Rhonda, my erstwhile missus, thinks that I hate Christmas music.
Alright, maybe not hate, but she became convinced during our many years together that I basically loathed Christmas music in all it’s facets. This, regardless how much I tried to dissuade her opinion it never seemed to do any kind of good. Thing is, I love Christmas music. Honestly and truthfully love Christmas music; but not before December 1st. You can see where Rhonda may well have formed this opinion of me when you take into account she would, gleefully, start playing Christmas music as soon after Halloween as humanly possible.
At one time or another, I may well have been the same, especially growing up Canadian. While American’s still have their Thanksgiving to look forward to after Halloween, we Canucks have nothing else to glom onto until Christmas. A penchant I may or may not have had for playing Christmas music in November soon left me after I started working for Eaton’s, a major department store which has since went under. As most major department stores are won’t to do, they endeavor to put customers into the next profitable holiday season mood as quick as humanly possible. So, over my years working at Eaton’s I could be guaranteed of hearing Christmas music playing on my very first shift closest to November 1st.
To add insult to injury the very first position I had at Eaton’s was in the record department. I was hired by Eaton’s on Wednesday, November 10th, 1976, the very evening of my 16th birthday. My first shift was the very next day. I was scared shitless to touch the record player in our department for the first week of my employment. But I’ll tell you right here and now, there are only so many times that one (and by one I, of course, mean a 16 year old boy) can listen to Bing Crosby’s Merry Christmas LP before beating someone to death with a garland of mistletoe. So, I did what I thought was reasonable given the circumstances. I put on side one of the recently released Night Moves LP by Bob Seger. The album managed to get through Rock and Roll Never Forgets, Night Moves and into The Fire Down Below before Frank Mullen, my manager, approached me and asked me if I would join him in his office.
Now let me say this right here and now; Frank Mullen was one of the best managers I have ever had. Ever. Even to this very day. Still, this was my first real job and I was terrified that I was going to be fired. The walk from our department to his office was one of the longest I have ever taken.
I won’t belabour this tale other than to say that Mr. Mullen was very understanding of my newness, not to mention very supportive of the job I had been doing up until that point in time. He also made it very clear, in a very gentle way, that the only music which would be tolerated from November 1st of any given year until December 26th of any given year would be Christmas music. I acquiesced. What else could I do, being newly employed and all.
Just so you can fully appreciate the sacrifice I was making at this time, here are just a handful of albums released in 1976 which I was forgoing the playing of:
Peter Frampton -- Frampton Comes Alive, David Bowie -- Station to Station, Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Gimme Back My Bullets, Genesis -- A Trick of the Tale, Be-Bop Deluxe -- Sunburst Finish (alright, a guilty pleasure), Rush -- 2112, Kiss -- Destroyer, The Doobie Brothers -- Takin’ It To The Streets, Paul McCartney and Wings -- Wings At The Speed of Sound (or as I always refer to it Wings at the Sound of Speed), Thin Lizzy -- Jailbreak, Led Zeppelin -- Presence, Boz Scaggs -- Silk Degrees, Joe Walsh -- You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band -- Live Bullet, Jethro Tull -- Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die, Elton John -- Here and There, Aerosmith -- Rocks, AC/DC -- High Voltage, Rainbow -- Rainbow Rising, Blue Oyster Cult -- Agents of Fortune, Styx -- Crystal Ball, Led Zeppelin -- The Song Remains The Same, Stevie Wonder -- Songs in the Key of Life, Rush -- All The Worlds A Stage, AC/DC -- Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep, Ted Nugent -- Free-for-All, Kansas -- Leftoverture, The Eagles -- Hotel California, Queen -- A Day at the Races, Paul McCartney & Wings -- Wings Over America
There were also inaugural releases by Boston, The Ramones, Triumph, Pat Travers, The Runaways… well, you get the idea.
So, where was I now. Oh, right, my favorite Christmas songs. Notice I say songs. My favorite Christmas carols would be something else all together, topped by my all time favorite, Hark The Harold Angels Sing.
For your edification then, my top ten favorite Christmas Songs (in no particular order):
1. Queen -- Thank God It’s Christmas
Alright, those who know me know that I am a long time Queen fan. How then could this song not hope to show up on my top ten list. Thing is, this is an awesome song, not just for Christmas time, but more so I’m sure.
2. David Bowie / Bing Crosby -- The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth
I mean, really? David Bowie and der Bingle, dueting on not one but two Christmas songs? What’s not to like?
3. The Kinks -- Father Christmas
One of the original bad boys of rock ‘n’ roll with a bad ass Christmas tune. Father Christmas, give me some money…
4. Keith Richards -- Run Rudolf Run
As a huge Rolling Stones fan, the inclusion of this tune should surprise absolutely no one. Thing is, it is a bloody amazing version of this Chuck Berry classic. So sit back in your Christmas chair and let Keef rock you freaking world.
5. Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- I Believe in Father Christmas
A Greg Lake Christmas time classic, reimagined by ELP. Prog rock Christmas tunes at it’s best.
6. Slade -- Merry Christmas Everybody
It’s Slade… nuff said.
7. Elton John -- Step Into Christmas
This was probably my first ever exposure to a favorite rock ‘n’ roll hero taking a stab at a Christmas song. As my first rock ‘n’ roll musical love, it was probably preordained somewhere that I would fall in love with this song. The Phil Spector Wall of Sound treatment was more than fitting for this song.
8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band -- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
I fell in love with Bruce Springsteen when I first listened to his now classic release Darkness on the Edge of Town. I fell in love with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band after hearing bootleg recordings from their iconic 1978 DotEoT tour. I fell in love with this song following it’s 1985 released as a non album single. Still my favorite version of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Hell, I’ve even been known to sing this round Christmas time at karaoke.
9. Spinal Tap -- Christmas With the Devil
It’s freaking Spinal Tap. Once again ’nuff said.
10. Trans-Siberian Orchestra -- Wizards In Winter
Technically speaking, I was a relative latecomer to the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Yet one of the first songs I ever heard by them was Wizards In Winter. So here, for your edification, are a live version of the song coupled with the studio version put to exemplary use as the soundtrack to a Christmas light extravaganza.
Elton John -- Ho! Ho! Ho! (Who’d Be A Turkey at Christmas)
After discovering and tracking down the 45rpm of Step Into Christmas I was introduced to said singles B-side. Alright, you’ve got me. I first heard this song on a bootleg recording. So sue me…
The Royal Guardsmen -- Snoopy vs. The Red Baron
Big Snoopy fan from way back. This song just spoke to me in so many ways.
Bob Rivers -- The Twelve Pains of Christmas
Bob Rivers, telling it like it really is…
Gayla Peevey -- Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Who the heck doesn’t want a hippo for Christmas…
Run D.M.C. -- Christmas in Hollis
I first became aware of Run D.M.C. following their collaboration with Aerosmith on their take on the Toys In The Attic hit Walk This Way. I first became aware of this song while watching the original Die Hard movie. What can I say, the song spoke to me.