1. The Muffs – Nothing For Me
This tale of woe provided one of my favorite experiences seeing the Muffs live, at one of those all-star holiday shows put on by the Ringling Sisters in 1995. The three were all dressed in their finest little-kid clothes, like they had been marched down to the mall to take the pictures for the family Christmas card, and the result was a tantrum scene that rivaled the one in Female Trouble.
2. Canned Heat & The Chipmunks – The Chipmunk Song
Christmas seems to be a time for all kinds of wacky collaborations, and Chipmunks fan Bob “The Bear” Hite made this one happen once he realized his band was labelmates on Liberty Records with Alvin and co. It’s the very definition of a novelty record but one that serves its purpose of bringing a smile.
3. MX-80 – Christmas With The Devil
From the fantastic compilation Xmas Snertz comes possibly the most out-there holiday tune you’ll hear this season. (Not a Spinal Tap cover, if you were wondering.) Despite its trippy construction and irreverent theme, it’s downright Christmasey in an acid-warped kinda way. And contains this useful information: “Satan says Santa comes from the same folks that brought us Coke.”
4. Carla Thomas – Gee Whiz It’s Christmas
Stax produced some of the most perfect holiday R&B ever heard, and this holiday hookup- themed entry from Carla Thomas always hits the spot.
5. The Christmas Jug Band With Dan Hicks – Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit
You’d be mad too. But Hicks, after declaring to his wish take revenge on the villain referred to in the title, realizes that “he might do some good with it, more thanks to me,” and decides to let it go. Deck the halls and what the hell.
6. International Language – Christmas Will Be Magic Again
Another entry from Sympathy For The Record Industry’s Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus, this is a power-pop gem about missing the magic of cold weather, that nostalgia for seeing “clouds when I talk” while embedded in LA.
7. Redd Kross – Super Sunny Christmas
Practically an answer song to the previous entry, Redd Kross embrace their So Cal surroundings in that rare holiday anthem that screams “I’m so glad there ain’t no snow!”
8. The Korn Kobblers – Don’t Give Me No Goose For Christmas, Grandma
Not just a delightful Spike Jones-esque recording featuring a solo performed on bicycle horns, an entirely sensible idea to put forth into the world.
9. Little Eva & Big Dee Irwin – I Wish You A Merry Christmas
There’s something heartwarming about a song like this where the protagonists can so baldly insult each other while exchanging holiday greetings. They sound like they’re laughing their asses off, which is a very endearing quality in a Christmas record.
10. Marah – Christmas With The Snow
When someone says “I just want a castle made of snow!” when asked what they want for Christmas, does that make then the easiest or hardest person on your list to shop for?
11. Charles Brown – I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Charles Brown’s Christmas blues is the ultimate tonic to combat the actual Christmas blues, a gentle reminder of why we go to all the trouble.
12. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
I don’t think the song has anything to do with Christmas at all – it seems to be mostly about walking behind someone with a bloody nose – but it does take place in the snow, and it’s lovely, so there it is.
13. Bobby Nunn – Cool, Cool Christmas
Watch out kids, all the characters from your book of nursery rhymes have come to life and started dancing around your living room. That sounds like something that would freak a little kid out – especially now that “Hickory and Dickory have left the clock.” Be cool, fools.
14. Debbie & The Darnells – Santa Teach Me To Dance
I like it when kids who make Christmas records keep their expectations modest, unlike those girls who ask for Ringo or Frankie Avalon under the tree. They’re not prepared to feed and care for Ringo or Frankie, and what about all the other little girls who asked for the same thing? That’s worse than asking for a hippopotamus.
15. Wondermints – Ski Party
LA’s top proponents of elaborate and impeccable pop production offer visions of “groovy little chicks in sweaters real tight” and show us how surf music can be turned into ski music, just like that.
16. Funk Machine – Soul Santa
I posted this as a rejoinder to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly last year following her insistence that “Santa Claus is a white man” like she hangs out with him, which seems extremely unlikely. I’m with these guys: the man’s got soul.
17. Free Design – Close Your Mouth It’s Christmas
More sound advice from a beautiful song – “Bring your mind and body back from the store/ get to know the people in your house, you might like ’em.” Fans of tight early-seventies horn arrangements with funky bass lines and flawless harmony singing are sure to approve.
18. Pansy Division – Homo Christmas
Non-traditional (and totally NSFW) it may be, but it’s also one of the warmest entries on the list. Once you hear it, you won’t be able to look at a candy cane without thinking of this song.
19. The Youngsters – Christmas In Jail
Who hasn’t been there, man?
20. Red Sovine – Billy’s Christmas Wish
Well, in the spirit of the “non-traditional” quality I mentioned in the post title, this one has to be the most off-the-beaten-track of all Christmas songs. I’m going to warn you not to listen to it if you are enjoying the festive spirit of every other song on the list. This guy’s not normal. It’s not normal to want to sing people a Christmas song that makes them hopelessly depressed about the unfairness of life. You may have heard some sad trucker songs in your life, but this one is so over-the-top, it’s like the Natural Born Killers of sad trucker songs. But for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing, this is sure to be the best gift you get all year. Merry Christmas, weirdos.