It's the holiday season, which means Christmas music. Lots and lots of Christmas music, most of which was written before the people listening to it were even alive. While "Jingle Bells" and "We Three Kings" are great, and resilient, we're devoting this year to finding the best Christmas song written since 1989. We continue today with #2, and a bittersweet holiday refrain from the Ramones.
#2: The Ramones, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" (1989)
The Ramones don't feel like a band that should have a Christmas song. Even though they were always on the sentimental side of the punk catalogue, such a naked display of gee-whiz cheeriness just didn't jibe. However, it's hard to argue that "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" isn't one of the band's best latter-day singles, and one of the best Christmas tunes of its era. Released on 1989's Brain Drain, the song captures a plea for smooth relations made during the time of year when the combination of stress and mulled wine makes that almost impossible. It's a message that works perfectly on its own, but gains a deeper level of bittersweetness when considered alongside the band's own struggles. By 1989, the Ramones were falling apart. The band's relationship with Sire Records has soured (Brain Drain would be their last album for the label) and, after years of tension, founding bassist Dee Dee Ramone had one foot out the door. The band that was once so close that members pretended to be brothers was limping into its third decade desperate to recapture the magic. Just as it's hard to dismiss the power of "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)", it's also hard not to hear it as a manifestation of the band's own turmoil. In 2014, we know how the story ends, but for those two minutes, they might be able to convince us otherwise.