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The Top Five Rock Christmas Songs

December 4, 2009

When it comes to Christmas songs there’s a steady stream of old reliables. “Deck the Halls,”
“Angels We Have Heard On High,” “Joy to the World,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” are a few of the many heartwarming Carols played during this festive season. Those are the songs we usually play on a snowy Christmas Eve, family gathered by the fireplace, hot chocolate and marshmallows being handed to all. While many are content hearing those wonderful traditionals, some of us look to break tradition and rock a bit more. Who says you can’t play air guitar or air drums to an original Christmas song and maintain the spirit of the season? Not the tunes below, the top five best rock Christmas songs.

5. Father Christmas – The Kinks: Released in 1977, The Kinks managed to completely break from traditional Christmas fare and come up with a mold breaker: a post punk song with the protagnoist, playing the role of Father Christmas, being mugged by a gang of impoverished miscreants. These kids don’t care about Santa’s toys. All they want is his money, a job for one’s father, and a toy machine gun to scare the rich kids in town. Musically, “Father Christmas” barely resembles anything close to a Christmas song. Lyrically, it presents a seedier side of life. Overall, it’s pure Kinks with Ray Davies barely able to hit his high notes, accompanied by Dave Davies’ screaming guitar. It might not be true Christmas spirit but it rocks. That’s all that counts.

4. It’s Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty: Reindeer and a  Rickenbacker guitar. Tom Petty brought the big jangle (and no shortage of cheesy lyrics) to Christmas with 1992’s “A Very Special Christmas Volume 2” compilation. With his signature laidback vocal, a nod to visiting relatives and decorations, Petty is more concerned with the warmer aspects of Christmas, namely any activity underneath the mistletoe. Along with any holiday extracurricular activity, Petty still leaves time for his wish list, ending the song rattling off all that he’s asking Santa for this year. “Two Fender Bass-mans, a Chuck Berry songbook, a Rickenbacker guitar . . . ” Tom Petty wasn’t good just that year, but every year. I think he deserves everything on his list. Especially the guitar.

3. Step Into Christmas – Elton John: Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s musical Christmas card, “Step Into Christmas” is a holiday thank you for the year set to end, along with a wish for the one about to begin. Released as a single around the time of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” it is quintessential, high energy Elton John, inviting his listeners to hop onto a record player and step into the spirit of the season.  Lyrically, this was Bernie Taupin’s rock-and-Christmas equivalent of the tornado that took Dorothy from Kansas, with Elton John being the wizard on piano. It was eventually placed as a bonus on 1995’s remastered version of “Caribou.”

2. Run Rudolph Run – Chuck Berry: Johnny B. Goode meets Santa Claus. Reaching number 69 on the Billboard charts in 1958, this is good, old fashioned rock and roll at its best. Featuring Johnnie Johnson’s boogie woogie piano and that all too familiar 12 bar Chuck Berry riff, Rudolph’s racing to help Santa get his presents delivered. The girl asks for a doll that can “cry, sleep, and wet,” the boy wants, of course . . . “a rock and roll electric guitar.” If Santa plays this song on Christmas Eve, he’ll get every gift delivered with time to spare. This song screams duck walk. Or Reindeer walk. Either way, it’s one for those who pound their hands on a steering wheel. Rock on, Santa . . . I mean, Chuck.

1. I Want An Alien For Christmas – Fountains of Wayne: Leave it to a group of Jersey boys to come up with a song looking for the most unique Christmas gift. Sweaters? Not interested. A bike? Nope. Basketball? Don’t need one. What the person in this song wants most of all is a little more extraterrestrial. Being more precise, an alien: “a little green guy about three feet high, with seventeen eyes, who knows how to fly.” Half of the song is spent detailing how he’ll take care of his brand new interplanetary pet. He’ll keep him in the bathtub and take him out for walks when the weather is warmer. No clue as to how he would feed his new E.T., or  keep him away from the government, but he seems to have everything else taken care of. For anyone else who asks for a puppy or even a chimpanzee for Christmas, Fountains of Wayne has you beat, not by miles but by light years.

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