I’ve been working on a post for the last week or so that hasn’t quite come together just yet. While I’m putting the pieces together, I thought I’d put together another music post!
This time we’re talking Christmas songs. Just as I did in Dystrophy Dad Volume one, I’ll link to the songs on Youtube and embed a Spotify playlist link at the end. Please let me know your essential songs, and I’ll add them to the playlist.
No Doubt – Oi To The World.
Who doesn’t like a little Ska at Christmas time?
I’m not sure how this Vandals cover arrived on my radar but I love it. This was released back before Gwen Stefani struck out as a solo artist and hired four Japanese girls to tour the world with her. It’s wild to think that was actually a thing.
The song tells the story of punk named Haji and a skinhead called Trevor who hate each other. An altercation at the pub ignites their rivalry and a fight is scheduled for an Oxford Street rooftop on Christmas Day. It gets expectedly bloody, until their respective gangs abandon them and the sudden sighting of the north star inspires compassion between the two, ending in the two buying each other drinks for the rest of the night.
That chorus though!
If God came down on Christmas Day
I know exactly what he’d say
He’d say “Oi to the punks and Oi to the skins
and Oi to the world and everybody wins!”
The Pretenders – 2000 Miles
This is one of these songs that just sounds like Christmas. The instrumental at the beging brings to mind images of crystals, of ice colliding, of snowflakes, of a wonderland where the very air carries the harmonies of winter.
The line ‘colder day by day’ reminds me of the rapid march into dark nights and chilled bones. While the continuation of ‘I miss you’ offsets this with warm sentiment, as though trying to shake off the cold.
There’s the suggestion of longing that calls to mind memories of driving home in winter, eager to get back to my family and Hynde’s vocals are simply soothing to hear.
New Found Glory – Nothing for Christmas
Another song from a Pop Punk band but it hardly sounds like it. I first heard this a few years ago on a Punk Goes… compilation. Most of the songs were trash but this one stuck out. Whilst the rest were punk covers of well known songs, this is an original.
This song speak to me of holding on to a moment whilst reminiscing of good times past and the true values memories hold. The title tells us all we need to know, our lead voice needs nothing for Christmas as in the arms of the person he loves, he’s found everything he needs.
It the wee one’s favourite song to sing in the car and I hope you give it a listen.
Christmas in Hollis – Run DMC
This is the first and only rap song on this list. Mostly because it’s the best one.
Every year Tracy and I work our way through our list of grown up Christmas films. A list which includes Bad Moms 2, Daddy’s Home 2, A Harold and Kumar Christmas, Office Christmas Party and The Night Before, the later of which features this scene.
The film is a total laugh riot but it introduced me this classic. It’s refreshing for how wholesome it is, evoking memories of Christmas dinners, good will to all men and wishing wellness upon us all.
Miles away from the money, drugs and women motif prevalent in the genre, it’s less WAP, more WRAP and one we can sing along to in the car. There’s not much depth here, it’s just a fun song to join in with. The wee one and I are practicing this just now with the intention of showing it off on the big day.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Bad Religion
So this is a strange one.
Bad Religion, as their name suggests, are an anti-theist punk band who’ve been going since the 80’s. You might find it curious that a band who dislike religion would release an album of Christmas songs but regardless of their feelings on faith they know these songs are good songs, why the hell else would we still be singing them to this day?
This album also has a second motive, 20% of the funds generated from the album sales went to SNAP – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who offer support and access to counselling services for those wounded by religious and institutional authorities.
Using songs about religion to help those abused at the hands of religious authorities is the most punk rock thing I can think of. The roaring guitar, and Brad Gurewitz’s vocals make this short song powerful.
It demands to be played loud wherever you are.
Run Run Rudolph – Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry ladies and gentlemen!
Recorded in 1958 this song has all the trappings of rock n’ roll, guitar riffs, energetic piano playing and Berry’s inimitable style. You just know this filled dance halls back in the glory days of the genre.
It tells the story of rapid dash to deliver presents with Rudolph leading the charge. There’s even nods to the toys of the day. That baby that can cry sleep and wet? That’s Tiny Tears for anyone old enough to remember!
Just listen to it and you’ll see why Chuck was ahead of his time (even if he did rip off Marty McFly!)
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues ft Kirsty Maccoll
Is it even Christmas if this song isn’t played?
No. It’s not.
This song charts year after year earning Shane MacGowan £1000’s throughout December, always accompanied by the debate over whether the F word, no the other F word should be omitted, muted or replace with the word haggard. I have my opinions on this, but I’ll keep them to myself.
The song itself is more important than this debate. It tells the story of a pair of immigrants who move to New York in search of a better life but can’t escape their toxic selves. They’re disastrously matched but star crossed all the same.
Our male voice is that of a wastrel picked up by the police for being intoxicated and thrown in a cell, hearing another retched soul many years his senior sing the Rare Old Mountain Dew, a song itself about potent Irish moonshine and drifting off to dream of the woman he loves. Our female voice is just as broken, embittered and tragically bound. They reminisce of falling in love and dancing through the night before their love became tragic.
It sings of love, loss, addiction and the light we all have within ourselves that burns brightest in difficult times and promises things will work out. Whether either of the two characters believe this, remains up for debate. but at Christmas of all times, they at least have hope.
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me, babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you.
Goosebumps every time.
River – Joni Mitchell
When you hear the word Christmas, what’s the first song that comes into your head? Jingle Bells, right? The opening piano of this song takes a few notes from this Christmas classic and instantly brings you into the headspace needed to appreciate Mitchell’s heartfelt emotion.
As with much of Joni’s work, it’s introspective and draws on real experiences. This is another song of tragic love, of a relationship that falls apart due the selfishness of one of the partners who can’t see past their own insecurities to be there for the one they love.
Joni dreams of frozen river that will let her skate off at haste and leave the heartache behind. When she sings, I made my baby cry, there’s just so much hurt there and I feel it more with each listen.
I just love this song.
Merry Christmas Baby – CeeLo Green, Rod Stewart
I almost chose CeeLo’s cover of River for this, as it’s frankly amazing but I went another way. When looking into this song, I found the original from 1947, which is much slower and less bombastic than this version. I prefer this version though. I mean, we’ve got Rod Stewart here as well!
The song is all about the excesses of Christmas, of how we often go all out for the ones we love. Despite the materialism of it all, it’s a strong counterpoint to the problematic Baby It’s Cold Outside, in that the couple in question want to spend time with each other – and are free to leave whenever they want.
That horn section, Ceelo’s unique voice and Rod’s signature raspy tone make this an upbeat Christmas song that you help but move to.
Only You – The Flying Pickets
There are songs explicitly about Christmas, and there are songs that are played at this time of year because the were either featured in an advert, or were number one around the 25th. Notable examples are Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know and East 17’s Stay Another day (I hate the second one).
Despite having nothing to do with the season, other than being a UK number one at Christmas in 1983, I love the Flying Picket’s Acapella version of Yazoo’s Only You. It just has such a warm feel to it and it’s pleasing to ear. The only challenge is whether to sing the percussion or the words! Bara ra rum, bara ra rum, do do do!
And that video. Wow. Those styles, those sideburns. It’s worth a watch for that alone.
Thanks for reading!
If I don’t have you feeling festive enough, check the playlist below for these songs and a whole list of honourable mentions.
And Merry Christmas!