Click to play.
I blame my mother. She loves holidays man. Like really loves them. Decorates the house. Gets out books. Plays music. Obviously Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas is the murderer’s row of holiday cheer and she went to town. It wasn’t religious—I hardly stepped foot in a church growing up—I think she just loved making it fun for her kids. And man, was it. I could barely fall asleep Christmas Eve and would bolt out of bed the second my brother and I woke up. Not that this was unique to my family.
What was unique? Having a professional photographer for a father. Imagine bounding into the living room at 4 in the morning and being met with banks of lights, reflectors, diffusers, tripods, sand bags, extension cords, power supplies, etc. And oh yeah, presents too. Somewhere in my sense memory is the joy of opening that gift I’d been waiting for all year and being assaulted with a few hundred watts of professional illumination. POP! Hahaha, I loved it though and miss my dad dearly.
Anyway, I have a point, and it’s that Christmas in the Huntington household was a PRODUCTION. My dad running around with a light meter, my mom sitting patiently in her bathrobe and socks sipping coffee, making sure we opened gifts in the proper order, and me and my siblings bouncing off the walls, high on stocking candy. And no Christmas morning was complete without some kickass Christmas tunes. So, in honor of my mother, who taught me all about finding joy in delighting others, I have put together a ridiculous Christmas playlist. Listen to it here. Track list and annotations below.
Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis
A Very Special Christmas launched the contemporary Christmas music scene (at least in my mind) and Run DMC were Christmas rap pioneers. Hahaha. It’s so cheesy and perfect.
Family Force 5 – It’s Christmas Day
I love FF5 and was pumped they made a Christmas album. Unfortunately most the songs are too heavy for a mix, but I think this one fits nicely.
Danny Elfman – What’s This
Nightmare Before Christmas: Christmas movie or Halloween movie? Unfortunately it’s too much of both to be either. This song takes place in Christmas Town though, so it gets a spot. And Danny Elfman? Dude is just awesome.
The Pretenders – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Chrissie Hynde rocks and I love this slow jam version. It’s like a 6th grade Christmas slow dance or something.
Matchbook Romance – I’ll be Home for Christmas
MR with a nice little rocker. Not too hard, not too soft.
Mae – Carol of the Bells
Love me some Mae.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
From the awesome album Merry Axemas. Check it out, all the guitar Gods give their takes on Christmas classics. I just happen to be partial to this bluesy Rudolph take. Trevor Rabin’s track is classic Michael Bay Christmas, it’s absurd.
Dean Martin – Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
CLASSIC. That is all.
John Denver & the Muppets – The Christmas Wish
Fine. FINE. I’ll admit it. I get choked up watching the video clip of this. John Denver & the Muppets’ A Christmas Together is a Not Zombie mom favorite and it was definitely passed down to me. Also, is this not the sweetest message?
Jimmy Eat World – Last Christmas
Jimmy Eat World + Christmas Music = Love. BUT, why do they do the same verse twice instead of singing the second verse? Drives me nuts.
The Darkness – Christmas Time
Christmas is way more awesome in England.
Copeland – Do You Hear What I Hear?
Yeah, I hear Copeland with an awesome cover of a song I normally don’t like.
Jackson 5 – Someday at Christmas
Despite loving J5, I somehow had not heard this until last year. It’s now one of my favorites even though one of the Jackson seemingly forgets the lyrics at one point. I shit you not.
The Tempations – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
I wanted the California Raisin version (from one of the best/most rare/weirdest Christmas specials of all time–A Claymation Christmas) but it wasn’t on Grooveshark. It’s pretty much this version though.
Weezer – The Christmas Song
Old Weezer. Christmas. Yes. They actually have another Christmas song but it doesn’t feel as Christmas-y as this one.
John & Yoko – Happy Xmas
As far as Christmas songs go, this one’s pretty epic. John was rad.
Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth
Almost didn’t happen. Bowie thought Little Drummer Boy didn’t fit his vocal style and refused to do it. With hours to spare the composers added the new melody and lyrics that Bowie ended up singing. The opening dialogue isn’t in this edit but it’s pretty awesome. They both seem so out of their element. “Do you like modern music?” “Oh I think it’s marvelous, some of it really fine.” Liar.
Chris Isaak – Blue Christmas
Almost went with the Elvis version but it’s just a bit too played out at this point. The modern-day Elvis takes a good crack at it.
The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
This might be the most hated Christmas song of all time, and that’s saying a lot. I think people just don’t get it. It’s fucking old. White chicks didn’t rap unless your name was Deborah Harry. It was 1981! Also, I have to confess a weak spot for 80s girl pop singers.
Hawk Nelson – Last Christmas
A song so nice it’s on the list twice. This one has the full lyrics minus some of Wham!’s super cheese.
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas
You know what, they probably don’t unless some Christian do-gooders went down there and traded clean water and food in return for their souls. Although I do love a good celebrity group fundraiser song.
Ella Fitzgerald – Sleigh Ride
Ella Fitz swings. She’s awesome.
Frank Sinatra – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Can’t have Dean without Frank. Must, must, must have.
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time is Here (Vocal)
Vince Guaraldi’s work on the Peanuts Christmas special is 100% magic. It’s so, so good. I love this version with the kids singing. Corny? Yes. Classic? Definitely.
Ray Charles – That Spirit of Christmas
Christmas Vacation anyone? Chevy Chase watching old home movies in the attic, crying, wearing all the mismatched clothing he can find in storage, and this song. One of the all-time great Christmas songs.
John Denver & The Muppets – Medly: Alfie, the Christmas Tree/Carol for a Christmas Tree…
I need to leave you with the inimitable John Denver telling the story of Alfie the Christmas Tree and asking everyone to say a little prayer for all the creatures of the world. What a sap (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun). Christmas time is the one time of the year that I’ll abide something this corny. Not just abide it but actively encourage it.
Merry Christmas, y’all.