If Christmas music is about one thing (other than, obviously, Christmas) it’s familiarity. We know what to expect from our merry mixtapes, and X Factor winners, novelty tunes and annual download singles by the Killers have done nothing to change that. Christmas music is as familiar as mince pies and hollow disappointment. Despite this there’s always some brave soul willing to flaunt the rules and add something different to the crimbo canon. Here are our top five utterly weird Yuletide songs.
1 R2-D2 and C-3PO – ‘Sleigh Ride’
On 1980’s ‘Christmas In The Stars’ Anthony ‘C-3PO’ Daniels croons his way through 9 festive classics, including such humdingers as ‘What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)’ and ‘R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, notable as the first recorded appearance of Jon Bon Jovi (no, really). ‘Sleigh Ride’, which has Artoo trying to sing the festive favourite from 1950 despite living “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away” is the oddest of the lot.
An Arcade Fire Christmas record is a tantalising prospect, though chances are this isn’t quite what you’d have in mind. In 2001 an early version of the band had a party, got completely smashed and recorded an EP of carols with this utterly bonkers original tagged on the end. It’s eight minutes long, semi-improvised and weirdly joyous. Playful, completely sozzled and a bit odd: surely the very soul of Christmas? If you can work out what the hell Win Butler is on about then chances are you’re as drunk as he was.
The b-side to ‘Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time’ and arguably the most bafflingly awful thing Macca ever put to vinyl, and that includes the ‘The Frog Song’. It’s an entirely instrumental version of ‘Rudolph’ done to a weak reggae backbeat that barely justifies the title. Utterly pointless.
Sufjan Stevens has been releasing annual Christmas EPs for the past 12 years. They started off as friendly folk-pop, but then Sufjan got a drum machine and things went off the loony deep end. His electroclash version of ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’ is loopy enough, but 2010’s ‘Christmas Unicorn’ is completely chicken-oriental. It’s 12 minutes of Christmas crazy. Starting off as a sort of medieval ditty about “a horse with a fantasy twist” it adds layers and layers of voices, builds into a massive crescendo before breaking down and reassembling itself as, obviously, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, because nothing says Christmas like Joy Division. Actually brilliant.
Kate Bush clearly loves her a bit of Christmas (search out her wonderfully insane 1979 Christmas special) and ‘50 Words for Snow’ proved she’s still gloriously batshit. This 13 minute jazzy gem sees Kate build a magical Snowman that comes to life, gives her a very chilly seeing to and, alas, melts in the morning. As they do.