Christmas music alternatives — beyond Rudolph, Frosty and the occasional hippo

With two Twin Cities radio stations already playing Christmas music virtually 24/7, you already may be tiring of songs about a red-nosed reindeer, a lively snowman and even the occasional housebound hippopotamus.

The main reason: You’re likely to hear the same songs — often by the same artists — over and over.

Try as you might, you can’t escape holiday music this time of year, but I can help a bit.

Diversification is my solution.

Check out my list of “underplayed” Christmas songs that would add a little more variety alongside such omnipresent classics as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” And then add your own song suggestions in the Comment area below.

And with these handy links to the songs on my list, you don’t even have to wait for their rare (if ever) appearance on playlists at the Twin Cities’ two Christmas music headquarters — KOOL 108 and WLTE-FM — or at one of the many other stations that are ramping up their holiday offerings as the countdown to the big day marches on.

My eclectic Christmas list includes, among others, a song with whorehouse roots, an upbeat hymn medley by — of all things — a German reggae-influenced group, and a soundtrack song from a 1970s film thriller about an underground neo-Nazi movement.

I’ve got other nominees, too, but here are five seasonal songs that deserve to be heard more in coming days:

5. A traditional holiday song given a nontraditional treatment by Ol’ Blue Eyes. Frank Sinatra jazzes up “Jingle Bells” for a spell with the swingingest version I’ve ever heard.

4. One from the King. No, not his overplayed “Blue Christmas.” I was thinking of Elvis’ vintage rock ’n’ roll holiday song, “Santa, Bring My Baby Back (To Me),” featured below with an unusual supporting cast.

3. Dolly Parton’s “A Hard Candy Christmas” is a poignant “starting over” song that captures the season’s spirit of renewal and new beginnings. The song originally comes from the 1978 Broadway musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

2. Boney M’s combo “Mary’s Boy Child”/”Oh My Lord.” The international group, which found fame in Germany and much of Europe with its reggae-influenced sound, produced one of the most upbeat, joyful Christmas songs ever, below. It became the No. 1 Christmas song in the United Kingdom in 1978.

1. Perry Como’s “Christmas Dream.” To my knowledge, this is the only Christmas song in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s voluminous repertoire. The number — complete with a German boys choir — comes from the 1974 Jon Voight-Maximilian Schell film “The Odessa File.” The song’s calming lyrics make quite a contrast with the rest of the thriller film’s German conspiracy plot. A small sample:

Crazy things, said and done,
Every single day but one!
Every night should, I believe,
Be the same as Christmas Eve,
Nights should all be silent,
Days should all slow down,
An end to the hurry,
The noise and the worry!

Then, in the spirit of ecumenism, I wanted to close with a Hanukkah song, one that — surprise — even has a Minnesota connection.

No, not Adam Sandler’s popular tribute, which gets substantial airplay during the days leading up to the eight-night festival, which this year begins Dec. 12.

I was thinking of a lighthearted one from master satirist Tom Lehrer, a good-natured but “equal-opportunity” offender with his wit. Over the years, he’s tweaked religious groups with such offerings as “National Brotherhood Week” and “The Vatican Rag,” so it was only a matter of time before it would be his fellow Jews’ turn.

Give a listen below as he outlines his holiday plans in the song “(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica.”

The 1990 song, it turns out, was originally written for Garrison Keillor’s “The American Radio Company,” and the radio host performed it on the Dec. 11, 2004, “Prairie Home Companion” show.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Gin Kujawa on 12/04/2009 - 09:15 am.

    How about “Santa Baby” Eartha Kitt’s anthem to conspicuous consumption?

  2. Submitted by Sean Broom on 12/04/2009 - 09:31 am.

    I think this list is missing the Pogues Fairytale of New York.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCr30OVMjHA

  3. Submitted by Maianne Preble on 12/04/2009 - 10:42 am.

    Anything from Melissa Etheridge’s Christmas album. Nontraditionals include:
    Glorious – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg793H14BfE
    It’s Christmas in America – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VZUyXNeAeU&feature=related
    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tC4cvpJykY&feature=fvw

    A local band – BoJoNo’s (formerly Boyd Lee and Joe Cruz) cover of “Santa Clause Wants Some Loving”. Not on youtube.

    John Denver’s “Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzvQr8fidLo

    Anything from Raffi’s Christmas album (great if you have kids and want nonoffensive options)

  4. Submitted by Sylvie Nickel on 12/04/2009 - 03:29 pm.

    If it’s a not-so-merry season:
    “Christmas Eve Can Kill You” from the Everly Brothers 1972 album, STORIES WE COULD TELL
    http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/xmas/christmasevecankillyou.shtml

    If you’re feeling sweetly nostalgic:
    “Christmas Serenade” by Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge” from the 1989 EP CHRISTMAS IS…

    http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/xmas/christmasserenade.shtml

  5. Submitted by Greg Johnson on 12/04/2009 - 09:39 pm.

    Here’s a couple of contemporary Christmas songs that have become family favorites.

    The Pretenders – “2000 Miles”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0InMwNDFDVw

    Paul Kelly – “How To Make Gravy”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb4YWJgfmQE

  6. Submitted by Pat Borzi on 12/04/2009 - 10:12 pm.

    Don: In an Italian household, it isn’t Christmas without Lou Monte. Here’s a fave:

    http://www.lyricsdownload.com/lou-monte-dominick-the-donkey-lyrics.html

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