From now until Christmas, we’ll be delivering a series of holiday song lists, from traditional carol covers to original pop rock Christmas songs. There are simply so many great Christmas songs in existence – so we’ve decided to add themes to each edition. For this one, we have highlighted some Christmas tunes from the UK rock n’ rollers who made it big in the ’60s and ’70 as part of the British Invasion:
The Beatles - Christmas Time (Is Here Again) – 1967
This Beatle’s tune was originally released only to Beatles’ fan club members who ordered the record through the mail. It was later included in the 1970 LP The Beatles’ Christmas Album (another fan club exclusive). “Auld Lang Syne” is played n the organ as Lennon reads one of his free verse poems:
And Christmas time is all,
and your bonnie clay us through.
Happy breastling to you people
all out best from me to you.
When the beasty brangom button
to the heather and little inn.
And be strattened oot in matether
to yer arms once back again.
Och away, ye bonnie.
John Lennon – Happy Christmas (War Is Over) – 1971
Although a protest song about the Vietnam War, Happy Christmas (War is Over) has become a Christmas standard. The 1971 single was recorded by Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band and was produced by Phil Spector. The children’s choir is the Harlem Community Choir. If you listen closely at the beginning of the song, there is a barely-audible whisper: Yoko whispers “Happy Christmas, Kyoko“, then John whispers “Happy Christmas, Julian”:
Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody – 1973
This 1973 tune by Brit glam rock band Slade was the band’s sixth (and last) #1 single in the UK. Lead vocalist and guitarist Noddy Holder on the song’s creation:
We’d decided to write a Christmas song and I wanted to make it reflect a British family Christmas. Economically, the country was up the creek. The miners had been on strike, along with the grave-diggers, the bakers and almost everybody else. I think people wanted something to cheer them up – and so did I. That’s why I came up with the line ‘Look To The Future Now It’s Only Just Begun’. Once I got the line ‘Does Your Granny Always Tell You That The Old Ones Are The Best’, I knew I’d got a right cracker on my hands.
The Kinks - Father Christmas - 1977
Brit rockers The Kinks appear on a bizarre German television show to perform their 1977 tune Father Christmas. The song failed to make the charts but is still popular today. In between guitar solos, the band reminds us that there’s more to Christmas then toys and ‘drinkin’ down your wine’:
Have yourself a Merry, Merry Christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin’
While you’re drinkin’ down your wine.
Keith Richards – Run Rudolph Run - 1978
Keef’s rendition of Chuck Berry’s Run Rudolph Run appeared on his first solo single in 1978, with a B-Side of Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come. The single didn’t make a dent in the charts, but it has continued to be a popular cover of Run Rudolph Run.
“All I want for Christmas
Is a rock n’ roll electric guitar”
And then away went Rudolph
Racin’ like a shooting star
Paul McCartney – Wonderful Christmastime – 1979
A cheerful song from 1979, featuring a space age synth, jingle bells and a music video with some very retro computer graphics.
The moon is right
The spirits up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough
Simply having a wonderful christmastime
Greg Lake – I Believe in Father Christmas – 1975
One of our Twitter followers, @BetsBooth, suggested a great tune to be added to our list. This 1975 song by Greg Lake, of the Brit rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer, was not intended to be a Christmas song – he claims to have written the tune in protest to the commercialization of Christmas. He stated in a Mojo magazine interview:
“I find it appalling when people say it’s politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you’ve got to talk about ‘The Holiday Season.’ Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas.”