Christmas is about joy. Not mere happiness, but a jolt to your soul. Rock and roll gives that to me. So rock and roll Christmas songs are a perfect combination, and there are a lot of good ones. Some of them have become indispensable classics I listen to every year. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without visions of Rudolph running, kids singing with the band, and kids hassling Santa. I’m particularly bad at making top ten lists where the order matters, since I’m hesitant to name a “number one” anything, but in this case, I do have a clear number one. But you can’t really go wrong with any of these for getting into the holiday spirit. Post your own essentials in the comments!
1. “Father Christmas” by the Kinks
I would always look forward to hearing this one on WCFM in Rochester, NY growing up. It was funny with a killer guitar hook, and that was enough. These days, the appeal to “remember the kids who have nuthin’ while you’re drinking down your wine” gets me.
2. “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love
This was originally released on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, which is a fantastic album top to bottom. My first memories of the song came from Love performing it on Davod Letterman’s shows, starting on NBC and continuing on CBS. I love melancholy Christmas songs, and this one manages to get that melancholy vibe and still be a flat-out rock and roll tune.
3. “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” by Roy Wood and Wizzard
I was introduced to this one from Wood, co-founder of The Move and ELO, through Little Steven’s Underground Garage presents Christmas A Go Go, a collection you should probably own if you like rock and roll Christmas songs. This tune has that big orchestral sound and goofy lyrics. And it’s a lot of fun to sing.
4. “Run Rudolph Run” by Chuck Berry
Keith Richards did a great version that’s a classic in its own right, but I have to go with the original by (in my opinion) the King of Rock and Roll.
5. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms
Yes, it has become a cliché, and by this time of year, you may already be tired of hearing it at CVS. But it’s still a classic to me. Those smooth vocals, and especially that guitar.
6. “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” by the Ramones
It would be hard to make this list without the Ramones. If anyone understood the simple joys of rock and roll, it was them.
7. “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Can a holiday song be sly and sincere at the same time? Yes, here come the relatives I haven’t seen in a while. Glad they’re here. Kinda. Ah, what the hell, it’s Christmas, gimmee kiss.
8. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
With his fondness for bells and a big rock sound with the E Street Band, Springsteen is particularly well-suited to deliver Christmas cheer. He owned this one, with a huge assist (as always) from Clarence Clemons.