Sure, you’ve heard the typical radio-friendly Christmas Carol canon, and you HATE it! And, being the Grinch that you are, you’re probably also familiar with some of the novelty songs that poke fun at Christmas, and you hate them, TOO. In fact, if you saw your grandma getting run over by reindeer in the snow, you’d probably steal the nearest Zamboni and finish the job.
But what if there was another way to celebrate the season, sonically, in a way as warped as you are?
This, dear friend, is our lump of coal to you! The below songs go far beyond mere satire, some intentionally, others not so, and reach the full heights of surrealist, sensationalist, almost Satanic levels of assault upon the Yuletide and all that it represents.
Taking the below songs in one solid block might make you hate Christmas so much that you swallow mistletoe (which, as you know, is poisonous!), so we’ve broken it into chunks, like a regurgitated fruit cake, for your enjoyment and, eventually, enlightenment. (But not “lights” as in Christmas lights, because you’ve already smashed them all and used the cord to tie up the Salvation Army Santa Claus in your trunk.)
Merle Haggard – “If We Make It through December”
Want to weep in your eggnog, or merely get depressed about how far country music has fallen since the good ol’ days? Check out this gorgeous ode to not being able to have Christmas for your kid because you’ve been laid off from the factory. It may just be “the Hag’s” best song ever, and certainly it was one of 1974’s best, despite the bleak, cold, impoverished, desperate shame in ol’ Merle’s voice.
Carrie Fisher – “Princess Leia’s Life Day Song”
Far, far away from Merle Haggard’s lifestyle, an event happened that for decades drained the light out of George Lucas’ eyes. The Star Wars Holiday Special was supposed to be a Christmas gift and televised teaser for a world that had seen the first Star Wars film, but for whom Empire Strikes Back was not yet a reality. And on paper, it was going to be killer: it would have all the principal actors from the first film in it, it was to feature several more Wookies than just Chewbacca, and it was to tie in hot comedic and musical talents such as Jefferson Starship and Harvey Korman.
But instead of getting Christmas cheer and a bit of the dark side, we got this. This song, sung by Princess Leia (who clearly should have “Leia’d” off the drugs for this scene), is one of the BETTER parts. And it’s so awful, it makes Jar Jar Binks look like Jackie Chan:
Eazy-E – “Merry Muthaphuckkin’ Xmas”
This everything-but-the-kitchen-sleigh Christmas carol medley begins with the Black Godfather himself, Dolemite, reading a bedtime story to actual toddlers, who respond with an enthusiastic “hell yeah!” The track soon jumps into a menacing G-Funk groove, but only after former N.W.A. front man Eazy-E has a chance to spray carolers with a machine gun, yelling “Merry Christmas, mother*******!!!”
The whole track is nutty as a fruitcake, equal parts breathtaking violence, cringe-inducing raunch, drug glorification, and groove-laden, groundbreaking rap. But listen closely: do you hear what I hear? Two of the young men rapping near the end of the track are apl.de.ap and Will 1X, now known by the professional name “will.i.am.” Six years later, these guys would morph into the Black Eyed Peas! But Eazy-E spotted them first, and this is their first appearance on an album, ever. Joy to the world, Eazy! Rest in peace.
Afroman – “Afroman Is Coming to Town”
Next up, we have Afroman. Rarely have the famous fallen so hard, so fast.
After gaining a Grammy nomination and a six album deal with Universal based on the success of his hit single “Because I Got High” in 2000, Afroman’s connection to pot-induced flakiness proved itself to be more than just a pose; he stumbled back to internet-only album sales by 2004, and, eventually, by the end of the decade, to the greatest shame hip hop can bring: appearances at The Gathering of the Juggalos.
But for the faithful, or the incredulous, Afroman’s 2006 direct-from-Amazon album A Colt 45 Christmas (so flakey that it’s barely more than a repackaging of 2004’s Jobe Bells) almost has too many effed up Christmas tunes to count. We could easily have gone with “Police Blow My Wad” (sung to the tune of “Feliz Navidad”) or better still, “The 12 J’s of Christmas.” But instead we picked this tune, in part because it is one of the few tracks that has a tune, and in part because it begins with Afroman beating up your grandma. Somehow in his hands, it’s more surreal than disturbing (but, yeah, it’s disturbing):
The Treacherous Three – “Christmas Rap”
Now this is more like it: a hip hop tune from the 80’s movie Beat Street, with Kool Moe Dee starring as the disembodied head of Santa Claus, complaining to some ungrateful gift recipients that he’s “getting too old for this Santa Claus shit!”
