A festive playlist to get you in the holiday spirit!

For the third year in a row I’m putting together a playlist of some of my favourite Christmas tunes! This playlist will perfectly complement the playlists I published in 2020 and 2021, so be sure to check out both of those to see even more holiday favourites!

I love this time of year, and revelling in Christmas music is one way to enjoy the season. Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of Christmas albums and singles, spanning a range of musical genres and styles. A lot of more modern albums seem to be comprised of the same handful of “traditional holiday favourites,” but every once in a while there’s a real gem amongst them – be that an original song or a great cover.

Christmas will soon be upon us once again!

Last year we were treated to Ed Sheeran and Elton John’s instant Christmas classic Merry Christmas, and that song will be a permanent fixture on my holiday playlist from now on! There are still original Christmassy songs composed, then, even if the charts have been dominated in recent years by talent show winners and novelty songs.

This playlist is really “part three” – following on from the playlists I’ve published over the past couple of years. So please go back and check out my first playlist, which you can find by clicking or tapping here. And don’t forget part two, which you can find by clicking or tapping here! Put all three together – or just pluck out your personal faves – and you’ll be set to go for your Christmas party!

The videos below are all hosted on YouTube, and some may be region-blocked. However, all of the songs should be available via your streaming method of choice if you can’t listen to them here. Let’s jump into the playlist!

Track 1:
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney (1979)

Was the ’70s the golden age of pop-rock Christmas songs… or is that just the nostalgia talking? After the likes of Slade, John Lennon, Mud, and Wizzard all put out songs that have become perennial favourites, Paul McCartney closed out the decade with Wonderful Christmastime. And apparently he hates it – or rather, he’s come to dislike the song after hearing it every Christmas season for more than forty years!

What’s fascinating about Wonderful Christmastime is that Paul McCartney composed the song, sings it, and also plays every single instrument you hear on the recording. His band at the time, Wings, wasn’t involved in the song at all (though members of the band do appear in the video). Whatever you may think of the song – and it’s definitely a love-it-or-hate-it Christmas track – a lot of work and talent went into its recording.

Track 2:
Up On The Housetop – The Jackson 5 (1970)

Up On The Housetop is one of those Christmas classics that seems to have been recorded by a wide range of performers! Originally composed in the mid-19th Century, the song tells a timeless tale of the arrival of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The Corporation, who produced many of the Jackson 5’s early hits, adapted the song for the group, adding in new lines for the Jackson family.

As an R&B/funk arrangement, the up-tempo adaptation of the song is pitch-perfect, and the extra lines add a little dash of humour. It’s not a straight cover of this Christmas classic – but there are many other arrangements of Up On The Housetop that stay true to its original composition. For my money, the Jackson 5 version is one of the better ones, and certainly one of the most unique.

Track 3:
21st Century Christmas – Cliff Richard (2006)

21st Century Christmas was Sir Cliff Richard’s last real effort to score a number one hit in the UK. If he’d succeeded, he would’ve been the first and only artist to reach the number one spot in six different decades, after achieving the milestone at least once in every decade from the ’50s to the ’90s. 21st Century Christmas managed to sell more CDs than any other song – but was pipped to the post by Take That in the week before Christmas and by X Factor winner Leona Lewis in Christmas week. Both artists achieved their positions thanks to downloads, which were newly-incorporated into the charts at the time.

Despite not quite hitting the top spot, 21st Century Christmas is a nice song, and it’s been a fixture on my Christmas playlist. I bought the CD single in 2006, and I bought the song again as an mp3 a few years later. Some of the lyrics feel rather dated as Sir Cliff’s idea of a 21st Century Christmas involves faxes and DVDs… but hey, they were modern and hip at the time! And it wouldn’t be Christmas without one of Sir Cliff’s songs!

Track 4:
Christmas Is All Around – Love Actually OST (2003)

Rom-com Love Actually didn’t really feel like a typical Christmas film when I first saw it, but it’s certainly become a perennial Christmas favourite over the past couple of decades! One of the film’s story threads followed ageing rock star Billy Mack – played by Bill Nighy – as he chases one last chance at stardom by scoring a Christmas number one with a Christmas version of Love Is All Around.

