Drop the ‘Jingle Bells’ and Back Away Slowly

Vegas Seven’s resident Christmas fanatic offers this guide to the non-obnoxious sounds of the holiday


“I hate Christmas music,” you say. “It’s all the same, it comes on before Thanksgiving and I’m tired of hearing Andy Williams 40 times a week,” you say.

Shut up. Shut up. Shut Up.

What are you, some kind of Abominable Snowman just waiting for Yukon Cornelius to bury a pick in your cold, Bumble heart? There’s a better than 92 percent chance you possess all of the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile. Did you steal that one kid’s Christmas shoes? … I, uh, I actually don’t know how that last one goes. I just know that song makes me want to stab a reindeer in the neck every time I hear it, which is how I haven’t made it more than halfway through the first verse.

The thing is, there’s a ton of great Christmas music out there, and mixtaping a new album every year is far more enjoyable than shopping for like 75 percent of your relatives. It will also get you laid. (Editor’s Note: Christmas mixtaping has never gotten anyone, anywhere, laid.)

The trick to a good Christmas mix is finding offbeat covers of classics from unusual sources (Like Bad Religion’s live “Silent Night”); originals that haven’t been beaten to death (Blackalicious’ “Toy Jackpot”); and archive material from the golden age of really, really weird Christmas records (Paul Johnson’s “Fat Daddy,” by way of the A John Waters Christmas album). You just have to do a little bit of digging to find it all. Or, I had to do a little bit of digging to find it, and you just have to download these tracks for a Vegas Christmas playlist:

Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine, “Christmas in Las Vegas.” Let’s roll a yo beneath the mistletoe, the faux-lounge singer croons. It’s an obvious place to start, maybe, but Christmas isn’t about subtlety.

Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen McRae, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” There’s been a creeping sentiment over the last few years that this song is, how shall we say, date rapey. Which is a horrific and terrible thing to say, and anyone who could still think that after hearing Sammy vamp his way through this version is literally history’s greatest monster. Bonus points for another Rat Pack member taking a song most closely associated with Dean Martin and doing it better.

Louis Prima, “What Will Santa Claus Say? (When He Finds Everybody Swinging).” Every time I hear this song I get a crystal-clear vision of Christmas Eve 1956 in the Sahara’s Casbar, with a room full of well-dressed people just out of their freaking minds on nog.

The Clydesdale, “Imo Shoot Me a Reindeer.” There’s plenty to love off the Double Down Saloon’s 2008 Merry X-Mas Dammit compilation album, but I’m partial to tales of unleashing violent retribution against an unsuspecting Claus. Call it a weakness.

Darby O’Gill and the Little People, “Whiskey Christmas.” I’m also partial to tales of Christmastime debauchery, and children’s choirs telling Santa and Jesus to kiss their Irish asses. I can only assume this local Irishesque troupe has a lot of really cool friends willing to lend their kids to this kind of project.

Bruce Springsteen, “Pilgrim in the Temple of Love.” No, but really, show of hands: How many of you are going to be spending your Christmas Eve in a strip club? That’s not a lot of hands. Some of y’all are liars.

Tom Waits, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis.” Can we all agree that the inclusion of a titular hooker makes this at least spiritually a Las Vegas Christmas song?

Harvey Danger, “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes).” Up to and including the strippers and hookers, is there any place on the planet where that’s more true than here? What’s that? Jerusalem? Very good, carry on then.

The Youngsters, “Christmas in Jail.” The hero of the song got busted on a DUI and had to miss out on Christmas dinner. If you’re not immediately thinking of at least one friend who’s highly likely to re-enact that scene this year, that means you just moved here.

Squirrel Nut Zippers, “A Johnny Ace Christmas.” In 1954, 25-year-old R&B singer Johnny Ace killed himself on Christmas Eve in Houston. Why? He was playing Russian Roulette. This is why we stick to Russian Blackjack, wherein you do a shot of vodka every time the dealer draws 21 to your 19 or 20. We’re usually sauced before the first $50 is up.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, “Mr. Heatmiser.” Truly, it’s the greatest of all our big band covers of Christmas songs from 40-year-old stop-motion animation specials. But it’s doubly apt for Vegas with a first-person account from Mr. Heatmiser: He’s Mr. Green Christmas, Mr. Sun, Mr. Heat Blister, Mr. 101.

Elvis Presley, “Santa Claus Is Back in Town.” There are people who might try to tell you that this isn’t the greatest Christmas song ever recorded. There are also people who think Miracle on 34th Street is a better Christmas movie than Die Hard, so … you know.

Los Straitjackets, “Christmas in Las Vegas” Different song—this one an instrumental track by a luchadore-mask-wearing, surf-guitar band, but just like the yearly seasonal cycle of “Christmas” and “Not Christmas,” we’re back where we belong.

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