B-Sides: Do They Know it's Christmas (Music) Time?

Supremes' ChristmasI know there are some humbugs out there who don’t like the holiday season, and that’s fine. Cheer and snacks and the spirit of giving (OK, and stress and consumerism) aren’t for everyone, right? But when people tell me that they don’t like holiday music, I have a tough time believing it. Just about all of the musicians you can think of have recorded holiday music at some point during their careers, and a lot of it is really awesome. So open up your minds, scrooges! I’ve polled folks around the office and compiled a collection of some awesome holiday tunes, perfect for gift wrapping, wasting time at your desk, or dancing around the tree/menorah.

Jaymee Jacoby: “Last Christmas” by Wham!
Even though I’m kind of Scrooge-y about Christmas, I LOVE “Last Christmas” by Wham…mostly just cause I’m a sucker for ’80s easy-listening rock. Plus, the video is a gold mine of winter/ski wear and holiday paraphernalia, a romp in the snow, fire-lit gift-giving, and many, many furtive glances.

Julie Falk: “Zat You, Santa Claus? (Remix)” by Louis Armstrong

Joanna Papaleo: “Rusty Chevrolet” by Da Yoopers
Da Yoopers are a band native to my hometown, Marquette, MI, and are a staple in everyone’s childhood in that region. The humor is really only understood by the people of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; most of their songs involve deer camp, drinking beer and farting. But nonetheless, I can’t help but feel nostalgic each time I hear one of their songs, especially in winter, when I’m used to having snow up to my neck.

Brian Frank: “Jesus Christ” by Alex Chilton

Kristin Rogers Brown: “The Little Drummer Boy” by Bing Crosby & David Bowie
Seriously, what kind of David Bowie fan would I be if I did not include this? Plus the intro part makes it look like they might launch into a Carol Burnett skit. I totally want them to kiss, and Bowie looks like a strange and beautiful space-bird (even though he’s looking all respectable in his suit and cross necklace).

Jillian Rhodes: “Dreidel” by Erran Baron Cohen
This is a new favorite of mine this year. Catchy, danceable, and a nice departure from the season’s usual soundtrack.

Kjerstin Johnson: “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” by Neko Case
Here’s Neko Case covering Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis.” Waits’ words, Case’s voice, and the organ accompaniment are a lethal combination for waterworks. Watch the more gravelly, light-hearted Tom Waits version with a “Silent Night” intro here.

Emily McNulty Scripter: “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses
I love this song because it transports me back to Christmas in high school—stirrup pants, Aquanet hairspray, purple sparkly Wet & Wild eyeliner, and black leather flats. I still thought that “Don’t They Know It’s Christmas” was a great song back then, but hated the bright red shaker knit sweaters everyone else received for Christmas.

Lindsay Baltus: “The Little Drummer Boy” by Pink Martini
I love “Little Drummer Boy.” It’s kind of a strange one for me to love, because I’m not particularly religious, and I’m definitely not Christian, and this is a Christmas song aaaaall about Jesus. No joke, I was listening to the cheesiest version of it on the radio a little while ago and I actually teared up. It must be because I have a soft spot for children, and that little drummer boy just wants to do the right thing! He just wants the baby Jesus to like him! I might cry just thinking about it.

Kelsey Wallace: “Holiday Road” by the Walkmen
As noted above, I love holiday music. As noted previously on the blog, I love covers. I also love National Lampoon’s Vacation (where the original version of this song appeared) and the Walkmen, making me a perfect audience member for this track. I never thought about it being holiday-themed before, since Vacation takes place during the summer, but with all of the driving we all have to do this time of year, it’s a great fit. Sing along!

The Walkmen cover “Holiday Road”

Kelsey Wallace: “Santa Claus is Back in Town” by Elvis Presley
OK, I’m listing two songs here (an option I didn’t give anyone else—sorry!) because while I love that Walkmen cover and I wanted to seem cool by naming an “indie” band or whatever, my real favorite Christmas song is this one. Nobody does Christmas quite like Elvis.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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10 Comments Have Been Posted

I totally agree. In fact I

I totally agree. In fact I married one of these Scrooges and it's a fight every year! Though I must admit, there are a few x-mas songs I just can't stand...particularly ones that are live recordings played year after year, in which the crowd is really excited, and i have no effin idea why!!! (grrr, humbug!)

in general, I don't like holiday music

Some of this is good stuff. But Last Christmas was almost ruined for me because the first version I heard of it was some lady (NORMALLY I like female singers/musicians, and actually am one myself, I just don't know much about who it was besides that it was female. Probably Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood) and I kind of want to die every time I hear it, it's so christmas cheezy rather than 80's gay awesome. I like the holidays, I like hanging around with my family, but the Christmas music they usually play on the radio makes me want to gag. A couple years of holiday retail will do that to you.

but as far as Hannukah songs

local Seattle band Campfire Ok did a great Dreidel, Dreidel cover as well. There was a video going around but I can't find it now.. :(

I think that the bad version

I think that the bad version of "Last Christmas" you are referring to is by Ashley Tisdale (on A Very Special Christmas, v. 7). My favorite version of that song is by Jimmy Eat World. I think the Wham version of the song is corny, but the JEW version classes it up.

Some people don't like

Some people don't like "holiday" music because they aren't christians, (or atheists/agnostics/anyone else who's not technically christian but still celebrates christmas) imagine that.

Of course

Hi CM,

Of course you're right. I only meant to suggest (unsuccessfully perhaps) that even if you don't celebrate any holidays this time of year, there's a good chance that you might enjoy some of the music because artists in so many different genres have recorded Christmas/Hanukkah/holiday songs over the years.

not about hanukkah

It actually bothers me that this article tries to look Jew-inclusive, given that there is only one Hanukkah song and Hanukkah ended two weeks ago. I think a lot of people don't enjoy Christmas music because, no matter who the musical artists are, when "Christmas spirit" is pushed at you from every direction - malls, city centers, radio stations, feminist blogs - and you don't celebrate Christmas, it can be pretty alienating.

Fair enough

You're right Becky, the majority of these songs are about Christmas. This roundup was in no way scientific, I just asked people around the office to tell me their faves. There are some ("Holiday Road," "Rusty Chevrolet") that are more about the season and are not specific to any holiday, but I figured by calling the article "Do They Know it's Christmas (Music) Time?" that the Christmas focus was implied. Sorry if that came across as insincere; I didn't mean it to be.


Everything about this article is perfect. I love it.
I play "Last Christmas" year round, but reserve the video for the holidays.
AND you included Da Yoopers!?!?! This Wisconsin native concurs whole-heartedly.


Yes yes yes yes yes to Neko Case. I would pay good money to see/hear a Tom Waits/Neko duet of this melancholy Christmas tune.

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