THE 20 GREAT­EST CHRIST­MAS SONGS EVER

Hot Press - - Cover Story -

Well, maybe! Hot Press cover star Bruce Spring­steen is not the only icon to fea­ture in our round-up of the good, the bad and the ugly of Christ­mas songs. Pat Carty un­corks a bot­tle of wine, set­tles in front of YouTube, and braces him­self for a walk on the fes­tive wild side – which in­cludes sev­eral clas­sics, a few dodgy ef­forts, and one or two out­right tur­keys. Let’s open with Six of the Best – and end with a twist in this tale of Crist­mas ex­cess. Also star­ring Steve Lil­ly­white, Brian Downey, Justin Hawkins and Ron­nie Spec­tor...

Santa Claus Is Com­ing To Town – Bruce Spring­steen

Spring­steen and the E-Street Band could do a live ar­range­ment of an ac­coun­tancy re­port and it would still rock, so no sur­prise that this is a charmer. With the late Clarence Clem­mons in top form blow­ing the sax, the great­est live act the planet has ever known sound like they’re hav­ing a good time, and you will too. It could be one of those great rock­ers hid­den away on The River by the ̈“i ̅i >`à >Ài w˜ˆÃ…i` «Õ““iˆ˜} ˆÌ° /…iÞ `œ˜½Ì V> …ˆ“ /…i

œÃà vœÀ > >Õ}…° /…>Ì Ì…ˆÃ ˆÃ œ˜i œv ̅i }Ài>ÌiÃÌ …ÀˆÃ̓>à ÀiVœÀ`à ever goes wei­thout say­ing: there, I’ve just said it any­way.

Fairy­tale Of New York – The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl

/ܜ `œÜ˜ >˜` œÕÌà >Ài œVŽi` Õ« vœÀ ̅i VÀˆ“i œv Liˆ˜} œVŽi`AE the song is a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween them that turns in­creas­ingly ۈVˆœÕð /…i >Ìi] }Ài>Ì ˆÀÃÌÞ V œ iÝVœÀˆ>Ìià -…>˜i ܈̅ ̅i blis­ter­ing lines: “You scum­bag, you mag­got, you cheap, lousy, fag­got” (perhaps a ref­er­ence to his all-round use­less­ness as a «ˆiVi œv Žˆ˜`ˆ˜}¶®° /…i Vœ˜ÌÀœÛiÀÃÞ œÛiÀ ̅ˆÃ ˆ˜i `œiØ½Ì Li>À ̅ˆ˜Žˆ˜} >LœÕÌ° /…>Ì > «>ˆÀ œv `À՘Ži˜ ÀˆÃ… ˆ˜ näà iÜ 9œÀŽ >Ài ca­pa­ble of us­ing ho­mo­pho­bic lan­guage should be ax­iomatic. /…i ܘ} V>˜½Ì i}ˆÌˆ“>ÌiÞ Li v>ՏÌi`] >˜` ̅i v>VÌ Ì…>Ì ÞœÕ½Ûi

al­ready heard it half-a-mil­lion times, and have no in­ten­tion of form­ing a posse intent on stringing c oÜan up con­firms that.

aÛing charted in the Top Óä in the 1 and Ire­land ev­ery year since its re-re­le­asse in Óääx, the µues­tion is\ can it repeat that tricŽ in Ó䣵n¶ Don½t bet against it.

Merry Christ­mas Ev­ery­one – Slade

T½- C , -----TTT Ƃ----tttt This is a song of such in­fec­tious joy that it re­sulted in a per­sonal loss of trouser by yours truly in c oÜan½s "f *hi­b­s­boro one oy­ous

oll past. The one for drunŽenly throÜing your arms around who­ever hap­pens to be be­side you at the Christ­mas do, even if it’s that in­suf­fer­able bas­tard from hu­man re­sources, and giÛing it some oddy at the top of your voice. When he re­ceives his an­nual roy­alty state­ment, around the first of arch, r older Üill doubt­less raise a glass of some­thing ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive to us all.

