It’s that magical time of year again: snow is falling, stores are filled with shoppers, and icicles are glistening on the eaves. Or, if you’re like me, you live in LA, still wear shorts every day, and do all of your Christmas shopping online, making this time of year nearly indistinguishable from any other.
Never fear: these irresistibly catchy Christmas songs from years past are guaranteed to provide a much-needed infusion of holiday spirit. Failing that, it’s never too early to start hitting the eggnog.
“Something About Christmas Time” – Bryan Adams (1985)
Okay, it’s up for debate whether the word “rock” can really be applied to Bryan Adams, but I certainly don’t smooth-jazz out to this song. (I don’t dad-music or guy-in-turtleneck-music out to it, either, for that matter, so “rock” will have to do.) Furthermore, Mr. Hot Shit, Bryan Adams played this song for the Pope at the Vatican in 2001. If it was good enough for John Paul II, it’s good enough for you.
“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You” – Billy Squier (1981)
“Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You,” or “CITTTSILY” as it shall be known henceforth, was the B-side to a little record called “My Kinda Lover,” known henceforth as “The Best Billy Squier Song of All Time, And Yes, That Includes ‘The Stroke’.” Christmas songs of the rock persuasion don’t come much more cheerful than “CITTTSILY.” The cheer level is off the charts, in fact, far beyond levels documented by either rock scientists or cheer scientists.
Be sure to check out the video. It’s pretty much the 1981 MTV’s-first-Christmas version of The Lawrence Welk Show, starring Billy Squier.
“Christmastime” – The Smashing Pumpkins (1997)
“The world is a vampire,” Billy Corgan once sang in all seriousness. Two years later, he released “Christmastime,” next to which Clay Aiken sounds like Slayer. This song is so gentle, you could rinse your baby’s eyes with it. I’m not saying the song is soft, but goosedown stuffs its pillow with “Christmastime.” It’s a sincere ode to that most joyous of holiday moments: Christmas morning, around the tree, hopped up on candy canes and knee-deep in loot. The lesson here is that if ’90s-era Billy Corgan could go soft over Christmas, then the rest of us shouldn’t feel bad about it, either. I mean, is that a recorder solo, or…?
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Band Aid (1984)
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was written and organized by The Boomtown Rats’ Bob Geldof to benefit famine relief in Ethiopia, but if you ask me, its video is the true gift to humanity. I mean, the blazer on Simon Le Bon alone is enough to make me believe in the redeeming power of Christ.
As a kid, the part that always got to me was Bono’s “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” How chilling! By the early-2000s, I’d grown tired of being admonished by Bono over the radio (seriously, Bono? re: “Stuck in A Moment”? Why don’t you get yourself together?), but at the time, the effect really hit home.
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is my favorite Christmas song. There, I said it. I’m a total Scrooge, but I get choked up listening to this song at least once every Christmas season. Which is funny, because I don’t even care about famine relief!
“Last Christmas” – Wham! (1984)
This is a great Christmas song, but what’s even more notable is that it debuted in 1984, the same Christmas season as “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” In the UK, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” went to #1, and “Last Christmas,” released as a double A-side with “Everything She Wants,” was a close #2 for most of the Christmas season. It subsequently became the biggest-selling single in the UK never to reach #1.
The ass-kicker? Remember the Ethiopian famine that Band Aid was benefitting? Wham! decided to join the party, donating all of their royalties from “Last Christmas/Everything She Wants” to Ethiopian famine relief as well, and their royalties exceeded those of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” I’d say, “Take that, Band Aid!” except that Wham! was part of Band Aid, which actually makes a lot of sense.
If these tunes don’t put you in the holiday spirit, then you might need more serious intervention. Take The Carpenters’ Christmas Portrait and call me in the morning.