When it comes to the holidays, older really is better. Aside from Twisted Sister’s 2006 version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” all of the songs on this list have been out for at least two decades, and in the case of Chuck Berry, six decades! But since we only hear these songs for a few weeks every year, it seems to all work out, and they even sound a little fresh every December!
15 Slade – “Merry Xmas Everybody”
“Merry Xmas Everybody” was Slade’s best-selling single, and their sixth and final #1 single in the UK. Earning the UK Christmas Number One slot in December 1973, “Merry Xmas Everybody” sold over a million copies upon its first release.
14 Billy Squier – “Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You”
Released in 1981 as the B-side of “My Kinda Lover” the video to this 1981 song was recorded with MTV VJs and staff members singing along with a live performance by Squier. VJ Martha Quinn remembers it as “her number one moment while working on MTV.”
13 Twisted Sister – “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”
A Twisted Christmas is the seventh and final studio album by Twisted Sister, released in October 2006. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” which heavily inspired the band’s biggest hit, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” is recorded in a style exactly like the Twisted Sister song.
12 Queen – “Thank God It’s Christmas”
“Thank God It’s Christmas” was released as a single in 1984 but didn’t appear on any Queen studio album until 1999, when it was featured on Greatest Hits Volume 3. The song was written by Brian May and Roger Taylor. May, Taylor and and John Deacon recorded their parts in London, while Freddie Mercury recorded his vocals in Munich, where he was recording his solo album at the time.
11 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Christmas All Over Again”
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers recorded “Christmas All Over Again” for A Very Special Christmas 2. The 1992 compilation album was one in a series of albums benefitting the Special Olympics.
10 The Beach Boys – “Little Saint Nick”
Released in 1963 just after the assassination of JFK, this Beach Boys original holiday song still managed to be a hit. Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love (who had to sue the band almost 30 years later for official credit), the track is basically “Little Deuce Coupe” with different lyrics.
09 David Bowie & Bing Crosby – “The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”
“The Little Drummer Boy” was a classic written in 1941, while “Peace on Earth” was written especially for David Bowie and Bing Crosby in 1977. Although both men had much trepidation about recording together, and barely rehearsed more than an hour, this compilation has become one of the most successful duets in Christmas music history. Crosby died just five weeks after recording the TV special, which aired about a month after his death.
08 AC/DC – “Mistress for Christmas”
“Mistress for Christmas” was released in 1990 on AC/DC’s twelfth studio album The Razor’s Edge. Angus Young has stated, “I think the funniest song on this album is ‘Mistress For Christmas.’ That song’s about Donald Trump. He was big news at the time, so we thought we’d have a bit of fun and humor with it.” Little did they know!
07 John Lennon & Yoko Ono – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
Produced by Phil Spector, this 1971 release was an anti-Vietnam War song wrapped in a Christmas melody. For promotion, John Lennon and Yoko Ono took out billboards across America declaring “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It).”
06 Bryan Adams – “Christmas Time”
Despite being one of the most popular Christmas songs in Canada, this song was absent from any official Bryan Adams release until finally being included on his 2019 Christmas EP.
05 Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”
Originally penned in 1960, Jon Bon Jovi covered this song on the 1992 album, A Very Special Christmas 2, accompanied by a music video that featured supermodel Cindy Crawford. The song was also previously covered by the Eagles in 1978 and was the first Eagles song to feature Timothy B. Schmit on bass.
04 The Kinks – “Father Christmas”
In 1977, the Kinks released this commentary on class warfare, all wrapped up in a festive package. It’s the tale of a department store “Father Christmas” who is beaten up by a gang of poor kids who demand money instead of toys, as toys are impractical. They instead ask that the toys be given “to the little rich boys.”
03 Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure corralled many of Ireland’s and Britain’s rock elite to come together and record this Christmas song they penned to aid Ethiopian famine relief. The one-time-only supergroup was comprised of Bono, Phil Collins, Simon Le Bon, Boy George, Sting, George Michael and many others. The song was a massive hit and sold over 12 million copies, raising £8 million pounds, equivalent to about $11.5 million dollars. It also was the impetus for Live Aid the following year.
In 2014, Geldof and Ure organized Band Aid 30 to record a version of the same song to help raise funds for the ebola crisis in Western Africa. U2’s Bono appeared in the 2014 version, marking his third performance in a Band Aid recording.
02 Chuck Berry – “Run Rudolph Run”
Chuck Berry was at the peak of his career when he released this song in 1958. The tune, which is melodically identical to his later hit “Little Queenie,” has been covered by everyone from Keith Richards, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Idol and the Grateful Dead to Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Grohl and Billy Gibbons usually under the alternate title “Run, Run Rudolph.”
01 Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
Recorded at the C.W. Post College in Greenvale, New York on Long Island on December 12, 1975, released in 1981, and finally put on the B-side to “My Hometown” in 1985, Bruce Springsteen‘s version of a 1934 classic has become a holiday staple. The Boss has been known to break out the tune if he’s doing a show around Christmas, but since that won’t be happening in 2020, we’ll just have to settle for the live version from Springsteen’s official YouTube page.
Updated December 4, 2020