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Spin MagazineIntroduction. I'm always on the lookout for unusual lists of Christmas songs, and this one really took the prize - especially by unearthing a few bizarro masterpieces I'd never even heard of. So, if the annual deluge of holiday music hokum is driving you to suicide-by-fruitcake - here are 25 of the weirdest, darkest, most awesome Noel-wave oughtabe classics you'll never hear in a mall this season. Written by Charles Aaron, Chuck Eddy, Steve Kandell, David Marchese, and Douglas Wolk and originally published by Spin Magazine in their December 2010 issue.

spin #25 Dana Dane Is Coming To Town
Dana Dane (1987)

A stylishly garbed kid from Brooklyn's Fort Greene projects, Dana McLeese started out as a member of Slick Rick's Kangol Crew, adopting Ricky's British accent and indulging his own knack for fanciful storytelling. In this typically windy tale (from Profile Records' Christmas Rap), produced with a drum machine flourish by Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor (Salt-n-Pepa, Kid 'n Play), Dana visits three wise men, traverses the desert in his Bally loafers, invades a palace, and saves the Christmas spirit by vanquishing - who else? A sucker MC. - C.A.

spin #24 Feliz Navidad
El Vez (1994)

There are Elvis impersonators, and then there's the mighty El Vez: the Mexican punk-rock Elvis. (When he takes off the '68-comeback-special jumpsuit, he's Robert Lopez of L.A. punk vets the Zeros.) EI Vez's juiced-up version of the insipid Jose Feliciano holiday standard "Feliz Navidad" first appeared on his Merry MeX-mas album and has since become the theme song of his holiday-season tours. The secret ingredient: the sour riff from Public Image Limited's 1978 slam dance "Public Image," which keeps turning up whenever the well-wishing starts getting a little too cheery. - D.W.

spinSpinal Tap #23 Christmas With The Devil
Spinal Tap (1984)

It's no accident that a lot of the songs Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer wrote as their faux-metal alter egos have turned out to be more enduring than the ones they were ostensibly lampooning. (And really, is "Big Bottom" any more or less of a joke than "Whole Lotta Rosie"?) This single, which they debuted on Saturday Night Live in May (!) of 1984 (and later appeared on both the CD reissue of This Is Spinal Tap and their 1992 sophomore album Break Like The Wind), features leather-clad elves and chained-up angels and offers a more extreme alternative to fireside revelry. And what ode to Lucifer would be complete without some eerie backward masking buried at the end? "This is Spinal Tap, wishing you and yours the most joyous of holiday seasons. God bless us everyone." So evil! - S.K.

spin #22 Christmas With Satan
James Chance (1982)

In 1981, dance-oriented NYC new wave label Ze Records put together the hippest holiday compilation ever to lack Phil Spector - from Was (Not Was) mourning Detroit to the Waitresses forgetting cranberries, A Christmas Record was a hoot. Noise-funked saxophone sadist James Chance (a.k.a. James White) was absent at first. but when a slightly altered version appeared in '82, he was there for six minutes - arriving at Beelzebub's eggnog party even before Spinal Tap. Not to mention honking the living skronk out of Christmas-carol fragments, while detached disco dollies behind him explained, "There's no angels or wise men, and certainly no virgins." - C.E.

spin #21 David Christmas
Fucked Up (2007)

Canadian hardcore frontmen don't come much jollier-looking than Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham, but caroling along with this charity single's anthemic A-side will warrant need for a lozenge. The all-star b-side, "Stars on 45," features holiday wishes from the likes of James Murphy, Nelly Furtado, Davey Havok, Black Lips' Cole Alexander, and 90210's Shenae Grimes (see Couple Tracks, 2010). So close was this to an arch cover of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" that they actually recorded one with their pals for another charity single two Christmases later. - S.K.

spin #20 Back Door Santa
Clarence Carter (1968)

