Walking Through My Winter Wonderland of Modern Christmas Songs, #81-100

12.10 Beatles Sweater

“Let me take down, ’cause I’m going to…” [“Strawberry Fields” – The Beatles]

38 years ago this past Saturday, one of the biggest events of my life occurred when it was announced during Monday Night Football that former Beatle John Lennon had been assassinated outside his apartment, The Dakota, in front of his wife Yoko Ono. That event struck me in a way that many people must have felt in the aftermath of the President John Kennedy assassination. I remember being in a funk the next day at school, talking with my physics teacher about the situation, since he too was feeling the same way.

Over the next couple of years, I devoured books and magazine articles about John Lennon and The Beatles. I combed through his lyrics, learning to recognize his songs from Paul McCartney’s, even though they shared songwriting credit with every one of their songs during their time with The Beatles. Now, did I become a Beatles or even a John Lennon expert? Simply put, no. But, what I keep learning did lead to my first foray into rock writing, as I wrote my research paper for my English 102 class on Lennon. The cool thing about picking that subject for my paper was that my professor’s husband taught a class on The Beatles at Ball State, so he was constantly sending me feedback on my paper, along with leads toward more and better information, with his wife being our conduit. The professor was the second English professor in college that took an interest in my writing and attempted to convince me to convert to creative writing from science as my major. But, that’s another story. Ultimately, John Lennon taught me to follow my inner light and stick with my truth. It was simple, yet powerful, especially to an eighteen/nineteen-year-old with an extremely short attention span.

“Living is easy with eyes closed/Misunderstanding all you see…” [“Strawberry Fields” – The Beatles]

After writing that paper, slowly my eyes began to open allowing me to begin to see what my calling in life would eventually be. It took me another 12 years, but I finally became a teacher and coach, and that may not have happened had I not written that paper on Lennon.

12.10 Ventures

In much the same manner, I may not have become a modern Christmas music fanatic had I not heard the classic Christmas album The Ventures Christmas Album. As a youngster, I would cajole my babysitter until she would put the album on her console stereo, handing me the album cover, turning on the color wheel light that shone on her silver aluminum Christmas tree, leaving me to my five-year-old thoughts. The sounds of surf rock guitar playing instrumental Christmas carols with each song having integrated a great rock hit of the past year or so within the context of the songs. So, I was hearing Christmas music being mixed with the guitar riffs from such songs as “Wooly Bully” and “Paperback Writer”. The whole thing was the birth of a new musical language being created, and it was influencing my young brain.

That album, along with choice cuts from Phil Spector’s now-classic Christmas album, “Snoopy’s Christmas” by The Royal Guardsmen and Paul Revere & the Raiders’ Christmas albums were among my gateway drugs of this new experience I was getting and loving. So, folks, therein lies the root of my Christmas music fixation, as I continue to search for new ways to present the same old songs that will speak to a generation, much as Lennon did to a slightly older version of me when he and Yoko released “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” as a new decade was dawning.

12.10 Santa Smashes Guitar

Thank you, John Lennon and The Ventures for leading me into this rock world version of Christmas music. Now, back to the countdown, my friends, as we enter my Top 100 Favorite Modern Christmas Songs.

12.10 100.Elmo & Patsy

100. Elmo & Patsy – “Grandmas Got Run Over by a Reindeer” [1979]

99. Ike & Tina Turner – “Merry Christmas Baby” [1965]

98. Jose Feliciano – “Feliz Navidad” [1970]

97. Band Aid 20 – “Do They Know It’s Christmas” [2004]

96. Rod Stewart & Dolly Parton – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” [2004]

12.10 95.The OJays

95. The O’Jays – “Christmas Ain’t Christmas New Year’s Ain’t New Year’s Without the One You Love” [1969]

94. The Royal Guardsmen – “Snoopy’s Christmas” [1967]

93. Gwen Stefani ft. Blake Shelton – “You Make It Feel like Christmas” [2017]

92. Clarence Carter – “Back Door Santa” [1968]

91. Chuck Berry – “Run Rudolph Run” [1958]

12.10 90.Train

90. Train – “Shake Up Christmas” [2015]

89. The Smashing Pumpkins – “Christmastime” [1997]

88. Weather Girls – “Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas)” [1983]

87. The Monkees – “Unwrap You at Christmas” [2018]

12.10 86.Stevie Wonder

86. Stevie Wonder – “What Christmas Means to Me” [1967]

85. The Chipmunks – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” [1958]

84. Katy Perry – “A Cozy Little Christmas” [2018]

83. Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” [1987]

