We know there aren't ANY great Christmas songs. But some are better than others, and Kevin Norquay is here to offer suggestions that will attract admiring glances from your family.
Fairytale of New York, The Pogues
Not only do the Pogues have street cred, with singer Shane McGowan noted for liking a bit of Christmas spirit, and other spirits too, but this song sums up the nervous tensions around the festive season, as people realise the year (or life) didn't pan out they way they hoped.
"You scumbag you maggot, You cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse. I pray God it's our last."
Such inspiring lyrics.
Feliz Navidad, Jose Feliciano
A cracking sing-a-long which wins Christmassy kudos on several levels. For a start it's in two languages, which embraces the whole-worldness we should be seeking at this time of year, and as a backup it was written and sung by a blind musician, so you can feel full of charity as you torture the Spanish pronunciation. WARNING – the Boney M version is NOT one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time. Avoid.
Merry Christmas from the Family, Robert Earl Keen Jr
Most famous for once having flatted with country singer Lyle Lovett, who was briefly married to actress Julia Roberts, Earl Keen Jr wrote about Christmas in a trailer park, starring a blended family riddled with divorces, drinking, trips to the store for ciggies and fake snow, and cross-cultural relationships. It's a concert favourite for the Texan, with his fans roaring out the line "mix Bloody Marys cause we all want one".
Happy Christmas (War is Over), John and Yoko the Plastic Ono Band
Not actually a Christmas song, pacifist Lennon intended it to celebrate the end of the Vietnam War when it was released in 1971 in the US, and the following year in Britain. Ironically, his peace and kindness ditty sold best in 1980, the year he was gunned down in New York. Try not to think too hard about that as you sip your celebratory bubbles and sing along to "And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?"
Do they Know it's Christmas?, Band Aid
Scores points for combining Christmas with a cause (feeding Africa's poor), and extra points for pushing the super group concept to the limit, with Band Aid a who's who of 1984 British pop stars. Irishmen Bob Geldof, of The Boomtown Rats, and Bono, of U2, were to the forefront, in the days before they annoyed everyone by being to the forefront of everything. It was the fastest-selling British single of all time, with Geldof even forcing Margaret Thatcher's government to back down on taxing its sales. Any Thatcher backdown is worth singing about.
White Christmas, Bing Crosby
Arguably the greatest Christmas song, it was released amid the bleak turmoil of World War II, with writer Irving Berlin convinced it was a masterpiece, even with only 54 words. And so it proved, with the homespun sentiments of a northern winter Christmas selling even in New Zealand where jandals and cool beer are the norm, and all the dreaming in the world is unlikely to bring on a white christmas.
Stop the Cavalry, Jona Lewie
Ok, ok, ok, it's another song about peace, with a soldier in the trenches lamenting "wish I was at home for Christmas". But like the Lennon and Ono with Happy Christmas (War is Over), it came to be associated with Christmas, and was kept out of Britain's coveted No 1 Christmas single slot in 1980, only by a pair of Lennon hits sailing high off the back of his murder weeks earlier. If you need culture, apparently it features a Welsh choir and has touches of Mozart around the melody.
When a Child is Born, Johnny Mathis
This one is admittedly a bit dodgy. It's straight-out schlock, which overplays the joy one feels when a baby enters the world, "for a spell or two no-one seems forlorn, this comes to pass, when a child is born", even if the child in question is Jesus.
Most parents know very little sleep comes to pass when a child is born, but there is plenty of howling and smelly poop.
At Christmas you can ignore all that, and be a sucker for the drama-filled Mathis spoken bit. Nearly.
Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea
Isn't driving home for Christmas great? You get all excited about packing, fill up with petrol, phone mum and dad to say you're on the way. An hour later you're in a traffic jam, in south Auckland or just near Paraparaumu. Chris Rea manages to retain the excitement of the journey and the hug-filled reunion, without the nose-to-tail aspect. Why not ensure you have this song on tap in your car, as you pass those hours examining the bumper of that cattle truck in front?
Snoopy's Christmas, The Royal Guardsmen
A personal decision. I got given this as a vinyl 45 for Christmas in the 1960s, when I loved Snoopy and was obsessed with World War 1 aircraft, as flown by the bloody Red Baron. I packed it carefully in the car to the trip to my grandparents for Christmas dinner. It was summer. It was hot in the car. It buckled. I never got to play it. So now, when I hear Snoopy's Christmas on the radio I'm retraumatised by memories of that awful day. Perhaps I need help.
Merry Christmas everyone.
- © Fairfax NZ News