Christmas seems to activate a latent part of all musicians’ brains that inspires them to spread their holiday cheer all over a perfectly good season. (The scientific term for this part of the brain is called “My Accountant.”) Musicians in the ’80s were certainly not exempt from this need to whip out their yule logs, and, as with most things back then, the results were often mediocre and pastel-colored. However, there are a few Christmas songs from that decade that were notable for either their awfulness or, more rarely, for their excellence Watch for the five worst next week.
Prince, “Another Lonely Christmas”: Skinny-dipping, suicide, self-medicating with banana daiquiris … yeah, that’s Christmas at Prince’s house. He touches none of the typical Yuletide bases with this 1984 B-side, but manages to sing about orgasms and ice-skating in a way that, though far from festive, is evocative and emotional.
Run-D.M.C., “Christmas In Hollis”: You tried to sneak this cassette onto the hi-fi right before Christmas dinner, didn’t you? I know I did. Unfortunately, for the longest time, the only cassette that had it was the Very Special Christmas compilation, which meant that the beatbox era spiritual successor to “Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto” was surrounded by MOR/AOR tripe by Bryan Adams, Stevie Nicks and Bon Jovi. Which made it easier to trick your parents into letting you play it, but reminded you of the sacrifices you were willing to make – even then – for art.
King Diamond, “No Presents For Christmas”: Probably one of the finest Christmas songs ever. Best pre-Babelfish mangling of Danish-to-English lyric-writing: “St. Peter’s crossed the Golden Gate/ Donald Duck is still in bed.” The only truly metal Christmas song ever, appropriately recorded by the man who basically codified black metal, and perhaps the only holiday song to end with a ruthlessly maniacal laugh.
Kate Bush, “December Will Be Magic Again”: Even at the beginning of her career, Kate Bush was a total weirdo. Not only did she star in a televised Christmas special, but she also sang this number on it. Nothing says Christmas like “bongos” and spazz-dancing. A fantastically odd and totally beautiful number.
Fear, “Fuck Christmas”: It’s less than a minute long, but the way Lee Ving tricks you into thinking he actually might have a non-misanthropic bone in his body makes it one hell of a minute.