Finally! We have arrived at the pinnacle of Mt. UnChristmas. The only clue I dropped during this whole Top 13 countdown was song #7 (“Where Are You, Christmas?” by Faith Hill, from the 2000 remake of “The Grinch.”)
1.You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch- Thurl Ravenscroft (UNCREDITED!)
Most everybody knows that the Grinch in the 1966 animated TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas was voiced by actor Boris Karloff. However, Karloff did NOT sing the special’s most memorable tune… although it was mistakenly credited to him. The song was actually performed by one Thurl Ravenscroft. While he may not exactly be a household name, those of us who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s will remember him as the voice of Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes cereal commercials. (“They’re Grrrreat!!!”)
The reason for using Ravenscroft for the one song was, even though he and Karloff sounded very much alike, Boris Karloff could not sing. Legend has it that Dr. Seuss himself tried to rectify the situation and wrote letters to journalists to try and give the voice artist proper credit, even calling Ravenscroft on the telephone to apologize for the oversight.
Here are the full lyrics to the #1 most Un-Christmassy Christmas Song of All Time!
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel,
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel.
You’re a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders.
You’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr Grinch.
I wouldn’t touch you with a
Thirty-nine and a half foot pole.
You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile,
Given the choice between the two of you,
I’d take the seasick crocodile.
You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You’re a nasty wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks.
Your soul is full of gunk,
The three best words that best describe you,
Are as follows, and I quote”
You’re a rotter Mr Grinch
You’re the king of sinful sots
Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots
Your soul is an appalling dump heap
Overflowing with the most disgraceful
Assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.
You nauseate me, Mr Grinch
With a nauseous super nos
You’re a crooked jerky jockey and,
You drive a crooked horse
You’re a three-decker sauerkraut
And toadstool sandwich,
With arsenic sauce!
And with those unmatchable sentiments, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a healthful,happy New Year!
- Please Come Home for Christmas- the Eagles (and Charles Brown, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, etc.)
Bells will be ringing this sad sad News
Oh what a Christmas to have the blues
My baby’s gone I have no friends
To wish me greetings once again
Originally released in 1960 by blues singer Charles Brown (he co-wrote it with Gene Redd), the song rose to even greater popularity when the Eagles recorded it in 1978. That year, it made the Top 20 on the pop charts, the first Christmas song to do so since 1963.
This line always irked me:
Please come home for Christmas
If not for Christmas by New Years night
Complete cop-out! The song’s not even over and already he is buying time, because he knows she’s NOT coming home for Christmas!
- Blue Christmas- Elvis Presley (and, like, hundreds of other artists)
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, the song was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. It enjoyed greater success the following year as a Country & Western hit by Ernest Tubb. Elvis originally recorded the melancholy ballad in 1957, but it wasn’t made commercially available as a single until 1964. (No iTunes in those days, kiddos!)
Here’s Elvis performing it live in 1968:
- Last Christmas- Wham! This lil’ gem first wormed its way into our ears in winter of 1984. Written and produced by one-time heartthrob George Michael, “Last Christmas” was recorded by his duo Wham! and went on to become one of the year’s biggest seasonal hits (along with the all-star charity record “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band-Aid… which, oddly enough, also featured Wham!)
“Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away.”
The very NEXT DAY??!!?? What a hussy!
The song has been covered over the years, mostly by young female pop artists… Taylor Swift, Hillary Duff, Ashley Tisdale, Ariana Grande and Carly Rae Jepsen, to name a few. But no other recording has quite captured the lonely disillusionment of the original recording.
And the video, with its classic 1980s hairdos and fashion? Iconic.
Well, we’ve almost arrived at the pinnacle of this un-merry musical mountain… Think you know my pick for Thee ultimate, most Un-Christmassy Christmas song of all time???
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this blog series!
Aaaand we’re back! The good news is, we have gotten all the songs involving alcohol out of the way. (I mean, getting drunk is such an easy “out” if you are struggling to make it through the holidays.)
Snow is on the ground. Temps are waaay below freezing. Sure “feels” like Christmas, at least climate-wise. Yet, it all seems so artificial, so empty…
7. Where Are You, Christmas?- Faith Hill
In 2000, Dr. Seuss’s 1957 children’s book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was adapted into a live action movie starring Jim Carrey in the lead role. (It had previously been made into a cartoon TV special in 1966.) The Cindy Lou Who character performs the song in the film. Country Sweetheart-turned-Pop Diva Faith Hill recorded it for the soundtrack. The tune was penned by Will Jennings and James Horner, best known for their work on the “Titanic” soundtrack (Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” etc.)
