We all have our favorite Christmas songs. If there was ever a genre of music that brings back special memories, it is those classic Christmas songs that we all grew up with. As kids, we were used to our parents playing the oldies but goodies, the Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra versions of traditional Christmas songs. However, as we got into our teens, many of us in the 1960s, 1970s, and 80s started to discover our own Christmas tunes that were far from the traditional crooners. Many of these were original pieces. Christmas songs written by classic rock artists like Elton John, The Kinks, Greg Lake and more. These were our Christmas songs. These are the ones that bring back memories of our high school years, our college years, and so forth. Here are ten that we think are pretty special. There are many more than this, but these are the ten that we always go to.
# 10 – Step Into Christmas
We open up our list of our 10 Favorite Classic Rock Christmas Songs with the cool song “Step Into Christmas.” If you are an Elton John fan, you loved this one. It was released initially in 1973 as a non-album album track single. The recording was produced by Gus Dudgeon at Honky Château Studio in France. The song was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. In 1973, these two were on fire. The recording featured the Elton John Band, which featured Elton John on piano and vocals, Davey Johnstone on guitars, Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums, and Ray Cooper on percussion.
When first released, the song peaked at number twenty-four on the UK Singles Chart and number fifty-six on the US Billboard Hot 100. It hit number one on the Billboard Christmas Charts. Dont miss the video below featuring the band in 1973. A Step Back into 1973. It’s fun to watch the band clowning around and having a good time.
# 9 – Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
Continuing with our 10 Favorite Classic Rock Christmas Songs list, we put on the sunglasses for a second for some great Beach Boys harmonies while listening to their classic Christmas song “Little Saint Nick.” This legendary Beach Boys Christmas recording was released in 1963 on the Beach Boys Christmas Album. The iconic cover featured the group decorating a Christmas Tree. The song featured the classic Beach Boys lineup: Brian Wilson on bass and vocals, Dennis Wilson on drums, Carl Wilson on guitar, Mike Love on vocals, and Al Jardine on rhythm guitar and vocals.
# 8 – Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney
I think it’s safe to say that some people didn’t like this song when it first came out. However, that was the issue with a lot of Paul McCartney’s songs in the 1970s when he was always unfairly compared to what he did with the Beatles. Nonetheless, this will always be one of our favorites; it brings us back to the end of the decade. The song was released as a stand alone single in November of 1979. Paul McCartney played all the instruments on it as it was initially going to be released on the album McCartney II.
# 7 – 2000 Miles – The Pretenders
In the number seven position on our 10 Favorite Classic Rock Christmas Songs list is the beautiful Pretenders Christmas song “2000 Miles.” The song was released on the album entitled Learning to Crawl. The album was released in 1984. Sadly, it was not much of a hit in the United States. However, it was a massive hit worldwide, appearing in the top 10 on multiple music charts from various countries. In the United Kingdom, the song hit number fifteen on the UK Pop Charts. Dressed as a Salvation Army member, Chrissie Hynde and this beautiful video and song hits a tender spot in the hearts of classic rock fans.
# 6 – Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Man, can you really hear the Jeff Lynne sound on this one right away. Across the board, from the vocal sound to the musical arrangement. Jeff Lynne’s ELO and Traveling Wilbury sound fueled this cool cut. Of course, Jeff Lynnes, Traveling Wilbury bandmate Tom Petty, stands front and center rocking this one all the way home. The song was released on the album A Very Special Christmas 2. The album was released in 1992. The song was written by Tom Petty.
# 5 – Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes
Hands down, one of the greatest rock and roll Christmas albums ever released was issued in 1963 called A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. As the album title suggests the recording was produced by Phil Spector and featured many of the artists he was producing including The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Crystals and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans. The album is filled with classic Christmas recordings, but our favorite one is easily “Sleigh Ride,” by The Ronettes. We love the opening sounds that set the stage for this killer tune. Those Ronnie Spector vocals are so uplifting, putting you in a swinging, soulful Christmas spirit.
# 4 – Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon & Yoko On
The following four songs on our 10 Favorite Classic Rock Christmas Songs list are almost interchangeable as far as the order goes. Any of them could be number one on our list, as well as the list of millions of other classic rock fans. This was special. John Lennon’s eternal call for peace resonates loud and clear in this song, released during the Vietnam War era. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was released in 1971. The song went all the wasy to number two on the US Billboard Hot 100. It remains one of the most essential and important pieces of music Lennon ever wrote.
# 3 – Father Christmas – The Kinks
This one starts out with a Roy Bittan style piano introduction that is soon cut short by the rocking guitar sound of the Kinks as it kicks into what would become an absolute classic. It contains one of the great Christmas lines of all time, “Father Christmas, give us some money. Don’t mess around with those silly toys.” The Kink’s take on Christmas presented the story of a mall Santa getting mugged. It demonstrates with humor the Kink’s perspective on what they believed was the hypocrisy of the celebration of Christmas. The song “Father Christmas,” was released in 1977.
# 2 – I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake
From the opening acoustic guitar notes, this one takes you back instantly. Oh, and that voice. No one sounded like Greg Lake. This is one of these Christmas songs that just got better with each verse. The song I Believe In Father Christmas was released by Greg Lake as a solo single in 1975 while he was a member of Emerson Lake and Palmer. Later on, ELP would release a version of the song on their Works album. However, the original Greg Lake version has become the Christmas classic. Greg Lake said in interviews that it was never intended to be a Christmas song but rather about the loss of innocence.
Nonetheless, it’s a song that’s played every Christmas as it has become one of the most iconic classic rock Christmas songs of all time. The difference in chart success between the United States and the United Kingdom is incredible. When the song was first released in 1975, it hit number ninety five on the US Billboard Hot 100. However, in the United Kingdom, the song went all the way to number two on the UK charts.
# 1 – Christmas Wrapping
We close out our 10 Favorite Classic Rock Christmas Songs list with the fabulous song by The Waitresses called “Christmas Wrapping.” If there ever was a song that spoke to the loneliness of Christmas and the magic that could happen, it was this brilliant song. The song was written in 1981 by Chris Butler. However, it was the vocal performance by the late Patty Donahue that made this one work so well. Donahue’s ability to make you believe in every word she sang resonated so well with the listener. You could feel her pain, her sarcasm, which she was great at and of course, her happy ending. It is the perfect rock and roll Christmas song., It’s angry, sweet, clever, and, most importantly, memorable.
Our 10 Favorite Classic Rock Christmas Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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