Doug Thompson

Hard to miss that’s it’s the Christmas season.  Department, drug and clothing stores have all been playing Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, Bobby Helm’s “Jingle Bell Rock”, Wham’s “Last Christmas” and The Beach Boys “Little Saint Nick”, along with newer Christmas ditties from the likes of Neil Diamond, Taylor Swift, Michael Buble and the omnipresent “White Christmas” from der Bingle (aka Bing Crosby) for what seems like months already.

So I made my list.  I checked it twice and came up with these Christmas songs that made my top twelve.  I could have searched for really obscure Christmas songs, but I love pop music and I make no apologies for that.  So here’s my list.

Number twelve comes from Sarah McLachlan “Silent Night”.  It’s from her CD “Wintersong”.  I absolutely adore Sarah’s voice.  Such a hauntingly beautiful song from a hauntingly beautiful singer.

Stevie Wonder “Someday At Christmas” is my number 11 fav.  Motown artists sang many a Christmas tune, but this one just gets to me.

Number ten is Elvis Presley “Blue Christmas”.     Gordon Stoker of The Jordanaires once told me that when they were recording this song, Elvis would never sing the word “Christmas” properly, he’d always sing “Krilsmas” or something silly like that.  Steve Sholes, Elvis’ producer asked The Jordanaires if they could do something to get Elvis to sing the word “Christmas” correctly, so Neal Matthews bet Elvis a pair of sunglasses he couldn’t sing it right and that one correct take is the one RCA used.

My number nine favourite Christmas song is from The Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping”.  For those not familiar with The Waitresses, they were an experimental new wave group from Akron, Ohio and gosh darn, this song is so cool.

At eight, the original 1985 version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” from Band-Aid.  Sir Bob Geldolf and Midge Ure wrote this song that was inspired by a news report about famine in Africa.  Bob Geldof gathered as many celebrity performers as he could into a recording studio and out came this song.  It also spawned USA For Africa’s “We Are The World” and “Tears Are Not Enough” from Northern Lights (Canada’s contribution to African famine relief).  “Do They Know It’s Christmas” has been re-done this year to help aid in the Ebola crisis, but the original is still the best.

The Band with “Christmas Must Be Tonight” is my lucky number seven.  Love this song!  Absolutely love it!  In fact, I love it twice.  Once is the 1977 original from The Band’s album “Islands”.  Written by Robbie Robertson, who later re-recorded the song for the 1988 movie “Scrooged” starring Bill Murray.  While Robbie’s re-record is cool, I still prefer The Band version.  Daryl Hall & John Oates did an excellent rendition of this as well.

The one, the only Harry Nilsson is number six on my list with “Remember (Christmas)”.  Such a wonderfully plaintive voice and a helluva nice man.  Harry had his demons to be sure but his voice was that of an angel.

While mega star bands such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin never recorded a Christmas song, The Beatles did.  You won’t find it on any of their officially released albums however.  “Christmas Time Is Here Again” was recorded for the 1967 fan club Christmas message.  On my Cool Yule list, it’s number five. (For those nitpickers reading this, yes Keith Richards did record the Johnny Marks written “Run Run Rudolph”, but that was as a 1978 solo project, not with The Rolling Stones.)

While we’re talking about The Beatles, three out of four of them recorded their own Christmas tune.  Ringo Starr even did an entire Christmas album.  While I do like Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”, I really don’t need to hear it more than a couple of times during this season.  But I could listen to “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, John and Yoko’s Plastic Ono Band (with the Harlem Community Choir) hundreds and hundreds of times…and then hundreds more.  It never gets old for me.  So this would be my number four fav.

Next up at number three is Bruce Springsteen’s “Merry Christmas, Baby”.  I’ve been to several Springsteen concerts, but never around Christmas time, so I’ve never seen him perform it live, but the version recorded at the Nassau Coliseum in 1975 has stood the test of time.  My all time favourite version of this song though, is when Bruce and the E Street Band performed it on the Conan O’Brien show.  Ol’ redtop even plays rhythm guitar with the band and Conan’s horn section add a nice spice to the mix.

At number two is “Christmas Baby (Please Come Home)” by the one singer in producer Phil Spector’s stable who should have been a huge star in the 1960’s, Darlene Love.  I so look forward to David Letterman’s annual Christmas show when he has Darlene on to sing this song.  It’s sad that this will probably be the last time since Dave’s retiring next spring.  Each year, the size of the string section and choir seems to get bigger.  I suspect Paul Shaffer will go all out this year.

The First time on the Letterman Show NBC 1986

Last year on Letterman’s Show CBS 2013

Due to the finite laws of physics (at least as I understand them), only one song can be number one.  For me, that would be “Please Come Home For Christmas” by The Eagles.  I tear up everytime I hear this song.

Not much more to say really, except to borrow a line from Burl Ives holiday hit, “Have a holly, jolly Christmas”.


Doug’s column appears here every 4th Monday.

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DBAWIS_ButtonDoug Thompson has spent his entire adult life in broadcasting, both in Canada and the U.S. and has won 152 awards for his work.  He worked with Canadian actor John Candy for 17 years, writing and producing commercials, specials and several weekly radio programs.

Currently, he’s writing and producing the second season of a television program for the Hi Fi channel in Canada called “Hi Fi Salutes”, a series of short biographical documentaries on Canadian musicians, producers and record industry pioneers.  One of those programs recently won a Platinum Award at the World Film Festival in Houston.

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