Christmas is officially a week away! It’s time to wrap those presents and prepare the house for unwanted family members. By now, you’re probably sick and tired of the same holidays songs pounding through your brain. If you’re looking for something different, there’s a surprising amount of rock Christmas covers though many of them aren’t very good. You could spend time browsing through awful covers of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by washed up hair metal bands or you can check out this playlist of the best rock Christmas songs. Enjoy!
“All I Want for Christmas is You” – My Chemical Romance
I’m not the biggest MCR fan, but I have to admit they do an amazing job with taking this overplayed Christmas classic and turning it into something fresh and exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original, but out of all the covers I’ve heard this is the best. It starts off with Gerard Way doing his best soulful impression before the blazing guitars and standard screaming vocals come in tearing the song apart. What’s even better they all sound good when singing the song. It still manages to be as catchy as the Carey version, but MCR breathes new life into it. If only they were still around to do a Christmas album.
“Last Christmas” – Jimmy Eat World
This is a simple, yet sweet cover from the pop-punk band for anyone who hates the Wham! version ( I love it!). They stay pretty true to the original while bringing their own melodic nature to the track. They actually turn the song into something mellow, soft, and kind of sad. The song itself is actually kind of a downer, but that’s easy to forget with the cheerful music playing in the background. It goes to show drastic changes don’t always make for the best cover songs.
“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Firehouse
This glam metal band stay true to the vibe of the original, but they bring a bit of edginess to it. Singer C.J. Snare does a decent enough job on vocals, but what makes this version stand out are the slick and fiery guitar licks. Towards the end Snare shakes things up by replacing the last line with “Bang your head right to the beat in a heavy metal way!” It’s a fun spin on this Christmas classic that’ll get you moshing around the tree. On second thought, maybe that’s not such a great idea.
“Buried by Christmas” – Wednesday 13
It’s surprising to learn Wednesday 13 has a Christmas song, but this one takes a grim turn. Just as with most of his songs he talks about death. He keeps his horror punk roots in tact with lines like “Santa! If your fat ass can hear me, you better have me a freshly dug grave!” and “All I want for Christmas is a custom fit coffin with black velvet interior and a bucket of chicken.” It’s humorous and a little grim like the rest of his material. It’s definitely not your traditional holiday tune. You may not want to play around your family if they can’t appreciate cryptic humor, but you can rock out to it all night long. It’s a little weird, but loads of fun.
“Sleigh Ride” – August Burns Red
Surprisingly, August Burns Red has an instrumental Christmas album. While they have several cool renditions of songs like “Joy to the World,” this one is by far the best. It starts out sounding like the traditional tune before the aggressive guitars and racing drums are unleashed. They speed up the song a bit to make it more excited and more appropriate for a mosh pit, but they didn’t change too much where you can’t identify the song. There’s even one part where they throw in some Jazz piano to keep the listener on their toes. It’s fresh, exciting, and makes you want to grab a sleigh and play in the snow. Plus, it’s way better than the Debbie Gibson version.
“Jingle Bells” – Skid Row
If you need to liven up your Christmas party, this is the song to play. Even though the guys in Skid Row sound a little silly shouting “Jingle bells!” at the top of their lungs, it’s still a lot of fun and will get any rock fan in the holiday mood. Musically, they flip the song on its head by layering guitar riffs on top of each other for that metal sound. They even toss in some gang vocals to put their own spin on it. It’s not the best metal Christmas cover out there, but it’s pretty fun and livens up your holiday spirit.
“Rock And Roll Christmas” – George Thorogood
You may only know him for “Bad to the Bone,” but Thorogood also has one of the most fun Christmas songs out there. With punchy horns blaring and slick guitar licks snaring, he lists off his Christmas wishes, while declaring “Let’s have a rock and roll Christmas” with good family and friends. The song represents what the holidays should be about: having a good time with the people you love. It’s upbeat, catchy, exciting, and better than the traditional Christmas songs radio stations and malls keep beating you over the head with. It’s also one of the few holiday tracks you can cut loose to. This is one that definitely should get more recognition around this time of year. Also, is it just me or does it remind you of that Arthur Christmas song?
