Five Distinctly Unhappy Holiday Songs

Five songs that have rather misplaced the 'holiday spirit'...

Dead Kennedys

Holiday in Cambodia

(Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, 1980)

The Dead Kennedys’ second single found frontman Jello Biafra at his most witheringly sarcastic, simultaneously skewering the self-righteous, complacent attitudes of America’s privileged youth and offering a searing dissection of the brutality of Pol Pot’s genocidal campaign in Cambodia, which was largely ignored by Western governments. Unlikely to soundtrack too many donkey rides on Blackpool beach, this one.

Sex Pistols

Holidays In The Sun

(Never Mind The Bollocks, 1977)

The opening track on the Pistols’ scabrous debut album was inspired by the band’s brief sojourn in Berlin in March 1977 after being kicked off A&M Records. “Being in London at the time made us feel like we were trapped in a prison camp environment,” recalled John Lydon. “There was hatred and constant threat of violence. The best thing we could do was to go set up in a prison camp somewhere else.” Introduced by the sound of marching jackboots, and a biting Lydon lyric about media vultures encircling the band enjoying “a cheap holiday in other people’s misery” it remains a thrillingly acerbic snapshot of the chaos which engulfed the quartet in their short career.

Green Day


(American Idiot, 2004)

An impassioned anti-war song lambasting the hawkish militants in the Bush administration and the hypocrisy of liberal Democrats prioritising profits above people, Holiday is a cornerstone of the Berkeley trio’s politically-charged American Idiot album. That Billie Joe Armstrong managed to get lyrics such as “Sieg Heil to the president Gasman” and “Kill all the fags that don’t agree” onto the Billboard Top 20 singles chart was no mean feat. “I think Holiday is a series of questions,” said Armstrong. “It’s like, you’re trying to battle your way out of your own ignorance … like, ‘I don’t want to be an American idiot. What I want to be, I’m not sure, but I just want more’.”


The Holiday Song

(Come On Pilgrim, 1987)

Pixies were always a gloriously weird, warped band, injecting subversive twists into their sweetest, most accessible indie-rock anthems. On first listen, The Holiday Song sounds rather sweet, an effervescent, sun-kissed slice of deathless American rock n’ roll, until you cop on to the fact that Black Francis is singing about incest and death. Bummer.


Psycho Holiday

(Cowboys From Hell, 1990)

Empty and sweating, Head lying in your hands, Shaking in the corner, Done too much alcohol…” Hmmm, who hasn’t felt like this on the day following a bank holiday Monday? We hear ya Phil, we hear ya…

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.