A blind Alabama belter, Clarence Carter recorded some of the 1960s' most boisterous soul sides ("Slip Away," "Snatching It Back," "Too Weak to Fight"). He also had a signature devilish chuckle and a proclivity for double entendres, so this salacious Christmas blues from Soul Christmas was not out of character. Notably, the narrative is not confined to the holiday season: Carter's "Santa" brings the ladies good cheer 365. As he slyly puts it, "Well, I ain't like the Old Saint Nick / He don't come but once a year." The bawdy horn riff was later sampled on Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis." - C.A.

spin #19 If It Doesn't Snow On Christmas
Joe Pesci (1998)

Based on a Gene Autry standard, this goombahtization is peppered with copious F-bombs (Santa equals "fat fuck"), courtesy of Pesci at his post-Good Fellas/My Cousin Vinny peak. Since Joisey Italian-American cliches are so in vogue now in pop culture, this one seems game for a revival. (The song first appeared on Pesci's Vincent Laguardia Gambini Sings Just for You and was later collected on Little Steven's Christmas A Go-Go.) - S.K.

spin #18 It's Christmas Time (Jingle Bells)
David Banner (2003)

For four songs near the end, TVT's elbow-heaving Crunk and Disorderly sampler turns miraculously into a Christmas album. Banner's contribution, set to the same midnight-massed "God Bless Ye Merry Gentleman" gloom beloved by dark metal bands, is the most moving and confounding: It opens with somebody shivering in the snow; then Mississippi's best educated rapper takes the role of an out-of-work ghetto resident who robs to feed his kids and put gifts under their tree. A bogus justification, and Banner's smart enough to know better, but its class resentment rings true. Before it's over, you'll shiver, too. - C.E.

spin Esquivel#17 Jingle Bells (Greetings From Esquivel)
Esquivel (1996)

Juan Garcia Esquivel, the natty Mexican composer, pianist, and band leader, innovated a dazzlingly goofy style of jazzy instrumental pop in the 1950s that later came to be known as "space-age bachelor pad music" and helped soundtrack the retro-chic movement that peaked around the 37th time Vince Vaughn called someone "money." This playfully disorienting track, produced by cocktail revivalists Combustible Edison, was one of Esquivel's final recordings and led off Merry Xmas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad. It also features spoken-word patter from Esquivel himself, who departs with his timeless hipster flare, "Feliz Navidad, baby!" - C.A.

spin #16 Merry Christmas From The Family
Robert Earl Keen (1994)

Texas troubadour Keen first warbled this dysfunctional drink-along on his Gringo Honeymoon album, and it's become enough of a white-trash standard since that both right-leaning Montgomery Gentry and lefties Dixie Chicks have covered it. A partial rundown: Little sis brings her new Mexican boyfriend, who belts out "Feliz Navidad'; thrice-married bro Ken brings his brood plus latest chain-smoking, AA-spouting spouse; convenience-store-run lists include extension cord, ice, bean dip, Marlboros, Midol, Pampers, and/or tampons. Sound familiar? If not, are you even American? - C.E.

spin #15 You Son Of A Bitch, You Stole My Woman, Now I'm Gunna Burn Down Your Christmas Tree Farm
Red Swan (2004)

Jealousy, revenge, and arson do not take time off for the holidays-certainly not in the frostbitten coniferous Michigan backwoods. Tom Muth huffs and puffs frantically about dousing rags in gasoline, filling knotholes with kerosene, lighting it all with a Lucky. The chestnut roast harks back to Killdozer or Big Black, whose Steve Albini produced three other songs on Red Swan's After the Barn Goes debut, from whence this comes. - C.E.

spin #14 Thank God It's Not Christmas
Sparks (1974)

L.A.'s weirdo Mael brothers had just relocated to England when they put out Kimono My House, which made them stars in Blighty. This track's poperatic, protogoth, prog-glam, piano-cabaret avoidance of seasonal affective disorder is still endearing to those among us who would just as soon jump ahead to January and circumvent all the stress or loneliness. "Caroling kids, a trifle premature," Russell Mael hiccups. "Will the mood allow one dissent?" Sparks disciples Queen, who put out a single called "Thank God It's Christmas" a decade later, maybe thought not. - C.E.