“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” – The Ramones
Even New York City punks get in the Christmas spirit sometimes. The Ramones bring their special brand of three-chord rock to this unique holiday song. It actually has a poignant message; nobody should be fighting on Christmas. What’s great about this song is it’s just as upbeat, catchy, and energetic as their other songs making it something you won’t mind hearing the entire year. It works so well because The Ramones just did what the normally do, make good music, and sprinkled some Christmas cheer over it.
“X-M@$” – Corey Taylor
I already talked about this track on my list of unconventional Christmas songs, but it’s so cynical and funny it has to get a nod here. Slipknot’s Corey Taylor talks about the worst part of the holiday, which is apparently everything. The best is the chorus where he sings “If I drunk, then it ain’t Christmas,” which some people can empathize with being around your family and all. Whether you actually hate Christmas or just have a good sense of humor, you can’t help but chuckle when Taylor sings “Fa-la-la-la Go fuck yourself!.” Interesting to note, Taylor actually loves Christmas. The song is aimed at those who absolutely hate it. So if you need a break from all the cheery, cheesy holiday tunes, fire this one up and pour some extra rum in your eggnog.
“Santa Claws is Coming to Town” – Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper tries to make this Christmas classic creepy with his scary sneer and changing the spelling of “Claus.” It doesn’t exactly work, but it’s still entertaining to hear Cooper slay through the song. The best part comes at the end when he lists his devious plans for the night, which includes breaking all the toys, setting things on fire, and partying all night long. Otherwise, it’s a pretty straight forward cover of the song with lots of spiraling guitar solos to give it a hard rock edge. It may not become your new holiday favorite, but it’s still a lot of fun.
“Christmas with the Devil” – Spinal Tap
According to Spinal Tap even the devil celebrates Christmas and this song notes just how he does it. With “elves… dressed in leather
And the angels…in chains” you know this isn’t a holiday tune carolers will sing throughout the neighborhood. The song is full of “naughty” images like rancid sugar plums and stockings set on fire making it the most hellish song about Christmas to exist. Still, you have to to admit the song kicks ass and seems like something Jack Black would play at his holiday parties.
“Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses
This is actually a song I hear every year, but had no idea it was by this band. What makes it so great is Patty Donahue’s deadpan delivery. She sounds snarky as she sings “We tried, we said we’d keep in touch/Didn’t, of course, ’til summertime/Out to the beach to his boat could I join him?/No, this time it was me/Sunburn in the third degree.” The tune is about a single woman who is sick of the mad rush of the holiday season and decides to sit this year out. Even though it has a “Bah humbug” vibe, the music is really upbeat and playful, making you want to dance and have a good time.
“Heavy Metal Christmas” – Twisted Sister
This is one of those songs that is so bad, it’s really funny. Dee Snider and the gang take “12 Days of Christmas” and inserts all the hair metal cliches: quarts of Jack, too many cans of hairspray, skull rings, leather jackets, and a tattoo of Ozzy to top it off. Sure, it sounds pretty bad and the whole idea is ridiculous, but when they start counting down the things a heavy metaler wants for Christmas, you can’t help but laugh a little. Ignore the off key vocals and the cheesiness of it and just enjoy how funny and silly it is. Besides, seven leather jackets sounds like a much better gift than seven swimming swans.
“It’s Gonna be a Punk Rock Christmas This Year” – The Ravers
It’s interesting to note a lot of people think the song is by the Sex Pistols, probably because there are so many references to them, but it’s by L.A. punks The Ravers. On this track, they talk about what it takes to have a punk rock Christmas, which includes the Queen singing “Anarchy in the UK,” being a Sex Pistol for a day, and Christmas trees adorned with safety pins. It’s a simple, upbeat song that takes holiday traditions and flips them on their head. It’s an underrated gem from 1977, but perfect for anyone who finds traditional Christmas tunes boring.
“Holiday Hate” – Psychostik
This is yet another song that talks about the annoying things about the holiday season, like fruitcake, Christmas music, and visiting grandma. It even pokes fun at the consumerism involved by saying all consumers do during the time is buy, buy, buy. Even though they take an extreme approach to the vocals and the music, it’s funny all the way through. The band actually has an entire Christmas album, but this track is my personal favorite along with “Red Snow,” which is of course about Rudolph murdering those who made fun of him.
Merry Christmas, everyone! If I missed any of your favorite rock Christmas song, let me know in the comments!