The song is deliberately silly, with some slightly awkward moments as the words don’t quite fit in time to the beat! But as a parody and pastiche of novelty Christmas songs, it’s absolutely perfect. And the end result is a perfectly creditable Christmas song in its own right – one that has managed to find a place on my Christmas playlist!

Track 5:
Santa’s Coming For Us – Sia (2017)

Australian pop superstar Sia released her first Christmas album in 2017 – and as a collector of Christmas albums, I snapped it up as soon as it was available! The lead single from a Christmas album that was made up mostly of new compositions was Santa’s Coming For Us, and it’s a fantastic modern Christmas song.

Santa’s Coming For Us topped the charts in Canada… but nowhere else, reaching a distant 17th place on the charts here in the UK. The music video features Henry Winkler (best known as Fonzie on Happy Days) as part of an all-star cast, which is kind of neat. I always like to give new songs a fair shot, and I’m definitely glad to have tried Sia’s Christmas offering.

Track 6:
O Little Town Of Bethlehem – Annie Lennox (2010)

In 2010, Annie Lennox (of Eurythmics fame) released her first Christmas album! God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – a fairly drab traditional carol – was the lead single, but for my money, Lennox’s arrangement of O Little Town Of Bethlehem is the real standout track. It wasn’t released as an independent single, though, so it never charted.

Traditional carols like O Little Town Of Bethlehem have seen many different arrangements and covers over the years. Lennox’s take is much more traditional than the Cliff Richard/Amy Grant song Little Town (which made the cut to feature on the 2020 edition of my festive playlist!) But I think there’s room to enjoy both classic and novel arrangements of the same festive favourites sometimes. Annie Lennox did a great job on O Little Town Of Bethlehem, and her version is, at least for me, one of the best.

Track 7:
Merry Christmas (Exclamation Point) – Jon Lajoie (2013)

Jon Lajoie’s song is a very light-hearted look at Christmas, and I absolutely love it! Merry Christmas (Exclamation Point) is incredibly relatable; we all have people in our lives outside of our immediate circles of family and close friends, work colleagues and casual acquaintances who we want to acknowledge over the holidays – but not in a big way! And that’s what the song is all about.

I confess that I’m not familiar with Jon Lajoie or any of his other work. I stumbled upon this Christmas song on iTunes or YouTube shortly after it was released, and I fell in love with its humourous take on the holiday season. It’s been a feature on my playlist ever since – and a song I’ve recommended to others, too!

Track 8:
Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (1984)

Last year, I put Band Aid 20’s version of Do They Know It’s Christmas (from 2004) on my playlist, but as I said then, it’s a toss-up for me whether that version or the original from 1984 is better! So this year we’re going to add the original version! Band Aid came together very quickly in late 1984, inspired (or so the story goes) by a BBC news report on that year’s famine in Ethiopia. The song was thrown together in a matter of days by Bob Geldof and Ultravox’s Midge Ure.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? was a charity single, with all the proceeds raised going to help with famine relief in Ethiopia, and although some of the lyrics are a little on the nose, the intentions here were good. Band Aid went on to inspire the Live Aid and USA For Africa concerts in 1985 (the former of which is one of my earliest television viewing memories!) and the song itself has been re-recorded on three separate occasions now, raising more money for charity every time. And as a festive hit, Do They Know It’s Christmas? actually manages to be a good, enjoyable song.

Track 9:
Thank You Santa – Mitchel Musso (2009)

This song was featured on the Phineas and Ferb Christmas special in 2009 – specifically, it’s the song at the very end that plays while the credits roll. It’s an incredibly sweet song, and without wanting to put too fine a point on it, it’s all about saying thank you to Santa Claus!

Mitchel Musso voiced the character of Jeremy in Phineas and Ferb for all four seasons of the show (and its spin-off films), and was also a Disney Channel star, appearing in shows like Hannah Montana and Pair of Kings. This song has been a fixture on my Christmas playlist – along with several others from the same Christmas special – ever since I got the CD soundtrack!

