It’s the 1st December, time for radio stations to dust off the seasonal tunes and play them on a continuous loop for 29 days. Except, of course, they’ve actually already been playing them for the past 4 weeks.
So here is my honest appraisal of the worst and best Christmas songs of all time.
Please, no. Worst 5 ever.
Stay Another Day, East 17 – Awful dirge. Ok, it’s about the suicide of a band member’s brother, so isn’t ever going to be cheerful, but there’s still no need to inflict the pain on us every bloody December. It wasn’t even meant to be a Christmas song, but they stuck some last minute bells on it to make it more attractive to the seasonal market, ensuring endless winter hurt for us all.
Happy Christmas (War is Over), John Lennon and Yoko Ono – It may be where you are, John, but it’s not down here. Not really. ‘Set to a traditional English ballad’ is probably all you need to know,
Mistletoe and Wine, Cliff Richard. ‘Whine’ more like. Originally a more up-tempo number, Richard changed the lyrics and slowed it down to give it more religious tone. Nice one, Mr Webb. That worked well,
I believe in Father Christmas, Greg Lake. Lake has said that it wasn’t ever meant to be a Christmas song. This is slightly strange, not only given the title but also because he said it was written as a ‘protest against the commercialisation of Christmas’. Beaten to the 1975 number one spot by Bohemian Rhapsody. ‘Nuff said.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Bruce Springsteen. I credit ‘The Boss’, as his take was particularly wet, but many stars have murdered this probably once decent tune, including the Jackson 5, Mariah Carey and Dolly Parton. A quick mention for Alvin and the Chipmonks, whose 1961 version tops that of all of the aforementioned.
Others near the bottom: In Dulce Jubilo, Mike Oldfield; Put a Little Love in Your Heart’, Al Green and Annie Lennox; Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms; Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul McCartney; Do They Know it’s Christmas, Band Aid.
Maybe. Middle 5.
Stop the Cavalry, Jona Lewie. Another one claiming not to be about Christmas, and another with a war theme. His ‘Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties’ is probably more seasonal, but this is the hit that has become a popular yuletide request – ironically, especially in the US.
2000 miles, The Pretenders. Yet another about someone’s death, this time Hynde’s bandmate James Honeyman-Scott. The video featured Hynde rather bizarrely dressed in a Salvation Army uniform. It’s a decent tune, but not 4 times as better than The Proclaimer’s ‘500 miles’.
The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth, Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Slightly weird, unlikely, but incredibly successful duet. It works, I suppose. Crosby died a few weeks after the recording, presumably he thought his earthly work was now done.
Last Christmas, Wham. Not one of George’s finest. And yet……
Others in limbo – Rocking around the Christmas Tree, Brenda Lee; Merry Xmas Everybody, Slade. I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day, Wizard.
Yes DJ, fry my brain with these!
Mary’s Boy Child, Harry Belafonte. OK, we should celebrate the true meaning of Christmas somewhere in the list, and even Boney M’s version doesn’t detract from a genuine and well-executed attempt to get the true meaning of Christmas across.
Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea. Really? Yes, and for one reason only. Listen to the lyrics after reading this Frankie Boyle Tweet:
Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses. According to Guardian writer Dorian Lynskey, it’s “fizzing, funky dance-around-the-Christmas-tree music for Brooklyn hipsters.” An anti-Christmas song with a happy twee ending. Nice.
White Christmas, Bing Crosby. Christmas is never like it used to be. You’re right there, Bing dude, so right. Top class nostalgic crooning.
Fairytale of New York, Kirsty MacColl, and The Pogues. It’s not an original choice, but it’s an inarguable choice. Listen to the lyrics, it’s like watching a dance. The ironic contradictions, the difference in styles and tones. Not only the best ever Christmas song, it’s simply the world’s greatest love song.