Now that Thanksgiving is over, I can FINALLY get into the Christmas spirit. Truth is, I started getting into it last week. For one thing, the kids and I put up all of our outside decorations on Friday, which is kind of a tradition for us for two reasons: for one thing, the weather was pretty nice, as it usually is on the day after Thanksgiving, and also because I don’t want to put all that effort into something only to take it down two weeks later. Thus, it has become a day-after-Thanksgiving tradition.
I also have to fess up about something else. With all the bitching I did last week about not doing anything Christmassy before Thanksgiving, I became a major hypocrite by releasing my annual Christmas CD on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. But I have a good excuse! (how many times did my mom hear THAT line while I was growing up)
You see, every year since 1999, I have done what many of my musical friends do…I put together a CD of Christmas tunes to distribute to my friends. It’s a great outlet for me, as I put together deluxe artwork, choose the tracks with great care, and even include liner notes about each song. Every year, I get a few distributed to friends of mine that I know will be hitting the stores on Black Friday. They say it gets them in the mood to shop for the holidays. Since I don’t see them on Thanksgiving, I give it to them a day or two before. See? That’s a good excuse, right? My heart’s in the right place, right? I’m not a hypocritical wiener, right?
So before you hear “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney for the umpteenth time, seek out what I consider to be the
Top Ten Christmas Tunes of all time
10-Same Auld Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg: What a bittersweet story, and I’ll admit, it always makes me a little sad. For one thing, it makes me realize that Dan is gone and that I miss him terribly. It also takes me back to my first year in radio. I started at WWCT 106FM inPeoria on early in December, just in time to play Christmas tunes. This tune had just come out, and since Dan was a native Peorian, we played it a lot. Hearing this song always takes me back to those days when I was a young buck working at the coolest radio station in the area.
9-Little St. Nick – The Beach Boys: I have to admit that I’m a little tired of this one, but it’s a true classic. Again, it takes me back to my younger days when my brother had a huge Coronado console radio from the 40’s in our room, and we would wake up on Christmas morning and listen to Christmas songs on WLS. All that being said, I HAVE to hear it every year.
8-Sleigh Ride – The Ventures: See above entry, and add the fact that The Ventures are one of the coolest bands of all time. As my cousin Denny used to say, “Those guys are really some good guit-pickers!”
7-Gee Whiz It’s Christmas – Carla Thomas: A beautiful little song recorded in 1963 by a young Carla Thomas and co-written by Thomas and Steve Cropper. Both went on to make history at the legendary Stax Studios in Memphis.
6-Little Drummer Boy – Lou Rawls: I freakin’ love Lou Rawls, and I must include a holiday tune from Lou on my CD every year. I’m not a big fan of this song (especially the Harry Simoene Chorale version, which is probably the most popular), but if you listen to Lou’s version, I’m sure you’ll agree that it kicks the shit out of Harry and all those little kids.
5-It’s Christmas Time – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: Imagine the song-writing genius of Smokey and add his beautiful high tenor voice, then throw in the immortal Motown rhythm section, and you’ve got a winner.
4-Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band: From 1977, this is not only one of my favorite Christmas tunes, it’s also one of my favorite tunes from The Band. A beautiful song that tells the story of the Nativity perfectly.
3-Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes: From the legendary “Phil Spector Christmas Album”, this is another one that takes me all the way back to my childhood and that big Coronado radio. Phil had the “golden ear” at that time, and he also had the best musicians in the world playing on every track. The whole album is fantastic, but this tune is the top of the heap.
2-Cool Yule – Tony Rodelle Larson: As far as pure hipness, this one is the best. I know absolutely nothing about Tony, and can find very little about him online. All I know is that one day he walked into a recording studio, laid his voice down over a beatnik drum beat, and made Christmas history. “Have a cool yule…like, dig.”
1-Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding: From everything I’ve read and heard about Otis Redding, I would have loved to just hang with him for a day. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy with a truckload of talent. I always try to picture the Stax guys in the studio saying “Hey Big O…let’s do a Christmas tune!” I love, love, love this song, but no matter who performs it, nobody can sing it like Otis.
There are plenty more great holiday tunes…maybe submit some of your favorites! In the meantime, enjoy this classic from the Piano Man that would for-sure come in at number 11: