I am a member of that subset of music collectors who LOVE Christmas music. I am not sure why, but I have always found Christmas music to be fun. From the moment I heard my babysitter playing The Ventures’ classic album The Ventures’ Christmas Album. On that album, I heard Beatles’ music being mashed together with a Christmas song played like a guitar rock song. That album was a revelation. And, the babysitter had another Christmas album that stuck with me through the years: A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Specter. That album is now considered a modern classic, where the great producer matched various Christmas carols or new Christmas pop songs he had written with one of the great vocal groups in his stable to record “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, “Sleigh Ride”, “Christmas (Please Don’t Go)” and “Marshmallow World”. Those albums warped me for a lifetime.
Then, I began to hear the singles of the Sixties, such as The Royal Guardsmen doing “Snoopy’s Christmas” or Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas”. Then, in the Seventies, the Christmas music disappeared. Oh, sure, I’d see the American Bandstand dancers dancing on the Christmas show to Elton John’s “Step into Christmas” or “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Bruce Springsteen. During that time, I would read in Billboard magazine about Christmas music recorded by modern artists being released in the UK, while here in the States, we could only buy the Eagles’ “Please Come Home for Christmas”. Something was amiss.
Then, I discovered a treasure trove of modern Christmas music AFTER the release of the Special Olympics-fundraising album from 1987, A Very Special Christmas. That album had Christmas music by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Pretenders, U2, Bob Seger, Bon Jovi and others. But, the album became known for the first popular Christmas rap song, “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-DMC.
Now, hip hop was warm to Christmas music. Kurtis Blow recorded the classic “Christmas Rappin'”, and The Disco Four had “Santa Rap”. And MTV played new wave Christmas music by the likes of The Waitresses (“Christmas Wrapping”) and Squeeze (“Christmas Day”). All of a sudden, Christmas music was profitable again.
Which lead to the biggest modern Christmas song ever, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey. Finally, someone hit that Phil Specter goldmine of pop music and set it to Christmas themes. And people bought the single. And the album. And we have been buying them for the past 25 years. And artists continue to release Christmas music. And, I scour the internet searching for new tunes to add to my collection of Christmas music. I have stuff by artists like Insane Clown Posse to punk bands like Ramones, The YOBS and The Dickies. I have Twisted Sister, Bootsy Collins, Dr. Demento, Snoop Dogg, and many, many others doing Christmas songs. And, I don’t think I will ever quit.
So, today, I am beginning my Twelve Days of Christmas Music as I present to you my Top 100 favorite Modern Christmas Songs. Today, we cover numbers 91 through 100. I hope you enjoy this! And let me know about your picks too!
100. Nat “King” Cole – “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” (1956). Okay, I started my countdown with a little melodramatic schlock, but who cares? Christmas is about facing ALL of our emotions.
99. The Free Design – “Close Your Mouth (It’s Christmas)” (1968). Here’s the perfect hippie Christmas song with the message of listening to others rather than talking during the holidays. Great message that maybe we ought to take heed to.
98. Johnny Mathis – “It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas” (1986). What can I say? Whether this song is sung by Mathis, Andy Williams or Frank Sinatra, it always takes me back to those Christmas days at my grandparents. Can’t beat those memories.
97.The Three Wisemen (AKA XTC) – “Thanks for Christmas” (1983). Here’s our first cynical entry. Leave it to Andy Partridge to make what sounds like an upbeat Christmas song musically speaking into a lyrical diatribe against Christianity. Oh, Andy!
96. Swag – “Everyday Is Christmas” (1998). Yes, this band sounds an awful lot like Cheap Trick, which might be since Trick bassist Tom Petersson plays in this ad hoc band in the studio. This song rocks Christmas like no other.
95. The Staple Singers – “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?” (1970). Remember when soul artists made social commentary? And they never stopped when it came to their Christmas music either. The Staple Singers sure sang the heck out of this song that has a message.
94. The Funk Brothers – “Winter Wonderland” (1968). The musicians who played on every one of those Motown hits from the days when Motown was in Detroit. Who knew that the winter was so funky?
93. Bob Rivers – “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” (1992). This old-school DJ, the kind who would record comedy bits and songs, has recorded several albums worth of Christmas music. And, this song perfectly sums up the commercial side of the holiday.
92. Johnny Cash – “O Come All Ye Faithful” (1980). The Man in Black could simply sing the phone book, and it would sound majestic. This hymn sums up Cash’s flesh versus spirit battle that he wage for all of us to see, and to learn from.
91. August Darnell – “Christmas on Riverside Drive” (1981). August Darnell was a type of Prince: a musical genius who could mix rock genres into his own amalgam. He should have been huge, but will forever be known as a footnote in history. This Christmas song sums up his career in his disco group, Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, and his new wave group, Kid Creole & the Coconuts. This is a fun way to dance at the Christmas party.
So, there’s my first day of Christmas for you all! Eleven more to go!