82. Lindsey Stirling – “Christmas C’mon” [2017]

12.10 81.Dolly Parton

81. Dolly Parton – “Hard Candy Christmas” [1978]

And, we keep rolling through the holiday hits! Numbers get smaller, but the hits get bigger. See you tomorrow for the next 20 hits. And, remember, don’t bully Rudolph!

Day 5 of My Top 200 Christmas Songs

christmas stones 2012

Last night, I visited my mother who now resides in the memory unit of a nearby nursing home. It was a great visit, as she was in art teacher mode and making suggestions for the improvement of the decorations of Christmas tree in the dining area. She said that it could use “more red.” That was classic old Mom. But, right before we left, she turned to my wife and asked what she wanted for Christmas. Well, immediately, my wife’s tears began to well, as for the first time in months, Mom had a brief moment of clarity. But, as we left, Mom was back in her world, where it seems I am now a baby, her parents are alive, but, somehow, she is NOT married to my dad. Simply put, Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease.

Now, if I had an inkling of musical talent, I know I would try to write a Christmas hit song. Oh, sure, I’d love to write a regular hit song, but a hit Christmas song makes a comeback every year, meaning annual paychecks. Let’s face it, Mariah Carey hit a goldmine when she wrote and recorded “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Now, she has arguably the third most successful Christmas song, behind “White Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

See what I mean? Heck, look at Clarence Carter. His blues career is average at best. But, whenever Christmas rolls around, we always hear his terrific “Back Door Santa.” So, when all of those Christmas compilations with his song on it sells, his royalty check just inflates. Then, there are those songwriting royalties that roll in from all the sales of cover versions of his song by all the rock artists who have decided they needed a Christmas song dripping with sexual innuendo., just like his “Back Door Santa.”

So, it’s on with the countdown.

12.7 120.Clarence Reid

120. Clarence Reid – “Winter Man” [1974]

119. The Genuine Flakes – “All I Want for Christmas” [2009]

118. Gene Autry – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” [1949]

117. The Three Wisemen (aka XTC) – “Thanks for Christmas” [1983]

12.7 116.Sia

116. Sia – “Santa’s Coming for Us” [2017]

115. Jackie Wilson – “Deck the Halls” [1963]

114. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – “Santa Baby” [2017]

113. Lita Ford & Cherie Curie – “Rock This Christmas Down” [2013]

112. JD McPherson – “All the Gifts I Need” [2018]

12.7 111.Bob Rivers

111. Bob Rivers – “The Twelve Pains of Christmas” [1987]

110. Thunderpussy – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” [2018]

109. Lauren Daigle – “What Child Is This?” [2016]

108. !!! – “And Anyway It’s Christmas” [2013]

107. The Salsoul Orchestra – “Christmas Medley” [1976]

12.7 106.Squeeze

106. Squeeze – “Christmas Day” [1979]

105. The Sonics – “Santa Claus” [1965]

104. Miley Cyrus – “My Sad Christmas Song” [2015]

103. The Donnas – “Up on the Housetop” [2013]

102. No Doubt – “Oi to the World” [1997]

12.7 101.Johnny Cash

101. Johnny Cash – “Christmas as We Knew It” [1957]

We are at the halfway point of this countdown. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Day 4: ‘Jingle Bell Rocks!’& Collecting Christmas Music

12.6 Merry Xmas Graffiti

Well, it’s Day 7 of the Great Sinus Infection of 2018, and my antibiotic, which was my fifth dose, seems to be finally kicking in. So, maybe the delirium I have been experiencing will finally begin to leave and my writing might become clearer.