Track 10:
Three Ships – Cyndi Lauper (1998)

Cyndi Lauper’s Christmas album in 1998 didn’t do especially well on the charts, but she brought a new style to several traditional carols. Her version of Three Ships is probably one of the more unique takes on the carol that I’ve heard, and as a lesser-known Christmas tune it’s nice to see songs like this given a new arrangement sometimes.

I Saw Three Ships is a traditional carol whose origins are lost, and speculation abounds as to what the titular three ships might have been carrying – and what their destination may have been! Regardless, the song seems to date to at least the middle ages, and although it isn’t at the top of everyone’s list, new versions and arrangements still pop up from time to time.

Track 11:
Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie (1980)

Stop The Cavalry is one of those songs that didn’t start out life as a Christmas song… but became one almost by default thanks to a December release! One line in the song mentions Christmas, but aside from that it’s really a protest song, an anti-war track that references the First World War but also looks to contemporary conflicts and the threat of nuclear war as well.

I’m certain that Stop The Cavalry would have reached the number one spot in December 1980 – possibly as that year’s Christmas number one – were it not for the murder of John Lennon that same month. Two of Lennon’s hits – (Just Like) Starting Over and Imagine – hit the number one spot in December and January, keeping Stop The Cavalry from topping the charts. In the years since, however, the song has become a well-known holiday favourite here in the UK.

Track 12:
To Christmas! (The Drinking Song) – Straight No Chaser (2016)

The story of acapella group Straight No Chaser is a fun one! The group was founded in 1996 by a group of students in Indiana, and they played a number of local gigs in the late 1990s before they graduated and went their separate ways. But in 2006, a video that had been recorded of their version of Twelve Days of Christmas years earlier went viral on YouTube, racking up more than twenty million views – massive numbers at the time! The band got back together and have since put out several albums.

To Christmas! (The Drinking Song) is a fun, light-hearted track taken from their 2016 Christmas album. The song races through the entire season, from the weeks leading up to Christmas right through to New Year, and it does so in a gentle and fun way, touching on topics like parties and Christmas shopping but with a neat, modern twist.

So that’s it!

Not long to wait!

We’ve added twelve more tracks to the festive playlist, and for the third year in a row we’ve managed to dodge both Wham! and Mariah Carey. That’s no mean feat… but will we be able to keep them at bay again next year? Tune in to find out!

Here in the UK, we’re looking at the third Christmas in a row that won’t be as enjoyable as we’d want it to be. Two pandemic-disrupted years have given way to a cost-of-living catastrophe, inflation, strikes, and a general sense that we’re in for a “winter of discontent” that could rival the late 1970s. At times like these, the light escape that Christmas music can provide is incredibly important to me. Stepping away from the difficulties of the real world, if only for a moment, can be just what the doctor ordered, and for me, Christmas music can provide that. It’s in that spirit that I share this playlist with you – and I hope some of the songs provide you with a little dash of festive enjoyment to perk up your holiday season.

With just over three weeks to go until the big day, I have a couple of other Christmassy ideas that may make their way onto the website – so I hope you’ll check back for those before Santa comes. I truly hope you’re making the best of the holiday season, whatever your circumstances may be.

All songs on the playlist above are the copyright of their respective record company, studio, distributor, composer, etc. All videos courtesy of YouTube. Videos are merely embedded here, and are not hosted on Trekking with Dennis. For copyright claims, please contact YouTube directly. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A festive playlist to get you in the holiday spirit!

This time last year I put out my last holiday playlist. Whether this will become an annual tradition or not, who can say! But as we’re once again approaching the most wonderful time of the year I thought another playlist would be a lot of fun. There were so many songs I debated including last time but didn’t, so here’s an opportunity to talk about a few more of my festive favourites!

I’m an avid collector of Christmas albums, and I have been for years. Many albums, especially recently, seem to consist of the same handful of “traditional holiday favourites” in different variations, but every once in a while there’s a real gem amongst them. Sometimes these can be original songs, other times simply an original take on a classic Christmas tune.

Christmas is drawing near!

