15 fresh tunes for a festive yule.
It’s time for our annual foray into the sounds of the holiday season with this year’s Rocker Christmas playlist. Brought to you by Rocker staff Brett Milano and Amy Prohaska who put the rock into rocking around the Christmas tree. We hope it brings you some joy to your Joyeux Noel. So settle in for a little jingle jangle
I thought this year, I’d ease into the holiday season with Snow Day by Matt Pond PA. Although it isn’t a classic Christmas song, I love it. The gentle swirling lyrics and notes conjure a stormy winter’s day for me and puts me in the festive mood.
Snow Day by Matt Pond PA
Festive greetings back to you, Amy! I’m going to jump right in the deep end with this rather unique seasonal tune from Neil Diamond, who wishes you a Cherry Cherry Christmas, a Holly Holy holiday, and a bunch of other merriment based on his hit song titles– Of course there’s a “so good, so good” in the middle, and he even gets the name of his ’70s album “Beautiful Noise” in there. As a bonus, he’s surrounded in this video by cute kids who clearly have no idea what he’s going on about.
Cherry Cherry Christmas by Neil Diamond
Love me some Neil Diamond. In response I give you a video that has cherubic kids but more importantly there are puppets. That’s right, I said puppets. Instead of Live from Budokan, it’s Cheap Trick direct from the North Pole with I Want You for Christmas and yes, you will recognize the tune.
I Want You for Christmas by Cheap Trick
Gotta love that puppet power pop! So now that we’re merry, let’s briefly acknowledge the fact that the past year has kinda sucked, especially when it comes to music. So I’ve got a little commiseration here from Prince, one of the many greats who left us in ’16. His one and only Christmas song comes from the “Purple Rain” era, and it’s just as weird as you’d hope for: It starts off like a Christmas breakup song, until he has his ex-lover killed off midway through. Then he tells us how he’s dealing with it: “Now every Christmas night for seven years, I drink banana daiquiris till I’m blind.” Banana daiquiris, you say? Sounds like he was ahead of the tiki trend, like he was with everything else:
Another Lonely Christmas by Prince
Prince + Banana Daiquiris = Christmas. That is something I never would have guessed but it works. Yup, 2016 was awful especially for music, still can’t believe David Bowie is gone. So I’ll give you Bowie and Bing singing about the little kid with the drum. This clip is from one of Bing Crosby’s TV Christmas Specials in 1977. I know this song is a holiday favorite so it’s familiar but it’s Bowie and we’ll always need some Bowie in our lives
Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by David Bowie and Bing Crosby
Always loved that one. Okay, let’s get back to merriment and hear from a musical hero who is still very much with us, caught here in a highly festive moment. I try to include a version of “!2 Days of Christmas” every year and this year it’s none other than Todd Rundgren doing the honors. His version is, shall we say, charmingly disheveled. But he does ask the very questions I’ve always wondered about: Like, does the old true-love send all that crap again on all 12 days? And what was with those milkmaids, anyway?
12 Days of Christmas by Todd Rundgren
Who knew Todd was such a numbers guy, how many birds was the final count on the 12th day anyway? So merriment you say? Hmmm… how about something merry? Or rather Merry Something by DEVO. This was released in 2010. And honestly how can you not love a song with lyrics Deedle Deedle Deet Deet, Deedle Deedle Deet Deet Doodly Doodly Doo or something like that?
Merry Something to You by DEVO
Wow, I didn’t even know there was a Devo Christmas tune!
So, last year I was Christmas shopping at some high-end Newbury Street store (don’t ask) when this really nifty cover version of the Elvis Presley tune “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me” comes over the speakers—it’s done in a cocktail-esque style, with a cool and jazzy vocal on top. Good Lord, I said to myself, this sounds remarkably like Eleanor Friedberger, former lead singer of the weird and beloved (by me, anyway) cult band the Fiery Furnaces—but she wouldn’t really cover an Elvis Christmas song, would she? Sure enough, she did—and the song’s been on top of my holiday playlist ever since. And the moral of the story is…Sometimes there really is a reason to shop of Newbury Street.
Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me by Eleanor Friedberger
It’s amazing how many beautiful Christmas songs are out and even more surprising are some of the artists, certainly Eleanor Friedberger is unexpected. Here’s another cover of a Christmas classic, this was released as a single in 2013. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas has always been a bittersweet song. Originally sung by Judy Garland from the movie Meet Me in St Louis, it’s sad and haunting. Now when Cat Power performs it, it’s achingly gorgeous and yes, tears are allowed.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Cat Power
In years we’ve been doing these Christmas playlists, I don’t think we’ve had a version of “Jingle Bell Rock” yet. So here, to celebrate the fact that the hipster kids are loving ’em again, are Hall & Oates to do the honors. If you got the original promotional 12-inch (sorry kids, I’m holding into mine), you got a picture disc with Daryl Hall’s vocal on one side, John Oates’ on the other. But in the spirit of holiday togetherness, here’s the single mix that gives you some of both.
Jingle Bell Rock by Hall & Oates
Love me some Hall and Oates. Yikes, does that make me a hipster?
Confession time, I like twee pop, I know I know, it’s shocking. So in trying make Christmas a little more twee, here’s a twofer basically cause I couldn’t decide which to choose. British band The Boy Least Likely released a Christmas album a few years back and I was going to pick Christmas Isn’t Christmas. It’s an original sweet pop song and will get stuck in your head. But then, I saw their video for George and Andrew and I couldn’t resist it. It shows George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham getting together over the holidays. Maybe they got together Last Christmas? It’s ADORABLE
Christmas Isn’t Christmas by The Boy Least Likely
George and Andrew by The Boy Least Likely
I‘m gonna wrap up this year with a naughty one and a nice one. The nasty one first: The great New Jersey garage band the Swingin’ Neckbreakers give us the immortal “Santa Claus Ain’t Coming This Year.” Their Santa is old, drunk and cranky, and mighty sick of this Christmas thing: Instead of saddling up to deliver presents, he’s cracking open a six-pack and selling his reindeer to the zoo. “This is Santa Claus, people, I ain’t coming, no way! I’ve had a few too many, I’m in no condition to drive a sleigh.” Kinda gets you right here.
Santa Claus Ain’t Coming This Year by the Swinging Neckbreakers
Okay, onto the nice one: NRBQ’s “Christmas Wish” is everything a good Christmas song should be: Cheerful, warm-hearted, and fit for an instant singalong. The ‘Q always had a foot in classic pop, for this one they perfectly nail the Beach Boys sound circa 1969. They’re already full of Christmas spirit, so their wish is that people all over the world can feel it too.
Christmas Wish by NRBQ
I’m going to end this year’s playlist with Christmas Girl by Boston Spaceships ‘cause I’m a Christmas girl. You might recognize the singing voice cause it’s none other than Uncle Bob aka Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices. Boston Spaceships is one of his many side projects.
Christmas Girl by Boston Spaceships
Thanks for checking out our festive collection of holiday songs. We hope you enjoyed them. Wishing you a Merry Merry and a Happy Happy!