Beat Street may be a “classic hip hop film,” but some of this clip’s cheesy dance moves and less-than-funky instrumental parts of this jam have not aged well—nor have the slightly homophobic epithets the Treacherous Three throw at each other (nor Rae Dawn Chong’s film career). But right when you think this is merely an entertaining trip through the hip hop of Christmas past, bam, out comes Doug E. Fresh to beat box!
Doug E. Fresh, of course, is “the Human Beatbox” and the guy who basically invented the now-defunct, once-crucial style! The fact that he’s since become a Scientologist only slightly lets you off the hook for not knowing who the hell he is.
Beck – “The Little Drum Machine Boy”
Speaking of Scientologists, one of the best tracks Beck ever laid out was for a Christmas comp back in the mid-nineties called Just Say Noel. But Beck being Beck, he turns the whole concept on its head with an homage to “hanukkah robot funk,” and then starts rapping about his Jewishness: “I get this shit lit like a menorah! Funk so illegal, I think I might need a lawyer.”
Okay, so it may not be as off of a Christmas song as some of the above tunes, but it’s probably the sickest beat to ever grace a Christmas original, guaranteed to make your relatives flee the room during Christmas wrapping. And the fact that Beck now openly worships L. Ron Hubbard makes all the anti-Yule hubris all the more sad. We’re sure he’s got a team of lawyers watching over him now!
Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed – “Christmas”
But hey, if it’s religion you want, why not throw in Pete Townsend and the boys from the Who, and condemn a handicapped child to eternal damnation?
While most music fans prefer the Who’s original version of “Christmas” from the album Tommy, here we’re sharing the version from the 1975 Ken Russell-directed rock opera, primarily because it stars Ann-Margret, who plays the mother of a “deaf, dumb, and blind kid” in a way that’s 30% sexy, 70% scary as hell! (No wonder she was able to have an illicit affair with Elvis Presley for 14 years!)
But even scarier is step-dad Oliver Hall, who stumbles around the kids’ Christmas party, pounding booze and wondering, “How can he be saved from the eternal grave?”
Rotary Connection – “Silent Night Chant”
No strangers to being ahead of their time, Rotary Connection were a jazzy, bluesy, multi-racial psychedelic band from the late 60s. For better or worse, these guys invented jazz-rock fusion, and even backed blues legends Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf on groovy albums that now are highly prized by collectors.
But their highest selling album as a stand-alone band was Peace, an anti-Vietnam War Christmas record that had a hippie Santa Claus on the cover, a risky artistic choice in 1968. Maybe this “hippie” was actually their drug dealer? Certainly this weird, stompy near-instrumental track taken from that album suggests the influence of reds and greens outside the typical holly wreath spectrum.
It’s a bizarre tune. And odder still, one of Rotary Connection’s main singers, Minnie Riperton, later went on to have a huge number one solo hit with “Lovin’ You,” the sexiest song ever to be mostly “lalalalalala” delivered in what vocal coaches and freaked-out dogs know as “the whistle range.” (“She hits F#7,” as every single one of her fans on YouTube will be excited to tell you in the comments for her videos.) Needless to say, she was a huge influence on Amy Winehouse, Mariah Carey, Kate Bush, and Maya Rudolph (being her mother). But on this song, her soprano is largely restricted to whoooooos that would make even Little Richard seem gruff and manly. Far out!
Sparks – “Thank God It’s Not Christmas”
But you don’t need to be female to hit notes at the top of the treble cleff; you can also be driven insane by your own wit, like brothers Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks, the latter of whom had a voice so angelic, many people on first listen thought he was Ron’s sister.
These highly, um, “theatrical” boys from Pacific Palisades, California first launched their band in the early 70s, and found a much warmer welcome for their music in glam-rock crazed England than in the stoner-rock obsessed U.S.A. But even by the standards of David Bowie and Roxy Music, Sparks were smart-alecks, dishing out the weirdness with Noel Coward stops and starts, lilting flapper-fairy vocals, and Ron’s strange, strange moustache, which surely, surely was a reference to Charlie Chaplin, even if his icy stare had a more Teutonic hardness to it. (Don’t look into his eyes! Don’t DO IT!!!)