It’s been a long while since there was a proper race to the Christmas number one spot – at least here in the UK. Nowadays novelty songs or big hits by well-known stars dominate the charts, and the days when a truly festive Christmas song would attract a lot of attention seem to be fading! The music charts are less and less relevant, of course, as folks turn to streaming, but still it would be nice to get another year like 1973 – when Slade and Wizzard battled it out with duelling songs that were both spectacularly Christmassy!

All of the songs on the list below are embedded here courtesy of YouTube. If, for whatever reason, any of the videos are blocked in your country I daresay you can find the tracks via some other streaming service without too much difficulty. I hope you’ll take a look at last year’s playlist as well – you can find it by clicking or tapping here. You’ll find the aforementioned Slade and Wizzard Christmas hits there, as well as a few other favourites of mine. This playlist is “Part 2” – it’ll go very well with last year’s offering!

Now that the shameless plug is out of the way, let’s jump into the playlist!

Track 1:
Saviour’s Day – Cliff Richard (1990)

Saviour’s Day is the first holiday song I listen to every year. Its opening lines are the perfect way to kick off the festive season, as mainstay of British pop Cliff Richard sings “Now we have been through the harvest, winter has truly begun.” As the harvest season draws to a close, the clocks turn back, and the temperature drops, this is the first song I turn to – it perfectly encapsulates the season that lies ahead of us.

The song was Sir Cliff’s third Christmas number one in a row here in the UK – following 1988’s Mistletoe and Wine and Band Aid II’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? in 1989. The Beatles from 1963-65, the Spice Girls from 1996-98, and most recently YouTube sensation LadBaby from 2018-20 have also achieved the feat of three Christmas number one singles in a row! I’m not a religious person, so Saviour’s Day and its Christian slant wouldn’t be my usual kind of tune. But at this time of year I don’t mind a bit of religious imagery!

Track 2:
Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid 20 (2004)

So here’s a question that’s bound to generate controversy: which version of Do They Know It’s Christmas is the best? For me it comes down to a clash between the original in 1984 and the 2004 cover version, and it’s the latter that we’ll listen to on this occasion. While the original has its charms, I like the slower tempo and more modern instrumentation that Band Aid 20 used. This version of the song blends slow piano, an electric guitar solo, and even a rapped verse all into one – and it works.

Band Aid 20, like Band Aid before it, was a charity project. Raising money for people in less well-off countries is always a good cause, and the holiday season sees a lot of charitable activity. Do They Know It’s Christmas wasn’t the first charity song to top the charts, but it’s a fun song in its own right, with a short but sweet melody that has become synonymous with this time of year. Band Aid 20 produced a creditable cover version in 2004, and it’s one I’m happy to revisit at this time of year.

Track 3:
Christmas Is Starting Now – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (2009)

This was one of several Christmas songs featured on the Disney Channel special Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation. It’s an amazing Christmas song in its own right, and an original track written for the show. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are a swing band, and the song uses their style in show-stopping fashion!

The song plays at the climax of Phineas and Ferb: Christmas Vacation, and the Christmas special needed a big number to fit the excited, uplifting tone of that moment. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy delivered – but the song is so good it seems almost criminal to relegate it to one moment on the soundtrack to an animated show! It should be a permanent fixture on Christmas playlists – and it has been on mine ever since I first heard it.

Track 4:
Lonely This Christmas – Mud (1974)

A year after Slade and Wizzard had duked it out for the Christmas number one spot here in the UK, Mud came along with another record that would go on to become a Christmas classic. Unlike the upbeat tone of the two Christmas contenders in 1973, Lonely This Christmas is a slower track that perfectly fits the sombre, reflective tone of its lyrics.

Lonely This Christmas is a very relatable song – I think many folks must’ve lived through “the Christmas after the one before;” that first Christmas after a big break-up, wondering what the other person is doing and looking back at happier memories from the year before. I know I’ve been there… raise your hand if you have, too!

Track 5:
A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris de Burgh (1976)

This one has been on my festive playlist for decades… mostly for sentimental reasons. I have fond memories of a friend who adored this slow, melodic track, and while I freely admit it isn’t my all-time Christmas favourite, it’s the time of year when it’s nice – sometimes – to wallow in fond memories.

