In every radio market at least one station scraps its regular programming to play all Christmas music. I wish it were the right wing talk station but alas it's usually the New Wave or Celine Dion station. The ratings are always huge. I'm surprised some stations don't keep the format on all year. But it brings up the question, which Christmas songs do you love and which do you hate?
Personally, I get a warm feeling when I hear Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song" for the first time each season. By the 50th, not so much. The Phil Spector Christmas album is still my favorite. Putting aside that he killed someone, we thank Phil for a real musical gift.
And Darlene Love's "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" which is a recent parody of her own work on the album is maybe the funniest Christmas song ever.
I fancy the oldies. Brenda Lee's "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree", Bobby Helm's "Jingle Bell Rock", and the Beach Boys' "Little St. Nick".
The Boss's Xmas ditty is pretty catchy as are the King's.
Re: "White Christmas", give me the Drifters over Bing. (Interesting that so many classic Christmas songs were written by Jews.)
Some obscure holiday songs I recommend: "Run Run Rudolph" by Chuck Berry, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by the Four Seasons, "Monster Holiday" by Bobby Boris Pickett (that one always tears me up), and "Santa Claus is Watching You" by Ray Stevens. Super obscure but worth finding is "Lost Winter Dreams" by Lisa Mychols. And for the motherlode of bad taste fun, try to find Claudine Longet singing "Winter Wonderland". Before she shot skier Spider Sabich in cold blood she and husband, Andy Williams, were the first couple of the season. Their annual family Christmas special was a must-see. They even have a kid named Noel.
Songs I can't stand: "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano, "Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney, and "the Little Drummer Boy" by anybody. Whey do stations overplay TO DEATH the songs that are the most repetitious? Also, anything sung by kids usually makes me cringe.
I'm only sorry Kurt Cobain left us before he could give the world his Christmas album.
For a more vocal pop sound, you can't beat Linda Eder's holiday album. Her version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" would bring a tear to a glass eye. Listen for it the next time you're in an elevator. Streisand is great but there's more ornamentation than on the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Johnny Mathis is a little too sugar plum fairy for my tastes, and you can always count on "Mr. Peace and Goodwill to All Men", Sinatra. The Carpenters have their fans too. And the Manhattan Transfer's acapella album is gorgeous.
But if I had to pick my all-time favorite Christmas song, the one that most expresses my feelings about the holiday season, it would have to be "The Christmas Song" by the Chipmunks. Sometimes the right song and the right performers just combine for sheer perfection.
You can read more from Ken at kenlevine.blogspot.com