I finally sat down long enough to watch that aforementioned documentary about Christmas music entitled Jingle Bell Rocks! This documentary is just a simple yet powerful look into Christmas music, in its boom days of post-World War II up to and including present day. And, I am not talking about the songs we sing in church or those carols we sang in school. The music industry quietly pushed this genre into a six-week time period, during which you mainly hear the same, tired, overplayed tunes each year. But, there are some terrific songs we have forgotten about from the Fifties and Sixties, while some current artists are injecting some life into the genre. Collectors of the music include major names like Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and film director John Waters. Through these people I have discovered some great Christmas songs within the hip hop, reggae and heavy metal genres all the way through contemporary pop, old soul and power pop. And, Jingle Bell Rocks exposes the viewer to music from all decades.

When push comes to shove, maybe this obsession began on those cold Christmas Eve nights when as a youngster, I spent long, sleepless nights in anticipation of Jolly Old St. Nick’s arrival. It was during those nights that I discovered some of those Christmas songs that I love to this day. I flipped the dial on my old AM radio, seeking out music, when out of that speaker came the magical vocal mix of the Harry Simeone Chorale doing their definitive version “The Little Drummer Boy.” Which, led to Nat King Cole’s version of “The Little Boy Santa Forgot”, the Temptations’ “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and, over time, Cheech & Chong’s brilliant “Santa Claus & His Old Lady.” Still, this whole obsession did not kick off until the days of Napster, which I used for Christmas music, of all things. Now, it is a fun obsession for me from mid-October to New Year’s Day.

Lately, I have been making a “mixtape” for friends and family members of this obscure stuff. And, because of Jingle Bell Rocks!, I have discovered their are millions of crazy people out there doing the same thing. I just wish we could create a website where we all could shared our mixtapes with each other. If you, the reader, know of a website like this in existence, let me know!

With that said, let’s jump back into the countdown. Here’s my next 20 songs in my Top 200 Christmas Songs of All Time.

12.6 140.Leona Lewis

140. Leona Lewis – “One More Sleep” [2013]

139. Barenaked Ladies – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” [1997]

138. The Free Design – “Close Your Mouth (It’s Christmas)” [1968]

137. Kate Bush – “December Will Be Magic Again” [1980]

12.6 136.Eric Clapton

136. Eric Clapton – “For Love on Xmas Day” [2018]

135. Kylie Minogue – “Santa Baby” [2016]

134. Amy Grant – “Tennessee Christmas” [1984]

133. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful” [2006]

132. Kelly Clarkson – “Underneath the Tree” [2013]

12.6 131.Tevin Campbell

131. Tevin Campbell – “O Holy Night” [1992]

130. Jackson 5 – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” [1970]

129. Chris Rea – “Driving Home for Christmas” [1988]

128. Merle Haggard – “If We Make It Through December” [1973]

127. Big Star – “Jesus Christ” [1978]

12.6 126.Holidayland

126. They Might Be Giants – “Santa’s Beard” [1988]

125. The Pretenders – “2000 Miles” [1984]

124. Otis Redding – “Merry Christmas Baby” [1968]

123. Frank Sinatra – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” [1963]

122. Roy Orbison – “Pretty Paper” [1963]

12.6 121.Joni Mitchell

121. Joni Mitchell – “River” [1971]

Eighty songs into this countdown today, we will hit the halfway point tomorrow. And, in the words of the prophet Casey Kasem, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

Day 3 of My 200 Holiday Favorites

dj-santa-claus-21874894

Welcome to Day 3 of my current attempt to justify my love of modern Christmas music. Sure, there are songs which get to be annoying if I hear it too often (Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad,” the classic it is, has ALWAYS held that title for me), but by having a very diversified mp3 collection, even the most annoying song can be ignored for as long as I’d like. And, sometimes I download a purposely annoying song, only to put it on my annual mixtape on CD. Then, after I hand out that first disc around Thanksgiving, I always feel a little guilty for forcing those songs on my loved ones. So, I end up making a second CD with all of the “good” pop yuletide songs for that particular year.