I like the lyrics of A Spaceman Came Travelling – it’s the kind of song that makes you stop and think. The premise is simple (and supposedly inspired by the 1968 pseudoscience book Chariots of the Gods) that the Star of Bethlehem was, in fact, an alien spacecraft. The benevolent alien would preach a message of peace… but presumably was misunderstood! The ’70s had quite a few of these New Age concept songs… but this one has a Christmas theme.

Track 6:
Good King Wenceslas – The Piano Guys (2013)

The Piano Guys are a YouTube musical outfit well-known for their instrumental covers of pop hits. In 2013 they put out their first Christmas album – and it’s a good one! There have been many covers of Good King Wenceslas over the years, including instrumental variations like this one. I don’t want to say this one is the “absolute best” – but it has to be up near the top!

The arrangement of the piece is beautiful, giving what can be a slow, droll Christmas carol an up-tempo reworking. The melody focuses on the piano – as you might expect – but there’s also a cello and percussion present. All in all, a wonderful and somewhat different rendition of a traditional Christmas classic.

Track 7:
364 Days To Go – Brad Paisley (2006)

Representing the country music genre we have modern country superstar Brad Paisley! In my opinion at least, the country music genre as a whole doesn’t always get it right at this time of year… too many samey covers of the same few Christmas hits! But once in a while there’s a fun original song, and Brad Paisley’s 364 Days To Go has to be among them.

The song’s premise is simple… Christmas has only just finished, and while it’s tempting to feel a little melancholic at the end of the season, if you think about it there really isn’t that long until the next one! I love this time of year, and the few weeks leading up to Christmas are beautiful – so it can feel a little sad as Christmas Day draws to a close. But Brad’s right – there’s only 364 days to go and we’ll be back here again!

Track 8:
Merry Xmas Everybody – Robbie Williams ft. Jamie Cullum (2019)

We’ve done it… this is the first cover version of a track that appeared on last year’s list! But wait, don’t skip ahead yet! I was truly surprised to enjoy a cover of Slade’s amazing Christmas hit Merry Xmas Everybody… especially a swing-inspired one! But Robbie Williams and Jamie Cullum put together a really fun rendition of the track.

This version feels different enough from the original to really feel like something new, and the swing elements fit perfectly with the up-tempo music and fun lyrics. When I saw this track on the album’s listing I almost skipped it… but I’m so glad that I didn’t. It’s well worth a place on anyone’s Christmas playlist!

Track 9:
In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield (1975)

The Piano Guys aren’t the only musicians to put together a very different instrumental version of a traditional carol! Mike Oldfield did it decades earlier, and his version of In Dulci Jubilo has become a holiday favourite. In 1975 it peaked at number four on the UK charts, but has made a comeback on compilations and holiday albums ever since.

Mike Oldfield is a multi-instrumentalist, and over the course of a long career has put together a number of instrumental pieces as well as songs. In Dulci Jubilo features an electric guitar and recorders playing the main melody, backed up by synthesisers, drums, and piano. It’s very difficult to put into words; it’s a unique piece of music, based on a traditional carol but taking it in a very different and unexpected direction.

Track 10:
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses (1981)

Christmas Wrapping wasn’t a rousing success for New Wave band The Waitresses either on its original 1981 release or its re-release the next year, peaking at a lowly 45th position on the UK charts. It was originally commissioned for a compilation album that likewise wasn’t a huge success in the early ’80s, but it’s been featured on a number of Christmas albums in the years since, and has seen its popularity rise as a result.

The song’s title is a pun: “wrapping” sounds a lot like “rapping,” and there had been a song a couple of years earlier called Christmas Rappin’. Lyrically, the song tells of someone with a busy life who thinks she’ll skip Christmas – only to re-encounter someone she’s interested in on Christmas Eve. If one of those corny made-for-TV Christmas movies was condensed into five minutes and twenty seconds… this is what you’d get!

Track 11:
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Michael Bublé (2011)

Michael Bublé has actually only released one full Christmas album, but he seems to have acquired a reputation of late as being a Christmas artist first and foremost! His cover of the 1951 hit It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas is one of the best versions of the song that I’ve heard, sticking fairly close to the original arrangement to provide a sweet, familiar-sounding Christmas tune.