In this song, the vocals are pretty hard to make out, what with Russell’s vocals rising so far up above the clouds. But we think the gist of it is that Christmas sucks, because all the bars are closed.
Cosmonauts – “It’s Christmas Day”
Speaking of psychedelia, did you know that it later had a major revival? Then that revival had a revival, which had a revival, which had a revival. Now we’re at a place where a modern garage-y band can dig armpit-deep into the ghosts of psychedelic Christmas Past and still only yank out the Jesus and Mary Chain, the mid-80s vintage Brit-pop band whose proto-shoegaze sound is all over this track:
We took this tune from a compilation of a bunch of modern bands doing Christmas songs in a psychedelic style, including Iggy Pop and Dead Meadow. But the Cosmonauts track is the most delightfully effed-up of the bunch.
The boys yawp their way right to the point, letting us know:
A) that there is no snow in Los Angeles on Christmas, and there never has been, and
B) that there are only about 16 words in this song, but it’s not important that you know exactly what they are.
What is important is that the sun in LA is hot, and that the Jesus and Mary Chain were cool as hell, and that Cosmonauts are even cooler, because when they wear sunglasses, it’s because they have to, because up there is an actual sun up there, so … whatever, maaaaaan.
This isn’t so much an anti-Christmas song as an anti-giving-a-crap song, hummed by an anonymous Los Angeles street-angel hipster as he trudges along under palm trees, from his band’s garage to the bus stop, to go score drugs.
Or not. Whatever. The sun’s out.
The Sonics – “Don’t Believe in Christmas”
Of course, why not go back to the pre-psych 60s if you want to get a real stompin’ anti-Christmas song going?
The Sonics were from Seattle in the early 60s, and when the Beatles came along, they just kept doing the same everything-is-the-rhythm rock songs they had always been doing, with fun but dark titles like “Psycho,” “The Witch,” “The Hustler,” and “Strychnine,” not even letting having a saxophone in the band let things get precious.
What inspirations they DID have from contemporary music seemed to be purely American: if anything, the rapid-fire auctioneer rap of “Don’t Believe in Christmas” evokes the wittiness of Chuck Berry and the smirkiness of mid-60s Bob Dylan, with lines like “Rudolf the reindeer/Makin’ little kids cheer/The reason that his nose shine/Santa gives him moonshine.”
The Kinks – “Father Christmas”
If there’s any British Invasion band that the Sonics could be said to sound like, it’s the Kinks.
The Kinks, led by singer/songwriter Ray Davies, had massive hits such as “You Really Got Me” in the mid-Sixties, and then moved on to more interesting and delicate songs in later years, which cemented their influence on future generations but alienated their first teenybopper fans, drying up record sales more and more as the years and the times flew by.
But the influence of those early Kinks singles became VERY apparent a decade later, at the dawn of punk. And since Ray Davies had never ceased to carry that punk-like spirit of rebellion in his soul, he decided in 1977 that the Kinks should rebut these new, safety-pin covered kids by releasing one of the most raucous, bitter, punk rock Christmas songs the world had ever seen.
In typical Kinks storytelling fashion, this tune features a man dressed as Santa being mugged by a gang of violent children, who scream at him as they hold him up, “Father Christmas, give us some money … give all the toys to the little rich boys.” The kids do eventually ask him for one gift: a machine gun.
Clarence Carter – “Back Door Santa”
… but what if you ARE Santa? Why go around giving presents to kids, when you could be sleeping with other people’s wives and girlfriends?
This sizzling soul track posits the idea that it’s better to be a “back door” Santa, because “Old Saint Nick, he don’t come but once a year.” Clarence Carter doesn’t bring presents, just a handful of change to give to little kids so they’ll run off and let him show Mom a bit of his Yule log.
You may also recognize the beginning riff of this track as being sampled by Run DMC on their “Christmas in Hollis,” a hip hop track that’s just not messed up enough to make it on our list.
To be honest, we wanted to collect ALL the Grinch-y songs out there and dish about them for you, but the collection of bummer Christmas jams out there just seems to be bottomless, like the stocking your mom used to fill with waxy jelly beans. Name some of your favorites in the comments, and maybe we can use them for round two … or just stick them away in a mental manger.