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To blast out holiday audio drivel, crank up tunes with some attitude

YOU'LL FEEL GOOD: Let the likes of James Brown - or perhaps Shane MacGowan or Ronnie Spector - funk up your holiday.
YOU'LL FEEL GOOD: Let the likes of James Brown - or perhaps Shane MacGowan or Ronnie Spector - funk up your holiday. (Hulton Archive/getty Images)
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6. "Frosty the Snowman"/"Sleigh Ride," the Ronettes. Speaking of Phil Spector girl-group production, Ronnie Spector's voice is an American treasure, with all its N.Y.C. teenage girl-group tonality on full display on these two gems. Ronnie Spector should be on Mount Rushmore.

5. "Father Christmas," the Kinks/"Christmas in Hollis," Run-DMC/"Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto," James Brown. Three modern-day Dickensian takes on what it's like to be poor at Christmas. From London to Queens to Augusta, Ga., the story's the same: "Father Christmas, give us some money."

4. "I Believe in Father Christmas," Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Soaring and angelic, this FM AOR classic captures the childlike wonder and adult ennui that the holiday invariably evokes.

3. "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)," John Lennon. For those of us alive when the world was robbed of John Lennon right before Christmas, this beautiful psalm still casts a haunting spell.

2. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," Darlene Love. If you're a sucker for '60s girl-group bubble-gum pop, this song is its apotheosis. It is the platonic ideal for Christmas songs; nothing comes close. Next to the Sistine Chapel, Western civilization's highest artistic achievement might be when Darlene Love belts out "If there were a way, to hold back these tears, babe, it's Christmas day."

1. "Fairytale of New York," the Pogues. Not only the greatest Christmas song, but also perhaps one of the 10 greatest songs ever written. How can you not love a song that begins: "It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank"?

"Fairytale" encapsulates the entire American Immigrant epic (hope, heartbreak, the quest for assimilation and/or redemption) in a single five-minute song. The jubilant-turned-hateful interplay of the late Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan is like holiday honey poured into a broken whiskey glass.

"And the boys in the NYPD Choir were singing 'Galway Bay,' and the bells were ringing out for Christmas day." Indeed they are . . . and we're all the better for it.

Huey is a freelance writer.


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