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5 Holiday Classics as Bad as “Do They Know It’s Christmas”

December 5, 2010

If you missed it in the flurry of holiday activities, Sir Bob Geldof, former Boomtown Rat and humanitarian responsible for writing the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” which helped Band Aid raise millions for hunger relief in Ethiopia, just recently admitted what most of us already knew: the song sucked. He told London’s Daily Mail:

‘I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It’s Christmas? and the other one is We Are The World.

Read more:

So, let’s give it a listen again, shall we?


The concept of the song itself is dripping with Western Privilege, and for that element alone, the song (mind you, not the effort to help prevent famine) deserves at least a bit of derision… as if the climate of Africa somehow prevented people from understanding the concept of Christmas. Ideally, the song was designed for the charitable members of the secular set to make them want to donate to the cause, but, to be fair, in 1984,  most of the down side of this was masked by the star power of all those UK singing superstars like Boy George, Sting and Bananarama. It’s only now, after hearing it over and over again, every single Christmas season, can we say we’re truly sick of it.

So, we have to jot a memo, fire off an email, send a tweet, or just Facebook poke any and all musicians, vocalists, celebrities, and actors who think they can sing: You People! Christmas Is Forever! If you record a holiday record for some television show, for a film, for a novelty release, or your album, it will be played the year your project comes out, and the year after that, and the year after that, and so on, and so on, until time has ended. So, with that in mind, here are a handful of songs by a few performers you know that likely DIDN’T have that in mind!

Why look! It’s Elton John singing “Step Into Christmas!”

… and there! It’s Paul McCartney with “Wonderful Christmas Time!”

I’ve paired these two songs together because they were both written for specials these two icons of music did back in the 1970s. And these are two classic examples of artists not realizing the permanence of Christmas Songs! Without needing to bash either one of these tunes too hard, it’s clear that these were meant to be disposable fluff that was “of the moment,” something that would be entertaining on their programs, but soon forgotten. The trouble is that they weren’t forgotten and they are still trotted out in all of their Moog Synthesizer glory each and every year as if they were Handel‘s Messiah or at least Nat King Cole‘s version of Mel Tormé‘s “The Christmas Song!” They’re not.

Hey! It’s David Bowie and Bing Crosby crooning a duet called “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth!”

Talk about a stunt. Very much like the John and McCartney offerings above, this song was a part of a Holiday TV program (which you can get a sense of with the campy patter that Bowie and Crosby struggle through before they get to their vocalizing in this clip). We’re up to the 1980s here, and obviously Bingo was trying to find a way to stay relevant to the kids watching, hence getting Ziggy Stardust to float into his tin can. But this song is far more sad than positive: neither singer was in good voice, and really it’s possible they both were lit up like Christmas Trees themselves, Crosby approaching the end of his life and Bowie just likely having a festive celebration. The cringe factor far outweighs the intended warmhearted sentiments.


Why, it’s those Singing Dogs doing that classic, “Jingle Bells!”

Seriously, this is complete disaster. “Jingle Bells” is a fairly annoying song to begin with, but then record the sound of dogs barking out the notes to it, and you have a recipe for something that would make you want to turn your dial as fast as you can reach it, or run, screaming and empty-handed, from the store foolish enough to have it on their playlist. Muzzle!


And a NEW one for the 2010 Holiday season: we’ve got Garfunkel and Oates with “Present Face!”

Riki Lindhome is “Garfunkel” and Kate Micucci is “Oates” in this parody pairing. They comically perform a whole series of ditties explaining why “Pregnant Women Are Smug,” remembering a “One Night Stand” or securing a “Weed Card,”  but here, their topic of discussion is your reaction to a gift someone gave you that you don’t like, while you try not to show your disgust. That’s a set up for something negative, or at least not so good, isn’t it? I suppose  by making people conscious of this affliction, they are encouraging folks to choose their gifts more wisely to prevent it. However I’m guessing what it’ll actually mean is that everyone will just be more aware of how bad an actor you are when they realize you don’t like what they gave you! (I also presume that they’ll have a follow-up song about “regifting” at some point.)

Riki and Kate, we’ll still be playing “Present Face” for Christmas 2060! I hope you like it then (and every single year up til then) as much as you do now!

