Greg Lake‘s 1975 seasonal single I Believe In Father Christmas has been voted the best progressive rock Christmas song in Prog Magazine’s recent online poll.
There’s always been a strong bond between progressive music and the Christmas period with plenty of band’s having released seasonal offerings over the years. We asked Prog Magazine readers to let us know who their favourites were.
We had plenty of votes but there was one surefire winner. The late Greg Lake. I Believe In Father Christmas was recently re-released with a new, full-restored 4K promotional video. The sing also features on the recently released The Anthology – A Musical Journey which features music from Emerson Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, Lake’s solo career, 1967’s Don’t Go ‘Way Little Girl, recorded with The Shame and 1969 psych rarity Love recorded with The Shy Limbs.
Despite it’s strong anti-commercial message I Believe In Father Christmas remains a warm, catchy and enduringly popular Christmas song. The single was originally a hit worldwide in 1975, reaching Number 2 in the UK charts and selling over 13,000 copies in two days only to be kept from the UK number one slot by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Here’s the run down of the ultimate prog rock Christmas Top 20. Enjoy…
20. Gandalf’s Fist – Winter’s Mourning
A song, according to the mighty Gandalf’s Fist, that “was penned in the style of a Victorian poem, reflecting of the dark and spectral side of the festive season, and recalls the days when rock giants such as Greg Lake or Jethro Tull would break from tradition to provide something to cater for a different musical pallet during the festive season.”
19. Moody Blues – December Snow
Released 17 years ago now, December was the last studio album we’ve had from symphonic prog legends The Moody Blues. As the title implies, a set of seasonal favourites, December Snow, penned by singer and guitarist Justin Hayward, was the single released from the album.
18. Keith Emerson – We Three Kings
17. King Crimson – Silent Night
Despite prog’s Christmas connections, perhaps of all the great prog bands to indulge in some festive frivolity, the last you might expect would be King Crimson. But the band recorded a version of the carol Silent Night which was released n 2016 when singer Jakko Jakszyk added a vocal to Fripp’s music. Originally released on a flexi-disc with Praxis magazine in December 1979 it was also sent out as a sonic Christmas card by EG Records the same year. The piece made its digital debut on DGMLive in Christmas in 2007 courtesy of Mister Stormy’s Monday selection.
16. Big Big Train – Merry Christmas
Released in 2017, and featuring prog fan [AND Prog mag reader] and actor Mark Benton in the heartwarming video, this is the popular UK proggers Big Big Train‘s entry into the Christmas canon. Replete with brass band, children’s choir and the band singing inside a snow globe, what’s not to like?
15. Rick Wakeman – Silent Night
The second showing for this popular Chrstmas Carol, this version is taken from Wakeman‘s own addition to prog Christmas, 2000’s Christmas Variations album. The album’s long been out of print, but Uncle Rick returned to the seasonal theme with 2019’s Christmas Portraits.
14. Jethro Tull – Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow
Dip in anywhere in the Jethro Tull catalogue and you’re likely to find fine seasonal fare, such is the band’s kinship with the Winter season. Instead of one of the usual offerings, we’ve opted for this – originally written for Dave Pegg’s 1983 solo album The Cocktail Cowboy Goes It Alone. Tull recorded it during the Broadsword And The Beast sessions. It ended up appearing on the b-side to Tull’s one-off 1986 single Coronach, a song written for the Channel 4 TV series The Blood Of The British, itself a great song.
13. Jethro Tull – Another Christmas Song
Tull’s second showing on this list (well, they did release the Jethro Tull Christmas Album after all). The title of Another Christmas Song, a tongue-in-cheek allusion to their proliferation of Seasonal ditties. This was originally on Tull’s sometimes overlooked 1989 album Rock Island. Not overlooked by us, however. A fine addition to Tull’s Christmas fare.
