In the United Kingdom and the other countries of the British Commonwealth, December 26th is known as “Boxing Day.” Ostensibly, that unusual name comes from the tradition of employers and bosses giving Christmas Boxes (containing small gifts and money) to servants, tradespeople and laborers—a kind of post-Christmas Christmas bonus. Personally, I like to think there’s another explanation behind the name “Boxing Day,” after a holiday spent in overly-close quarters with cherished loved ones, by the time December 26th rolls around, a lot of us really want to hit something!
So, in the spirit of that Boxing Day and in recognition that, after having done our Seasonal duties, it’s finally time to blow off some steam, revel in a little irreverence and maybe break some &@#!, here are 13 great punk Christmas and Holiday songs to help set the mood.
#13 “The Christmas Song” by New Found Glory
It is easy to be dismissive of most bands which specialize in covers. New Found Glory is not most bands. They are, apparently, on a mission – to prove than any song can be covered as punk or pop-punk. Along the way, they’ve made punk a little more accessible without making it less fun, they’ve provided a lot of high quality entertainment and, occasionally, they’ve delivered some damn good music. Using their trademark approach to punk-up Nat King Cole and Mel Torme is a great way to begin our list.
#12 “Hark the Hearald Angles Sing” by Bad Religion
Many punk bands have tried their hand at a Christmas song or two. Bad Religion stands almost alone in recording an entire album of straight punk covers of Christmas favorites, 2013’s Christmas Songs. Certainly they stand alone in having done a good album of straight punk Christmas covers. And, yes, there is also the delightful linguistic irony of a band named Bad Religion doing an entire album of Christmas music. Given punk’s self-conscious flouting of tradition and of the norms of polite bourgeois society, doing an entire album of Christmas music is so un-punk rock that it’s totally punk rock!
#11 “The Night Santa Went Crazy” by Weird Al Yankovic
While certainly the acknowledged grandmaster of musical satire and lyrical parody, “Weird” Al Yankovic is typically not the first name to roll off the tongue when punk rock is mentioned. On the other hand, with its pop-punk vocals and aggressive, hook-laden guitar parts, “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is at least as punk rock as anything Blink 182 or Weezer have ever done. The lyrics, on the other hand, paint a vivid picture of the mental breakdown and subsequent killing spree of everyone’s favorite jolly old elf and earn Weird Al some very serious punk cred:
“When the boss bust in, he nearly scared them half to death,
He had a rifle in his hands and cheap whisky on his breath
“He said as he stood, with a twinkle in his eye,
Merry Christmas to all, now you’re all going to die!”
#10 “Merry Christmas Baby (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” by The Ramones
This bombastic Christmas love song (well, as a much of a love song as one typically encounters in punk) showcases Joey Ramone’s velvety vocals as well as the band’s glorious roots-rocked influenced instrumentation. Since its release in 1989, “Merry Christmas Baby” has become mainstream radio’s “go to” punk rock Christmas song. In true punk spirit, that will keep “Merry Christmas Baby” at #9 on our list so that we can use the rest of the list for less widely known recordings.
#9 “Blue Christmas” By George the Max, Alex Chilton and Glue Party
This slow punk cover of Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” is notable for several reasons. First, it is an obscure recording by some seminal figures of the New Orleans punk scene. Second, its stripped-down performance and rough-hewn production values really captures the DIY essence of punk rock. Finally, the slide-show collection of photos from the formative days of Big Easy punk which accompany the recording are absolutely amazing.
#8 “Christmas Night of Zombies” by MxPx
What could be more awesome than punk rock or zombies? How about a Christmas song that combines both? Washington State’s MxPx delivers this tale of a Christmas Eve zombie uprising, set to all the frenzied instrumentation you’d expect. Those of you weaned on first or second generation punk may already be scanning the lyrics looking for metaphor and symbolism connecting zombies with runaway Christmastime consumerism. Don’t bother. MxPx really is talking about a zombie uprising — and the name of the game is gore and a high body count.
#7 “Daddy Drank Our Xmas Money” by TVTV$
Not every roots genre could tell a story as irresistibly horrible as the one spelled out in the title of this song. Even within that elite subset, only punk rock could deliver this tale with such bald-faced panache and morbid glee. TVTV$ gets bonus points for the music. It’s all glorious punk rock and the guitar riffing is especially wicked — but the score itself is clearly is a variation on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”
#6 “(It’s Going to Be A) Punk Rock Christmas” by The Ravers
When it was released in 1977 by punk/new wave artists The Ravers, “Punk Rock Christmas” became the first widely known Christmas punk song, proceeding The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas Baby” by more than a decade. In addition to great music, the song’s various lyrical shout-outs provide an impressive summary of the punk, new wave and rock landscapes of the day. Just a year after the release of “Punk Rock Christmas,” The Ravers changed their name and found much greater fame as The Nails. With The Ravers part of their discography now in obscurity, it is not uncommon to see “Punk Rock Christmas” attributed to the Sex Pistols or other early punk acts.
#5 “Xmas Eve (She Gut Up and Left Me)” by Rancid
West Coast punk rock veterans, Rancid, deliver a song which I like to think of as a possible sequel to the Ramone’s “Merry Christmas Baby.” Rancid’s tale is a classic punk break-up song. Well, actually, Christmastime miracles and all, it’s probably a little less dysfunctional than most. Fans of punk guitar will particularly enjoy Tim Armstrong’s work on this number.
#4 “Run, Run, Rudolph” by Lemmy Kilmister
Motorhead’s Lemmy covers Chuck Berry’s Christmas rock classic. What are you waiting for? What possible reason could you have for not clicking the link already? What more do you need to know, except that some of Lemmy’s axe work is probably worthy of a tip of the cap from Berry himself?
#3 “The Season’s Upon Us” The Dropkick Murphys
Like all bands with a strong sense of place, The Dropkick Murphys can simultaneously invoke affection and parody when exploring their roots. The lyrics and video to “The Season’s Upon Us” tell the hyperbolic story of a blue-collar Boston Irish holiday that makes Robert Earl Keene’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” seem like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” For all that, the song and video both ooze obvious warmth, affection and even nostalgia for the subject which even punk rock’s patina of jaded cynicism cannot mask completely.
#2 “Fuck Christmas” by Fear
It takes masters of West Coast hardcore, Fear, only 45 seconds to deliver the ultimate musical and thematic punk rock rebuttal to Christmas—and that’s all that really needs to be said.
#1 “Oi! To the World” by The Vandals
Less overdone than “Merry Christmas Baby” but more accessible than “Punk Rock Christmas,” “Oi! To The World,” appears to have the credentials for the perfect punk rock Christmas song. Yes, No Doubt did a version as well, but The Vandals (with their typical anarchic sense of fun) are the perfect medium for this message.
So, there you go. Hopefully you’re feeling more relaxed and mellow than when you started (Also, does anyone have any suggestions for why the West Coast seems to have a near monopoly on Christmas punk?).