Last Christ­mas – Wham!

TalŽing of famine re­lief, did you ŽnoÜ 7hamt do­nated all their pro­ceeds from ‘Last Christ­mas’ to this wor­thy cause?

eorge ichael Üas fa­mously a thor­oughly de­cent skin, and he knew how to roll one and allt ind you, his pin­ing for Ƃn­dreܽs is­sus in the Ûideo is fool­ing no one. Ƃ bril­liantly con­structed song from a gen­uinely gifted song­writer - even the Crazy fuck­ing Frog couldn’t ruin it com­pletely, al­though it was a close run thing - it’s no won­der it lodged in ev­ery ear it ever got near.

I Saw Mommy Kiss­ing Santa Claus – e Ronettes

9ou could taŽe any­thing off the £™ÈÎ clas­sic A Christ­mas Gift To You From Phil Spec­tor

– a ge­nius of a pro­ducer, a dis­as­trous hu­man be­ing – ‘cause the whole thing is ut­terly bril­liant. ut his eÝ-Üife, ,on­nie Spec­tor, is on this one, and she sang ‘Be

y aby½, Ühich is one of the great­est records of all time ­still®. The lyric of ¼ -aÜ

ommy...½ brings up pleas­ant me­mories too, for I re­mem­ber see­ing my own mother kiss­ing Santa Claus un­der the… Hold on, my Da Üasn½t miss­ing a legt e didn½t haÛe a beard either, or blond hairt esus Christ, that Üas as­per, our orÜe­gian lodgert

at

Christ­mas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) – e Dark­ness

t½s easy to imag­ine ustin a܎ins re­splen­dently re­clined on some leop­ard skin chaise longue, re­lax­ing in his civil­ian clothes, which for him con­sist of white leather, light­ning bolt-streaked pan­taloons, plat­form shoes with ac­tual mice in the see-through heel, and the kind of jerkin last seen on ,obert Dud­ley, £st arl "f

eices­ter. The µuill in his del­i­cate hand ticŽs at a list – naughty, never nice – de­tail­ing the com­po­nents es­sen­tial to the fash­ion­ing of an epoch-defin­ing Christ­mas record. Chil­dren? Check. Sleigh bells? Check. Dou­ble en­ten­dres that Üould maŽe

en­neth 7il­liams½ eyes pop out¶ 9es, of course. But what makes this record a heart­break­ing work of stag­ger­ing ge­nius is, perhaps, the ro­bot that comes in half­way through. I asked Hawkins about this: “We wanted to ham­mer home the Bells End re­frain and we pre­dicted, cor­rectly I’m sure, that if a ro­bot says it, fu­ture civil­i­sa­tions

Üill ap­pre­ci­ate the sen­ti­mentt» The man is a bea­con of rea­son in an age rid­dled with doubt.

Do ey Know It’s Christ­mas? – Band Aid

Ƃh, the ½näs. ½d say there Üasn½t a tin of hair prod­uct to be had for love nor money the day the great, the good (and the al­so­rans) got together to record this. You can’t ar­gue with a good cause, al­though if I can be a right ar­se­hole from the get-go, there½s rarely snoÜ in Ƃfrica q es­pe­cially in De­cem­ber, as it½s their spring­time. arŽ at the video and guf­faw at the state of the lot of them\ the näs re­ally Üas the decade that fash­ion for­got. The pro­duc­tion too is as dated as a Du­ran Du­ran al­bum, but fair play, it did some good. ust don½t men­tion

and Ƃid .

Christ­mas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2

,ecorded dur­ing a sound­checŽ in las­goÜ, in uly £™nÇ, as the Üorld fell at their feet, this one was for a good cause. It’s on the

A Very Special Christ­mas al­bum which ben­e­fit­ted the -pe­cial "lympics q so it½d take an aw­ful bas­tard to slag it off. Well cometh the hourt Ƃc­tu­ally, it does sound liŽe the ½Ó are haÛing a bit of a laugh here – there’s a nicely ram­bunc­tious, one take, we’ve-had-a-few-Chardon­nays-so-let’s-givethis-a-ÜhacŽ feel about it. Ƃnd you can al­most hear Bono grin­ning at how ab­surd his life has be­come. Larry plays his arse off, as usual, but he’s not grin­ning, Larry doesn’t do grins.

