Music: Five top tracks that put the Rock ‘n’ Roll into Christmas

With the war between mainstream music and ‘alternative’ hotting up in the charts over the Christmas number one, I decided to look at the best Christmas tunes the rockier side of music has to offer.

For those of you haven’t heard, there’s this little TV show called The X Factor, which managed to glue 19.1million people to their screens on Sunday night to see who would win what is essentially a karaoke competition.

Joe McElderry, 18 from South Shields, Tyneside, beat Olly Murs, 25 from Essex to win the show and release a Christmas single – a cover of ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus.

In spite of this, a campaign started up on Facebook to get Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name Of’ to the number one spot to prevent a run of five straight years of X Factor finalists.

So, now that’s explained in enough detail for even the most TV-shy reader to understand (hopefully), let’s think about Christmas music. Crazily catchy and repetitive (often to the point of tears), Christmas songs range from the blandness of Cliff Richard’s ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ to the jolly 80s ballad-ness of Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’.

Not to say that some of the classics aren’t…well…classic (in fact one or two may show up in a bit), but there’s nothing particularly rock about prancing about on skis or getting children to sing the chorus for you.

With that in mind I’ve scanned the (not so) underground music scene to find five gems you may have missed, or just get that rock ‘n’ roll feeling absolutely right. Let’s take a look, but not in an overly dramatic countdown way, it’s not life and death people ;-):

  1. The Ramones – ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’

Released back in 1987 as a B-side to ‘I Wanna Live’ from Halfway to Sanity, the song combines the band’s usual power-chord charged punk with a plea for peace at home at Christmas.

Admittedly not sophisticated, but the band still hold on to one of the staples of the Christmas single: the jingling bells. Hearing the Christmas message, which is, essentially, let’s all get on and have a good time for one day at least, in such a raw and real-life way makes it something a little bit different, especially when you KNOW arguments about stupid things WILL happen. Check out the video for the song if you’re not sure what I mean.

Since this was towards the end of the bands career, when they had taken more of a turn to the mainstream, you might think this track would be all clichés and happiness but it still retains the gritty nature of The Ramones and makes decent listening.

  1. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)

Continuing our theme of Song Title (The Bit You Remember), we have Lowestoft legends/wannabes The Darkness with their stab at the Christmas charts. Admittedly this was a proper pop/rock tune, but it’s complete failure in the charts makes it one worthy of our consideration here, since it is a great example of everything we love (or tolerate) about The Darkness.

Since their decline into nothingness following a terrible follow-up album, the song has all but disappeared from the Christmas playlist, despite having guitar solos AND a choir of children, surely all the ingredients of a perfect Christmas number one..? Judge for yourself (particularly note the brothers duel guitaring)

Err…no actually, since the song only made it to a measly number TWO after being pipped at the post by a god-awful cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World’ – which, personally, was the most depressing Christmas number one in history.

  1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Wizards in Winter

From across the pond comes this bizarrely named outfit with an instrumental, not to be confused with WiZZard’s ‘I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day’, which combines electric guitar and strings in an ELO-esque way, to create a tune which wouldn’t sound too out of place on the soundtrack to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Not that combining the orchestra with rock is anything ground-breaking, but the arrangement and string melody is enough to stick in you’re head after only one listen, check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Having been introduced to the song by a friend I’m no expert, but she said it’s very popular over in the states and “they are a hit because they make older, more classical songs ‘cool’” – a bit like Apocalyptica then? Just think of it as the American version of Mike Oldfield’s ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ – if you don’t know the one I mean then it’s that instrumental one with nice guitar licks you WISH you could play.

  1. AC/DC – Mistress For Christmas

With 200 million albums sold worldwide, AC/DC are undoubtedly a legendary band. ‘Back in Black’, the group’s breakthrough release, hold the

title of the best-selling album released by any band in history – 45million sold copies in total.

Fair enough, Christmas songs might not seem very rock ‘n’ roll, but this one is 100% AC/DC: the gang vocals, chorus being composed entirely of the song title, chugging bassline and lyrics about as subtle as a brick pummelling Simon Cowell’s blindingly smug grin.

The familiar sound of Angus Young working his magic on the guitar is always a welcome one at Christmas, and despite the…un-P.C. message of the track it’s still a brilliant song in its own right, building to the sort of crescendo only AC/DC can deliver with such class. Take a listen via the wonderment of YouTube and judge for yourself.

  1. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody!

By no means unheard of, Noddy Holder’s hoarse wail of “It’s Christmaaaaaaaass!” is the first thing to come to mind when someone mentions that the Christmas holidays are on the way. It’s not as ‘alternative’ as the other tracks on the list and you’ll find it on any decent Xmas compilation CD, but it clawed its way to the top of this list by having the right gung-ho attitude – not to mention the most memorable and cheerful chorus of any Christmas song.

The song was released in 1973 and became the b

and’s sixth number one hit, knocking Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ from the top spot and staying there for nine weeks.

Despite being written very much for the period, strangely history repeats itself, with the economic depression and unemployment of the 1970s haunting us this Christmas, so what better way to forget your troubles than to “look to the future”.

The video, taken from Top of the Pops (we still reme

mber that, right?), captures the atmosphere of the song perfectly and you can’t help but smile at how young everyone looks.

Noddy Holder once complained that radio station

s play the song too early, explaining it’s a song best listened to on Christmas morning amid the excitement of all the goodies which might be hidden under all that wrapping paper.

So comes the end to my little Christmas-based ramblings, hope you all have a good one, and be sure to check back once the fun is all over to find out how James Cameron’s 3D epic Avatar turned out.

For now, Merry Xmas Everybody!

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