Can you help me generate a playlist of unusual artist/xmas song pairings?
November 18, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

I recently saw a video that makes me want to create a playlist of unusual/surreal Christmas music. That is to say, odd pairings or covers of classic Christmas songs. I have a small set of criteria inside. What do you got?

The video that started it all for me was this one:
Scott Weiland - Winter Wonderland.

A friend linked that up "without comment." Its just so surreal, to me anyway.

Other examples include:

Chris Cornell - Ave Maria
Bob Dylan - It Must Be Santa
And of course, the classic Bing Crosby & David Bowie - Little Drummer Boy

My criteria is this: 1) The artist must be relatively well known or from a relatively known band/group. 2) The song must be a classic one, not one made up by the artist (for example: I would exclude the song Oi! To The World).
posted by mrzer0 to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
How about Yes lead singer Jon Anderson's Three Ships, taking the three ships to outer space, after a fashion?
posted by sagwalla at 8:58 AM on November 18, 2011

Soul Coughing - Suzy Snowflake

This seems to be a less commonly heard Christmas/Winter song, but it is a classic (Rosemary Clooney, 1951).
posted by nekton at 9:00 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would Tiny Tim's cover of Rudolph the Reindeer count? I don't know that it's surreal in the same vein of your examples, but it's certainly bizarre.

nekton, you just made my holiday season.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2011

Christmas With Weezer is a personal favourite: classic Christmas songs done by Weezer, in their usual fuzzy "punk" style.
posted by asnider at 9:03 AM on November 18, 2011

I'd say just about anything off Billy Idol's Christmas album. (Not ever heard it, but the concept alone hurt my brain.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on November 18, 2011

Response by poster: Hahaha - Yes, so far so good! I'm looking for stuff that hurts brains and makes you think "What the hell?! So and so did a version of that song??" Tiny Tim is bizarre by default. I'd say that puts him in a "gray area." But I appreciate it nonetheless! Keep 'em coming!
posted by mrzer0 at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2011

Twisted Sister did a Christmas album as well. Although, the various-artists collection Metal Xmas may also contain gems (Alice Cooper doing "Santa Claus is Coming To Town"? Really?)

And towards that end, all of the Very Special Christmas collections may also suit (there are about seven of them).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Alice Cooper. Bruce Springsteen apparently did it too, but who cares, because this is ALICE COOPER. Completely flies in the face of both of your criteria, but Jan Terri's Rock And Roll Santa is a bona fide good time.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:11 AM on November 18, 2011

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Annie Lennox is pretty faaaabulous!!!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2011

OK, I'd go for:

Klaus Nomi's Silent Night
The Fall's Hark the Herald Angels Sing
the Cocteau Twins' versions of Frosty The Snowman and Winter Wonderland.

These are all unusual enough and fit your criteria.
posted by mippy at 9:32 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take a look at DJ Riko's christmas mixes. They're full of this kinda stuff:

The latest one looks like it's got Snoop Dogg doing The Night Before Christmas, Les Paul shredding Jingle Bells, etc.
posted by word_virus at 9:33 AM on November 18, 2011

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, especially Christmas Eve/Sarajevo (a medley of "Carol of the Bells" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen").
posted by Wretch729 at 9:51 AM on November 18, 2011

I did a mix for friends and family of just this kind of music last year, including some interesting remixes of classics. Here are some faves.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Lou Rawls (Awayteam Remix)
Rudolph - Jack Johnson
Silent Night - Priscilla Ahn
Happy Holidays - Bing Crosby (Beef Wellington remix)
posted by itstheclamsname at 9:59 AM on November 18, 2011

That 80's Merry Christmas Album has tracks by Heart, Peter Cetera and Belinda Carlisle that might fit your specifications.

A Winter's Night - The Best Of Nettwerk features Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Lisa Hannigan and others.

Also Crash Test Dummies, Barenaked Ladies, Partridge Family and Brian Seltzer have released Christmas albums that might work.
posted by vagabond at 10:02 AM on November 18, 2011

The Reverend Horton Heat did a fun Xmas album titled We Three Kings. Pretty good if you dig rockabilly.

Here's their version of Frosty the Snowman.
posted by EKStickland at 10:04 AM on November 18, 2011

Possibly some of the selections on Blame It On Christmas? (Don't know why it says it's on the Disney label, my copy says Schoolkids Records.)
posted by a person of few words at 10:06 AM on November 18, 2011

The Little Drummer Boy - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
posted by ChuraChura at 10:17 AM on November 18, 2011

It's totally expected from Los Straitjackets (since surf rock is all they do) but I can't get enough of their surf-rock Sleigh Ride.
posted by aimedwander at 10:23 AM on November 18, 2011

I wish I was at my home computer. I have a bunch of this stuff. Here's one that immediately pops into mind. James Brown Funky Christmas
posted by perhapses at 10:30 AM on November 18, 2011

The Beach Boys do a great version of We Three Kings.

The Pretenders do Merry Little Christmas.

