Some of you know that among the many music sub-genres I collect, holiday recordings are one of the most fun niches for me. My fascination with this began during College when I realized there were missing holiday tracks on singles and a plethora of different new wave and even punk compilations started appearing in stores (and on my turntables).
Of course The Beatles had their fan club Christmas records and The Beach Boys’ their now-classic holiday album. Phil Spector’s legendary A Christmas Gift For You album is perhaps the granddaddy of them all, at least as far as rock oriented pop music goes. When one of my favorite bands, XTC, issued a holiday single as “The Three Wisemen,” I was hooked.
For a while I even made a holiday mix tape for friends each year. Nowadays I celebrate the season by crafting a “record tree” from a stack of colorful (not necessarily holiday oriented) colored vinyl records.
So here are some favorites you may have missed (with notes as to why I included it here). A few are obvious but sometimes overlooked. Many classics are missing as they are too obvious, so don’t expect to see Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey and Jose Feliciano’s terrific hits here. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite from this list.
Thanks For Christmas, XTC – The post fab four from Swindon recording under the name The Three Wise Men. I’ve heard this played on the sound system while shopping in supermarkets in recent years so I guess it has become a modern classic in a way!
Baby Please Come Home, Darlene Love — A classic. “Nuff said…
Christmastime, Aimee Mann & Michael Penn – – A dreamy bluesy slow swinger to sip your Eggnog to, set to a Beatle-esque “I’m Only Sleeping” swagger. I first heard this on the Just Say Noel Xmas CD compilation.
Jungle Bells, The Four Seasons – Listen closely to the verses to this playful twist on the Christmas classic played in a Jamaican “Ska: rhythm… This was initially released in 1962, six years before The Beatles brought a reggae vibe to the masses via The White Album’s Obla-Di, Obla-Da.
Space Christmas, Shonen Knife – Just wonderful pop punk joy, and the B-side of the single is an audio letter to fans in the style of The Beatles’ Christmas record messages. The cover pays tribute to Phil Spector’s classic Christmas album.
Yuletide Throw Down (Rapture), Fab Five Freddy & Blondie – This was issued as a “flexi disc” in the old Flexi-Pop Magazine. I discovered the track when I picked up a rare promo LP collecting many of the magazine’s rarities. Another reason I love compilation albums, discovering rarities like this…
Riu Chiu, The Monkees – – I only discovered this little gem in the past five years or so, from their TV show!
Unwrap You At Christmas, The Monkees / Andy Partridge — XTC’s Andy Partridge wrote a fun tune for their recent Christmas album!
Xmas Hi-Fivories, Ferrante & Teicher – Pioneering players of “prepared piano” in commercial pop music, most people think of John Cage or Brian Eno when discussing this topic. But their early days, these easy listening pop pianists were actually quite advanced and experimental. This 10-inch LP that was issued in 1954 and may be their first or second release. It is quite rare. They have a later 12-inch LP that is also very rare which I have yet to find. Someday…
Christmastime Is Here Again, The Beatles – Their fan club only holiday records have long been revered by fans, pirated by bootleggers and rare originals sold for high prices by record dealers. Thankfully reissued in a lovely boxed set which you can still find out in some stores and on Amazon (click here). I even reviewed it (click here). This track is a somewhat unedited version of one of the song snippets that appeared in one of the later period Beatle Christmas records, here from a single B-side around the time of the Anthology album rarities series.
What Sweet Child O’Mine Is This?, The Wonderful World of Joey – I don’t know much about Joey but I have had confirmation from a trusted friend that he is real as he saw them perform once (and he’s produced some space age lounge recordings). I have one other single by Joey done with iconic 50s TV organist Korla Pandit. But this little absurdist gem is a doozie! A musical mashup of the holiday classic “Whose Child Is This?” with Guns ’n Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” done in the style of a swinging early 1960s Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin or Tony Bennett track backed by a terrific big band. Prepare to have your jaw hit the floor. I found this on an obscure CD single at the old Tower Records and have been a champion of it ever since.
Father Christmas, The Kinks – an instant classic issued initially as a single in the UK and US, this was The Kinks at their irreverent best, out new waving the new wave with a bit of snotty but heartfelt fun.