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm

  7. I’d like to humbly include God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen,
    Barenaked Ladies.

    December 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm


    I agree with Bob Greasy, Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” is a classic…

    December 17, 2011 at 1:34 am

  9. Colleen Knight

    Definitely Greg Lake’s ‘Father Christmas’… but my other favorites are Carly Simon’s ‘Night Before Christmas’ and Darlene Love’s ‘All Alone on Christmas’

    December 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

  10. Ned West

    Charles Brown’s oft-covered blues Please Come Home For Christmas still says it all.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm

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