Ten Classic Holiday Songs, From the Sublime to the Utterly Ridicolous

1. O Holy Night-Irma Thomas: Forget about Christmas songs, this is one the most soul-stirring performances I’ve ever heard. Period. Spine-tingling, reality-warping gospel from a hard to find album of holiday classics, “A Creole Christmas.” Produced by the late, great New Orleans producer Allen Toussaint, it’s all killer, no filler.

2. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) -Darlene Love: From what’s arguably the finest Christmas album ever released, Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift for You,” this track realizes every promise ever made by the elf-like producer and his avante-operatic Wall of Sound: A perfect fit for Christmas-themed music, sleigh bells chime, drums thunder, and the brilliant Mrs. Love soars above it all. As cinematic as it is musical, you can damn near taste the hot coco and smell the pine needles.

3. Fairy Tale of New York-The Pogues: Ah, the joys of Christmas Eve in the drunk tank. A strangely beautiful love song for the Bowery bum in all of us.

4. Santa Baby-Eartha Kitt: A filthy ode to materialism, greed and sexual coercion. Don’t do it Santa!

5. Run Run Rudolph-Keith Richards: A dirt-raw, hagged-out version of Chuck Berry’s attempt at a Christmas tune, Keith makes Christmas Eve sound like just another in a long line of all-night throw downs. Perfect.

6.You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch-Thurl Ravenscroft: This song is so well-known, its truly insidious lyrics have lost much of their impact. I mean really, “You’re as cuddly as a cactus, You’re as charming as an eel.” or  “Your heart is full of unwashed socks, You’re soul is full of gunk.” aren’t exactly you’re typical yuletide sentiments. By the way, the singer was also the voice of the greatest cereal mascot ever, Tony the Tiger.

7. Santa Clause, Will You Please Come Tonight-Doug Lewis: Poor little Doug doesn’t seem to have much faith in the jolly old elf, judging by this sad little tune. The poor kid’s practically in tears, begging “on my knees” in a strange monotone spoken word rap for a visit from the big guy. “I tried so hard to be a good boy you see, for it means the whole, whole world to me.”

8. Little Drummer Boy (Surfer Version)-Unknown: I have no idea who recorded this, but by God the thing rocks like mad. The traditional melody we all know is buried somewhere deep in the bowels of the track’s shimmering noise, surfacing for a few seconds here and there like an expectant child creeping from his room on Christmas morning. Sure to raise a ruckus with the more conservatively-minded holiday revelers.

9. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas-Gayla Peevey: Just plain weird. Performed by what sounds like a world-weary 10-year-old, the hippo-loving narrator makes a convincing case for zoo animals as holiday gifts: Convenient for Santa, safe (hippo’s are vegetarians), and fits easily in a two car garage. What’s not to like.

10. Blue Christmas-Porky Pig: A stuttering atrocity of the most charming variety, the verbally challenged porker turns a hallowed peon to holiday loneliness into a politically incorrect farce. Makes me smile every time.

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