There have been many versions of It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas over the years, including a few that take the song to different musical genres. Michael Bublé’s version is great, though, and makes the perfect backdrop to any Christmas party!

Track 12:
Merry Christmas – Ed Sheeran and Elton John (2021)

I debated whether to include this one because it’s so new… but it’s been on constant repeat in my house the past couple of days so I can’t help myself! This year, popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has teamed up with Elton John for a Christmas single in aid of two charities. Merry Christmas is a fantastic Christmas song that draws on the very best of late 20th Century Christmas pop hits, mashing it all together into a simple, catchy tune.

The music video is hilarious, too. Featuring parodies of the likes of Walking in the Air, Shakin’ Stevens, Wizzard, and East 17’s Christmas hits – among others – it also features a number of celebrities and Christmas hitmakers of years past. Although it’s brand-new and has only been around for a couple of days at time of writing, I can already tell that Merry Christmas is going to become a permanent fixture on my Christmas playlist… staying there for as many Christmases as I have left!

So that’s it!

But don’t forget to go back and listen to last year’s playlist too – you can find it by clicking or tapping here. Once again we’ve put together a somewhat eclectic mix of different genres and styles, but I hope it’ll make the perfect backdrop to your Christmas party. For the second year in a row we’ve managed to avoid Wham! and Mariah Carey… but how long can we keep that up?

2021 has been a difficult year for all of us, and it’s years like this where we need the holiday season more than ever. Whether you’re able to spend Christmas with family and friends, or whether you’ll be chilling out alone, I hope you find some comfort and enjoyment in some of these songs. I find that listening to Christmas music can be a great way to relax and take my mind off things at this time of year.

Stay tuned for more Christmas-themed content here on the website between now and the big day!

All songs on the playlist above are the copyright of their respective record company, studio, distributor, composer, etc. All videos courtesy of YouTube. Videos are merely embedded here, and are not hosted on Trekking With Dennis. For copyright claims, please contact YouTube directly. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A festive playlist to get you in the holiday spirit!

Last year in the run-up to Christmas, I put together a list of films and television specials to enjoy over the holidays. If you missed it, you can find that list by clicking or tapping here. As part of the festive season this year, I thought it could be fun to listen to a few Christmas songs together.

I’ll hold up my hands right now and say I’m an unashamed collector of Christmas albums. Having initially started with cassettes and CDs, my collection is now digital, consisting of MP3s – I have yet to fully make the transition to music streaming! Practically every Christmas album I own has at least one track worth listening to, but many modern ones consists of the same handful of “traditional holiday favourites,” and artists, in an attempt to distinguish their version from the myriad others, have a tendency to over-sing some of these great Christmas tunes.

This playlist entirely consists of YouTube videos, and for copyright/legal reasons, I can’t be 100% certain that every track will be available in your country. I know in Germany, for example, there are stricter copyright requirements that often block music on YouTube. If any of the tracks are unavailable, don’t despair. I daresay you can find them on your streaming platform of choice.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the list!

Track 1:
Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade (1973)

In 1973, when British rock band Slade were at the height of their success, they released Merry Xmas Everybody. It would go on to be their best-remembered hit – as well as their final UK number one.

Though arguably eclipsed in recent years by Fairytale of New York (which we’ll look at in a moment) Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody was, for a long time, the most-played and most-loved Christmas song in the UK, and still routinely appears on Christmas compilations and playlists.

Noddy Holder, Slade’s lead singer, has often told the story of how peculiar it was recording the music video in New York in the summer of 1973 – one of the hottest summers on record at the time. The fake snow and festive tone of the song completely clashed with the band’s surroundings, yet the simple video has become iconic – as has Holder’s semi-screamed line “it’s Christmas!”

Track 2:
Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) – The Darkness (2003)

Seventeen years after Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) missed out on the Christmas number one spot, I’m still mad! It was locked in a close race to the coveted spot at the top of the UK charts against, of all things, Mad World (from the Donnie Darko soundtrack). It was the first new Christmas-themed song that was any good that I’d heard in years, and I bought it on CD in the hopes of helping the band top the charts that Christmas.

