The true meaning of Christmas in a rock song

The following video comes from an Alex Chilton tribute concert. Chilton, who died earlier this year, was the leader of the ’70s band Big Star. R.E.M.’s bassist, Mike Mills, sings one of his songs—a straightforward, religious Christmas song loosely based on “Angels From the Realms of Glory.” (If you’re playing this song in a band, you can easily add the other verses from that hymn.) Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “The true meaning of Christmas in a rock song”

  1. Hey Brent, thanks for that video. I didn’t know that Chilton had died; Big Star was a big favorite of mine back in my disc jockey years at Furman. Nice to see Mills sing that song too; he was very influential on my bass playing. I even bought a black 1976 Rickenbacker Bass because of him. It was stolen from a closet at our church in Rome. Believe it or not.

    Anyway, it’s good to see songs like that done by big stars (no pun intended) without an ounce of irony. Sometimes I think we could use a nationwide ban on irony, at least for a day. IT would be refreshing, but it will mnever happen.

    Hope your Christmas season is a blessed one.


  2. Thanks so much, Paul. I had the exact same thought when I saw this video: Mills played it straight. I’m so sick of irony. It’s pervasive. The predominant tone in pop culture these days says, “You can’t possibly be enjoying this on its own terms, so we’re going to wink knowingly at you. We’re in on the joke.”

    That’s one reason Bob Dylan’s Christmas album, which came out last year, was so shocking to so many: because he sang the songs as if he actually meant the words that were coming out of his mouth (because I’m sure he did). What a crazy idea!

    I always loved Mills. I thought he was the secret weapon in R.E.M.—love his harmony vocals (which are sadly underutilized). I didn’t know you played. What kind of stuff do you play/listen to?

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