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Ten Christmas Songs That Won’t Make Me Want To Turn My Radio Off:

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I’m not the kind of person who goes nuts around Christmas and spends a lot of time decorating, baking and trying to get everyone in the Christmas spirit. So I usually get quite annoyed when the airwaves fill up with saccharine sweet Christmas songs, so therefore I’ve made a list of ten songs that won’t drive me nuts in the month of December. They may not all be Christmas songs in the conventional sense, but they all mention Christmas in one way or another and every one of them should be a nice break from Last Christmas and Silent Night.

01) The Pogues: Fairytale of New York
Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl duet about being a pair of bums in New York at Christmas time in a song, which is both absolutely beautiful and funny. Not surprisingly the song was The Pogues’ biggest hit and it still stands as the best Christmas song ever written.
Best line: You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last

02) Fountains of Wayne: The Man in the Santa Suit
This song is only available on the I Want an Alien for Christmas single (which features The Man…, Alien…, and Haunakah under the Stars). It tells the story of a guy, who has to suffer the humiliation of having to work as a department store Santa, so he can make a few bucks around Christmas. It’s a classic Fountains of Wayne song, which blends melancholy and humour with a catchy tune.
Best line: And he’s a big red cherry, but it’s hard to be merry
When the kids are all laughing saying hey it’s Jerry Garcia

03) D-A-D: Sad, Sad Christmas
Danish rockers D-A-D (formerly Disneyland After Dark) released this corny Christmas single about a single Dad, who has trouble getting into the spirit of things after his wife left with the car, the credit cards, and the furs. It’s not exactly a brilliant song, but it is quite funny and the chip monks singing back-up really takes the song over the top. The song is available on the record D-A-D Special, which features the best songs from their first two records. The album was released to pave the way for the album No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims, which was supposed to have been their big break in the US.
Best line: Well, now we can’t afford to celebrate The Lord
Daddy, what a Lord? He made Mother take the Ford

04) Nada Surf: 80 Windows
Probably not meant so much as a Christmas song as a song about whining about being alone at Christmas time. Taken from the overlooked follow-up album to High/Low this is actually a cool indie track with nice harmonies that’ll make you forget that the lyrics strictly speaking don’t make sense.
Best line: I feel far away from you, so what else is new
The moon is closer to the sun than I am to anyone

05) Everclear: Hating You for Christmas
This is the bonus track on the So Much for the Afterglow record in which Art Alexakis rips into his ex, who’s left him and has gone on to better things. Getting dumped right before Christmas seems to a theme here.
Best line: I just want to sit in our apartment and hate you
Yes, I will be hating you for Christmas

06) John Prine: Christmas in Prison
An incarcerated John Prine leaves the whining to the indie kids on this beautiful country track. It’s a great love song, where love isn’t exactly lost, but just put on hold by the American Penal System. The song is both available on Sweet Revenge and the album John Prine Christmas.
Best line: It was Christmas in prison and the food was real good
We had turkeys and pistols carved out of wood

07) Mew: She Came Home for Christmas
Danish indie band Mew released this song as a single a couple of years ago (and will release it in England next week) and it’s as beautiful as it is sad. It’s a bit difficult to decipher the lyrics, but they could definitely deal with someone being sexually assaulted. So again not exactly a cheery Christmas tune, but definitely one of the most haunting ones I’ve ever heard.
Best line: Don’t touch her there. He watched her. She knew his look.

08) Ben Folds Five: Brick
When is the most depressing time for you and your girlfriend to have an abortion? Well, 6 am day after Christmas has to be up there. Brick was a surprise hit for Ben Folds Five especially considering the seriousness of the song’s subject matter. But as a Christmas song I’ll take it over Mariah Carey’s version of All I Want For Christmas Is You any day of the week.
Best line: I pace around the parking lot
Then I walk down to buy her flowers and sell some gifts that I got

09) Badly Drawn Boy: Donna and Blitzen
The Badly Drawn Brit ended of his About a Boy soundtrack with this optimistic song about returning reindeer. Thankfully, there isn’t a version of Santa’s Super Sleigh on the album, so this is the only Christmas song on the record.
Best line: Maybe tomorrow we’re gonna see
Things we’d never believe

10) Pearl Jam: Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)
Pearl Jam has since 1991 released a single at Christmas time, which is only available to members of their fan club. Let Me Sleep was the first of these singles (since then it has been mainly cover versions) and it’s basically a song about longing for the joy you felt as a kid at Christmas time.
Best line: Oh, when I was a kid… Oh, how magic it seemed.
Oh, please let me sleep, it’s Christmas time

Honourable mentions go to: The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack, Ben Folds’, Eels’, and Barenaked Ladies’ contributions to the How the Grinch Stole Christmas Soundtrack, and the song Just Like Christmas from the Low album Christmas.

So this is my list of decent Christmas songs. Which ones did I miss?
[Update: People have added Christmas song suggestions to this and this entry over at my weblog]

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About John Fogde

  • Eric Olsen

    Great list for a freaky Scandinavian dude.

