The Top Ten Novelty and Parody Christmas Songs
Remember When Christmas Was Fun?
Christmas is out of control. Once upon a time, just after Thanksgiving, people would begin to focus on Santa's holiday. Somewhere along the way, things changed. With the advent of 10,000 channel cable TV and finance companies issuing credit cards to everyone with a pulse, the non-stop commercial yuletide bombardment now begins as soon as the first leaf turns orange. My local big-box home improvement store puts out their assortment of fake Christmas trees and decorations the first week of October . . . October.
Gone are the days when kids would check the mailbox daily in anticipation of the Montgomery Wards Christmas catalog arriving then sit around for hours deciding which GI Joe or Barbie accessories to ask Santa for. Now, there is a never-ending deluge of commercials targeted toward the booger-eaters designed to make you the recipient of incessant whining about the newest toys.
So how do people cope with the the lunacy? Some take vacations to avoid the holiday madness, but most use normal coping mechanisms, one of which is humor. Humor has helped people deal with stressful situations for centuries. And now that Christmas has slid into the category of events that people have come to dread, holiday humor is more important than ever.
Thanks to some clever songwriters and comedians, we can get a brief respite from the holiday gloom a few minutes at a time. Musical catalogs are thick with Christmas standards that can occasionally be cheerful but are more often depressing (who the heck thought "We Three Kings" could ever put someone in the holiday mood?). The 20th century witnessed the advent of radio and with it a slew of Christmas parody songs designed to remind us that Christmastime is supposed to be fun and joyful. Now, in the 21stcentury, you can download the best musical scores that poke fun at Christmas and enjoy a brief mental vacation from the madness.
While there are dozens of Christmas parody songs available, these are the ten best. Make yourself a playlist, put on continuous play, close your eyes and repeat after me: "It will be January soon, it will be January soon."
1. "Snoopy's Christmas" by The Royal Guardsmen, 1967
“Snoopy vs the Red Baron” was a 1966 hit for The Royal Guardsmen. It depicted everyone's favorite beagle flying on his doghouse/airplane locked in air-to-air combat with World War One's most prolific ace. It's a cute song. The following year, the group wanted to capitalize on their Snoopy success and released “Snoopy's Christmas.”
The song details a dogfight (pun intended) between Snoopy's Sopwith Camel and the Red Baron. The Baron gets on Snoopy's tail and has the dog dead to rights. But instead of shooting him down, he forces Snoopy to land and then share a holiday toast. They take off after knowing that they will meet again someday to settle the score; but not on Christmas.
The song is very loosely based on historical events. During WWI, German and British troops called a temporary truce during Christmas 1914 and exchanged gifts, sang songs and played soccer. A few days later, they went back to killing each other.
2. "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, 1948
In 1944, a public school music teacher asked his students what they wanted for Christmas. His class consisted of second graders, most of who had at least one front tooth missing as they were swapping their baby teeth for their adult set. Nearly all of them answered with a lisp due to missing incisors. This prompted the teacher to pen a song about it in around 30 minutes. If got noticed a few years later at a music teachers' conference and recorded soon after. It has become a yearly favorite as everyone can recall their struggles speaking during the time they were waiting for their front teeth to fill in.
3. "Nuttin' for Christmas" by Barry Gordon, 1955
Everyone knows that Santa knows who has been naughty or nice. And if you make the naughty list you might get a few lumps of coal if you are lucky. Otherwise, you are getting nuttin', nada, zip. This song features a six year old on lead vocal detailing all of the bad things he did throughout the year. Of course, no one would have been the wiser but he proclaims “somebody snitched on me.” Apparently, his family has a tattletale that dropped the dime on him and his spot under the tree will be devoid of presents. Just listen to that kid's voice on the recording; you know he is a troublemaker.
4. "Jingle Bells" by The Singing Dogs, 1955
Apparently, the Danes dig Christmas as much as we do. In the early 1950's, a Danish dude was recording various bird songs, but his recordings were often interrupted by barking dogs. He ended up with a bunch of dogs barks of different pitch on tape. This enterprising european decided to splice the barks together to make it sound as if the canines were singing songs. His original release include “Oh Susannah,” “Three Blind Mice,” and of course “Jingle Bells.” The latter became a holiday sensation in 1955 and has been a favorite ever since. There is nothing like Christmastime to make one appreciate dogs more than children. In case you were wondering, the dogs that make the recording were named: Pussy, Pearl, Dolly, King and Caesar. There was a version made later by singing cats, but it didn't do nearly as well, because, you know, no one likes a copycat.