Christ­mas Jin­gle – The Greed­ies

et½s stay local. 7hen *hilo sings about

º7ish­ing 9ou Ƃ erry hrist­mas», you ust know he has his eye on the near­est good look­ing fe­male. He just can’t keep that in­nate las­civ­i­ous­ness out of his voice. You know what kind of or­na­men­tal balls he wants to hang off your tree and let ingle-an­gle. -teve Jones is on this too, but we all Žnow who the real -ex *is­tol was\ *hilip *ar­ris ynott.

Lit­tle Drum­mer Boy/Peace On Earth – David Bowie & Bing Crosby

The singing on this is great - that owie fella could croon a tune - but what the hell is go­ing on in the video¶ Ƃ man from an­other time an­swers the door to a goo­gly-eyed looper from an­other plan­etAE they cracŽ a few be­yond-hope­less gags, and then start singing together? Bing wasn’t long for this world and so we can only imag­ine what he made of the ame. owie, who ap­par­ently only togged out ¼cos his a was a rosby fan, was in­volved in some crazy, sexy, freaky scenes bacŽ in the ½Çäs, and this is pretty far out toot

Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto – James Brown

efore his records be­came a se­ries of 1 -t and 9 Ƃ -t q and all the bet­ter for it q the

odfa­ther recorded this mes­sage song bacŽ in £™Èn. J , how­ever, can½t Žeep the groove out of the grooves, as this punchy num­ber at­tests. In fair­ness to Brown, he put his money where his mouth was and, dressed as r laus, handed out thou­sands of gift cer­tifi­cates to the poor. That½s in stark con­trast to that lonely night dur­ing the ½näs when, high on a near-lethal amount of an­gel dust, he stuck a lemon where the sun doesn’t shine, and put him­self in the oven for three hours at a brisŽ £nä de­grees ¼cause his wash­ing ma­chine con­vinced him he was a turkey. Hang on, that might have been me.

Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter

This is funŽier than a prawn and onion sand­wich left in the back of a car on a hot day. Clarence – who would go on to have a “mas­sive” hit with the sin­gle en­ten­dre of ¼-troŽin½t½ q drops in on a few close, per­sonal friends while their men­folk are away about their busi­ness. By the way, he’s talk­ing about the ac­tual back door of the gaffs, rather than any kind of cor­po­real point of ingress: not that there would be any­thing wrong with that either. For as my mentor and friend Sa­muel J. -nort, sµ. loves to re­mind me over his own par­tic­u­larly po­tent strain of eggnog, ºƂll are eµual to my third eye, *atricŽt»

Santa Claus Is Back In Town – Elvis Pres­ley

eep­ing t -exy q the worŽing title of ,ed Hur­ley’s as yet un­re­leased funk/lovers rock master­piece - you can’t do a list like this with­out in­clud­ing the ing him­self, r lvis Ƃaron *res­ley. Thing start gen­tly enough, The Jor­danaires re­mind­ing us what time of the year it is, be­fore the Big E goes off like a sex­ual hand­grenade, let­ting all those in range know that Santa is back – and it’s not just chim­neys he’s in­ter­ested in go­ing down. “Got no sleigh with rein­deer, no sack on my back, you’re gonna see me comin’, in a big black Cadil­lac!” he howls, liŽe a sea­man q yes, said itt q on a Ó{-hour pass with only one thing on his mind. This record also sports a killer pi­ano solo, which, try as you might, you won½t find any­where in A Christ­mas Carol, ex­cept maybe from ,owlf in the ­vastly su­pe­rior®

up­pet ver­sion.

