News Column

16 Holiday Tunes in Key

Dec. 10, 2012

Wade Tatangelo, The Bradenton Herald

Lady Gaga

The holiday season has resulted in vats of songs that reek like rotten eggnog.

On occasion, though, someone like Bob Dylan, James Brown or Lady Gaga gets it right.

Here's a look at 16 Christmas songs that rock.

-- "Run Rudolph Run," Chuck Berry: Contemporaries like Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Beach Boys all recorded great Christmas songs. But only Chuck Berry's holiday hit about the most famous reindeer of all really rocks.

-- "Jingle Bells," X: Published in the mid-19th century by James Lord Pierpont, this song didn't truly come alive until seminal Los Angeles punk band X got hold of the song a few years back for its two-track EP "Merry Xmas From X."

-- "Christmas in Hollis," Run D.M.C.: Rhyming over the riff from soul singer Clarence Carter's naughty holiday hit "Back Door Santa," the members of hip-hop kings Run D.M.C. brilliantly recall Christmas in their Queens neighborhood on this song that first introduced suburban moms to rap in 1987.

-- "Father Christmas," The Kinks: One the most underrated of the mighty English rock groups to emerge in the 1960s delivers a rather sorrowful tale of poor kids robbing a department store "Father Christmas" (that would be Santa Claus in the states) over loud, super catchy guitars.

-- "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto," James Brown: The Godfather of Soul offers a solid helping of social consciousness for the holiday season on this poignant funk number.

-- "It Must Be Santa," Bob Dylan: While the rock poet stuck mainly to tradition arrangements on his 2009 charity album "Christmas in the Heart," this speedy, smile-inducing recording is goosed by the accordion playing of Los Lobos' David Hidalgo.

-- "Thank God It's Christmas," Queen: Freddie Mercury's soaring yet sensitive vocals are downright inspiring on this holiday hymn penned by band mates Brian May (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums).

-- "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," Weezer: A most pleasant surprise arrived in 2008 when Weezer brought power-pop perfection to six Christmas songs including this caroler fave.

-- "Another Lonely Christmas," Prince: The Purple One sings about a lost lover on this power ballad that first appeared as the B-side of "I Would Die 4 U" in 1984.

-- "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town," Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: For people like this writer who grew up during the 1980s in the Northeast, rock 'n' roll Christmas songs don't bring anymore joy than this live Bruuuuuuce recording that prominently features sax man Clarence Clemons.

-- "2000 Miles," The Pretenders: Front woman Chrissie Hynde wrote this moving gem about long-distance lovers at Christmas time.

-- "Santa's Beard," They Might Be Giants: Leave it to the geniuses of this alternative rock band to release an awesomely awkward, funny-sad song about infidelity at Christmas time.

-- "Christmas All Over Again," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Petty's wonderfully rocking, humorous song about dealing with such holiday fixtures as "long distance relatives" is featured in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" as well as the more recent Reese Witherspoon-Vince Vaughn flick "Four Christmases."

-- "Christmas Tree," Lady Gaga feat. Space Cowboy: Leave it to Lady Gaga to record (and co-write) one of the most memorable and controversial new Christmas songs of the past decade.

-- "Fairytale of New York," The Pogues: A modern classic by Celtic punk heroes the Pogues, this song of pathos and humor finds an Irish immigrant reflecting on his life while spending Christmas Eve in a New York City drunk tank.

-- "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," Darlene Love: The best song from producer Phil Spector's masterful 1963 album "A Christmas Gift For You," this "Wall of Sound" sleigh ride features Darlene Love delivering one of the most potent and emotive vocals in rock 'n' roll history.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

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