Goodness is it Christmas already? Christ (no pun intended) but I haven’t even done all my Christmas shopping. Oh well, it’s that time of year again. I know I say this every year but it feels it were only yesterday we were celebrating Christmas, but blimey 2020 has been a bit of a mad one hasn’t it? Christmas, being a time of giving and celebration motivated me to think of the different festive tracks that help bring us all together, filled with nostalgia and the smell of spice in the air. So join me as I go through my top 15 Christmas Songs.
15. Stop The Calvary – Jona Lewie
It’s one of those songs that just makes Christmas. From the synths that carry the song, the brass section’s hook to the bells. Although never intended as a Christmas song, Lewie stating it was meant as a protest song, and in some regions, it was released in Springtime as opposed to the festive season here in the UK. But the timing, the what we’d now call Christmas sounding instrumentation and of course the classic line “Wish I could be home for Christmas”, has inadvertently made Lewie’s song a Christmas classic.
14. Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) – The Darkness
I think The Darkness get a bit of a bad rep of being that strange cheesy 00’s band that Liam Gallagher dissed a bit. But all the same, I think they’re a lot of people’s guilty pleasures, and the tunes people like? People sure as hell love. The comedic tone, Justin Hawkin’s famous falsettos and just being an overall feel-good song for the festive season, makes it one that maybe not everyone needs to have on their playlists this time of year, but it’s one that has a special place in my heart for just being utterly ridiculous, but bangs nevertheless.
13. Peace On Earth / The Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby and David Bowie
Taking things a bit slower this time around, this tune was debuted on Crosby’s television special, ‘Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas’. The colliding worlds of Crosby and Bowie at this time was something of a shock to people. At the time, Bowie was trying to ‘normalise’ his career, and actively stated he hated The Little Drummer Boy song, which led to him asking if he could sing something else leading to the now surreal collaboration and iconic Christmas song. And I mean come on, combining the undeniable Christmas aura of Crosby with the Man who fell to Earth himself, just screams out its magnificence.
12. Driving Home for Christmas – Chris Rea
Keeping with the slower mood here, Driving Home For Christmas is a song most people adore for that moment with the family when the drinks are starting to run low and the energy needs a little break, that we all take a breather to sway our heads. It’s like if Christmas suddenly became an elevator, this is the song that would play inside it. It’s quite poignant today with the hard times we’re all faced with. A lot of people who were looking forward to driving home for Christmas can’t anymore. So for now, join me in listening to this, with a glass in hand. Here’s to a future where we can all get together and celebrate with each other, for the best Christmases yet to come.
11. Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio (From A Charlie Brown Christmas)
Yeah, this is a very unconventional one to have on the list I know. But Charlie Brown has been very present since my childhood. My mum was a big advocate of ‘get your kids into the same stuff you were into as a kid’. Big vibe tho. This song, despite sounding very melancholy, it feels so warm. It makes you want to cosy up by the fireside for the favourite time of year. Christmas to me has two sides. The crazy go all-out party filled with joy and love, and the softer watch the snowfall out the window, with this song emoting the latter. It’s not one to dance to, but not every festive tune needs to be. Sometimes in the abundance of commercialization, something more genuine that helps appreciate what Christmas time is really all about.
10. Step Into Christmas – Elton John
Kicking a bit of life back into the tunes. I mean you can never go wrong with Elton, can you? The flamboyant ecstasy of his music, the way his range swings up and down evoking this addictive danceable hit that you just end up craving more and more every time you hear it. Sometimes feeling a little goofy, but fun and wonderful all the same. Something remarkable to note about the song is that it was written intended as a thank you to fans due to the success Elton had gained in 1972. Written on a Sunday morning and recorded that very evening! That’s pretty good, even for our lad Elton, so cheers Rocket Man.
9. Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid 1984
A classic. We all know it, we all know what it’s for, the impact it had and the legacy it carries. It’s never been topped by its anniversary versions, but that’s why the original is such a corker. It was never the immediate catchy pop hook to give your brain a high and then leave you alone till next year, but it feels like part of that was the intention. When writing a song about the Ethiopian famine crisis of the time, getting a message across is important. Do They Know It’s Christmas? is the kind of song where upon first listen, it begs you to start wondering, just what on earth is all this about? Which is how even after the efforts of Band Aid, and after that fateful Christmas in 1984. Do They Know It’s Christmas? remains a classic, all years round.
8. Is This Christmas? – The Wombats
Now, not the most conventional Christmas song on the list no, but in my house, Christmas time wouldn’t be complete without hearing this. Something about the trumpets at the start taking you back to Doctor Who Christmas specials. The emotive joy of Christmas colliding with the indie rock of the late 00s Wombats sound feels so nostalgic yet fresh, it’s a vibe that I don’t think can be really described, listen to the song yourself and see. Even if it’s not a classic from wherever you are, for me, it deserves a top spot in the best Christmas songs around. It’s unbelievably addictive and brings me so much joy.
7. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard
Just try and be a Scrooge when this song is playing, I dare you. It’s one of those o’ so nostalgic tracks that does completely make you feel like a kid again. That innocence of the world and all the joys it can bring. You know when there isn’t a global pandemic going on… But you know, forget all that, this song is just brilliant. It’s one of the most danceable ones and for that, it makes for a perfect song to put on at every Christmas party and festive sing-a-long.
6. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
Yeah alright I know, I know. Not really a Christmas song, not even the go-to song if you’re even thinking about the Beach Boys. But for me, this has become an absolute Christmas classic. Ever since hearing it in the festive film Love Actually, the complete and utter association with the Christmas period has made it and Christmas, fantastically inseparable. Although originally a B-Side, there’s just something about this song that makes it such a cute and wholesome track to hear regardless of the lyrical content, the instrumentation matches the words in a peculiar way and it’s just so lovely. It also happens to be one of Paul McCartney’s favourite songs, and if a Beatle says your song is their favourite, you’ve clearly written something gold.
5. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
And well speaking of McCartney, I mean you knew it had to be on this list somewhere right? It’s just such a feel-good festive bop. The delayed synths, the choirs, the ding dong ding dongs, everything about this song screams get up and dance like it’s the best Christmas party in town and I LOVE IT. There is also something incredibly nostalgic about this one especially, perhaps just hearing Paul McCartney’s voice is what does it, but whatever it really is, it makes for one of the catchiest Christmas tunes around, and one that definitely isn’t going anywhere, asides from in our ears.
4. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
This was hard to put forward more than McCartney’s Christmas outing, but I think people generally would say this is a genuine classic, and the depth of the lyrics also make for a somewhat reflective and loving perspective when listening. And because of that, it’s one of the few Christmas songs that actually get the real heartwarming message of Christmas through. Not thinking about the presents or the gigantic meals we all decide we’ll consume on one day of the year, but about the people around you, family, friends and the people all around the world. As perhaps THE pioneer of peace and love, it’s no surprise that John Lennon was able to write one of the best Christmas songs, that stays relevant almost 50 years later.
Before I do go onto my top 3 I would like to give a shout out to a few honorable mentions. Partly because I love some and I just couldn’t add them to an already big list, and partly because if I don’t mention them now, I really will get absolutely slandered by everyone. But very quickly let’s not forget;
What’s This? – Danny Elfman (From The Nightmare Before Christmas), Winter Wonderland – Bing Crosby, Proper Crimbo – Bo Selecta, Walking In The Air – Peter Auty (From The Snowman), Yule Shoot Your Eye Out – Fall Out Boy, Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens, Don’t Shoot Me Santa – The Killers, White Christmas – Bing Crosby, All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
But now, onto the Top Three.
3, Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
Who doesn’t like Slade’s slapper of a song? Whether you’re nostalgic for the days of old, where Christmas was slightly less commercialised, or from it being almost the only song guaranteed to be in Doctor Who Christmas specials. I think this was possibly the first Christmas song I ever actually enjoyed, makes me sound like a real young Scrooge, but this was a Christmas song that ROCKED, and 6 year old me couldn’t get enough of that. Arguably one of the catchiest and memorable songs for the festive period, it always gets stuck in my head when I hear it, making me go back to listen to it more, which as marketing tactics go, it works a treat.
2. Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues
Fairytale of New York is a song that sounds magical. And Irish. Very very Irish. But it’s that combination that makes it a resounding classic. From the controversy of the lyrics to the belter of a sing-a-long chorus, the fairytale instrumentation clashed with the brutally harsh lyrics force this track to stand out like a sore thumb amongst the Christmas catalogue, but it does wonderous favours for it. Everyone I know seems to agree this is one of the best Christmas songs and it’s abundantly evident why.
1. Last Christmas – Wham!
Well, let’s be honest, if by the time we hit number 2 and you didn’t see Wham! coming, then you clearly don’t know Christmas well enough. Maybe that’s bold to say… But I’m sticking with it. I mean it’s the perfect song. Catchy, not overly Christmas sounding meaning if you find yourself listening to it in the middle of summer you don’t feel too guilty and can listen to the whole song. Last Christmas is just THE definitive Christmas song to me, it sounds magical, it sounds 80s, but all the same, it sounds completely timeless. And not to mention the absolute incredible restoration of the original film to make a 4K remaster of the music video.
Well there we have it, all 15 of my favourite Christmas songs. But what did you think? Let us know what YOUR favourite Christmas songs are. But above all, in the hard times that we’re all in, whatever you’re celebrating, have a wonderful festive period and a fantastic new year. Here’s to 2021, and a future of togetherness.