Where are you Christmas
Why can’t I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can’t I hear music play?
Ah, but I CAN still hear the music playing, Faith. It is hurting my ears and my heart. Hence, this blog series.
6. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)- Darlene Love
The Phil Spector Christmas 1963 album, “A Christmas Gift For You,” was a masterpiece. Featuring tunes by the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love, and Bob B.Soxx and the Blue Jeans, this record epitomized the “Wall of Sound” well, sound, that *made Spector famous.
*This was decades before his ex-wife Ronnie (lead singer of the Ronettes) spoke publically about his alleged physical mental abuse, and Phil’s imprisonment for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson.
In 1987, the song enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, thanks to U2’s remake. Meh.
5. Merry Christmas Darling- the Carpenters
Nobody ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever sang a sad song as convincingly as Karen Carpenter. Ever. That’s because she was probably one of the saddest, loneliest pop stars of the 20th century. Too bad no one knew that until after she croaked. (Read this book: “Little Girl Blue” by Randy Schmidt.)
Originally recorded in 1970, the song made the holiday charts in many years following. It was finally included on an album (The Carpenters’ iconic “Christmas Portrait”) in 1978.
The song’s deceptively romantic lyrics leave the listener– and Karen– hanging. It’s kind of like a love letter that comes back stamped “Return to Sender.” (Sigh.)
The theme of Loneliness will continue in the next batch of tunes.
Aaaand we’re back,with more Un-Christmassy fun! It’s time to start unveiling the Top 10. Ready?
- Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day- Brenda Lee
I fought with myself over whether to include this tune or not. After all, 99.999% of you who are reading this (which amounts to,perhaps ten or twelve people) have never heard of this little gem. But since this blog is about MY personal Top 13 Un-Christmassy Christmas tunes, it doesn’t really matter how obscure this tune is.
When it comes to seasonal songs, Brenda Lee (AKA “Little Miss Dynamite”) will be remembered for eternity for her hit “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” But my Mom was Brenda’s biggest fan, so I grew up with ALL of Brenda’s music. Even as a small child, I gravitated towards sad songs. So,even though Brenda recorded cheerful songs like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Marshmallow World” on this LP, my favorite, by far, was “Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day.” Key lyrics are in the bridge:
“I had a lonely September, October, November, too.
But December is twice as lonely without you.”
Merry Christmas From the Family- Montgomery Gentry
Country music and drinking go together like, well rum and Coke! I can’t decide between these two intoxicating tunes…. They basically cancel each other out.
Country music duo, Montgomery Gentry recorded this nugget, written by Robert Earl Keen, in 2001. The title may sound like a line from a Hallmark Card, but once you hear Eddie Montgomery utter the opening line:
“Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at a Christmas party…”
You know that this is not going to be your ordinary, warm-and-fuzzy holiday tune. Not in the least.
Drunk on Christmas- Big and Rich
Comedian/ talk show host Jimmy Fallon had already made this ditty a holiday staple on his late night show, when he teamed up with country singer-songwriter John Rich in December 2010 to make it a boisterous duet. At the time, John was taking a break from the duo Big and Rich to work on some solo projects. He and “Big Kenny” Alphin have since reunited, and in 2012, they released their own take on the song. It seems a perfect choice of holiday tunage from the act whose debut single was called “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.”
8. Nuttin’ For Christmas- Barry Gordon
One of the cool things about writing this multi-part blog is learning things I never knew before about songs I’ve heard for ages. In this case, we travel all the way back to 1955 (it’s the oldest song on this list). Barry Gordon was only six years old when he recorded this lil’ gem. Written by Sid Tepper and Roy Bennett, this song perfectly illustrates why I never had kids; if I had, he’d have probably been something like the brat in this song. The precocious lad brags about all of the petty crimes he’s committed over the past year… putting a tack on his teacher’s chair, spilling ink on Mom’s carpet, filling the sugar bowl with ants, even using counterfeit money to buy bubble gum!
So, did this Barry kid grow up to be a hardened criminal? Was he some random schoolboy who could hold a tune, but who faded into obscurity after his voice changed?
Anything but!!! Actually, Barry Gordon may not be a household name, but he continued his showbiz career for decades, following his infectious pop hit, acting in TV and on Broadway, and providing voices in the 1980s for Smurfs and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Barry was also President of the Screen Actors Guild for seven years.
Tune in later this week for the next installment in our countdown!