The Darkness are otherwise known as a one-hit wonder for the 2003 song I Believe in a Thing Called Love and for winning several Brit awards the following year. Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) seemed to have rapidly faded into obscurity after missing out in 2003; disappearing as quickly as The Darkness themselves. But recent years have seen the song receive a renewed appreciation at this time of year, and it now gets played regularly in December. It may have taken a while, but the song has become a modern-day Christmas favourite.

Track 3:
You Make It Feel Like Christmas – Gwen Stefani feat. Blake Shelton (2017)

I don’t follow the ins and outs of celebrity gossip, nor do I watch reality television. But even I couldn’t avoid hearing the drama that emerged from The Voice when it became public knowledge that judges Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton had become a couple. After a couple of years of dating, Shelton – better known for his career in country music – joined Stefani on the lead track from her Christmas album.

The result was a great song; a cute duet by a couple very much in love. It’s since become a feature on my festive playlist; a blend of country, rock, and pop stylings in a single, truly enjoyable up-tempo hit.

The song was released in the UK, but failed to chart. The best performance it managed worldwide (according to Wikipedia) was in Canada, reaching the number two spot in 2017. Regardless, it’s a great tune that should be on everyone’s festive playlist!

Track 4:
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard (1973)

Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody – that we looked at above – beat Wizzard to the Christmas number one spot in 1973; a great year for Christmas songs here in the UK, apparently! Roy Wood, formerly of the band Electric Light Orchestra, founded Wizzard in 1972. This song would be their only major hit, and has been replayed at Christmas in the UK ever since.

The song was re-recorded in 1981, after it was discovered the original master tapes had been lost. As a result there are two versions of the song out there, each featuring a different children’s choir accompanying Wood’s glam rock band.

As a kid this was one of my favourite Christmas tunes, and I have fond memories of getting the record out to play on my dad’s old turntable as we decorated the Christmas tree and as the big day approached. Perhaps my parents didn’t appreciate that – but I did!

Track 5:
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl (1987)

The song regularly called “Britain’s favourite Christmas song” could hardly be absent from this playlist! Fairytale of New York is an odd, bloody-minded choice for that title, as it tells the story of a dysfunctional couple having a truly awful Christmas in New York. However, something about the track resonated with a lot of people, and in 2020 it’s not unfair to call it The Pogues’ best-known song.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year for many people, but as Fairytale of New York reminds us, that isn’t the case for everyone. The song touches on homelessness, domestic abuse, and brings home to everyone who hears it that the world isn’t just Christmas parties and waiting for Santa. Is that a grown-up take, or just being “edgy” for the sake of it? Whatever you may think, the haunting folk-rock melody is beautiful.

Track 6:
Once in Royal David’s City – Mary Chapin Carpenter (2008)

An understated, country-style version of this Christmas carol is oddly timeless. Mary Chapin Carpenter has released a number of great albums over the years, and is one of my favourite artists of the genre, so I was thrilled to learn she was releasing a Christmas album in 2008. However, the album itself was rather mediocre aside from this song and one other (The Longest Night of the Year).

A diamond in the rough, then. Once in Royal David’s City wasn’t released as a single, as indeed none of the songs from Come Darkness, Come Light were. It’s the standout track of the album for me, though, and the arrangement suits Carpenter’s vocals perfectly.

Track 7:
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – The Baseballs (2012)

German rock n’ roll outfit The Baseballs rose to fame by releasing 50s-style covers of contemporary pop songs, and by 2012 were ready to put their unique spin on Christmas songs. Their entire Christmas album is well worth a listen, jam-packed with great covers. But if I had to pick just one, the one which works best with their style is Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.

I’d been a fan of The Baseballs since their first album in 2009, and had the good fortune to see them play live once. They’re one of the few bands I’ve seen that were just as good live as they are on record!

