Great and Goofy Christmas Tunes

There are so many terrible Christmas songs out there. Like, really bad songs and terrible versions of decent songs, and stuff like Manheim Steamroller and the TransSiberian Orchestra--stuff I can’t even believe has the popularity it does because it’s bad, stuff my in-laws like. I almost can’t listen to the holiday music on the radio, as the ratio of bad songs to ads to good songs is 7 : 7 : 1.

Fortunately there are digital playlists, and I’ve got mine narrowed down to only the best of the best. Some of these are old standards and some are new originals, but they are all good.

One of the commonalities between these songs is that they are not high pitched and tinny. I hate that crap passed off as children’s music, but really it’s synthesized shit. I also can’t stand that every major pop star, and every studio, and every genre of music over the last four decades has done a covers of every song, so there isn’t just one bad song, there are 37 versions of it.

As a kid, my favorite holiday album was Monster Christmas Mash. I had it on record, but it’s since disappeared into the ether. (If you have a copy laying around, please pass it on to me.)

So, what are my favorites now?

Nicholas The Saint

I know it’s unfair to begin my list with something you can no longer buy, but it’s just that good you need to know about it.

In 2009 a few Des Moines area musicians got together at The Sonic Factory and produced these wonderful songs. They are not only great pop/rock tunes, but they are Christmassy without being gimmicky. At the time, a few of the guys were dealing with their first Christmas alone after a breakup, and that melancholy comes through the cheer. (If I come totally clean here, these four songs are the most played songs in my itunes, ever. I love them that much.)

You can get a flavor of the album in the facebook video above. (Click here to view the video if it doesn't show; it's being fussy.) If you love it as much as I do, please DM me on Twitter or email me and I’ll hook you up. I know a guy who would like the music to be in your hands. ;-)

December 18th

Everybody singin’ ‘Joy to the World’
But I can’t ‘cause I miss my girl
I don’t want to celebrate Christmas
By myself
Sitting alone by the fire
Drinking eggnog with no desire
To plug in the tree


I love it all, but I love especially when Mike Butterworth from the Nadas cameos and sings:

I lost my mind
And I lost you
It’s Christmas time
And I miss you love

Where is Christmas?

If this one doesn’t make you smile, well, you’re scroogier than me.

Where is Christmas?
The best time of the year
I’ve heard it’s joyful and jolly
and merry and bright
And my life will just fill up with cheer
But the yuletide just magnifies my blues

Here Comes Christmas, The Nadas

Oof, the heart ache of this one. It’s a slow burn, so give it a couple of listens before you desert it.

Can you explain to me
How to get down the chimney

The Nadas do a holiday show in Des Moines each December and here is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from last year. 

Merry Christmas From The Family, Robert Earl Keen

Lots of drinking and trips to the quick pack store to buy tampons. It’s a sing-a-long tune a la National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.


Dolly (and Kenny)

One of my favorite childhood memories is watching Dolly Parton’s Smokey Mountain Christmas every year (Lee Majors!), and the holiday special she and Kenny did. Here are my top picks from her album Once Upon a Christmas.
Maybe I'll clear my junk
Maybe I'll just get drunk
on apple wine
Curled up by a fireplace
in a Tahoe ski chalet
With a fast talking lover
and some slow burning wood*
*It was the 80s y’all, so I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by “wood.” *snort*

Also, check out Christmas Without You.
(The video of this song is pure 80s.)

River, Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s version is delicate; The Indigo Girls add a bit of rawness to it that I’ve always loved.

I’m not really into the pop belters, except I love this song. And anything by Kelly Clarkson, like her version of this song. I dislike most other versions though.

Christmas All Over Again, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Please Come Home for Christmas

I like my men harmonizing. Don Henley and Jon Bon Jovi are both good; Sister Hazel is better.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland

This is my favorite standard. Judy Garland is positively transcendent. Seriously.

What is not to love about this cheeky romp. If I quote my favorite lines, I’ll end up quoting the whole song.

Jingle Bells, Ella Fitzgerald

The greek chorus sings, “I’m just nuts about bells” and Ella ends it with “I’m just crazy about horses.” Makes me smile every time.

Winter Wonderland, Ray Charles


It's the holiday season
With the whoop-de-do and hickory dock
And don't forget to hang up your sock

Other favorites include Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong, White Christmas by Bing Crosby, Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives, and I’ll be Home for Christmas by Glenn Campbell.

What are yours?

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