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Dec 22, 2008

Fletch's Favored Five Ten: Christmas Songs

Fletch's Favored Five (or ten) is back? It's a Festivus miracle! That's right - just in time for Christmas, I bring you my ten favorite Christmas songs. Some you most likely love, some you might hate, and some you just might have never heard before (like maybe number one...). Either way, you should totally be a hipster and legally purchase these from your local interweb music peddler and then transfer them to an electronic audio device capable of playing them back to you while you drive your body or car around town. It will have you so full of the Christmas Spirit you'll be spitting candy canes at people and smelling like pine needles whenever you scratch yourself.

Quick disclaimer: I'm not counting down any generic versions or saying that "Jingle Bells > It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" or anything; this list is of specific songs, made special by the unique artists that performed and/or wrote them.

Honorable mentions:
* "Ave Maria" by Chris Cornell & Eleven
* "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by Thurl Ravenscroft (the original version)
* "Santa Claus and his Old Lady" by Cheech and Chong
* "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms

10. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Bruce Springsteen
I'm actually not a big fan of the Boss, and as Mrs. Fletch likes to say, the guy really can't sing that well at all, but there's something about the passion with which he sings this that totally sells me on it (and gets me singing along with him in my own terrible voice). The hilariously retarded banter at the beginning rules, too. Keep practicing on that saxophone, Clarence! (Damn it all, I can't find the video with the banter...this'll have to do.)

9. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole
Though I respect this song as one of the great Christmas songs, this is more of a collective nod to the King, as I'm a sucker for some of his other songs that I heard as a kid and still love ("Mrs. Santa Claus," "Happiest Christmas Tree").

8. "Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burl Ives
Sure, Hermey and Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius are great (ok, especially Y.C.), but the real reason that claymation Rudolph special remains a hit some 300 years later is the hipster singing and facial hair (on a snowman?) stylings of one Burl Ives. "Holly Jolly" rocks the house, and always will. Or maybe the appeal was the Charley-in-a-box; I always liked that guy, too...

This might not be the best version of the song, but at least you can check out his Trotsky-esque look:

7. "O Tannenbaum" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
Which is better - this or #3? Obviously, I've made my decision...but it wasn't exactly an easy one.

6. "12 Days of Christmas" by Bob and Doug McKenzie (aka Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas)
Just brilliant. It's not Christmas without hearing this and the Cheech & Chong one listed above. And no, I'll never spell "tooques" right, but I'll always wish I had one (or five).

5. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee
Along with "Jingle Bell Rock," Nat's "Christmas Song" and any number of older-yet-popular Christmas songs, this one's bordering on overuse/overplay...yet I still love it. Same goes for the (other) King's "Blue Christmas" and just about every other song on that Billboard Christmas album. If I recall correctly, this song was also prominently featured in Home Alone, which earns it bonus points.

4. "Sleigh Ride" by Leroy Anderson
An underrated gem. It's all about the instrumental, orchestral version, but I'll give some credit to the Ronettes' take as well - it's strong. Bonus: if you're a Seinfeld geek like me, you just might think of Rusty with the beginning whinney by the horse.

3. "Christmas Time Is Here" by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
Just as Ives elevated Rudolph to a new level, Vince Guaraldi took an already poignant, sweet Christmas story and heaped loads of class and a big helping of timelessness to the proceedings. This is the gem.
A 1982 New Wave single by a two-hit wonder ("I Know What Boys Like")? You bet. For anyone that was ever in their 20s, single and otherwise alone for the holidays, or for anyone who can imagine what that might be like.

1. "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues
Don't tell me you've never heard this. Just don't do it. A gorgeous, not-really-a-Christmas song by the kings of the Irish folk/rock/punk fusion revival (or something like that). Obscene, touching, full of talent and slightly disgusting - just like frontman Shane MacGowan. Check out those teeth!

And finally, an unranked shout-out to the album that I probably love the most and listen to the most every Christmas. It's the unlikeliest of sources, but I guess whatever you grow up with is what you end up loving in most cases. In this one, it's Ray Conniff and his singers. In this video (circa...I have no idea - 1964?), Ray and the gang are lip-syncing to a medley from the album We Wish You a Merry Christmas. So unironical that it goes beyond funny and then back again. But don't you dare say a bad word about it...

