For the last few years I’ve brought you various selections from my vast Christmas music collection. For the most part I try to highlight oddball songs you may have not heard of before, but this year I’m going in a bit of a different direction. While the weird songs that don’t get much air play are always fun, I’m also a fan of unique covers of the classics. No other Christmas album does that better than Bad Religion’s simply titled album Christmas Songs. The entire album is made up of Christmas standards, but with the punk twist you expect from Bad Religion. Inspired by that album I’m taking you through twelve different versions of the classic “White Christmas.”
Written by Irving Berlin for the film Holiday Inn, it was made famous by the one and only Bing Crosby, who originally sang it on his radio program on Christmas Day, 1941, and recorded it the following year. In 1954 the film White Christmas borrowed its title from the song, and Crosby sang it yet again, solidifying its status as a Christmas standard. While I don’t think you need a refresher, here it is the version we have all come to know.
The original version opened with a verse about being in Los Angeles, and “longing to be up North” however it is typically dropped in most recordings. Darlene Love’s version (which I listed in my California Christmas playlist) contains that verse, however it is placed in the later half of the song. A few other covers that have included it, but are not part of this list, are The Carpenters, Barbara Streisand, and Neil Diamond.
Now on to the covers! And let’s start with the band that inspired the post…
First, the entire album Christmas Songs is amazing. I love it. Band member Brett Gurewitz said that they wanted to do a Christmas album simply because they thought the idea of an anti-religious band doing (for the most part ultra religious) Christmas songs would be “super funny and perverse.” While the whole point of the album is the irony, it also showcases how many classic tunes can be revamped into almost any genre. Need to add Christmas Songs to your collection? Find it on ebay, Amazon, or iTunes.
James “Sugar Boy” Crawford & His Canecutters
A boppy interpretation of the classic that really makes you want to jive. I learned of this version through the amazing album Blink Before Christmas. I highly recommend getting your hands on this album to add more unique covers and songs you may not have heard before to your own Christmas playlist. You can snag Blink Before Christmas on ebay and Amazon.
Originally released in 1960 as part of Christmas Carousel, this slow, mellow version is perfect for a relaxing evening at home by the fire and Christmas tree. I came by this version by way of Ultra Lounge: Christmas Cocktails Volume 3, which I highly recommend if you’re in the mood for that sophisticated, 50s/60s Mad Men Christmas vibe, and as the title implies, yes, there are two other volumes that are equally great! You can purchase Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails Volume 3 on Amazon, and iTunes. You can purchase Christmas Carousel also on Amazon, iTunes, and ebay.
When it comes to Alvin and Chipmunks you either love or hate them. While most of the 1962 album Christmas with the Chipmunks is made up of the ‘munks belting out classic holiday tunes (as well as their own unique Christmas songs) this version is mostly just David singing on his own, and quite wonderfully if I do say so, with a few minor comments from Alvin in the beginning and end. You can get Christmas with the Chipmunks on Amazon, ebay, and iTunes.
There is more than one version of Dino singing “White Christmas” but I like this one. You can catch this version, as well as many other Christmas tunes by the bad boys of Las Vegas with the album Christmas with the Rat Pack, which you can find on Amazon, ebay, and iTunes.
Okay, maybe vocals aren’t your thing, then may I recommend The Ventures? Yes, it’s Christmas surf rock to the rescue! Much like the Bad Religion album, the entire Ventures’ Christmas Album is fantastic, and offers a nice break from the plethora of vocal tunes you may have on your holiday playlist. You can add The Venture’s Christmas Album to your collection via Amazon, ebay, and iTunes.
The Beach Boys
I love the mix of songs on The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album. Their take on “White Christmas” is more traditional, but with that classic Beach Boys harmony. You can get The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album via Amazon, ebay, and iTunes.
The Four Lovers
A wildly upbeat version of “What Christmas,” The Four Lovers add a lot of fun and spunk to the typically slow song. I acquired this version though the compilation album Big City Christmas, which is fantastic! Get a copy of Big City Christmas on Amazon, and ebay, but make sure you purchase the one compiled by the Bear Family.
Brian Setzer has released multiple Christmas albums over the years that they are really a lot of fun, and range from classic orchestrations to rockabilly spins on the classics along with a few originals as well. His take on “White Christmas,” found on Dig that Crazy Christmas starts out more on the traditional side, gets jazzier as it goes on, and comes in around twice as long as most versions of the song. Find on Dig That Crazy Christmas on Amazon, ebay, and iTunes.
For those who want a country twang, I recommend any of Ernest Tubb’s Christmas tunes. His cover of “White Christmas” offers that country feel you may be searching for. I added this version by way of the compilation album Christmas on the Range, which can be found via Amazon or ebay, but please note there are two CDs titled Christmas on the Range, you’ll want to purchase the one with the blue cover that also reads “26 Festive and Swingin’ Country Tunes” to get this version of “White Christmas.” But I do also recommend Christmas on the Range: Cowboy Classics from Capital Records if you want even more country Christmas music.
I don’t know how to describe this version of “White Christmas” aside from sparkling. Their take just sounds like snow to me. It’s charming from start to finish. I added this to my collection through the album A Motown Christmas Carol, but as you can see here, it’s also available on Motown Christmas Volume 2, by 20th Century Masters. A Motown Christmas Carol is available on Amazon, ebay, and iTunes. Motown Christmas Volume 2, by 20th Century Masters is also available on Amazon, and ebay.
I may as well get this out in the open, I love disco. It’s just fun, okay? So when I got my hands on some funky disco-ified Christmas tunes I was elated. This version of “White Christmas” was originally from Yuletide Disco by Mirror Image, however when it comes to finding it digitally, it’s a different story. I purchased it on iTunes years ago as part of a large compilation album simply titled Disco Christmas, which listed the artist as Disco Holiday Inc. In doing some digging around on iTunes I found this version on two albums and with two different artists attributed to it. It can be found on Drew’s Famous Disco Christmas, where it attributed the music to The Hit Crew, and Christmas at Home: Disco Christmas, who lists the artist as Countdown Singers. But in listening to the samples, they are indeed the same version from Mirror Image.
I hope you enjoyed this different look at my Christmas music collection! Do you have any off-beat covers of traditional Christmas music that you really enjoy? Drop it in the comments below!
Want more Christmas sounds? Check out other years’ playlists below!