Non-Traditional Versions of Christmas Carols

I’m trying to make a non-traditional Christmas Mix CD, and need ideas. I’d prefer non-traditional versions of traditional Christmas carols, but I’m open to other suggestions. Hanukkah, winter, and Solstice songs are fine, too.

In terms of styles, rock, indie, folk, punk, swing or doo-wop would all be fantastic. Our tastes are eclectic, and we’re willing to listen to almost anything, with the exception of new country (traditional and bluegrass are fine) and perhaps death metal, I guess. I’m also not a huge fan of R & B versions with lots of vocal embellishments and slides.

The CD will be accompanying a Grade 8 student to school for a Christmas party, so explicit language and themes are probably out.

To give you an idea of what I’m after, the playlist, thus far, includes:

Silver Bells; Raul Malo
First Noël; Crash Test Dummies
Merry Christmas, Baby; Springsteen
Fairytale of New York; The Pogues
God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen; Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan

I know there are probably a million old threads devoted to this very topic, but damned if I can find them. The search function has not been helpful. If you can provide links to past threads, I’d be grateful for those, too.


Check out The Roches’ Christmas album. Called "We Three Kings"
It’s wonderful & I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like.

Jingle All the Way by the amazing Bela Fleck and the Flecktones takes carols and turns them inside out and upside. After you’ve heard “Jingle Bells” with Tuvan throat singers no other version will ever satisfy you.

I’m being quite serious, BTW. The album is fantastic and fantastically inventive.

Here’s an article about new Xmas CDs in all genres. Page down for pop/rock.

I love Sting’s 1987 version of Gabriel’s Message. Trust Sting to make such a carol so vaguely menacing and haunting. The video’s a bit pointless 1980s pretentiousness (though young Sting looks yummy as heck), but my advice is to crank up the sound and enjoy it. Sting does the counterpoint/harmony and it really works beautifully.

IIRC, I bought this as a single (it was actually the B-side, with Russians as the A, I believe), off his first solo album, Dream of the Blue Turtles. GM isn’t on the album, unfortunately.

Is this the “non-traditional” version of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”?

I’m going to go with yes, and pretend that I didn’t just screw up the comma placement. Good eye, by the way.
Thank you for the fantastic recommendations I’ve received so far. The Roches are lovely, Bela Fleck is really cool, and there are a tonne of CDs to try out from rowrrbazzle’s link.

The Sting recommendation really surprised me. I don’t actually like Sting much, but I absolutely enjoyed that song. Great pick.

Thank you all!

“The Christmas Song” - Hootie & The Blowfish
“Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” - SR-71
“Christmas Don’t Be Late (The Chipmunk Song)” - Powder
“This Christmas (Hang All the Mistletoe)” - Macy Gray
“Silent Night” - The Music City Brass
“O Christmas Tree” - Aretha Franklin
“Sleigh Ride” - Canadian Brass
“Please Come Home for Christmas” - Willie Nelson
“Pretty Paper” - Roy Orbison

“Youre a bum
Youre a punk
Youre an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy christmas your arse
I pray God its our last”

A friend asked for non-traditional renditions of Christmas songs. Here’s what I suggested:

White Christmas – Stiff Little Fingers

A Fairytale of New York – The Pogues

12 Days of Christmas – The Yobs

Oi! to the World – No Doubt or The Vandals (I like No Doubt’s version better)

Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses

A Very Special Christmas:
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” - The Pointer Sisters
“Winter Wonderland” - Eurythmics
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” - Whitney Houston
“Merry Christmas Baby” - Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” - Pretenders
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” - John Mellencamp
“Gabriel’s Message” - Sting
“Christmas In Hollis” - Run-D.M.C.
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” - U2
“Santa Baby” - Madonna
"The Little Drummer Boy - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
“Run Rudolph Run” - Bryan Adams
“Back Door Santa” - Bon Jovi
“The Coventry Carol” - Alison Moyet
“Silent Night” - Stevie Nicks

