Episode Information

CMS: Rocking Around the Holidays
Share this Content

In this episode:

Our pop music roundtable suggests holiday tunes you may have missed this season.


Episode Audio

49:30 minutes (47.53 MB)
Download this Episode

There are some holiday songs that should banned.

I'm sorry Burl Ives, but there's really no reason for anybody to have to hear "Holly Jolly Christmas" ever again.

And Little Drummer Boy? There's almost no way to describe the sinking feeling that tune gives me. Except, well, to call it a sinking feeling. On the other hand, I don't mind, Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas Is You," but Patrick and Chion are pretty much coming though the glass of the control booth at me for saying that.

Christmas pop songs! Let me tell you something else, nobody knows all the words to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree or, especially, Jingle Bell Rock. They think they know, but they don't. But there are some songs you might not know that are actually pretty good. I've got my own iPod Chrismas playlist and so do Eric Danton and the aptly named Joan Holliday. Get ready to make a mixtape!

You can join the conversation. What holiday tunes do you love and hate? Leave comments below or e-mail [email protected]

Away In a Manger - Paul Westerberg
The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
Fairytale of New York - The Pogues

Talking Christmas Goodwill Blues - John Wesley Harding
I Want An Alien For Christmas - Fountains of Wayne
La valse d'Amelie - Yann Tiersen
A Winter's Tale - Queen
New York Is A christmas Kind of Town - Marah
Boozing It Up With Friends - Marah

COLIN McENROE (Old Fezzywig):
Why Can't It be Christmas Time All Year - Rosie Thomas
Get Behind Me, Santa! - Sufjan Stevens
Cherry Tree Carol - Sting
Christmas Time All Over the World- Sammy Davis, Jr.


Related Content:
Links for this Episode:

Listener E-mail from Keith

Just a word on my understanding of Sting’s “If on a winter‘s night”. As a listener to music who, after a lifetime of thoroughly disliking rock and roll and all its derivatives have begun, grudgingly, to admit that there are some good points to this genre of music. Thinking this way, I see Sting reversing this perspective. As I listened to “If on a winters night” I was blown away as I listened to the performances, not as popular music, but rather a group of people with whatever instruments they happened to play, gathered together to make music. The resulting sounds (especially the very untutored quality of Sting’s voice) remind me of the true folk music of England, dating back hundreds of years and not necessarily easy to listen to in this day and age. While I very much doubt that the CD was intended to be a blockbuster, from my perspective it is absolutely brilliant!

one I didn't see mentioned

One of my favorites is Jethro Tull's "Solstice Bells".

Rockin' Holiday

Colin, did you purposely pick 3 guests who have the same narrow taste you do, e.g. hard rockin', no discernable melody...)?  Check these out:
Joan Osborne's version of Cherry Tree Carol is WAY better than Sting's.  Her version of Away in a Manger is also the only one I can stand.  And her What do Bad Girls Get? can replace that tired, sad Santa Baby any time...
Try listening to the Fairfield Four singing "Children Go Where I Send Thee" without bopping around the room.
The Mediaeval Baebes have a great Xmas CD called Mistletoe & Wine - love the Coventry Carol.  And what about Straight No Chaser, especially their Carol of the Bells and their very clever You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.
Finally, you've had a deprived life if you haven't heard the song Nuttin' for Christmas!  Stan Freberg recorded this > 50 years ago, and it's a riot!
Merry Christmas!

1 or 2 more

Thanks to Kathy for such an extensive list, but I'd like to add 2 more. The first by Blues Traveler is my #1 Fave. Titled simply "Christmas" it expresses perfectly the mix of cynicism and hope I feel at this time of year.

The 2nd, by folk singer David Massengil, is titled, "Jesus, the Fugitve Prince." Hysterical.

Someone mentioned the Straight No Chaser album. You just can't get more original than this on the classics (without electric guitars or synthesizers, that is). It's fantastic.

I also happen to like Whitney Housten's rendition of "Do you Hear?" But this was the first year that I couldn't stomach all the other radio "classics" so that I could hear that one. Oh well, got an mp3 of it.

Would've called in had i had my cell phone! Love the show -- keep up the great topics!!!