So, what Holiday song could you most celebrate the season without?

28 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2010 12:28 pm

    That P-Mac song is the only reason I bother celebrating the holidays.

  2. December 5, 2010 12:43 pm

    @Snarky “…And don’t look down!”

    Well, I can hear elements of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” in it, if I listen really carefully!

  3. December 5, 2010 2:04 pm

    I love, Present Face too. It’s hilarious.

  4. December 5, 2010 2:14 pm

    I’ve always been a big fan of cheesy Christmas tunes. I laughed the first time I heard “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” and I still do.

    Oh and I love Garfunkel and Oates. They’re so cute!

  5. December 5, 2010 2:17 pm

    @Redlami – I remember the first time I heard “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. it made me laugh so hard. It still makes me laugh.

  6. December 5, 2010 6:42 pm

    aw, I love the Bowie/Bing Drummer Boy song too!! but the dogs barking jingle bells, ech.

    I get sick of I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas pretty quickly.

  7. evmaroon permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:46 pm

    I am as in love with this post as I detest all of these songs. And in the spirit of love-hate relationships, I bring you this:

    I am dying with laughter. You have to wait for the high note.

  8. Q.V. permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:46 pm

    My first job was cashier in Zellers, and I started in November of that year. The lines were long and the music was non-stop. (To get an idea of how long the lines were, this was before price scanners, and we typed in an 8 or 9 digit SKU plus other category keys for every item. Don’t get me started about what happened when there were mistakes.)

    So I heard them all, or at least all that had been released by 1991. I can’t stand any country holiday song now, even though I like non-holiday country music.

    I heard a songwriter on the radio talking about how writing a hit Christmas song was like winning the lottery, precisely because the cheques came in every year, forever and ever. Mel Torme said the summer cheque was the greatest, it included the earnings from The Christmas Song from the previous Christmas.

  9. December 5, 2010 9:06 pm

    @Snarky the G & O song is cute, but the message may wear out over the years, which is why this is here!

  10. December 5, 2010 9:07 pm

    @redlami You know, that Grandma song is fun if your grandmother(s) are still alive, but trust me, once they’re not anymore, it’s not quite as much fun. 😦

  11. December 5, 2010 9:11 pm

    @evmaroon You know, even that Jingle Cat song wasn’t as bad as the Singing Dogs, though the fact that they made it a “country” song doesn’t help in any way!

  12. December 5, 2010 9:15 pm

    @Q.V. absolutely! A hit Christmas song is something huge, but you have to be the song writer, not the performer to keep getting those royalty checks (which also explains why some songs are always performed by anyone doing a holiday album: those tunes are in public domain and don’t require royalty payments).

  13. December 5, 2010 9:22 pm

    Here’s a bonus tune I considered adding but wasn’t sure if it was well-known enough to use:

    Yorgi Yorgesson – “I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas”

    This song starts out like a sorta lame and humorous thingy, as you would expect, but when Yorgi starts talking, it becomes a true psychologically traumatic tale of passive-aggressive family members, overexcited children, over inebriated dads, and more freaky events that would qualify as “oversharing” by our standards! Enjoy!

  14. LaLARoo permalink
    December 6, 2010 1:58 am

    1. That Paul McCartney song makes me happy. Always has. Always will. God Bless Macca and his cheese.

    2. The others all blow hard chunks EXCEPT for Garfunkel and Oats’ “Present Face” which is right on and adorable… not to mention, highly original in a time of the year filled with the same regurgitated crap that’s redone over and over again.

    Simply Havin’ a Wonderful Christmas Time…


  15. December 6, 2010 10:51 am

    @LaLARoo Thanks for sharing your holiday thoughts! I think once a song goes into that Christmas Canon, a couple of things could happen: you likely associate some wonderful memories with it and it becomes a beloved marker of some lovely moments in your life, and by extension becomes a favorite, or it could wind up being background noise for shopping for/wrapping gifts where you don’t really notice it, or you might decide you don’t like the instrumentation or the message of the song, or the performer or some other element, or it gets associated with some bad memory!

    I do feel confident in saying that McCartney never considered that his song in that original form would still be getting played in 2010 when he created it for his TV show, and ditto for Elton, which was the impetus for adding “Present Face” to this list. Sure, it’s adorable, now! But what about every year after now?

