Christmas time, an alternative rock playlist

Even rockers love Santa!

Robot Santa

Robot Santa (c) 20th Century Fox

It’s that time of the year again when the wonderful festivities of Christmas land fully loaded and sparkling in our laps, whether we like it or not. But as the repeated cheer of years gone by graces the television, here is an alternative playlist of Christmas songs available from our good friend Satan… I mean Santa.

Christmas songs, in general, like to concern themselves with only the finest aspects of the festive season. Whether that be mistletoe and wine, reindeer and sleigh balls tearing up a frosty scene or the warming, but deeply concerning for us men, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, there is no end to famous bands and artists who have contributed to the silly season. It is unsurprising that there is an endless the list of artists who have donned the tinsel and Santa hat in aide of selling albums. Paul McCartney no less has gone down in history as one of the most famous of these examples. His 1979 Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time is now almost synonymous with the late December nights and, here in the UK at least, drunken rampages of office decadence and tinsel clad party goers. Other famous contributors are The Pogues who, up until their 1987 Fairytale in New York had received moderate success were catapulted into the lime light, Kirsty MacColl taken along for the ride too. Now, thanks to digital download and music television the single has success on a yearly basis.

So in this time of sickening festive cheer, a small, but not unsubstantial list of songs can b collated to bring an alternative enjoyment to the hackneyed Christmas song. Kicking off this list is the aging stars of the frankly brilliant rockumentary, Spinal Tap. Christmas with the Devil offers harder listeners a little shine on Christmas from a much seedier, hedonistic view, perfect for warming one’s cockles. Speaking of elves clad in leather and rancid sugar plums, this festive frolic is a wonderful send up of both the hard rock/metal scene and traditional Christmas wailings from a seemingly perfect world of matching snowflakes and candy cane lined streets. The deliberately overproduced guitar rift immediately catapults the listener into a dreary, yet strangely entrancing world where its “Evil’s holiday”

Returning more to traditional routes, the legendary folk and prog-rock veterans Jethro Tull contribute their harmonic and acoustic talents to Christmas Song and Another Christmas Song. Long associated with a more country and folk backgrounds, Christmas provides a perfect backdrop for Ian Anderson and the rest of Tull to wrap their wonderfully imaginative and deeply descriptive minds around great scenes of winter and warm fires. The playing is of course outstanding on both songs as they also provide perfect examples of Anderson’s remarkable ability to turn the simple flute, a firm bastion of classical instrumentality, and make spew rock tones that hold up with modern guitar work. An honourable mention also goes to Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow as another fine song by Jethro Tull dealing with the less fortunate at Christmas time, an important subject to all of course.

A final contributor to the alternate Christmas playlist is Mistress for Christmas by AC/DC. The veteran Australian rockers offer from their 1991 album The Razor’s Edge a typically sleazy, blues oriented song that never fails to bring a smile to listener’s faces, fans or not. Of course not meant to be taken seriously, as the band themselves like not to be, this final offering is simply AC/DC offering their irreverent commentary on yet another subject, that of Christmas, oddly enough in late September of 1990 for its release!

So there you have it good gentlefolk of the realms. I hope this offers a small candle light of hope when you are next suffering through the drudgery of Cliff Richard’s greatest Christmas Hits all at once. The mere glimpse that hard rock has had its noisy share o the market might just save us all in the end from another dose of ingestion and bowel obstructions brought on by brussel sprouts. I wish you all of course a merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Jonathan Whitelaw

Check out iTunes and the band websites for all songs avilible in this article:, and

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