12 More Days of Christmas
Australian Christmas music - Advent Calendar: 12 More Days of Christmas
Our 12 More Days of Christmas collection of Australian Christmas Music has something for all tastes.
We have cherrypicked a diverse collection of Christmas songs from the NFSA collection for your listening pleasure.
From traditional to humorous, respectful to risqué, this collection showcases the creativity and diversity of Australia’s musical talent (plus a couple of New Zealanders).
See also Australian Christmas Songs: 12 Days of Christmas for even more!
This collection was first published in an Advent calendar format, with a new song added every day until it was completed with 24 tunes.
WARNING: this collection may contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
'Carol of the Drum' is a popular Christmas song written by American classical composer Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941; it is also known as ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. This version performed by Christine Anu is from The Spirit of Christmas 1995, the annual charity fundraiser release for the Salvation Army.
The vocals on ‘Carol of the Drum’ are rich, layered and full. Andrew Namok, also from the Torres Strait Islands, delivers warm harmonies to Anu’s crystal-clear lead. Stuart Frazer holds back with his electric guitar parts, adding sonic contrast yet leaving the balance of voice and percussion to dominate. The slick production is supplied by John Farnham’s band members Lindsay Fields and Chong Lim, who are both masters of their craft.
Having recorded many Christmas songs and performed at events such as Carols in the Domain, Christine Anu released her own solo Christmas album Island Christmas in 2014.
'And the World is One on a Christmas Morning' is from The Wiggles’ album Yule Be Wiggling. As if taking snippets from many carols for inspiration, this track covers everything you want in a carol. The Wiggles have managed to mix cicadas singing, kookaburras laughing and Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, all tied up with a happy message of peace on earth in a tight 2 minutes and 12 seconds.
Love them or hate them, The Wiggles formed in 1991 and have now become a brand entertaining worldwide audiences. With a cycle of touring live shows, television performances, albums and community announcements, The Wiggles are a multimillion dollar business and have earned their position in Australia’s popular culture.
Performed by the original four Wiggles (Greg Page, Jeff Fatt, Murray Cook and Anthony Field), for this recording the band have added violin, cello and percussion parts. Backing vocals are sung by Mark Punch who, as well as being an in-demand session musician, co-wrote ‘Heading in the Right Direction’ for Renee Geyer with Garry Paige in 1977.
Don't be fooled by Tim and his piano: ‘White Wine in the Sun’ is a powerful song and has been known to have many adults in tears by the end, thanks to its thought-provoking lyrics. That’s pretty good for a comedy release.
Minchin wrote ‘White Wine in the Sun’ while living in London with his wife and young daughter, inspired by his anticipation of a visit home to Perth and spending time with his family at Christmas. This track is a poignant reminder that we can all find something special in the Christmas season with or without its religious ideology.
It takes an exceptional song to be carried purely by voice and piano; Minchin delivers in spades and perhaps it is his years of stand-up comedy that have given him such a great sense of timing when it comes to delivering his vocal on this track. An alternate version was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2011 where Tim was joined on stage by the 55-piece Heritage Orchestra. That version showcases his arranging talent and confirms his heavyweight status as a performer.
It is remarkable to follow the trajectory of Minchin’s career, which started in 2001 with his first self-released album Sit. Years of hard work touring England and Australia saw his fan base grow. In 2009 Minchin was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to compose music and lyrics for a stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, a runaway success winning more than 85 international awards and still playing in theatres across the world. One of Australia’s most hard-working and prolific artists, Minchin somehow manages to juggle the roles of musician, songwriter, comedian, actor, writer and director.
'Morningtown Ride to Christmas' is the title track from The Seekers’ first and only Christmas album. It is a reworking of the children’s lullaby 'Morningtown Ride' written by American folk-blues singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds in 1957. Releasing the track on their album Hide and Seek, The Seekers re-recorded 'Morningtown Ride' as a single in 1966; this version was a worldwide hit and earned the band the honour of being the first Australian band to have a hit single in Australia, England and America.
Judith Durham (1943–2022) left the Seekers in 1968 to pursue a solo career. The following year original member Keith Potger formed the New Seekers based out of the UK. The New Seekers is still active however there are no original Seekers in the line-up.
In 1993 The Seekers reformed for a 102 date, 25-year Silver Jubilee Celebration tour. Reconnecting with their audience the band returned to making albums: two featuring new material and several live offerings. Morningtown Ride to Christmas was released in 2001.
Durham’s vocal on this track is still as strong and clear as when The Seekers began. Her beautiful voice still has the trademark quality of a finely-made bell which chimes its major note and carries the overtones of underlying harmonics to make a complex and rich sound. The tempo of the song is pushed along by Bruce Woodley’s banjo playing which gives the piece a great toe-tapping feel, allowing us to forgive the band for such a cheesy re-write of the lyrics to fit into their Christmas brief.