12. Dream Theater – O Holy Night
The US prog metallers Dream Theater‘s entry into the prog Christmas list originally appeared with singer Charlie Dominici on vocals (it can be found on the When Dream And Day Unite Demos 1987-1989). However Dream Theater returned to the song for a 1996 fan club only Christmas CD with James LaBrie signing. This is the version here…
11. Jon Anderson – Three Ships
Former Yes singer Jon Anderson got in on the festive fun in 1985 with the release of his Christmas album Three Ships. The album was a mix of Anderson originals and his own unique take on Christmas favourites.
10. Kate Bush – December Will Be Magic Again
For many years, until the release of 2011’s 50 Words For Snow, December Will Be Magic Again was Kate Bush‘s sole Christmas themed song. A stand-alone single, it was released in November 1979, and therefore its chart performance (it reached No. 29) peaked ahead of the Christmas charts. No video was made, but Kate performed the song on her 1979 Christmas TV special.
9. Steeleye Span – Gaudete
Heard by Steeleye Span guitarist Bob Johnson when he attended a folk Christmas carol service in Cambridge with his father-in-law and he brought the song to the attention of the rest of the band, who’s a cappella version reached No. 14 in the UK charts. The song featured on the band’s 1972 album Below The Salt.
8. Mike Oldfield – In Dulce Jubilo
The final track on Oldfield‘s 1975 album Ommadawn was released as a single and reached No. 4 in the UK charts that year. An instrumental version of the German traditional Christmas Carol of the same name known best in England as Good Christian Men Rejoice. This version is a re-recording after the original version was used as a b-side to the single Don Alfonso, which did not chart, and Oldfield felt be could better the original.
7. Marillion – The Carol Of The Bells
Released in 2013 when Marillion put out their A Collection Of Recycled Gifts Christmas album, this is a proggy take on the old Ukrainian folk chant of Shchedryk. It also rapidly became one of our fave prog Xmas tunes ever! Love Steve Rothery’s referencing guitar solo and the band prancing around inn a field in fancy dress too!
6. Alex Lifeson – The Drummer Boy
In 1997 a guitar Christmas album by the name of A Merry Axe-Mas appeared on the shelves, featuring such six-string heroes as Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Brian Setzer, Joe Satriani and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, who weighed in with this understated take on The Little Drummer Boy.
5. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24
Originally penned by prog metallers Savatage and a surprise hit from the band’s 1995 album Dead Winter Dead, this instrumental medley of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Shchedryk foound new life when US Christmas prog rockers Trans-Siberian Orchestra recorded it for their 1996 album Christmas Eve (And Other Stories).
4. Jethro Tull – A Christmas Song
Tull’s third entry into the Top 20, this 1968 track was the band’s first of a long flirtation with the Yuletide period. A Christmas Song appeared as the b-side to 1968’s Love Story single. It featured on the 1972 compilation Living In The Past, again as past of 1976’s Ring Out Solstice Bells EP, and of course, on the band’s 2003 release, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.
3. Chris Squire & Alan White – Run With The Fox
Arguably one of the very best proggy Xmas offerings. Recorded by the Yes rhythm section Chris Squire and Alan White and with lyrics from former King Crimson man Pete Sinfield, after a proposed new band XYZ with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page fell through. Following Run With The Fox, Squire and White formed Cinema with Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye. And we all know what happened next!
2. Jethro Tull – Ring Out Solstice Bells
They may not have reached the top slot, but there’s no denying Jethro Tull’s supremacy when t comes to Christmas songs. Their fourth entry into the Top 20 featured on 1977’s Songs From The Wood album, as Ian Anderson explored imagery from medieval Britain and it’s folk music tradition. It had appeared in 1976 as the lead track on the Ring Out Solstice Bells EP along with March The Mad Scientist, A Christmas Song and Pan Dance and reached No. 28 n the UK charts. Needless to say it also features on The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.
1. Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas
The winner by a wintry country mile! Greg Lake’s timeless dig at the commercialisation of Christmas time, with lyrics again from Pete Sinfield ( and a dash of Prokofiev), just had to be here. A number two hit for the late Lake in 1975, and kept from the top spot by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. “I got beaten by one of the greatest records ever made. I would’ve been pissed off if I’d been beaten by Cliff Richard,” Lake once quipped.