Track 8:
Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens (1985)

1985’s Christmas number one has become a classic, a frequent presence on playlists and compilations at this time of year. Originally planned to be released for the 1984 Christmas season, having been recorded that year, Stevens and record label Epic opted to delay Merry Christmas Everyone by an entire year to avoid clashing with Do They Know It’s Christmas? – the charity single by Band Aid.

When it finally released, the Welsh singer took the charts by storm, and the song was no worse for having had to wait. I once sang this song at a karaoke night – after a little too much to drink! It’s probably fair to say Stevens’ original version is better, though!

Track 9:
Christmas Tree Farm – Taylor Swift (2019)

Having been a big Taylor Swift fan during her country days, I’d fallen out of love with the superstar after she made her move to pop. Her pop albums have been – in my opinion – rather bland and uninspired, so I wasn’t particularly interested in learning she was releasing a Christmas single last year. But I should’ve been! Christmas Tree Farm is touching and deeply personal – as much of her work is. It’s a great song, and when I booted up my Christmas playlist this year, I was glad to see it return.

The song recounts Swift’s early life growing up on a Christmas tree farm, and has a unique charm. Christmas is a time for nostalgia and remembering childhood, and that’s exactly what the track is about. Though one of her least-successful singles in terms of chart performance, I’m happy to have added Christmas Tree Farm to my festive playlist, and I’m sure to be listening to it at Christmas for many years to come.

Track 10:
The First Noel – John Denver (1990)

One of my favourite artists sings one of my favourite Christmas carols. What could be better than that? Taken from his third (and final) Christmas album, Denver’s take on The First Noel is beautiful.

The song wasn’t released as a single, simply as one track among thirteen on the album, but it’s one of my favourites from Christmas, Like a Lullaby. There have been some great covers of The First Noel over the years, but this version is understated, slow, and keeps it simple. Denver doesn’t overcomplicate the tune with excessive instrumentation or by trying to over-stress every note. It’s just a sweet version of a classic carol.

Track 11:
Little Town – Amy Grant (1983)

If John Denver’s The First Noel was an understated version of a classic, American contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant’s adaptation of the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem is the complete opposite! The carol is given a faster tempo, modern instruments, and a pop makeover, transforming it almost entirely into something new. Yet it retains the original lyrics in an odd blend of styles, but one that truly works.

This version of the classic carol was originally recorded by British singer Cliff Richard – more on him in a moment. His version is decent, but for my money Grant’s version just has something more that elevates it, and makes it a truly enjoyable listen. As someone who isn’t religious, I wouldn’t seek out a musician like Amy Grant at any other time of year. But Little Town has been a part of my Christmas playlist for decades, and I always enjoy it.

Track 12:
Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard (1988)

Mistletoe and Wine gets an unfairly bad rap, in my opinion, as does Sir Cliff Richard himself. There’s nothing wrong with this orchestral-pop song, which Richard adapted for Christmas in 1988. It would go on to be the first of three consecutive Christmas number ones for the singer; he also topped the charts with Band Aid II in 1989, and again as a solo artist with Saviour’s Day in 1990.

It’s become popular in recent years for folks to look down their noses at Sir Cliff and his middle-of-the-road, inoffensive style of pop music. I don’t really know why, because he’s had some great records over the years. When it comes to Christmas, it would be remiss not to include Mistletoe and Wine – or any of his other Christmassy singles.

So that’s it. An eclectic mix, I’m sure you’ll agree. And neither a Wham! nor a Mariah Carey in sight! One of the things I enjoy most about this time of year is the music, and there are many more songs and albums I could have talked about here. This playlist was already growing long, though, so we’ll have to settle for twelve! Maybe next Christmas I’ll add a few more.

2020 has been a crap year, and it’s years like this where Christmas time matters all the more to a lot of folks. Take some time to unwind if you can. For me, listening to Christmas music – both lifelong favourites and brand-new classics – is a great way to do that. Hopefully some of these songs will be to your taste too.

There’s more Christmas-themed content to come before we get to the big day, so stay tuned!

All songs on the playlist above are the copyright of their respective record company, studio, distributor, composer, etc. All videos courtesy of YouTube. Videos are merely embedded here, and are not hosted on Trekking with Dennis. For copyright claims, please contact YouTube directly. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.