Punk Christmas Songs
Considering the madness that the season can engender from time to time there will always be a place for punk Christmas songs. They’ve got the noise, they’ve got the attitude and that no holds barred attitude to cut through the tinsel and turkey and get to the heart of the matter. Which is what the Ramones did on their ‘Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)’, a song that reveals a truth that is often not talked about over the holiday season. Despite the unwelcome theme this is a great composition that has unseasonable depth for a punk song.
For a true sense of what Christmas punk songs should sound like you are best returning to source but despite all the confusion over ‘(It's Gonna Be A) Punk Rock Christmas’ it is actually L.A.'s the Ravers, rather than the Sex Pistols, who recorded this for Christmas 1977. Following Sid Vicious’s death the Sex Pistols did actually get to record a Christmas record when the remaining members of the group teamed up with Thin Lizzy to form the supergroup known as the Greedies. The troupe’s only release was a heavy guitar laden medley of old Christmas favourites and was titled ‘A Merry Jingle’. It was more fascinating than particularly artful it must be said.
Ulster’s Stiff Little Fingers may have invented shoegaze on their reverb heavy version of ‘White Christmas’ but their 1979 b-side also punked Bing Crosby’s respectable song to within an inch of its life. Slightly less scary but no less revolutionary in its reinvention of a traditional standard is the Dickies ‘Silent Night’ which pumps at the volume control in a way that the old carol was up to that point not subjected to. For all that the L.A. group somehow let ‘Silent Night’ hold on to its respectability and in the process recoup a slither of charm.
The Damned’s ‘There Ain’t No Sanity Clause’ is archetypal classic punk Christmas music from one of the great British punk bands. Released in 1980 it featured a great chorus, punishing percussion and a line from a 1930’s Marx Brothers. What could be more perfect? It may have arrived well after the first wave of punk (1996) had ended but the Vandals ‘Oi to the World!’ is still one of best punk rock Christmas albums there is. The incendiary title track is the best known number, as much for No Doubt’s cover as for the songs singular shouty demeanour. This is Christmas but not as we know it.
As punk softened its edges the emergence of pop punk Christmas songs gave the genre a little bit of latitude to infiltrate the mainstream. So Blink-182’s guitar heavy but melody focused ‘I Won't Be Home For Christmas’ gave the kids in long shorts a Christmas anthem without ever losing a modicum of cool. My Chemical Romance’s 2004 rendition of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ may start out all emo but before long they’ve greased it up with snarly singing and a cavalcade of rampaging guitar lines.
Proper punk Christmas albums are thin on the ground but there are some decent compilations. 1981’s ‘Bollocks To Christmas’ may only feature 4 songs but it has the gnarl to set fire to any Christmas tree. The highlight is probably the Business’s version of Elton John’s ‘Step Into Christmas’ which has plenty of shouty vocals that just stop short of an incendiary Oi!
2003’s ‘It’s a Punk Rock Christmas’ may not feature that many artists that you’ve heard of (apart from Blink-182 ‘, New Found Glory, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Fall Out Boy) but you will know the majority of the songs behind the punk Christmas covers. Take Matchbook Romance’s uproarious ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ wherein the hushed delight is minced by the sound of raging chords. In Memory also turn Andy Williams’ ‘The Most Wonderful Time of The Year’ into something that Green Day would gladly call their own. It comes as a shock at first but as the dust settles you start to appreciate In Memory’s super loud triumph.