It’s been said that the Christmas season officially kicks off on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with the big early bird sales and local radio stations changing their format to holiday music 24/7.
Over the last few years, retailers have started their sales early, and radio stations have forgone the unwritten rule that “The First Noel” should not be heard the day after Halloween. As much as I love getting into the holiday spirit, the over saturation of the music so early in the season can have a numbing effect on my Christmas cheer. That being said, I have compiled a list of songs that no matter when I hear them, my heart grows three sizes that day.
Christmas (Please Come Home) (Darlene Love)
I love traditions, even silly little ones. And watching the last live David Letterman Show before Christmas is one of them. Each year, Letterman has his first segment guest, (whomever is out promoting their movie/TV project) then has comedian Jay Thomas sit and tell one of the greatest story ever. He and Letterman then try and knock a meatball off the top of the Late Show tree using footballs. The show closes with Darlene Love belting out her 1963 hit. She has been doing this for Dave since 1986 and its gets better with age.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (James Taylor)
It is very tough to screw up this song, yet its nearly impossible to perfect it. James Taylor nails it. No matter where I am when I hear it, I picture myself with a warm cup of cocoa, sitting fireside, watching the snow fall. Yes, I have issues.
All I Want For Christmas (Is You) (Mariah Carey)
When the Christmas music started invading our radios back in early November, I remember thinking, “All the Christmas ‘classics’ were 50 or more years old.” With regular music, each generation can look back and point to certain artists that made a cultural impact on the times. Its just not the case with seasonal music. This is the one song that has survived the last 18 years. It gets heavy rotation during November and December and has been featured in the 2003 film “Love Actually” and has been covered by artists ranging from Big Time Rush to My Chemical Romance to the cast of GLEE. I’m sure we’ll be enjoying this for years to come.
Last Christmas (Wham!)
I could write for days on how weirdly great this song is, but Howie already did.
Do They Know Its Christmas (Band Aid)
“Well, tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of youuuuuuuuu”
I must confess, when I hear this song, I do not think about starving, dying children in Africa. I think about rich, British rock stars, that set aside their appearance fees and royalty checks to belt out a pretty good yuletide song. It was really a who’s who of England pop royalty: Sting, Bono, Paul Young, Boy George, George Michael, Simon LeBon! Did we ever figure out if they knew it was Christmastime at all?
Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney)
Just dumb fun. When you have lyrics like “The choir of children sing their song /Ding dong, ding dong /Ding dong, ding, oh, oh ” you know it must have been written on a cocktail napkin in five minutes. But it IS Sir Paul, and it IS in the spirit of Christmas, so it’s on the list.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Bruce Springsteen)
I must confess, I never really got into The Boss or his music growing up. I guess I had a tough time relating to Glory Days when I was 8 and well, “Born In The USA” for obvious reasons. But there was something special about his live concert version of this Christmas anthem that makes me giddy. According to Rolling Stone, it was recorded at a live gig on Long Island in 1975, and was put on the B side of “My Hometown” in 1985 and became a hit after that. The E Street Band are known to pull that one out of their bag when on tour around the holidays.
Hey Santa- Carnie & Wendy Wilson
This tune is far from a classic, but it holds a special place in my heart. Back when MTV and VH-1 ran videos, the UnderScoopFire Podcast Roundtable Voltron sat around most mornings in Googs’ dining room, watching nothing but music videos and SportsCenter. When this gem debuted in the fall of 1993, its corny hook had Battle Armor Joe and I laughing for hours. It became punchline to every bad Christmas song joke we could write.
I’m still intrigued as to why the Wilson Sisters didn’t invite Chynna Phillips to sing on the record. Perhaps it was creative differences or maybe Chynna wasn’t in the holiday spirit.
Honorable mentions go to Burl Ives (“Holly Jolly Christmas”) Nat King Cole (“The Christmas Song) and anything by Andy Williams.