spin #13 Teenage Christmas
Jacobites (1986)

Nikki Sudden and Dave Kusworth were two velvet-jacketed, scarf-wearing English dandies whose band, Jacobites, traded in the kind of romantic ramshackle rock that posits all music men as tragically flawed mountebanks and women as their brokenhearted saviors. Which made them naturals to write a kick-ass Christmas song (from God Save Us Poor Sinners). When these cutout-bin Glimmer Twins yelp, "Santa Claus is coming! With parcels full of joy," as Chuck Berry riffs slash alongside tinkling sleigh bells, it sounds like they're awaiting the kinds of gifts only very naughty little boys would even think to ask for. - D.M.

spin #12 All Hail Santa
Anti-Heros (2000)

Anyone can grumpily object to the forced good cheer of the holiday season. But only these Atlanta aggro-punks went as far as to brand St. Nick a child-molesting, arms-profiteering skinhead with manipulation skills that Himmler would envy. And that title is a little misleading: The chorus actually goes, "Ho ho ho / Sieg heil to Santa / The fight has just begun." (From their album Don't Tread On Me.) - S.K.

spinJames Brown #11 Hey America
James Brown (1970)

Between 1966 and 1970, the Godfather of Soul made a string of Christmas records, some of them funky ("Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto"), some of them deep (a spectacular soul version of "The Christmas Song"), and some of them totally bizarre. This one is the weirdest: a churning, overwrought orchestral groove, over which JB apparently improvises a totally incoherent rant about Christmas, peace protesters, God, partying, and (tellingly) wine. By the end, he's quoting "Hava Nagila" and "Volare." The original single included an instrumental version labeled "Sing Along With James," as if that were possible. - D.W.

spin #10 Merry Crassmas
Crass (1981)

What were the gleefully blasphemous British anarcho-punks Crass (who also brought us Christ: The Album) doing making a Christmas record? Having a laugh, as usual. "Merry Crassmas" is a chirpy instrumental medley of holiday favorites: "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Nagasaki Nightmare," "Punk Is Dead"... most of Crass' early repertoire, in fact, gets the twinkly Casio treatment between snatches of Christmas carols. The record's sleeve offered a competition to identify all the Crass songs included herein: "First prize, bath salts. Second prize, one Exploited single. Third prize, two Exploited singles." - D.W.

spin #9 No Xmas For John Quays
The Fall (1979)

Frankie Lymon's final Christmas was 1967; two months and two days later, he died of a heroin overdose at 25. In this rant (from Live At The Witch Trials) about junkies (say "John Quays" fast) who don't have time for myrrh or mirth, art-punk legend and crank sage Mark E. Smith calls out Lymon by name, then twice screeches a line from "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." The drone is a sort of stunted rockabilly, six notes repeated for four-and-a-half minutes, repetition as both weapon and shield. - C.E.

spin #8 Homo Christmas
Pansy Division (1992)

The b-side of a three-song Lookout! Records 7-inch (along with "Smells Like Queer Spirit"), this celebratory sacrilege features frontman Jon Ginoli cooing over jangly pop punk: "Licking nipples / Licking nuts / Putting candy canes / Up each other's butts." Ginoli even saw the song as therapy of sorts: "Christmas can be stressful, especially since it's a 'family' time, and I wrote (the song) thinking that it would give certain people hope on a day that sometimes sucks, especially when the person you really want to be with doesn't fit into certain definitions of family." (Also appears on Pile Up, Punk Rock Xmas, and Xmas Snertz.) - C.A.

spin #7 Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto
Snoop Doggy Dog featuring Dat Nigga Daz, Nate Dogg, Big Tray Deee, and Bad Azz (1996)

Inspired by an earnest James Brown original - in which JB implores Santa to please pay a visit to the "soul brothers" - Snoop and his Dogg Pound elves fly through the night in their '64 Impala sleigh, elucidating the yuletide realities of the "needy and greedy." But amid all the gangstas and dope fiends, the song (from Christmas On Death Row) is really about the power of Christmas to evoke feelings of innocence and family, even if you've gotta harvest your turkey down at the church shelter. - C.A.

