5 Faves: Rockin’ Unsung Christmas Songs

Posted December 17, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Want a playlist full of holiday cheer and overlooked rarities? Look no further. In the second half of our two-part series of ‘Unsung Xmas’, we unearth five great rock songs for the holiday…that you may haven’t heard

We love Burl Ives, Andy Williams and the warm cozy Bing Crosby around the holidays. It’s been a tradition for Muzak to incorporate their holiday gems into their seasonal sets, but it sho’ll ain’t Christmas until you put on some rock ‘n roll. Believe it or not, the last number of NOW! Christmas compilations have catered more to pop divas than rock gods, as if rock stars don’t celebrate Christmas. Well, they do. They just like there’s a little more on the wild side. Here’s 5 songs you may need to discover (or re-discover) for the holiday season to help you rock around the Christmas tree.


“Thank God It’s Christmas”


Sweet balladry dipped into another great vocal performance by the late frontman Freddie Mercury. The song was released as a single in late 1984; just in time for the Christmas holiday. It was a big hit in the UK (#21), but never sailed across the seas to the US. Sadly, the song has been completely ignored on holiday compilations and was even igged in their homestate when it vanished off of re-issues of UK’s first Now That’s What I Call Christmas compilation in 1989.


“Another Lonely Christmas”

Gotta love those 45 r.p.m. 7″ singles. You would always get a treat on the other side. Prince took advatange of the “b-side” of “I Would Die 4 U” when he revealed “Another Lonely Christmas.” With the range of “Purple Rain,” the song tells a sad story of a lover’s mourning over a lost love taking place right on Christmas Day. Yes, it’s brooding, depressing at times, but underneath all the haze, guitar solos and the synths is a strongmelody that sticks on the membrane. The above clip is a rare live performance of the song during Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ tour at St. Paul’s Civic Center Arena (Dec. 26). He’s never performed it since.


Paul McCartney
“Wonderful Christmastime”


There’s an unuthorized quote floating around saying Sir Paul hated doing this song. Why would he say such a thing. Certainly, on the first listen, it irritates. But those irritations are just mere wrinkles that eventually iron themselves out after basking in the Eighties magic of the Prophet-5 synth, the bubbly pop melody and the inviting lyrics. It failed to climb the Billboard Hot 100, but managed to reach #6 in the UK. Even better, McCartney’s tune, along with former Beatle John Lennon’s holiday gem “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” are favorites on Christmas radio. It still gets its share of frowns from the masses. “Bah-humbug” to them!


All Time Low
“Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass”


Released as a digital download single on their website, pop punk rock band All Time Low revealed their first ever holiday gem. It was a bit of a surprise to fans, but as we meintion – hard rockers like Christmas too. Who can resist the idea of receiving gifts, even if you’re naughty. And these boys, on this heavy-laden profane gem, are definitely naughty. But there’s just one thing you must know: it has jingle bells, a Top 40 pop melody and a familiar throwback to Cee Lo Green’s “F*** You” as it details a bad breakup: “When I gave you my heart/You ripped it apart/Like wrapping paper trash/So I wrote you a song/Hope that you sing along, And it goes, merry Christmas, kiss my ass.” If Taylor Swift were a guy, she would be all over this song.


“Merry Xmas Everyone”


Slade’s biggest hit in the US was 1984’s “Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply” (#33), but the Brits knew all too well that they were the hottest UK band of the ’70’s. Loads of #1 hits and three consecutive #1 albums is just the beginning of their chart-topping history. We aren’t sure why “Merry Xmas Everyone” didn’t sail across the Atlantic. It was #1 for weeks in the UK and it has the spirit of the Beatles, the Who and Elton John all wrapped into one delicious gum drop. Peter Buckley describes the song in The Rough Guide To Rock as “arguably the best Christmas single ever.” Above, the band performs the song on Top of the Pops, when the song was hot and riding the charts.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine

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