Favorite Christmas Jams by Jessica Catena

Favorite Christmas Jams

by Jessica Catena

Jessica Catena hosts Music Notes with Jess, a weekly podcast covering different types of music trends. Her passion developed singing at school choruses, church, took up radio in college, and later professionally. Three years later as a freelance podcaster, she does a light input of various music headlines: historic charting, artists milestones, award shows, and themed playlists. Jessica’s next holiday episode will be uploaded Christmas Eve, for now she shared 5 of her obscure Christmas rock songs.

When I’m asked what my favorite holiday is, it’s definitely Christmas because of the music. I enjoy learning different carols from family, friends, parties, and special TV programming. Although there’s classics we all love reminiscing to, they can get overplayed so quickly just as the season is getting started. Creating playlists for special occasions is such a treat for me, and fun to set the mood for others.

Here’s some of my Christmas favorites to literally rock around the Christmas tree.

Raised in the 1990s, I’ve always loved Home Alone’s first 2 films and can easily recite the movie lines verbatim. I’ll admit not knowing all of Tom Petty’s work until his sudden passing, but hearing the entire catalog enlightened me of his talent.

“Christmas All Over Again” – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1992)

After meeting in supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, The Beatles’ George Harrison gave Tom Petty a ukulele as a gift. He used it to write “Christmas All Over Again”, though stuck to electric guitar on the actual recording. Following 1991’s Into the Great Wide Open, “Christmas All Over Again” was added to A Very Special Christmas 2 (benefiting Special Olympics), and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York’s Soundtrack. Fading out at the end, Tom Petty jokingly says his Christmas wishlist: “Now let’s see, I want a new Rickenbacker guitar, 2 Fender Bassmans, Chuck Berry songbooks, xylophone…” Ironically in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, Kevin McCalister heard this song on his Walkman, which prevented him hearing being on the wrong flight. Dare we say, separated from his family during Christmas all over again.

My parents got engaged a week before Christmas, 1986. That same timeframe, my uncle crafted a mix- tape for my mom’s work Christmas party, which we still have after all these years! I can’t wait to check if it still works soon. I was born a few years later, and these next 3 songs were how I got introduced hearing them every year since; especially “She’s Right On Time,” I haven’t seen it on any holiday playlist.

“Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” – Billy Squier (1981)

Favorite Christmas Jams by Jessica Catena

Billy Squier is known for 1980 hits “The Stroke,”

“In the Dark,” “Lonely Is the Night,” “My Kinda Lover,” “Everybody Wants You,” and “Rock Me Tonite.” The B-Side single of “My Kinda Lover” was “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You.” Sounding like an awesome party, a music video and vocals were performed at MTV’s soundstage by its staff, as well as New York and Philadelphia radio and record employees. Not a bad gig for a 4 month old music network.

“She’s Right On Time” – Billy Joel (1982)

Favorite Christmas Jams by Jessica Catena

Billy Joel’s The Nylon Curtain was nominated a Grammy for Album of the Year. “Allentown,” “Pressure,” and “Goodnight Saigon” were its commercial singles, “She’s Right On Time” is a hidden Christmas track. Gracious toward his fictional girlfriend coming to his life at the right moment, Billy Joel effortlessly makes his apartment festive to celebrate Christmas together. A music video was also filmed and showed on MTV.

I’ve always been a Queen fan, and it’s mind-blowing this song has yet to chart in the U.S. My mom met them at a 1982 Hot Space album signing, in concerts numerous times, including Freddie Mercury’s Tribute Concert in 1992! My parents exposed me to a lot of Queen prior to 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s amazing how their legacy lives on through so many generations. “Thank God It’s Christmas” brings joy to my family every Christmas season, or a great Queen song heard all year round.

“Thank God It’s Christmas” – Queen (1984)

In addition to Queen’s 11th album The Works, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May wrote “Thank God It’s Christmas.” Using a drum machine, sleigh bells, and synthesizer, Queen’s front-man Freddie Mercury sings to forget hardships for a day, and be fortunate it’s Christmas. “Thank God It’s Christmas” has been a deep cut among Queen fans and classic rock stations. Originally put on a single with “Man On the Prowl,” it wasn’t until 1999 when it finally appeared on a compilation album: Greatest Hits III.

Christmas Day 2010, I came across a music video marathon on VH1 Classic, (now renamed MTV Classic). Various songs were shown from 1960s-1990s, as well as some modern ones. “2000 Miles (Live)” hypnotized me of its catchy melody. I love singing it and the orchestration is just so beautiful. I’m really surprised it’s not heard often.

“2000 Miles” – Pretenders (1983) / (Live) (1995)

The Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde, wrote a tribute after lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott died in 1982, and bassist Pete Fardon in 1983 from drug overdoses. “2000 Miles” is a guitar looped ballad, promising a reunion around Christmastime. Guitarist Robbie McIntosh strummed the melody for 3rd album Learning to Crawl, then an acoustic strings arrangement was recorded during The Isle of View (Live) in 1995. The chord progression creates a traditional ambiance like Bach’s classical piece “Wedding Cantata.”