From The Band to The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl, hear good cheer with these solid Christmas songs


So as my own way of spreading good cheer, I thought I would put together a list of Kringle songs that aren’t cringe-worthy. But here’s the big caveat: to me. Yes, these Christmas songs don’t make me wince, but I will bet a lump of coal most of the songs will make you cringe. If you don’t like them, just smile and say thank you. Cringe is in the ear of the beholder.

The Pogues (Featuring Kirsty MacColl) – Fairytale of New York (1987)

Kirsty MacColl duets with The Pogues’ frontman MacGowan on the magical, Celtic-flavoured down-in-the-dumps ditty. The far-from-festive insult-laden lyric — a conversation between an Irish-American couple reminiscing about their lives together — begins, “It was Christmas Eve babe / In the drunk tank.” The 1987 song has been named the best Christmas song of all time, by many polls, mostly in the UK and Ireland, and as a Brit myself, I’d put it up there on the list. Here they are performing it on Top of the Pops.

Elvis Presley: Blue Christmas

Please don’t scream, but here’s Elvis singing the cool sexy Christmas classic on his ‘68 Comeback Special. You’re welcome. The song was written in 1948 by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson and recorded by The King in 1957 for Elvis’ Christmas Album.

The Band: Christmas Must Be Tonight

You can find a few versions of this Robbie Robertson-penned track. As an atheist, I ignore the very Christ-y references to the manger, baby boy, Mary, and newborn King. Because, well, it’s The Band. It was originally recorded in 1975 but not released (it is a bonus track on the 2001 reissue of Northern Lights – Southern Cross), then recut for the 1977 album Islands. A decade later, Robertson recorded it again, twice; one version is in the 1988 film Scrooged and the other on a 1995 album called Wind, Fire and Snow – Songs For The Holiday Season.

Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) 

Hey, ho ho ho. Punk pioneer Joey Ramone wrote this appeasing jingle jam with lines like, “I love you and you love me…I loved you from the start / ‘cause Christmas ain’t the time for breaking each other’s hearts” and “All the children are tucked in their beds/ sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads” for festive fights.  The Ramones as mediators. Make sure to have it nearby on December 25th. The song was included on 1987’s Brain Drain.

Chris Rea – Driving Home

I really should listen to the 1988 original, but I tend to go to Ron Sexsmith’s version — maybe because he plays it every year at Andy Kim’s Christmas Concert — and this version from two of my favourite voices, Jonathan Roy feat. Corey Hart.

Bryan Adams – Let’s Get Christmas Going

I’ve been a fan since I was 16, so Bryan can do no wrong in my eyes. The rocker just puts everything in its simplest form. The A-to-B lyric is a good kickstart to the season, likely for years to come, as soon as the ghouls and goblins vanish. “Seasons are a changin’ – leaves are comin’ down / Temperature is dropping – frost is on the ground / School is almost over – boys and girls go free / Cheeks are getting rosy – it’s time to decorate the tree…” Released a month ago, with an adorable video in which good sport, his drummer Pat Stewart, dresses as a giant elf and allows little elves to wrap him up with more ribbons than I’ve used in my lifetime, it also features the 1966 Chevrolet Corvair convertible (seen in “So Happy It Hurts”) as Santa’s sleigh replacement. Truth be told, for my Christmas wish, I’d have liked to see Bryan dressed as an elf.