10 Favorite Christmas Music Performances

This meme originates at The Shelf, and made its way to me via Retro Hound (who hates the word "meme" at least as much as I do).  I decided to participate in this one for two reasons (1) it's not just Christmas songs, but rather performances, which I thought was an interesting twist, and (2) because Retro Hound operates one of my favorite retro sites in the blogosphere (another word I hate), so I'm all over it.

10. "Silent Night" by Claudine Longet and Andy Williams

You may recall from an earlier post on Claudine Longet that Andy Williams discovered her stranded on the side of the road in Vegas.  He fell in love with this unknown dancer and it wasn't long before her career took off in television, movies and the music business. They were well connected with the Kennedy's (Bobby being a close family friend) and things couldn't be happier.

By 1970, however, the couple split up and Claudine moved in with the famous Olympic skier, "Spider" Sabich. The relationship became tumultuous and in 1975 Claudine shot her husbund in the stomach, killing him.  She only spent 30 days in jail.....

So, why do I love this performance? It gives me a very strange feeling, knowing what was to come just a few years later.  One day a sweet wholesome moment before the violence.

9. "Merry Christmas, Darling" by The Carpenters

Another bittersweet Christmas song.  The tune was originally recorded when Karen was only 20 years old, her future certainly looked bright in 1970, but there was always a hint of sadness in everything she sang. This performance was taped 8 years after the original recording - she would die from complications of anorexia in 1983.  (Sorry if I'm bringing the room down - I'll try to make the next one peppy.)

8. "Happy Life Day" by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher)

Life Day is the Star Wars Universe's answer to Christmas. It was featured in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978.

Note: One reason you rarely see embedded YouTube videos on Retrospace is that they are so unstable. They're removed all the time due to some greedy bastard getting mad about not getting his royalties.  Very likely this video will soon be deleted if George Lucas'  bounty hunters legal team gets wind of this.

7. "White Christmas" by The New Dada

The New Dada were an Italian band which opened for The Beatles during their tours of Italy. Their version of White Christmas presented here is short but sweet. They have that shit kicking mod 'tude in full effect and somehow take a Bing Crosby classic and warp it into something Mick Jagger-esque.  The icing on the cake is that it ends with a few words by Sophia Loren.

6. The Christmas Scene in Tommy by Oliver Reed and Ann-Margret

It's not so much the song that I like, it's the bizarre fusion of Christmas with The Who, of having Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed singing Who songs at a Christmas party.  Unfortunately, the song absolutely sucks. I had to listen to Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis" just to get it out of my head.

5. "I Believe in Father Christmas" by Greg Lake

A founding member of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer preaching against the commercialization of the holiday - incredible, to say the least. But it's not just the song that's great, the video performance in Jordan with images of Vietnam is pretty hard hitting. Lake was a talented and intelligent musician if there ever was one - he would throw up at my choice for number one on this list.

4. "O Come All Ye Faithfull" by Carol Brady (Florence Henderson)

I love good ol' fashioned Christmas songs and I love Mrs. MILF Brady - they go together like peanut butter and jelly. A very heartwarming moment on The Brady Bunch that I hope you are not too cynical to enjoy. You go, Mrs. Brady!

3. "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade

Utterly brilliant song by an utterly brilliant band. A glam rock Christmas classic by my main man, Noddy on Top of the Pops. For another great glam Xmas, I recommend Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" or Mud's "Lonely this Christmas".

2. "Children of Peace" by Unit Gloria

From Utrecht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, comes this wild piece of Christmas prog rock.  The clothes, the hair, the accent, the lyrics, the Teutonic "progishness".... what's not to love? In case you doubt this is actually a Christmas song, the B-Side to the single was "Silent Night" and "Ave Maria".

1. I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing - The Hillside Singers

This Christmas version of the unbelievably successful 1971 song brings back so many memories, my mind simply bursts with warm fuzzy thoughts of Christmases past.  Maybe it's sad that a commercial jingle would top my list, but my generation was raised on the commercialization of Christmas and so it seems only fitting.

