Yes, this countdown is ending two days early. Don’t fear! I will continue to dive deeper into Christmas music. But, let’s not get too far ahead, let’s see what’s in my Top 10.
10. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Christmas All Over Again” (1992). Petty and those great Heartbreakers bring their jangle to Christmas music. Petty wrote an original Yuletide standard. This song proves what a great songwriter Petty is because this song is both fresh and timeless.
9. Wham! – “Last Christmas” (1984). This song has proven over the long run to be the Christmas song of the Eighties. Sure, the lyrics are a bit thin, but the Christmas groove is undeniable. That’s why so many newer artist continue to cover this song on their Christmas albums. Jimmy Eat World comes the closest to the original, because they eschewed the original arrangement in order to make it a pop punk song.
8. Harry Simeone Chorale – “Little Drummer Boy” (1959). I am NOT kidding. This is the definitive recording of this song. The vocal arrangement is simply impeccable. I have vivid memories as a child, listening to the local AM radio station on Christmas Eve trying to get to sleep and hearing this song being played as it calmed me down in order to get some sleep.
7. Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime” (1978). I know the complaints about this song, and I don’t care. As my brother and I would say whenever we heard this song, it is a happy song. It’s just a silly little Christmas song, and that’s alright.
6. Elton John – “Step into Christmas” (1974). My first memory of this song was watching the “kids” dance to it on American Bandstand. To me, it really does stand up with all the great songs written by Elton & Bernie Taupin.
5. Otis Redding – “White Christmas” (1966). Sure, Bing did it first. But, I love the starkness of this soulful version. The song is so beautiful in the loneliness that it gives the lyrics a whole new meaning.
4. Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984). The granddaddy of all fundraising singles. Yet, it is such an Eighties icon now. This song broke Bono to the world. But, it also made Gen X-ers feel like they could “change the world”. Unfortunately, by 1986, the charitable intentions of a group of celebrities was meet with cynicism.
3. The Band – “Christmas Must Be Tonight” (1977). Leave it to Robbie Robertson to condense the nativity story into a top-notch Christmas song. Too few people know about this song, unfortunately.
2. Daryl Hall & John Oates – “Jingle Bell Rock” (1982). Fellow Hoosier Bobby Helms wrote this song and recorded a near-definitive version. That is, until I heard Hall & Oates version on the radio. Remember that Daryl, John and their early Eighties band were at the top of their game when they recorded this version. And, much like McCartney’s song, this song made my brother and me refer to this song as another “Happy song”. It always puts me in a good mood.
And, now, here it is, my number one Christmas song.
1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1985). Recorded in concert back in 1975, Springsteen brought his live band energy to The Crystals’ arrangement of this song. It’s like they took the energy of “Rosalita” and condensed it in a Christmas song, which they did. My Christmas season NEVER officially begins until I hear The Boss’ Christmas tune.
Merry Christmas everybody! And, I will be back for the final two days of my Twelve Days of Christmas. See you tomorrow!