12 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five Ten: Christmas Songs"

Nick said...

Call me a scrooge, but I'm not too big into Christmas songs. Blame it on 3-4 months being stuck hours-on-end working the holiday at Sears and hearing it nonstop, over and over and over again a couple years back. Or blame it on my Grandparents on my mother's side, who actually get really into the whole Christmas thing and work as Mr. and Mrs. Claus at different malls (very good ones, at that. Insanely popular. They even travel and get requested, etc.). So I grew up with all that.

But regardless... my favorite Christmas song has no lyrics (well, there is a version with lyrics, but I prefer it without... and the particular version I like the most has it without). And that's Trans-Siberian Orchestra's rendition of Carol of the Bells... even if the song DOES give me flashbacks to Home Alone.

ratatouille's archives said...

Hi! Fletch,
Let me add a couple of my fave(s)
to your list:(Before Christmas!)
#1.Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home"
#2.John Lennons' "So This Christmas" (I think this more or less a "Christmas song" with a message)
#3.Brenda Lee's "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree"
#4.The Ronettes' "Sleigh Ride"
#5.Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"...LOL on the banter!
#6.Nat King Coles'..."Christmas Song"
and a friend sent me a copy of a sad "vocal" Christmas song to check-out
a year ago No#7."A Soldier Story?!?"

Ryan McNeil said...

Great choices all. And let me go on record as saying that I enjoy Christmas music, so long as I have access to an "off" switch when I've gotten my fill.

A few more for the tally...

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey (mock me if you must)
"Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" by U2
"Winter Wonderland" by Ray Charles
"White CHristmas" by Otis Redding
"Peace on Earth" by Bing Crosby & David Bowie
"Christmas Don't Be Late" by Alvin & The Chipmunks

Fletch said...

Nick - that is a good choice. Both Trans-Siberian and Mannheim Steamroller are quality choices.

dcd - Kenny Loggins? Really? I gotta check that out - not sure what it is off the top of my head. The rest are all great choices.

Hatter - I won't mock you. I'm not Carey fan, but I was just remarking last night that it's a solid modern Xmas tune. Catchy, too.

Now I have to be anal-retentive correction guy - sorry.

dcd, the Lennon tune is called "Happy Christmas (War is Over)", and Hatter, the Crosby/Bowie track is "Little Drummer Boy."

I feel better now. :)

Ms☆Go said...

The stop motion snowman narrator's version of the song ain't the best...


I shake my head at you, HARD, good sir.

Fletch said...

DC Girl - you got me all wrong. Listen to the version embedded in the post, and then listen to this version. I like this one better. Both are Burl Ives, but the one included in the Rudolph special is shorter (and sped-up a bit).

Anonymous said...

Sorry, anal-retentive correction guy, but the Crosby/Bowie tune was actually a medley of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace on Earth," an original tune written specifically for this performance. Bowie refused to sing "Drummer Boy" because he hated it. Yes, I googled it. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Springsteen beat out Chris Cornell's Ave Maria??? Ummm, yeah, no.

ratatouille's archives said...

Here you go Fletch:
Kenny Loggins's Celebrate Me Home
CD Version:

His live version seems to get the most hits!...over there on YouTube.
dcd ;-)
Hi! Mrs. Fletch,
Don't you personally, but Happy Belated Birthday! to you.

ratatouille's archives said...

Oops!..I meant to say,
Hi! Mrs. Fletch,
Don't know you personally, but Happy Belated Birthday! to you.

I know you don't know this about me, but I am
the..."Oops! Princess" :-(

dcd ;-)

Fletch said...

Buffett35 - you suck. I hear the half of the song that I want to hear. ;)

Mrs. Fletch - yep. Cornell might have an awesome voice (and I love that song), but the Boss has Clarence, and that counts for a lot.

NoirishCity (dcd) - ok, I've heard this Loggins song (listening to it right now). Wasn't aware that it was a Christmas song. Can't say it's my bag, but Loggins gets a free pass for creating all those wonderful/awful soundtracks of the 80s.

ratatouille's archives said...

Hi! Fletch
Wow!...This is the "only" song of his that I have ever heard played on the radio.(When Christmas rolls around!)
To be quite honest with you, I am not familiar with him or his music, just this song.

dcd ;-)