"Yes, we all want to bang our heads at Christmas, but we also want to sit down with a cup of tea and a mince pie and have a bit of a chillout": Rob Halford's 8 favourite Christmas songs

Rob Halford at Xmas
(Image credit: Rob Halford Facebook)

Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford loves Christmas so much that he’s made two festive albums, 2019's Celestial following on from 2009’s Halford III: Winter Songs.

Here are his eight favourite Christmas songs.

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Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody (1973)

"I know everybody has heard it a million times but this song absolutely has to be on the list. When you look back now on how many great songs Slade had, it’s still incredible. I saw the original Slade back in the early days, before I was in Judas Priest.

[Slade frontman] Noddy Holder and I both grew up on the Beechdale estate in Walsall. Now, you’re not going to believe this, but even after all these years Noddy and I have never actually stood in front of each other, and shook each other’s hand. A mate of mine who works for Priest is a close friend of Nod’s and has been trying to arrange a Christmas curry for the three of us forever. Hopefully one year it’s finally going to happen."

Wizzard - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (1973)

"Like Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody, this is a national treasure – a Christmas treasure, if you will – and it came out at the same time. [Wizzard frontman] Roy Wood is a Midlands lad, like me and Noddy. But he grew up a few miles away from us in Brum. I remember seeing him playing with The Move before Wizzard.

"For me, this song will always be associated with that brilliant performance on our beloved and much missed Top Of The Pops. I remember watching it at the time and they still show it on TV even now. It’s a funny thing, because although this song is his most famous, Roy Wood is still going strong and has done some other fantastic material. Christmas would not be the same without this one."

We all want to bang our heads at Christmas, but we also want to sit down with a cup of tea and a mince pie and have a bit of a chill out

Rob Halford

David Bowie & Bing Crosby - Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy (1982)

"Such an unusual pairing. I heard a story that one of them – can’t recall if it was Bowie or Bing – wasn’t looking forward to doing this at all on that TV show [Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, 1977]. Whatever the drama behind the magic curtain, it certainly didn’t show on their faces when you see them together in film footage.

"Bowie was been a big inspiration to me, both as a singer and as a performer. His rendition of this particular track is a special one, but I loved everything the guy ever did. I still cherish a special memory of seeing him performing as Ziggy Stardust at Wolverhampton Civic Hall [May, 1973]. It was like watching a rocket going off into space ­– a real tipping point. But the sheer volume of music he left behind is a fantastic gift."

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1971)

"Judas Priest made British Steel in John and Yoko’s old house [Tittenhurst Park, Ascot], so this is particularly pertinent to me. But as a kid growing up on the Beechdale I was and still am a huge Beatles fan. How they went from She Loves You to Sgt Pepper and then ‘The White Album’ is just extraordinary. What an amazing journey.

"You asked me to pick a song that has a strong emotion and a moving message, well this is it. War Is Over is an anthem for Christmas and the message is as pertinent now as it was in 1971. All these years listening to this and I never knew it was the Harlem Community Choir singing on it until you told me."

Status Quo - It’s Christmas Time (2008)

"A very special kind of a band and British national treasures. This song sounds so typically Quo but it’s also a perfect Christmas record. Quo and Priest did some shows together back in the day. They’re lovely guys. We’re all still out there surviving one way or another. And Quo still go out, even though Rick [Parfitt] is gone and it’s just {Francis] Rossi and the lads.

"Again, a bit like Slade, they have a unique rock’n’roll sound that gets everybody jumping. I am genuinely surprised this wasn’t a bigger hit. If ever a band deserved to have a Christmas hit it’s Quo."

Ronnie James Dio - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (2008) 

"Dio’s voice, much like Bowie’s, was always an inspiration. Ronnie and I were good mates and I still stay in touch with [ex-wife and manager] Wendy. We see each other when the chance arises and she does wonderful things for the causes Ronnie supported, including the Children Of The Night charity.

"I first heard Ronnie in Rainbow, and he and did that great Hear ‘N Aid charity record many years ago [1986]. We both threw a quid in the hat for that. A great song will take any kind of rendition – no matter how you mix it up and re-arrange it – and this is a perfect example of that. A great way to hear Ronnie’s unbelievable voice and a great Christmas song."

Tom Jones - Mary’s Boy Child (1993)

"What I’ve tried to do with this list was mix it up and reflect the dynamics of the festive season. Yes, we all want to bang our heads at Christmas, but we also want to sit down with a cup of tea and a mince pie and have a bit of a chillout. And that’s what this one is for. It’s a beautiful song, and I love what the great Welsh voice has done with it.

"If you listen to the recent albums Tom made, like Long Lost Suitcase and Spirit In The Room, you can really hear what a great blues and soul singer he is. I also like Johnny Mathis’s earlier version."

Bonnie Tyler - Merry Christmas (1989)

"The metal community is an inclusive community. We don’t care where you’re from, how much money you’ve got, what faith you follow, who you love… All that’s irrelevant to us in the metal community, and we are especially good at embracing all these incredible lady singers.

"I’ve always been a big Bonnie Tyler fan right from that first big hit she had [1977’s Lost In France], up to the things she did later with Jim Steinman. She’s a Welsh lass – like Dame Shirley Bassey – some incredible voices have come out of Wales. I think Bonny only did one Christmas song and this is the ideal one. We have to have a lady among all these blokes!"

Mark Blake

Mark Blake is a music journalist and author. His work has appeared in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, and the magazines Q, Mojo, Classic Rock, Music Week and Prog. He is the author of Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, Is This the Real Life: The Untold Story of Queen, Magnifico! The A–Z Of Queen, Peter Grant, The Story Of Rock's Greatest Manager and Pretend You're in a War: The Who & The Sixties.