Susan Senator has tagged me to do a delightful seasonal meme, and since I enjoy compiling lists as much as Nick Hornby and enjoy Christmas music as much as Santa's elves, this one is a natural for me: Name your top five holiday songs, and explain why you chose them. I actually had a hard time narrowing down the list, so I decided that instead of thinking of favorite Christmas carols (I love 'em all), I'd think about specific recordings that I look forward to hearing every year. Here's what I've got:
1. "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" by David Bowie and Bing Crosby
I'm actually not a huge fan of "Little Drummer Boy" as a stand-alone, but couple it with the beautiful counter-melody of "Peace on Earth" and it slays me every time. The Bowie/Crosby pairing is pure genius, though I can't imagine the tv executives (the song originally appeared in a 1977 Bing Crosby television special) who sat around a table and thought "You know who'd make a great duet?" Maybe it's the juxtaposition of the two that makes it work so well, I don't know - but it's like last year's Grammy's mash-up that melded Paul McCartney with Jay-Z and Linkin Park. Only more so. With bells on.
2. "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that this is a no-brainer.
Q: What's better than a Christmas song?
A: A Christmas song written and performed by Palmer Cartney.
3. "Christmas Waltz" by Frank Sinatra
I actually had to look up the title of this one, but it's the one that goes "Frosted window panes, candles gleaming inside. Painted candy canes on the tree. Santa's on his way; he's filled his sleigh with things - things for you and for me." I guess the bit about "this song of mine in three-quarter time" should have been a clue. I just think it's delightful, whatever it's called.
4. "Sleigh Ride"
I love most versions of this song, as long as they are performed in a straightforward way. I am profoundly uninterested in show-off performers adding runs and trills and odd syncopation to my Christmas standards, making it completely impossible to sing along. I am a "Sleigh Ride" purist, and prefer the song played loud when I am alone in the car.
I should mention that the definitive recording of the song for me, which I haven't actually heard in years, was the one that appeared on the Christmas compilation LP we owned when I was a child. I seem to recall that it was a gas station give-away - a free-with-a-fill-up sort of promotion - and it included a version of "Sleigh Ride" by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Now that was a sing-along good time.
5. "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues
Okay, I'll grant you, this is not your typical warm and fuzzy, Currier and Ives, chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire kind of tune. It's more the seamy underbelly of the Christmas season, with Shane MacGowan's opening stanza slurred out with a scowl:
It was Christmas Eve, babe,
In the drunk tank.
An old man said to me,
"Won't see another one."
And then he sang a song,
A rare old mountain tune.
I turned my face away,
And dreamed about you.
Kirsty MacColl joins MacGowan in a duet that Wikipedia describes as the story of "two Irish immigrants, lovers or ex-lovers, their youthful hopes all but crushed by alcoholism and drug addiction, reminiscing and bickering on Christmas Eve in New York City. " It may not sound like the stuff of which tradition is made, but trust me - not a Christmas goes by without my husband and me crooning to each other:
You scumbag, you maggot,
You cheap lousy f****t,
Happy Christmas your arse,
I pray God it's our last.
Except we sing it with love.
Now it's your turn: post your top five in the comments section, or leave a comment directing us to your blog.