Run Ru­dolph Run – Chuck Berry

If you know Berry’s master­piece ‘Lit­tle Queenie’ then you know this one too, be­cause it’s the same tune, al­beit with new lyrics in­volv­ing the red nosed freak, elec­tric gui­tars, dolls that wet them­selves and free­ways. Special men­tion goes to the ver­sion recorded by eith ,ichards q one of the world’s lead­ing “snow” ex­perts, surely – as his first solo sin­gle, which prob­a­bly seemed like a great idea in a ho­tel room at four in the morn­ing in £™Çn. To call it ramshacŽle would be to in­sult huts made of twigs. It still man­ages to rock though, de­spite the fact that it threat­ens to fall apart at any mo­ment, and the gui­tar solo is a thing of pre­cise and in­tri­cate beauty, wor­thy of Se­govia. Yes, I’ve had a few drinks, why do you ask?

River – Joni Mitchell

Ƃ few drinŽs one in­stantly re­grets when this comes on, for it car­ries an air of al­most over­whelm­ing sad­ness. Joni½s stucŽ in al­i­for­nia for Christ­mas, where it doesn’t snow. Love has bro­ken down, she made her man cry, and she longs for a river to skate away on. Christ almighty, Jonit o won­der the al­bum½s called Bluet ven the blast of ¼Jin­gle ells½ that opens and closes this cri de coeur is played in a mi­nor Žey. enius.

Daddy Won’t Be Home Again For Christ­mas – Merle Hag­gard

"h odt "h Je­sust 7hat are you try­ing to do to me¶t¶ erle might be off fight­ing in a war, stuck in jail (again) or just sick in some al­ley, but what­ever the predica­ment he’s mired in, he’s not go­ing to make it home for the hol­i­days. He’s send­ing a cheµue but even if he was there, he½s now too thin to play the part of -an­tat ½m of the opin­ion that erle ag­gard never made a bad record, but this one would have you fix­ing the hose to the ex­haust pipe be­fore the fi­nal verse. +uicŽt Ƃ blast of hrist­mas cheer, and swift­lyt

Every­day Will Be Like A Hol­i­day – Wil­liam Bell

You can con­sult with our learned friends from the firm of Ƃ E , who½ll re­fer you to the cel­e­brated case of ¼ istress v hrist­mas½. Throw a few sleigh bells on the front of any­thing - that makes it a Christ­mas record. Wil­liam Bell doesn’t men­tion the sea­son by name either, but he does pray that his baby will make it home for ºa hol­i­day». s he talŽing about -t. *atricŽ½s ay, or the east of the Ƃs­sump­tion¶ re­fer you the ear­lier bell ex­hibit. ot only is this my favourite Christ­mas record, it’s one of my favourite records full stop. There½s the gor­geous open­ing gui­tar lick, the horns – and Bell’s voice, let­ting you in on his pain, tem­pered by hope.

... Ƃnd lest we for­get...

The ‘Born To Roast’ EP – Hot Press & The Silent Knights

“Ev­ery­one else seems to have recorded their

hrist­mas sin­gles in July,» iall -toŽes re­calls. “We were al­ready guz­zling the Christ­mas drinks that were be­ing de­liv­ered to the ot *ress of­fice by the trol­ley-load, when we recorded this cor­us­cat­ing hrist­mas clas­sic, re­leased in £™Çn q a Top Óä hit, as it tran­spired. "n ¼ ob­ble ob­ble

eyt½ q in­fa­mously fea­tured on The ate ate -how q we nod­ded to The ,amones. ¼ hrist­mas In the Cook­house’ was more a clas­sic rocker. But it was the poignant tale of a turkey who loses her loved one on Christ­mas Eve that brought tears to the eyes of a na­tion. “Tur­keys like us/ Baby we were born to roast,» er­mot -toŽes con­cludes and in an ad­mirable mo­ment of re­straint, the ,T "rches­tra does not oin us on strings.

I orn To ,oast is avail­able on iTunes and -po­tify. Ƃnd sell­ing for f£Èä on iscogs. ucŽ off, no one’s messin’. It is. For more on Christ­mas songs, see Ea­monn Mc­Cann on pg 99 and Street­lights pg 96

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