So, it’s now the most wonderful time of the year.
But there’s one aspect of the festive season that is treated with snobbery and disdain, and unfortunately, that is the humble Christmas song.
There’s a minority (of which I am firmly a part) that will have been listening to them constantly since the beginning of November, so much so that I now have a Spotify playlist with 80 of the finest of them on there, of all genres and tastes.
And taste plays a big a part in the snootiness aimed towards them, as folk tend to look down their noses, dismissing them as mindless drivel.
This seems all the more ludicrous as it seems in recent terms that it is perfectly acceptable to spend the equivalent of Ecuador’s annual GDP on electricity to light up a house which also contain ten foot Santas, reindeers and snowmen, but as soon as you show an interest in listening to Cliff’s Mistletoe and Wine, then you are regarded as some kind of maniac.
There is also a recent trend towards more clever, subtle Christmas songs, but who wants that?
They are meant to be fun, over-the-top, blasts of joy, something that these days seems sadly lacking, the common consensus being that the last classic NEW Christmas single, was The Darkness, which was released 17 years ago now.
They need to be basic, not too clever, and should never be covers of older songs as they are usually beyond terrible (yes you, Bruce Springsteen).
So, enjoy the list below, and in the words of that great Christmas single maker George Michael, listen without prejudice, embrace the cheese and Feliz Navidad to all!
10. Pet Shop Boys: Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas (2009)
How this wasn’t more of a hit I’ll never know, only reaching number 40 in the charts as the main track on the duo’s Christmas E.P.
It was originally a fan-club only release back in 1997, and is an typical PSB disco banger, with their usual pithy lyrics, this time bemoaning the modernisation of Christmas, albeit with added jingly bells.
Worth a listen for the lesser-spotted Chris Lowe singing his one and only line, “And a happy New Year.”
9. East 17: Stay Another Day (1994)
1994’s Christmas number one single (was atop the charts for five weeks in total) was not originally set-out to be Xmas related, written as it was about the lead singer’s brother committing suicide.
They threw on some twinkly piano, and some more angelic jingle bells, and a melancholy classic was born.
8. Darlene Love: A Marshmallow World (1963)
In all fairness, the whole of this list could have just been made up of tracks from the seminal Phil Spector project album A Christmas Gift For You, an album which should, like that U2 album the other year, should be given to everyone in the country to make their Christmas’ as great as possible.
It truly is a remarkable record, and this is one of the (many, many) highlights, Love being an under-appreciated Christmas single legend, if it’s a classic standard, then she has probably done a version of it at some point.
7. Andy Williams: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (1963)
The first 30 seconds of this are the most goose-bump inducing sound of the season.
Describing it as “grand” doesn’t quite cover it, it’s a glorious cacophony, and although it’s been covered many times since, then this version is the only one that carries off the show-tune element.
Like a 60’s Greatest Showman.
6. Nat ‘King’ Cole: Deck The Hall (1960)
Not hanging about as it barely registers at just over a minute long, it packs a lot into it’s short time.
Another definitive version in a marketplace that seems to be hamstrung by a lack of imagination and new ideas, Cole putting his life and soul into it.
6. Shakin’ Stevens: Merry Christmas Everyone (1985)
Now we are venturing into “I can’t believe he’s included this in the list instead of something more hipster…” territory, but bear with me.
If this had nothing to do with Christmas, and was just about teddy bears or something, then people would rightly hail it as a corker.
Shaky does his best Poundland Elvis impression, it relents not a jot throughout and the video is an absolute cheese-fest, what is there not to adore?
4. Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody (1973)
Hey, new bands struggling to earn cash from the music “biz”, are you aware how much money Noddy Holder earns from just this song every year?
£500,000 a year. Yes, really.
It helps that it is a glam rock stomper of a monster, but the fact that the lyrics are a bit not-very-good, that alone should be enough to inspire you to write something equally as good, and start earning those big bucks.
3. The Pogues and Kirsty McColl: Fairytale Of New York (1987)
Instantly loved by 99% of the public, most of whom had never heard of the two main protagonists previous work.
It played it’s part in the greatest chart battle for Xmas Number One that there has ever been, back in 1987 (which, to general hatred, was won by the aforementioned Pet Shop Boys) and has been a constant part of Christmases ever since, usually with some mention to it’s questionable lyrics.
Hearing this sad classic for the first time each year is the official start of festivities, just the thought of McGowan’s mournful drawl makes me want to crack open the Guinness and Bailey’s, and it has one of the finest outros ever.
2. Bob Dylan: Must Be Santa (2009)
A few years ago, when I was first made aware of the existence of Christmas In The Heart (this track’s parent album), I thought that someone was playing a Christmas prank.
Bob Dylan, the Bob Dylan, has made a Christmas record?
I have so far resisted the temptation of listening to any other tracks on it, as I fear that they can only pale into comparison with this, an extraordinary piece of work.
On both the song and the accompanying video, Dylan pulls off the feat of sounding and looking simultaneously bored and enthralled all at once.
It’s the musical equivalent of most Christmas films, with it’s so-bad-it’s-fantastic feel.
1. The Crystals: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1963)
When the time comes that I shuffle off this place called Earth, I have already pencilled this in as the song I want as I’m lowered into the ground (I’m secretly hoping I pop off in the summer, just to make it all the more unusual).
Yes, it’s that fantastic.
From the sparkly spoken intro, to the wall of sound which continues to it’s very last notes, it’s the definitive version of the definitive Christmas single.
I’m off to listen to it for, probably the thousandth time this year already, I suggest very strongly that you do the same.