  • A few others I like to hear this time of year:

    Ramones, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” (the album version);
    Wall of Voodoo, “Shouldn’t Have Given Him A Gun for Christmas” (yeah, it’s a novelty song, but it still makes me laff);
    XTC, “Thanks for Christmas” (love the hook on this ‘un);
    Timbuk 3, “All I Want for Christmas” (neo-hippie folkie sentiments beautifully presented – whatever happened to these two?);
    T-Bone Burnett’s lovely rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

    I also love that Pogues song.

  • My Morning Jacket- Xmas Curtain, Best line, “We are criminals who never break the law”

    And, for some odd reason, I kinda like Run DMC’s Xmas in Hollis Queens..

  • Eric Olsen

    My fave is probably the Drifters’ “White Christmas.”

  • The Drifters’ version is indeed fine: I’m also partial to Otis Redding’s take on the Berlin song.

    Perhaps the one all-Xmas disc that gets the most play in our house during the season is Rhino’s collection of jazz & rhythm-and-blues tunes, Hipsters Holiday. It includes another personal fave, Louis Armstrong’s “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?,” as well as Miles Davis’ ultra-hipster cynical “Blue Xmas.”

  • A friend of mine mentioned that 2000 Miles by The Pretenders is another great Christmas song.

  • Sarah D

    I absolutely adore the Pogues Christmas song, its about the only song I actually like hearing when I walk past a dept store or standing in a queue somewhere. It reminds me of someone special and just makes me smile.

  • Jon P

    What about “santa Claus and his old lady” by cheech and Chong? Also, christmas is never complete without hearing Bob and Doug McKenzie’s “12 days of christmas”. And a beeer in a tree!!!!

  • Eric Olsen

    More great ones – thanks. Hey all you USA Today visitors, do you have any holiday favorites? What about songs you never want to hear again? When should the Xmas songs start up each year? Doesn’t it get earlier and earlier?

  • Dave

    How about “Father Christmas” by The Kinks…great song.

  • Run Rudolph Run – Keith Richards
    Jesus Christ – Big Star
    Merry Christmas Will Do – Material Issue
    Little Drummer Boy – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
    Feliz Navidad – El Vez

  • Cracker

    Bing & Bowie’s “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy”.
    Remember how odd this pairing seemed at the time?
    Still gives me chills.

  • Nathan

    Pearl Jam’s Let Me Sleep is kool. Len Monahan’s Being Alone for Christmas is really great and hurts in a good way. Pogues’ Fairytale is about here and now.

  • Naomi

    I once met Len Monahan in a resturant in D.C. He’s really a cool guy. I told him that Being Along For Christmas was my favorite Xmas song ever. He just laughed and paid for our dinner. It was over $100! Now how many people would do that?

  • “Silent Night” by The Only Ones
    “Santa Claus Go Down To The Ghetto” by James Brown

  • I add Steve Earle’s “Nothing But a Child”

  • Amy

    Fairytale of New York is the best…but I also love, Merry Christmas (I don’t want to fight) – Ramones;I won’t be home for Christmas _ Blink 182,; Please Come Home for Christmas – Aaron Neville; the South Park version of Oh Holy NIght; and Christmas in Hollis
    Clearly you need a sense of humor this time of year!

  • HW Saxton

    Gotta agree with Eric’s pick to click of
    The Drifter’s “White Xmas”. Those bass
    vox on that song give me the chills.

  • The Theory

    the ones I like don’t get played on radio… but they are…

    Dear Ephesus- The Holidays
    and anything Sufjan Stevens

  • TiggerUSM

    I really like “Daddy Christmas” by “Who’s the Daddy now?”. WTDN are a tribute band to CarterUSM – an indie band from the 1990’s. The curio about them is that the tribute band features both members of the original band!

  • Nick Jones

    James White and The Blacks ‘Christmas With Satan’.

  • cr0wgrrl

    Can’t forget Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”

  • Steff

    The song ‘I Hate Christmas Parties’ by Relient K…It’s not cheerful, and it’s not fun, but it’s my favourite, and considering my lack of enthusiasm for the glittery ‘good will to all men and peac on earth’ part of the holiday, and my over enthusiasm for the ‘let’s break out the whisky I was given last year, oh yeah i drank it on new years eve’ part of the holiday, i think the song is amazing!

  • gobraves

    Santa can’t stay Dwight Yoakum

  • jd

    The Yuletunes Christmas compilation is the best modern Christmas record — all the way through.

  • mike

    hey guys or gals as well check out alan jackson, he does a few good nos as well.

  • ‘So this is Titsmas… And what have you done?’

  • Scott

    Police Nabbed my Dad (Feliz Navidad) by Bob Noxious! Best Christmas song EVER!!

  • Jeff Stoneking

    The 1990s “See You At the Lights” is sorely missing from this list.

  • chico

    Joan Jett, Drummer Boy