For those who get tired of hearing the same tired old versions of the same damn Christmas tunes every time the holidays roll around, this playlist offers some electrifying options to keep your seasonal soundtrack vital, and hopefully prevent you from falling asleep in your eggnog.
Even those who think they know it all when it comes to the classic-rock canon might be surprised by the number of Christmas songs that have been recorded by some of rock ‘n’ roll’s mightiest artists over the years. The best-of collections by the Eagles and REO Speedwagon rarely, if ever, end up including tracks like “Please Come Home for Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” respectively. And when the catalog of The Beach Boys is celebrated, how often does their “Little Saint Nick” get a mention?
Even prog rockers have taken time out from their tricky time signatures and otherworldly epics to spend some time in the land of sleigh bells and roasted chestnuts. Emerson, Lake & Palmer offered up a tune that would become a holiday standard in England, “I Believe in Father Christmas,” and Jethro Tull turned out a flute-tastic version of the classic carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
The harder end of the rock spectrum is represented not only by Twisted Sister giving a new spin to a time-honored idea with “Heavy Metal Christmas (The Twelve Days of Christmas)” but also by the kings of metal satire, Spinal Tap, with their satanically seasonal “Christmas with the Devil.” Beatlemaniacs are well served at Christmastime — there’s John Lennon’s hopeful “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” Paul McCartney’s jubilant standby “Wonderful Christmastime,” and Ringo getting his licks in with “Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On.”
While some of the most popular classic-rock Christmas tunes are originals, there’s also a fair number of rockers who have tackled timeless holiday standards, coming up with their own takes on the venerated tunes. Bruce Springsteen’s live version of “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” is probably one of the best-known and most beloved, but don’t sleep on Stevie Nicks’ take on “Silent Night” either.
Pioneering ’50s rockers left their mark on the holiday canon as well. Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” pretty much set the template for every rock ‘n’ roll Christmas tune to come, and Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” is just about the most mournful seasonal track ever recorded.
So when it comes time to crank up the holiday soundtrack this year, don’t worry about drowning in worn-out warhorses. Just turn to this collection of classic-rock cuts to keep your Christmas crackling with energy.