For this year’s holiday mixtape, we asked our resident experts (i.e., local musicians) to pick their favorite, obscure Christmas tune. You know, the non-Bing Crosby/Nat King Cole/Wham songs that most people probably haven’t heard of, but everyone should add to their playlist for any good holiday party. Listen to Part three below.
Andy Herod (Electric Owls):
My favorite obscure holiday track would have to be Low’s version of “Blue Christmas”. I bought a 7-inch of it years ago and wore it out as I cut myself just to feel something. Ok, I didn’t do the second thing. But if I did, this would be the song playing in the background. For sure.
Justin Biltonen (The Campaign 1984):
My favorite obscure Christmas song is actually Elvis’s “Santa Claus Is Back In Town”. Everyone knows “Blue Christmas,” but this song is a slow blues tune on the Elvis’ Christmas Album. Elvis sings: “Hang up your pretty stockings / And turn off the light / Santa Claus is comin’ down your chimney tonight”. Elvis singing a dirty Christmas song, I love it! I’m a huge Elvis fan and his music was always in my house growing up. I went to Graceland three weeks ago and it was all decorated for Christmas. Really amazing experience.
Seth Kauffman (Floating Action):
“For Unto Us A Child Is Born,” by Handel, is one of the funkiest, bangin’ melodies ever. The whole Messiah, famous as it is, I believe is still underrated. It’s insane. Each measure could stand alone as a whole hit album now. Sends songwriters back to pumping gas.
Dup Crosson (Saint Solitude):
The Frogs’ “Here Comes Santa’s Pussy[cat].” Certainly not the most family-friendly song, but man, it sure does push a boundary or two—much like any Frogs song. I think they are hilarious and criminally underrated. Those two found a way to offend everyone, yet still they managed to get on Matador Records in the 90s. Amazing.
I will admit I also have a huge guilty pleasure for “Christmas Song” as done by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. At this point it may be more nostalgia than love. I listened to this song on a Christmas compilation a lot when I was young. I usually don’t tend towards such religious-sounding songs, but I do think the guitar work and melodies are quite beautiful. I used to always listen to it on Christmas Eve before I went to sleep. I was/am such a sap.
Ryan O’Keefe (River Whyless):
John McCutcheon’s “Christmas in the Trenches”. Hands down. One of my favorite songs period.
Todd Britton (Analog Moon):
I went through this drill with a friend of mine a few years ago. We were trying to put a collection of Christmas songs together that didn’t contain all of the overplayed stuff. We ended up with a pretty decent 3-CD “mixtape,” but I think my favorite from that collection was “Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas?” by The Staple Singers. It kicked off the second CD, and I think I usually just skipped right to it. I finally overplayed it myself, and eventually lost those CDs in some spindle somewhere in my junk pile. I guess it’s time to dig them out.
Stephanie Morgan (stephaniesĭd):
Chuck and I have a tie: We like The Mad Tea’s “Oh Shit it’s Christmastime,” and our own Jacob Rodriguez’s beautiful version of a hymn called “Come Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing,” which I had the honor of singing with him and our friend Eleanor Underhill. I don’t think it’s an actual Christmas song, but it made it onto a Christmas album produced by one of his other bandmates, so I think it’s been adopted.
Rob Elzey (Telic):
“Run, Rudolph, Run,” with Lemmy Kilmister [Motorheard], Dave Grohl [Nirvana, The Foo Fighters], and Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top]. The line up doesn’t get better than this. How can you not love this?
Jason Smith (Night’s Bright Colors)
I would have to say my favorite obscure Christmas song (the one I put on every mixtape) would have to be Mark Kozelek’s [Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon] “Little Drummer Boy,” from the live collection he put out a few years ago of the same name. Just him and an acoustic guitar and his trademark unbearably beautiful melancholy.
The reason I love it so much is on the version I have, he starts it, and you can actually hear the hipster crowd chuckle a little bit, like they are not sure if he’s being serious or ironic. Two minutes later, when he sings the last “and he smiled at me”, everyone is just blown away.
That’s how it seems to me, at least. Maybe someone just told an unheard joke at the beginning. But I like my version.
Tom Peters (The Critters):
My pick is “Christmas with Satan” by James White and the Blacks [aka James Chance]. The horn section bleats out a medley of the classics and the background singers chime in just in time. If the Charlie Brown Christmas album were interpreted by the Lounge Lizards…and if Charlie Brown had gone ahead and killed himself.
Jamie Hepler (Soft Opening):
My favorite Xmas cut that I wish people knew more is a track from a semi-defunct local band called Tony Wain and the Payne. I always knew them to have a real way with words and the didn’t let me down on this one. The title of the cut is “Hang Myself (From The Christmas Tree).” I was living in the house they were doing a lot of their recording in at the time that they were recording this Christmas EP, and while it was hard to choose a favorite from the lineup, this most certainly came through as the winner.