According to Wikipedia (so take it with a grain of salt!), many stations in the U.S. didn’t start their now popular all-Christmas playlist until after the September 11, 2001 attacks. That year, many stations switched to all-holiday programming from Thanksgiving through Christmas. The format change proved a hit with listeners and now hundreds of stations across the U.S., from mainstream pop and country to adult contemporary, crank out the Christmas tunes each year. Honestly, I don’t remember if that’s the case or not—I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and had to listen to some god-awful wretched radio stations. The worst among them was WMRF—somewhere hovering above the Earth is their radio signal, no doubt playing Three Doors Down, The Calling, and any other drivel that they thought was popular in the late 1990s. But each year on Christmas Day, they played only holiday songs. Still, most of them sucked and they’re the kind of songs that won’t be featured here—sorry, no Band Aid, no Wham, no songs about Christmas shoes, but maybe some Billy Squier and Elton John. It is stations like WMRF that ruin Christmas music for many people. Thankfully, all of you have discovered music blogs.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – The Harmony Grits
A smokin’ version of the classic—this one explodes in drums, backup vocals, and an impassioned lead that sounds like he’s pleading for Santa. For goodness sake!
If Every Day Was Like Christmas – Elvis Presley
One of the best Christmas albums every recorded, right up there with Phil Spector and The Beach Boys. This beautiful lead-off track reminds you (in case you ever forgot) what a great voice the King had in his prime. And of course, it would be a wonderful world if every day was like Christmas.
I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day (Alternate Version) – Elvis Presley
Not to take anything away from the regular version Elvis sings, but this alternate is a treat. A great bluesy groove adds quite a bit. In fact, the only thing this shares with the original is the title and lyrics. In my opinion, it's the definitive version of the song. Love that key change half-way through. Reminds me of the man’s fantastic output before his stint in the service.
Christmastime Blues – Trainwreck Riders
So, there’s some debate about what actually qualifies as a Christmas song. Obviously, the three songs above, directly reference the holiday. However, there are lots of others, like “Christmastime Blues,” that might not be what you consider a true-blue Christmas song. A famous example of this is Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December.” Though it was included on a Haggard Christmas album, the song is about a man who loses his job amidst a recession and makes a passing reference that “Daddy can’t afford no Christmas this year.” Some critics say that this isn’t enough to classify as a Christmas song. I think that’s hogwash. Sadly, not everyone enjoys prosperity and happiness this time of year, and Haggard’s song exemplifies that (don’t worry, we’ll be posting in a bit). And so does this tune by the Trainwreck Riders. While its references to the holidays aren’t overly obvious, it’s about spending the holidays alone.
But what do you think? What classifies as a Christmas tune? And what doesn’t? For some reason “My Favorite Things” by Rodgers and Hammerstein is played this time of year—that always confused me. The movie Love Actually does a great job at mocking artists who only try to record that Christmastime number one hit.
77 Santas – Gayla Peevey