Now, it has been a long time, over 20 years, since there has been an original Christmas song that was a big hit. No one can forget Mariah Carey’s magnificent “All I Want for Christmas Is You” becoming a Top Ten hit in the early Nineties. Since then, there has been a HUGE void in new original hit Christmas songs. But, that has not been without artists trying. Once again, radio programmers have become restrictive and not allowed some of these terrific songs to become hits. But, let’s face it, if an artist has a hit holiday song, that song can be pulled out for six weeks each year, making that artist some big change. Theoretically, Mariah doesn’t need another hit ever because of the annual success of “All I Want…”

Anyway, I have included some pretty good modern Christmas songs that I hope will one day make the annual Christmas playlists of Sirrus radio stations.

Okay, let’s just get to the countdown! Time for 20 more Christmas songs! Buckle your seat belts; it’s time to get this thing started!

12.5 160.The Grip Weeds

160. The Grip Weeds – “Merry Christmas All” (2011)

159. Nat King Cole – “The Christmas Song” (1946)

158. RuPaul – “Hey Sis, It’s Christmas” (2018)

157. Darlene Love – “All Alone on Christmas” (1992)

12.5 156.She and Him

156. She & Him – “Christmas Waltz” (2011)

155. Dean Martin – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (1959)

154. Kanye West Ft. Cam’ron, Jim Jones, Vado, Cyhi da Prynce, Pusha T, Musiq Soulchild, Teyana Taylor and Big Sean – “Christmas in Harlem” (2010)

153. Charles Brown – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1960)

152. Vanessa Williams – “What Child Is This?” (1992)

12.5 151.John Legend

151. John Legend – “Wrap Me Up in Your Love” (2018)

150. Fetty Wap ft. Monty – “Merry Xmas” (2015)

149. Pet Shop Boys – “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas” (1999)

148. Buck Owens – “Daddy Looked a Lot like Santa” (1965)

147. Outkast – “Player’s Ball” (1994)

12.5 146.OK Go

146. OK Go – “Father Christmas” (2006)

145. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Greensleeves” (2000)

144. Buzz of Delight – “Christmas” (1983)

143. Mavis Staples – “Christmas Vacation” (1989)

142. The dB’s – “Christmas Time” (1987)

12.5 141.Prince

141. Prince – “Another Lonely Christmas” (1984)

Twenty more Christmas songs are done, bringing us to sixty in my list, leaving us with 140 songs to go. See you tomorrow! Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

Day 2 of My Stroll Through My Favorite Modern Christmas Music

12.4 Rock n Roll Xmas Tree

Welcome to Day 2 of this unnecessary form of punishment that I am putting you through. So, during the month of December 2018, I will be working out this psychosis during the last month of this year. So, I am kind of putting my readership through hell as I perform my own version of the terrific Christmas music collector documentary, Jingle Bell Rocks! A few years ago, I picked up a special Record Store Day Black Friday DVD release of this film and have not looked back since. During this film, I realized that I wasn’t the only person afflicted with this love of modern Christmas music. As a matter of fact, Rev Run of Run-D.M.C., Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips and music impresario Bill Adler were just a few who discussed their love of the genre.

So, what is it that drives a person to try to uncover that certain Ray Parker Jr. B-side, “Christmas Is Here” or finally own a seven-inch vinyl version of Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.” Well, maybe, I will figure this out by the end of this countdown. Then again, maybe I’m just a big kid in adult’s clothing. Hmmm…

Let’s get today’s 20 songs, and let the self-reflection wait another 23 hours. Here were go!