Esquivel may not be well known enough to count, but you might check out Merry Xmas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad for some wacky versions of classic Christmas songs.
posted by kittydelsol at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2011

WFMU has a handy collection of songs. Here's an extremely drunk Joseph Spence, Bahamian musician, singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and the Butthole Surfers' rendition of Good King Wenceslas.
posted by Beardman at 10:52 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

That Tiny Tim "Rudolph" and a bunch of other amazingly surreal Christmas music can be found on A John Waters Christmas. My personal favorites (e.g., "Santa Claus Is a Black Man") are not covers of the kind you're looking for, but it's a great Christmas album. Also, Alligator Records (a blues label) has some fun bluesy Christmas covers.
posted by kickingthecrap at 10:55 AM on November 18, 2011

Here's Bootsy Collins doing Winter Wonderland off his album "Christmas Is 4 Ever", which is almost entirely made up of classic Christmas covers.
posted by metaman livingblog at 11:04 AM on November 18, 2011

Response by poster: I wanted to add a couple of more that I found or got from friends

Bad Religion - Silent Night (live).
A very short and confusing piece by Green Day - Jingle Bells. Admittedly, I think this one falls into a gray area, but here it is anyway.
posted by mrzer0 at 11:27 AM on November 18, 2011

The Fall, Jingle Bell Rock.

Also, Rob Halford has a Christmas album.
posted by St. Sorryass at 1:14 PM on November 18, 2011

Oh! Barbara Streisand's "Jingle Bells" isn't so much a "that's so strange that she did that" cover, it's more like a "that's an unusual interpretation" cover. She sings the first verse at Mach Q speed, sings the second verse in a waltz tempo, and gives it a full-on Barbara-Streisand production-number finish. Check it out.

I actually dig it. Mom played that album every December when I was little and I'd giggle at how fast she sings.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Merry Axemas is a collection of guitar covers of Christmas music (there was a second edition too).

Highlights include Joy to the World by Steve Morse, Amazing Grace by Jeff Beck, and Jingle Bells by Brian Setzer.

Merry X-Mas From The Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Esquivel is a win all the way around.

I love Gary Hoey's arrangement of You're a Mean One Mister Grinch.
posted by plinth at 1:37 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Slim Whitman and Elvis start our Christmas Eves.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 1:42 PM on November 18, 2011

Ringo Starr has a Christmas Album which I checked out of the library but haven't listened to you (waiting until 11/25/2011.) You can preview on amazon.
posted by vespabelle at 2:00 PM on November 18, 2011

A whole EP of Christmas mayhem: Whine and Missingtoe, starring Hell Interface (aka Boards of Canada), V/Vm, Butcher Claus, and more! The Hell Interface song is actually appealing, an a distorted, spooky sort of way. The rest ... they're there to torment your inlaws.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:17 PM on November 18, 2011

I Saw Three Ships - Barenaked Ladies
Hanukkah O Hanukkah - Barenaked Ladies
Carol of the Bells - Paul Oakenfold (from the soundtrack of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas)
Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne - Jimi Hendrix

Depending on your tastes and what you consider mainstream, you might find something on these albums
  • A Very She & Him Christmas
  • Everything You Want for Christmas - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  • Maybe This Christmas, Maybe This Christmas Too, and Maybe This Christmas Tree - compilations with, for example, Avril Lavigne doing O Holy Night
  • Merry Axemas and Merry Axemas Vol. 2
  • Monster Ballads Xmas, including LA Guns doing Run Run Rudolph

posted by Jaie at 2:52 PM on November 18, 2011

Oh, and Leon Redbone's Frosty the Snowman is pretty awesome.
posted by Jaie at 3:44 PM on November 18, 2011

EmpressCallipygos: I'd say just about anything off Billy Idol's Christmas album. (Not ever heard it, but the concept alone hurt my brain.)

Oho, it's better than you could imagine. Examples: Frosty the Snowman (still image), White Christmas (VIDEO!), and Jingle Bell Rock (MORE VIDEO!)

And the best part: the serious liner notes about how Billy sets up the Christmas music playlists for the parties he throws for family and friends. I'm kind of amazed at the attempted sales prices on Amazon (New for $99, used for $20) - and only one copy on eBay, going for $10. You'd think this would be a dollar bin buy by now.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:05 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I also came here to mention my signed copy of Billy Idol's Christmas album. I still can not recall what possessed me to pre-order it a few years ago.
posted by autopilot at 6:55 PM on November 18, 2011

Ohmigosh do you want The Singing Saw At Christmastime by Julian Koster (Neutral Milk Hotel, Music Tapes).
posted by mintcake! at 9:10 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

My personal favorite is Barenaked Ladies and Sarah MacLachlan's God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
posted by meowf at 11:13 PM on November 18, 2011

The Flaming Lips do an ...interesting...... studio cover of White Christmas. I'm on my cellie or I'd post a link.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:06 AM on November 19, 2011

Muppets - Twelve Days of Christmas (too cutesy, not enough surreal?)
TLC - Sleigh Ride
posted by knile at 1:29 AM on November 19, 2011

Barbra Streisand singing Jingle Bells

In fact, anything from her multiple Christmas albums has a certain degree of awesomeness.
posted by blob at 6:25 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps borderline for what you are asking, but I contribute it because people probably would not immediately think of Harry Belafonte and Christmas music without prompting. However, his Christmas album is wonderful; my all time favorite.
posted by gudrun at 8:26 AM on November 19, 2011

(Irish punk band) Stiff Little Fingers: White Christmas
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:16 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try SomaFM's Xmas in Frisko station, which basically fits the bill perfectly.
posted by stance at 10:25 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

(They also appear to have a Christmas Lounge station, which could yield some interesting results.)
posted by stance at 10:26 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Skid Row, Jingle Bells
Queensr├┐che, White Christmas
Stryper, Winter Wonderland
posted by waxpancake at 8:29 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

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