A Very Special Christmas 3:
“I Saw Three Ships” - Sting
“Christmastime” - The Smashing Pumpkins
“Children Go Where I Send Thee” - Natalie Merchant
“Santa Baby” - Rev Run & the Christmas All Stars featuring Mase, Puff Daddy, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Salt N’ Pepa, Onyx & Keith Murray
“Oi To The World” - No Doubt
“Blue Christmas” - Sheryl Crow
“Christmas” - Blues Traveler
“Oiche Chiun (Silent Night)” - Enya
“The Christmas Song” - Hootie & The Blowfish
“Ave Maria” - Chris Cornell with Eleven
“Christmas In the City” - Mary J. Blige featuring Angie Martinez
“Santa Claus Is Back In Town” - Jonny Lang
“Christmas Song” - Dave Matthews Band & Tim Reynolds
“Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand” - Steve Winwood
“O Holy Night” - Tracy Chapman
“We Three Kings” - Patti Smith

Heh. I wondered if anyone would mention that. I haven’t made a final decision about that song. On one hand, the lyrics are clearly inappropriate, but on the other, when I played it for my son, he couldn’t pick out any of the words. Shane MacGowan is apparently a little hard to understand for 14 year old Canadians. I wonder if his teacher (who is 22) would have the same problem.

I see you’ve got the Barenaked Ladies represented with their collaboration with Sarah McLachlan on “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” (double-checks comma placement), but they also have an album full of songs with Barenaked for the Holidays - mostly Christmas, but also including 3 Hannukah songs, one New Year’s (“Auld Lang Syne”), and some more general winter season songs about walking through the snow to an ex’s house, about being a snowman separated from the world and interacting with people, and so on. Their “Sleigh Ride” has no words, they sing it like they don’t know the lyrics, just the melody (“Yup pa da dup da dup, yup dada dup dup daaa…”), “Jingle Bells” starts out slow and melancholy, then cranks up the tempo for a fast-paced rest of the song, “O Holy Night” is instrumental only and done lounge-style.

The Reverend Horton Heat has a fun take on Christmas songs with their We Three Kings, doing traditional and non-traditional in a fast uptempo rockabilly style.

Almost forgot - there’s always “Joy to the World”… the Three Dog Night version. I seem to remember someone on this board saying that their caroling group would pull that one out when getting the request for the more traditional song. And going farther afield from the original request, after seeing Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special, I find Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” to be a great Christmas song.

Kirsty Mccall wasn’t hard to understand at all though :slight_smile:

Can I recommend James Brown’s “Santa Claus go straight to the ghetto” and “Please come home for Christmas”.

Dammit. You’re right. She has the “cheap lousy faggot” line, and it’s perfectly understandable. As I don’t want him suspended, I think I’m going to have to take that song off the boy’s copy of the CD (I’m still keeping it on mine).
All the rest of you, these are great suggestions! I’m switching back and forth between Napster and ITunes and having a fantastic time listening. This is going to take me hours to put together.

Ferret Herder reminded me of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and their Everything You Want for Christmas CD, on which you can find “Mr. Heatmiser”. Yeah, they include Snowmiser in that. They also have “Is Zat You, Santa Claus?” but I prefer Louis Armstrong’s version.

You could always track down the sanitised version by Ronan Keating and Maire Brennan. “you’re cheap and you’re haggard”

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is a song that bugs the crap out of me.


Poe did a lounge version of it for KROQ’s A Family Christmas In Your Ass CD that I totally dig.

If you can find it, Bing & Ella have a rather interesting version of “Rudolph”. Only thing that could be considered objectionable is Rudy smoking cigars while riding in Santa’s sleigh.

Ah, here it is!

Here’s another fun one: Winter by The Mello Men, with Spike Jones backing.

That’s Thurl Ravenscroft singing bass.

Oh, awesome song that I forgot - Bing Crosby and David Bowie dueting on a medley of “Little Drummer Boy” and “Peace on Earth”. Awesome song, but the version I have has a minute or so worth of “oh hello there” introductory chatting that can be snipped out.