Of course, this song transcends "jingle".  This was a hippie anthem - just listen to the lyrics: "I'd like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love. Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves." The song hit a chord with the young generation.  Sure, it was by one of the world's largest corporations, but who cares? It's not just carbonated high fructose corn syrup, it's a commonality that binds us all in peaceful harmony. Merry Christmas!


  1. That Coca-Cola commercial and Rankin-Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer always bring back wonderful childhood Christmas memories. Thanks for the post.

  2. Hey, thanks. I knew you'd have an interesting list.

    The New Dada is really... something. I do like it, don't get me wrong.

    The Tommy scene is wild. I have the soundtrack album, not the Who album (I also have that), but the soundtrack. The only song I really listen to on that on is Tina Turner singing "Acid Queen."
    And I almost put "Christmas in Hollis" on my list.

    Unit Gloria? Where do you come up with this stuff?

  3. Gil, Great post, as usual! I happen to own the 'Star Wars Holiday Special' AND have sat through the whole thing!, (a separate point that needs to be mentioned!), and was very pleased to see it acknowledged here for what its worth!

    Rock on and happy holiday,

  4. How could you have forgotten one of the greatest Christmas performances of all time, "Santa's Rap" from the movie Beat Street (1984). This was performed by Doug E. Fresh and contained stellar lyrics like "I came to bring some Christmas Spirit, I gotta big bag now guess what's in it. Somethin' for the rich and somethin' for the po, so Merry Christmas and ho ho ho." It just doesn't get much better than that, eh?

    Beat Street was the 2nd movie I ever watched on our new Beta Max VCR, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was the first.

  5. Another great post! Father Christmas is just one of the best, and Merry Christmas Darling is a song I've liked since the first time I heard it.

  6. I still play he Elvis Christmas album. Need to get that folder onto Winamp for the holiday season!

    I found a curious site and band that seems down your alley fro research if you are curious. Some retro site called PCL Link Dump had a write up on an all girl band from the 60's called the Angelettes. The image here is great as one gal has a Fender Telecaster and another a Gibson Les Paul! The 3rd guitar may be Gretsch but I cannot tell. Some of the standards of rock in those day (and still really). I think there is a link to some samples but I have not got it to work yet...


  7. Hitch, this was an unforgiveable oversight on my part. When you think of Christmas, who doesn't think of Beat Street? My bad.

    Bill - PCL Linkdump has been one of my favorite sites for a long, long time. I'm not at all surprised you found something there that's right up my alley.

  8. Happy Monday! I wanted to say hello. I hope you had a fantastic weekend. Take care. Enjoy the week ahead. Cheers!

  9. Claudine didn't shoot her husband, she shot her boyfriend. Spider was smart enough not to marry her.

    After the trial, Claudine ran off to Mexico with her married defense attorney for a vacation before her jail time (served at her convenience). They married in 1985 and still live in Aspen.

  10. Uranium Willy, it looks like the Angelettes are holding a Les Paul and a pair of Telecasters. At least in the photo with them all wearing long flower dresses. I think my wife would love those dresses, and I love the guitars.

  11. Great stuff, as usual, man. Love the classics, and that Carpenter's tune is one of them. And the Coke ad. :)

  12. mERRY xMAS, HO-HO-HO-HO......

  13. 2/8/11
    RobGems.ca wrote:
    The only song here that's not much to do with the subject of Christmas is The Star Wars "Happy Life Day Song". Not only does it have nothing to do with Christmas, it was from a bad Holiday special among Bad Holiday specials. Not once in that 2-hour spectacle are the words "merry' & "Christmas", but you do get an agonizing 12 minutes of wookie dialouge with no sub-titles. Arrrggh! Arrgggh! Ogggh! indeed. The one song I think is missing from this list: The Kinks' "Father Christmas" from 1978. not only does it have a department store Christnmas Santa being terrorized by Punk Rock thugs with broken families & no money, but it has a subtle, stunning message: Not every family in Madam Margaret Thatcher's England in 1978 had a Father Christmas to contend with, because they were too poverty-stricken to notice. Now THAT's a bleak Christmas message just as dark & dreary as John Denver's drunken dad Christmas song. (Don't forget that Captain Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen also had a depressing deadbeat drunken parent Christmas song called "Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas" from 1973. it's equally as bleak as Denver's & The Kinks' anti-yuletide songs.)