Driving Home for Christmas might be my favourite Christmas song, even though I don’t drive, don’t have a home to go back to, and most certainly don’t care about Christmas. Anyway, I heard the Chris Rea staple early this year, on The Big Band Show with Glen Woodcock of all places. On top of that, I heard Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses a full 12 days before St. Nick does his thing. It feels like I opened all my presents a couple of weeks early!
“So what can a poor boy do?“1 On one hand, that means there’s nothing left to wait for, so how am I supposed to have a Holly, Jolly Christmas? On the other hand, it frees me up to take a deep dive into Christmas music I can not only tolerate but actually like.
So let’s take a trip and explore a little Christmas music that isn’t dreadful, shall we?
First Stop, Germany: Willkommen und Frohe Weihnachten
Germany is known for lots of great music, there can be no doubt. Kraftwerk immediately springs to mind, of course, but there’s also Bowie’s astounding Berlin Trilogy, and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and The Idiot. And of course, The Reeperbahn is where it first came together for The Beatles.
Ja, das ist gut, nein?
So many of today’s Christmas traditions started in Germany, and with an avalanche of great popular music coming out of Germany, there surely there must be some fine Christmas songs by fine German artists, right? Of course, there is!
Here are Deutschland legends Heino and james last serving up a holiday feast of happiness. Prost!
Next up: Memphis and The King
In America, places like Motown, Nashville, and New Orleans are musical Meccas. But The King lived in Memphis, of course, and he recorded many great Christmas songs. Graceland might as well be Jerusalem for many people.
Blue Christmas, It’s Christmas Time Pretty Baby, and Here Comes Santa Claus are all exemplary Elvis. The King wasn’t messing around with deep-fried birds. He did Christmas right! Be sure to check out Elvis’ gospel recordings if you want to do Christmas up all legit-like.
On It’s Christmas Time, Pretty Baby, Elvis sounds as ferocious as The Who at their most explosive, as intense as Dead Kennedys at their peak, and as maniacally focused as The Stones on Paint It Black. This ain’t no Holiday in Cambodia, this is Christmas with The King!
A Merry Michigan Christmas to you too!
I have spent a lot of time in Michigan and it always feels like home. The sad truth though is that I’ve never made it up to Frankenmuth to experience it all, not even Bronner’s, the world’s largest year-round Christmas ornament and décor store. I have, however, enjoyed a fine time at the Dakota Inn Rathskeller in Detroit, so please don’t put me on the naughty list quite yet.
While Berry, Smokey, and the incredible Motown team at Hitsville USA isn’t turning out the hits Henry Ford style anymore, in more recent years two newer Detroit legends have gifted us a couple of fine Christmas covers.
Goober & The Peas – Snoopy’s Christmas
Back in 1992 Goober & The Peas put out an entire Christmas ep. It was beautiful, just like Christmas ought to be. One of the tracks is a heavenly gospel/country ditty entitled Tell The Lord (What Santa’s Done). More appropriate for this line of listening (inquisition?) is their cover of Snoopy’s Christmas. Besides, the late great Ernie Harwell is featured on that gem. So don’t just stand there like a house by the side of the road and watch it go by. Take a listen. Please. For Goob.
Electric Six – The Grinch Thing
And of course the hardest working band in not only the virtual world but also the real one, Electric Six does a marvelous job with a cover of You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch. Electric Six is from Detroit and has seen their city come back from the dead countless times. Electric Six has reason to turn to the Grinch side, but they never do, because tomorrow is always Easter when you live in The D. “They can’t kill Detroit”.
All you Lucy Liu’s, and Cindy-Lou Who’s, you know what to do.
Don’t Be a Grinch – Give It up for Iggy and Big Gretch!
Before we leave The Great Lakes State, and because we talked about Iggy a bit earlier, be sure to check his version of White Christmas. I just discovered it recently, and it is most certainly interesting. Go ahead, click Santa. He likes it!
Maybe for Christmas we can get to see The Godfather of Punk singing a duet of his smash hit Candy with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Across the Pond, Mark E Smith Was Practically Father Christmas
The Fall’s No Christmas for John Quays reminded us that “The X in X-mas is a substitute crucifix for Christ”. The song has been a yuletide staple for decades now, even if some would have all copies thrown on the yuletide log. No matter.
Fall frontman Mark E Smith was a Christ-like figure to many. “If there was a holy grail, Mr. Smith would be the only one allowed to pick it up” is how he was greeted on Granada TV back in 1988. Again, no matter. Mark E never came across like he thought he was Bono or even Christ. Mr. Smith did leave us with at least 9 Christmas songs though.
Anyway, I still believe in Santa Clause, even if Chico Marx doesn’t. Enjoy your cookies and shot of rum instead of milk, Santa Baby. I heard cows are bad for the environment, and Rudolph is driving anyway, hence the hooch.
Jingle Cats Are Here to Save Christmas!
There’s a pretty good chance that none of the above appeals to you. That’s fine, of course, but it’s also great to make as many people happy as possible, especially at this time of year. Towards that end I offer you Jingle Cats!
As Ernie Harwell said in the aforementioned Goober & The Peas song:
“Merry Christmas, Mein Friends!”
1 Sorry, Mick!