Good Christmas songs

Here are a few often overlooked nuggets that I'd recommend:

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: "I Believe in Father Christmas"

Barenaked Ladies (w/ Sarah McLachlan): "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

Amy Grant: "A Christmas to Remember"

James Taylor: "In the Bleak Midwinter"

Nancy LaMott: "All Those Christmas Cliches"

Goo Goo Dolls: "Better Days" (not traditionally a Christmas song, but one that shows up on some holiday CDs)



Christmas music

 Brave Combo: 'Must Be Santa'

christmas songs

 Really nothing,seasonally, better than the Dean Martin duet (I don't know the woman's name) "Baby It's Cold Outside". Dolly Parton's "Hard Candy Chrismas" is the perfect, stop just short of blowing your brains out song, for listening to after a traumatic pre- Christmas break up. Pair with Joni Mitchell  and curl up until 1/2. Must hear- El Vez "Sno  Way Jose"  He is so great live!                 


Listener E-mail from Kathy

Obviously loved your show today. My family and colleagues grow weary of my obsession, but here are some to add to the list from today:

A few follow ups and suggestions:

John McCutcheon's "Christmas in the Trenches" is the one you want re. the Christmas Truce.

Tom Waits mentioned earlier rocks with the Blind Boys of Alabama (whose whole Christmas album is great) on "Go Tell it on the Mountain."

Pilate's version of "Fairytale of New York" is kind of cooler than the Pogues. I think.

Not mentioned on your show but terrific are:

Bruce Cockburn's Christmas (esp. "Early on One Christmas Morn," "Mary had a Baby" and the minor key "It came Upon a Midnight Clear."

Joan Osborne's bluesy "Go Where I Send Thee" (better than the Natalie

Pete Seeger's "Masters in this Hall"

John Prine's "Christmas in Prison" and "Silver Bells"

OMC (the guy who did the bizarre "So Bizarre) doing "My favorite Things"

Jethro Tull's "Another Christmas Song"

Jack Johnson's"Rudolph" (with great updated coda re. mean reindeer) and "Someday at Christmas"

Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Come Darkness, Come Light"

Jars of Clay's "Christmas for Cowboys"

Mindy Smith's "Santa Will Find You" and "I Know the Reason"

Zee Avi's "No Christmas for Me"

Blondfire's 'It's Been Christmas Here"

Rickie Sambora's "O Come All Ye Faithful"

Rhonda Vincent's "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"

Martin Sexton's "O Chrsitma Tree"

The McGarrigle's "Rebel Jesus"

Meaghan Smith's "Silver Bells"

Chris Isak's "last Month of the Year"

Fiona Apple's "Frosty" (which I otherwise hate)

Leigh Nash's cover of "Last Christmas" (though Jonatha Brooke's live version I heard was even better)

Roches' "Good King Wenceslas"

Weepie's "All That I Want"

The Roomful of Blues Christman album (esp. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland")

New Black Eagle jazzband "Oh Holy Night"

"Cold Winter is Come" by Our Lady of Perteual Somethingoroter (from MidEarth Rejoices-- kind of creepy beautiful madrigal). Also their "Boar's Head Carol"

Linda Rondstat's "O Magnum Mysterium"

BB King's "Backdoor Santa"

Louis Armstrong's "Christmas Night in Harlem"

Aaron Neville's "Please Come Home for Christmas"

Crash Test Dummies' †"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "In the Bleak Midwinter"

Death Cab for Cutie's "Christmas (Baby Please COme Home)"

Good not really Xmas to add: Travis's cover of Joni Mitchell's "River",†Diane Zeigler's "December in Vermont", "Hazy Shade of Winter"
(original or Bangles), Fountains of Wayne "Valley Winter Song," "2000 Miles" (Pretenders also do "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"), Louis Jordan and Ella Fitzgerald's duet of "Baby It's Cold Outside"

Thanks again for the show.

Listner E-mail from Mariana

OK, I’m finally driven to write because, for the zillionth time, you have dissed Little Drummer Boy! How can you be so negative about a Christmas songs that eschews the commercialism, and makes the point that you don’t have to have/spend $$ to give a gift? This song truly expresses the Christmas sprit. How can you hate it?

Listener E-mail from Donald

I hate to sound like a Public Broadcasting toady but a couple of weeks ago on CPTV they featured a group “Straight No Chaser.”

They sang a series of Christmas songs with very interesting arrangements.  Check out “The Christmas Can-Can”

If you can stomach a capella they are quite good.

Christmas songs

the McGarrigle family version of "The Rebel Jesus" was mentioned---I much prefer Jackson Browne's solo acoustic version.