5. "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't be Late)" by The Chipmunks, 1958
If whining children don't get your dander up, then the high pitched serenading by three rodents will. The Chipmunks song was the brainchild of Ross Bagdasarian. He recorded Alvin, Simon and Theodore's voices by using varying speeds on his tape recorded. It is a story of the Chipmunks singing about the presents they want or Christmas. It can be annoying, but is was the last Christmas song to chart number one on any US music chart. Still think it's stupid? It also won three Grammys. Really.
6. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by Elmo and Patsy, 1979
Music in the 1970 mostly sucked. It was the era of disco after all. One of the bright spots was one of the most morbid Christmas songs to grace the airwaves. The song tells the tale of elderly Grandma getting drunk, staggering outside in a snowstorm, only to get run over by Santa and his crew. Apparently, getting trampled by eight tiny reindeer can be fatal. Grandpa seems unfazed, even happy, that his bride of decades suffered a grisly death.
The song also makes it clear that Americans love tales where the parent of one of their parents kick the yuletide bucket. It not only has its own music video, but spawned an animated movie (made for children and Grandmas survives in this version.) Listen to it and it will make you yearn for the return of the Chipmunks.
7. "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer" by Joe Diffie, 1995
The 1990s saw the resurgence of country music. Infused with a more pop sound and more upbeat lyrics, the era fomented a new generation of country music fans. Joe Diffie was a mainstay in the genre during the 90s. He had a string of hits, so he did what most uber-popular music artists do: he made a Christmas album. The record consists mostly of Christmas standards, but also a few original songs. One of which is the tale of Leroy, the country version or Rudolf. Joe injects all of the redneck stereotypes to create a reindeer even your uncle Festus could love. And about those superstar Christmas albums; do yourself a favor and NEVER list to Billy Idol's offering. You have been warned.
8. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" by Bob and Doug McKenzie, 1982
Bob and Doug McKenzie are fictional characters created by Rick Moranis (of Ghostbusters fame) and Dave Thomas. They were performers on the comedy show Second City TV. The two portray Canadian brothers that emanate everything stereotypical Canadian. Their sets were filmed during their off time at the studio and meant to be meaningless filler. To their surprise, they became immensely popular. So popular that they produced a comedy album that went platinum and made a movie.
One of the songs on their album was “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and replaces all of the presents in the original song with popular Canadian treasures like back bacon, smokes, beer, etc. If you were alive in the early 1980s, this was the Christmas song everyone was talking about. Slip into your 80s persona and give it a listen. Then run out to Timmy Horton's and grab some donuts.
9. "Dominick the Donkey" by Lou Monte, 1960
I hate syrupy, pie in the sky Christmas tunes, so “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” can kiss my ass. Or more specifically, my donkey. Purposely sung with an Italian accent, it is the upbeat tale of a donkey that has to help Santa deliver presents in Italy because his reindeer cannot climb the mountains. I guess Lou forgot that Santa's reindeer can fly. But no matter, never let fictional facts get in the way of a good Christmas song. Not only is the tune goofy, but it serves as a good reminder that the holiday is celebrated in Europe as well. Plus, who doesn't love a good donkey song?
10. "Santa and the Satellite" by Buchanan and Goodman, 1957
Dickie Goodman made his living making parody records, injecting snippets from popular songs of the day for parts of the record, often in response to a question posed by a reporter. Most of his tunes are mostly a spoken story that is a spoof on some event. You may remember his “Mr Jaws” during the summer of the Jaws movie craze.
“Santa and the Satellite” is one of his earliest hits. It builds on a string of flying saucer themed comedy skits he recorded. Santa gets kidnapped by a UFO and ends up escaping by masquerading as Elvis. Holiday music don't get no better. It is a time capsule of late 50s rock and roll hits, the era's science fiction craze and a taste of the many Dickie Goodman parody songs. It's a song/piece that you actually have to pay attention to in order to get the full effect. And it diverting your attention from all of the over-commercialization of Christmas makes it a holiday must-listen.
Relax, Listen, Enjoy
Music has many genres. Christmas is no different. But with all of the holiday hype, family weirdness, visits from relatives and the sheer cost of trying to keep up with the Griswolds, comedic relief via seasonal novelty songs is a healthy antidote to the madness. The next time Christmas has you feeling overwhelmed, queue up one (or all) of these jolly tunes and remember that Christmas is supposed to be fun.