  16. Val permalink
    December 6, 2010 1:42 pm

    A summer/ holiday job at the Body Shop helped keep me fed in university. The place was insane at Christmas. We made custom baskets and there was a gift-wrapping service. Line-ups were out the door and half way down the mall for days. A Christmas album would go on first thing and just play all day. As a result, hearing The Boney M Christmas album actually makes me mildly sick to my stomach.

  17. IrishUp permalink
    December 6, 2010 3:37 pm

    @NYCp – great point about the Christmas Canon. Personally, I wish “Silver Bells” had never made it, on just that basis. Our 4th grade class had to sing it at the xmas show that year, and our teacher was TONE DEAF!!! and I cannot go there anymore ever again. OTOH, “Little Drummer Boy” and David Bowie were both early favs, and I remember seeing this Christmas special, and Bing had just died, so, love it!

    Now, Dominick the Donkey is just … awful.

  18. December 6, 2010 3:44 pm

    I think Present Face is timeless, unless one is blessed enough to never receive a shitty gift in front of a roomful of relatives staring all in your mouf.

  19. December 7, 2010 12:47 am

    @Val you definitely prove the point of associating a particular set of music with unpleasant memories, and that’s what can happen over time! Thanks for pointing this out!

  20. December 7, 2010 12:50 am

    @IrishUp I think you probably heard Dominick too often, which is always the threat when it comes to these songs, since everyone plays them, all the time, and even non-stop as we get closer to the date! You definitely can burn out on several tunes, even if you like them! I guess that’s the positive about having new Christmas songs each year: a larger variety of stuff to play, which will limit the number of times you hear the Harry Simone Chorale or The Chipmunks!

  21. December 7, 2010 12:54 am

    @Snarky you are really giving your love to “Present Face!” I’m going to check in with you in thirty years and get your take on it, then. Oh, but why wait! I’ll just hop in my time travel Delorean!

    *zip to 88mph*

    Yeah, just like I thought. You’re sick of it! 😛

  22. December 7, 2010 2:20 am

    Oh man, I am instantly in love with Garfunkel & Oates! Hilarious.

  23. December 7, 2010 8:20 am

    Dean, you thesis would be true except years later I still like all the songs in your post and don’t find any of them grating. Most are at least 20 years old. Christmas tends to be a joyous time and I think that contributes to folks being a lot more tolerant. No need to be a grinch, Dean. 😉

  24. December 7, 2010 9:17 am

    @IrishUp I think you probably heard Dominick too often

    Um, I don’t think repetition is that song’s problem. I can’t get through once!

  25. December 7, 2010 10:10 am


  26. December 7, 2010 11:02 am

    There are so many awful ones. Here is one of the worst of recent years:

    I actually don’t mind the whole Bowie/Bing one, as @raymondj said. And… I actually enjoy the “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” song he panned. Sigh.

  27. December 7, 2010 11:11 am

    Christmas Shoes. Now that one blows!

  28. December 25, 2010 8:01 am

    @Q.V.: I heard a songwriter on the radio talking about how writing a hit Christmas song was like winning the lottery, precisely because the cheques came in every year, forever and ever. Mel Torme said the summer cheque was the greatest, it included the earnings from The Christmas Song from the previous Christmas.

    It’s funny, but long before “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” became a mega-seller, Elmo and Patsy released a song called “Christmas Millionaire”. It’s not on Youtube and I haven’t found a decent recording of it online, but the basic gist of it is that Elmo is wishing he could write one (just one) smash hit Christmas song, and then every year the money would roll right in on schedule. My favorite verse:

    “From the day after Thanksgiving to the day before New Year
    Radios would play my song incessantly…
    And though it might just sound annoying to somebody else’s ear
    It would always sound like dollar signs to me!”

    Later he asks, “Why those gosh-darn Chipmunks and not me? It just ain’t fair.” To which some suspiciously Chipmunk-sounding voices reply, “Oh yeah?” Then the last line, for a bit of a recording industry in-joke, is “All I want is a little piece of ASCAP.”

    And since that other Elmo and Patsy song has ended up becoming so popular, his wishing and hoping seems to have paid off.

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