If asked I will pretty much contend that there hasn’t been a decent new Christmas / Holiday song written in the last 20 years. (Though Sufjan Steven’s latest Christmas themed opus “Songs For Christmas” is making me reconsider this position.) Sure there have been great covers of the “standards” but lets be honest here, the heyday of original Pop Xmas songs coincides with the birth of rock & roll in the late 1950’s. That being said here are the 5 greatest “orginial” (as far as I know) Christmas Songs of the 1950’s/1960’s
5. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Bobby Helms
I always thought this song was done by Bill Haley and the Comets since it sounded so much like “Rock Around the Clock”. In fact it even uses the line “Rock around the clock” in the song. Anyhow to me this is just a classic early Rock Holiday song, with the little lead guitar fills and a great “update” of a holiday classic.
4. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Brenda Lee Jingle Bell Rock
Another one of those iconic holiday songs from the era. It’s got all the classic elements, the electric guitar fills with the treble way up, the gospel-ish backing singers (ala Elvis), and the killer sax solo towards the middle. (What is it with sax solos in late 1950’s rock n roll songs by the way?).
3. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
Only five words are needed to describe why this song is great…. “Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound”.
2. “Little Saint Nick” – The Beach Boys Christmas With the Beach Boys
I’m sure this selection will spark various reactions depending on where you fall on the Beach Boys debate (classic american band or annoying as hell). I myself tend to view them as a great American Rock band w/ flashes of annoyance. But you can’t discredit the brilliance of Brian Wilson and his ability to arrange a song. While “Little Saint Nick” is a classic Beach Boys song in that it’s pretty much about a souped up car err… sled, and it’s got that classic Southern California “sound” it’s got great harmonies and a catchy beat. The only internal arguement I can come up with against the song is that it’s been used in those Coke commericals with polar bears and penguins.
1. “Blue Christmas ” – Elvis Presley Elvis Christmas
My favorite holiday song of all time. It’s classic Elvis, with his distinct phrasing, the gospel-ish backing singers and the great little guitar riff used through out. Besides it’s not a song about happiness, peace and love. It’s about a guy who’s blue cuz’ he’s alone on Christmas. It’s almost like an e-mail or voice-mail someone might send to an ex to make them feel miserable just for spite. It’s the ultimate Christmas “spite” song….. Genius.