spin Merle Haggard#6 If We Make It Through December
Merle Haggard (1973)

If anything can put a damper on shopping season, it's getting shitcanned, so this hardscrabble, honky-tonk lament might feel even timelier now than when it was released amid the oil crisis and market crash of '73. One of the 20th century's most commanding voices sings of being laid off at the factory, figuring if his family survives until spring they can move someplace warmer. It topped the country chart as a single, then showed up as the title track of Hag's 1974 album. - C.E.

spin #5 Little Drum Machine Boy
Beck (1996)

"Little Drum Machine Boy" never appeared on a proper Beck album - it came out half a year after Odelay on the alt-leaning Geffen compilation Just Say Noel. But this might be the most convincingly audacious cut-and-paste experiment of his career. Its self-proclaimed "holiday robot funk" goes for seven minutes, which lets Beck stuff lots of goodies into your stocking: medievalesque minor-key melodies, freakazoid 808 beats, random vacuum-cleaner-like noises, cowbells and sleigh bells, and Caribbean schnitzels with rain-forest noodling. Not to mention plenty of seemingly stoned asides about Hanukkah pimps, and a chance to rhyme "menorahs" with "lawyers." - C.E.

spin #4 Christmas Bop
T. Rex (1975)

By 1975 the glam kids over which Marc Bolan once ruled had wiped the glitter off their cheeks, making it hard to hear the funk-indebted misfires of mid-70s T. Rex as anything other than crises of confidence. But as Chinese-restaurant owners know, Jews have a knack for adapting Christmas to their own needs, and with "Christmas Bop" the man born Mark Feld delivered a holiday R&B bubblegum burst, singing about cold being bold over disco high-hat, choppy rhythm guitar, and backup beauties wailing "T.Rexmas." Too bad the song wasn't officially released until 1982 - five years after Bolan's death (though it frequently appears on European collections like Greatest Hits). - D.M.

spin #3 Depressed Christmas
Culturcide (1986)

Everyone gets a little blue this time of year; these nihilistic Houston punks took that sentiment to its logical conclusion. Culturecide's most notorious album, Tacky Souvenirs of Pre-Revolutionary America, consisted of the band singing rewritten lyrics over various hit records (totally unauthorized, of course). That same proto-karaoke approach worked for their Christmas single, an easy-listening pisstake of "White Christmas," overdubbed with a slurred voice mumbling, "My slit wrist glistens... as I listen... to the last Christmas song I'll ever hear" The kicker? There is no singing at all in its second half. (The single's flipside is "Santa Claus Was My Lover," a hilariously sordid tale of degradation sung along to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean.") - D.W.

spin #2 Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa
De La Soul (1991)

From Macy's Santa land (and the album De La Soul Is Dead) comes an even more disturbing story than David Sedaris' diary. De La's Posdnuos and Trugoy the Dove (with assistance from producer Prince Paul) unveil the elaborate picaresque of Millie, a Brooklyn-via-Philly girl who's a bruised victim of the "touchy touchy game" at the hands of her father, Dillon, a social worker all Millie's friends think is the "coolest elder in the school." Nobody believes her cries of abuse, so Millie plots revenge, toting a pistol into the department store where Dillon is working as a Claus; she "bucked him, with the quickness it was over." Ho ho, bang bang. - C.A.

spin Fear#1 Fuck Christmas
Fear (1982)

If the key to timelessness is simplicity, how come Lee Ving isn't Burl lves? For the frontman of John Belushi's favorite punk band, misanthropy and mistletoe seemed a natural fit. On Fear's second single, which was appended to the CD reissue of their debut album The Record (as well as Rhino's Punk Rock Xmas), Ving keeps things concise enough - a four-sentence verse followed by the title shouted a dozen times in 45 seconds - to make "Fuck Christmas" one for the canon. "Finally, someone had the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say something definitively negative," recalls Ving. "But if you had enough money to do some goddamn Christmas shopping, you had nothing to complain about." - S.K.

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