12.4 Temptations

180. The Temptations – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1968)

179. The Mavericks – “Christmas Time Is (Coming ‘Round Again)” (2018)

178. Louis Armstrong – “Zat You Santa Claus?” (1953)

177. The Shins – “Wonderful Christmastime” (2012)

12.4 John Coltrane

176. John Coltrane – “My Favorite Things” (1961)

175. Sufjan Stevens – “Put the Lights on the Tree” (2006)

174. Britney Spears – “My Only Wish (This Year)” (2000)

173. Thurl Ravenscroft – “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” (1965)

172. Ramonas – “Santa’s Got a GTO” (1991)

12.4 George Thorogood

171. George Thorogood & the Destroyers – “Rock and Roll Christmas” (1983)

170. Destiny’s Child – “8 Days of Christmas” (2001)

169. The Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Jingle Bells” (2002)

168. Justin Bieber – “Mistletoe” (2011)

167. Rodney Crowell – “Christmas Everywhere” (2018)

12.4 The Ventures

166. The Ventures – “Frosty the Snowman” (1965)

165. The Hold Steady – “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” (2015)

164. Devo – “Merry Something to You” (2010)

163. Farrah – “Christmas Won’t Happen” (2014)

162. Blink-182 – “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” (1997)

12.4 Smokey Robinson

161. Smokey Robinson – “Christmas Everyday” (2017)

Forty songs down, and whole crap-load more to go. Uh, Merry Christmas! I’ll be back tomorrow! For better or worse.

Ring My Christmas Bells: My Top 200 Modern Christmas Songs

Santa Claus hand rock n roll vector illustration.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, I am one of those annoying people who love collecting Christmas music. I scour the internet and record stores for unusual modern Christmas music. Yes, this does annoy my family, but for some reason my two daughters-in-law still like to receive my annual Christmas mixtape on CD.

I’m not sure why I do this, except I have vivid memories of listening to The Ventures’ Christmas Album, on which these Rock & Roll Hall of Famers turned twelve Christmas songs into rock guitar lessons which integrate hits of the day into each Christmas song.  I first heard this album at my babysitter’s home and loved it so much that I was asking her to play it for me in July. Finally, my parents bought the album for me when I was five years-old, making the year that I got my first copy of this classic album in 1968.

After that, my Christmas music tastes exploded, going from The Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy’s Christmas” and the Partridge Family’s Christmas album. Then, I started to hear songs like Elton John’s “Step into Christmas,” Bruce Springsteen’s take on The Crystals’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney. Slowly, other songs were released her, such as “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg and the radio hit of “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins.

Throughout the Seventies, I would hear songs that had been released in England yet never were released in Central Indiana. So I was left to pray that I could hear Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” or The Kinks’ “Father Christmas.” Slowly, these songs were being made available on compilation albums here in the States during the Eighties. Then, during the CD explosion, all of those older Christmas rock songs were being sold on various CD-forms. Finally, when mp3s were popularized, it finally became easier to final these brilliant versions of modern holiday songs.

So, today, I will begin the countdown of my favorite 200 Christmas songs.

12.3 200.Los Straightjackets

200. Los Straightjackets – “Christmas Weekend” (2018)

199. Taylor Swift – “Christmas Must Be Something More” (2007)

198. Mary J. Blige – “Christmas in the City” (1997)

197. Jimmy Durante – “Frosty the Snowman” (1969)

196. The Beach Boys – “The Man with All the Toys” (1963)

12.3 195.Low

195. Low – “Just like Christmas” (2004)

194. Jason Mraz – “Winter Wonderland” (2003)

193. Run the Jewels – “A Christmas F**king Miracle” (2013)

192. KC & the Sunshine Band – “Let’s Go Dancing with Santa” (2018)

191. Quiet Company – “Merry Christmas, the President Is Terrible” (2018)

12.3 190.Harry Belafonte

190. Harry Belafonte – “Mary’s Boy Child” (1956)

189. Dave Matthews Band – “The Christmas Song” (1997)

188. The Monkees – “What Would Santa Do” (2018)

187. Karla DeVito – “Santa Claus Is Coming to My House” (1982)

186. Burl Ives – “Holly Jolly Christmas” (1964)

12.3 185.Lady Gaga

185. Lady Gaga ft. Space Cowboy – “Christmas Tree” (2008)

184. Jessie J – “The Man with the Bag” (2018)

183. The Killers ft. Toni Halliday – “A Great Big Sled” (2006)

182. Marvin Gaye – “Purple Snowflakes” (1973)

12.3 181.Ella Fitzgerald

181. Ella Fitzgerald – “Sleigh Ride” (1960)

Twenty songs and 180 to go! We’ll pick up at 180 tomorrow. Later!