News bulletins interrupted normal television and radio programming on Christmas Eve to break the news of Cyclone Tracy. With the full impact of the cyclone hitting Darwin in the early hours of Christmas Day 1974, wind gusts reached a speed of 217 km/h before the anemometer was destroyed. Meteorologists surmise Tracy reached a speed of 240 km/h. The tropical storm dissipated on 26 December leaving more than 80 per cent of the city devastated and 66 lives lost.
The country dealt with the shock by fundraising in earnest for relief efforts as Darwin was cut off without communication and residents of the city were airlifted away to temporary accommodation across the nation. At the Boxing Day test cricket match between England and Australia, both teams collected buckets of donations from the boundaries.
'Santa Never Made it into Darwin' was released as a charity single in January 1975 by New Zealand-born country music duo Bill and Boyd, who had been living in Australia since 1964.
It is worth mentioning the amount of work that would have gone into the writing, recording and speedy release of the single by independent label Fable Music. It is an enormous achievement which would have involved intricate logistics to go from song idea to final physical product on sale in stores within a few weeks.
With lyrics that accurately portray the velocity of the disaster, the music is somewhat at odds to the message as it is delivered in an upbeat happy country style; it is fair to surmise that the music may have been already written by William Bill Cate and was adapted for the new track. 'Santa Never Made it into Darwin' peaked at number two on the Kent Music Chart and was awarded APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) song of the year; it was Bill and Boyd’s most popular release. In 1976 the duo performed on the Channel Nine TV special Down Home, Down Under with visiting US artist Glen Campbell and continued preforming on the club circuit until 1989.
'The Christmas Song' is another song featured on The Spirit of Christmas. Beautifully recorded with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra this track gently meanders along and offers a sublime vocal from the remarkable Venetta Fields. A voice known to many, Venetta’s vocals still retain flavours of her early training as a young gospel singer in her hometown of Buffalo, New York.
Venetta’s body of work encompasses a who’s who of the recording scene, starting with her days as a Rockette for Ike and Tina Turner. Fields has sung on iconic records such as 'Wish You Were Here' by Pink Floyd and added her remarkable talent to works by artists including Diana Ross, Joe Cocker, The Rolling Stones, Steely Dan and Aretha Franklin.
While touring Australia with Boz Scaggs, Venetta jumped ship and has called Australia home since 1982 (she has dual citizenship). While continuing to work on the international stage Venetta has sung backing vocals for Australian artists such as Australian Crawl, Cold Chisel and James Morrison, and she is best known here for touring and recording with John Farnham.
'The Christmas Song' was written in 1945 by the prolific American songwriting team of Bob Wells and Mel Tormé; the pair wrote more than 150 songs together. Wells was a child prodigy who began studying singing, piano and drums at the age of 3; he also acted in 41 movies and television shows. Tormé’s music career saw him publish over 400 songs and he also produced and wrote Emmy-winning TV specials for artists such as Shirley Maclaine and Dinah Shore.
'Frosty the Snowman' appears on Patsy’s Biscoe’s fifth album, Patsy’s Christmas Album. The song is written in the style of many traditional nursery rhymes, following the formula of an easy-to-remember melody and a lyric that is somewhat ominous and delivers a moral or story.
Biscoe’s version delivers a very staccato-style backing track of cheesy organ, piano, guitar and subdued drums which feature great brush work on the snare. Starting out as a folk singer, a savvy record executive convinced Patsy that her perfect diction would be well suited to children’s recordings and could replace the then-current offerings by American artists. In a musical career that spans 12 albums, Patsy Bisceo has amassed 30 gold and platinum-awarded records which are still sold today, continuing to delight and engage children and adults alike.
'Frosty the Snowman' was written by the American songwriting team of Walter Rollins and Steve Nelson for country and western singer, actor and rodeo star Gene Autry. It was a follow-up to his massive hit the previous year with ‘Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer’. Steadily growing in popularity, Frosty - complete with his magical top hat - was adapted into a musical comedy TV special and released for Christmas in 1969.
‘Merry Xmas, Carrol’ is a sombre offering from Melbourne band Painters and Dockers, featured on their EP Hickory Dickory Dock. Lead singer Paul Stewart leaves his trumpet at home for this track and delivers a half-spoken, half-sung lyric which unfolds the sad story of a man who kills his girlfriend after she tells him she is leaving him for another man.
Breaking away from their usual pub rock sound, ‘Merry Xmas, Carrol’ is delivered more in the style of a spaghetti western. The verses are full of Christmas puns and the chorus is nothing short of a ‘can’t get it out of my head’ sing-a-long. To tie this black comedy back to its gaol cell setting, the song features a harmonica, the prisoners’ musical instrument of choice, which gives the track its melancholy feel.
Almost as controversial as their namesake, the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, the band used their popularity to deliver songs full of sarcastic humour that addressed issues and injustices of the time. A band with a deep social conscience, Painters and Dockers have given both their time and artist talents to causes and campaigns that educate across a range of topics including gay rights, safe sex, the clean syringes initiative and organ donation, to name a few.
Melbourne-born singer and actor Frankie Davidson can be described as your consummate all-round entertainer; he is acknowledged as one of Australia’s most versatile performers. Davidson’s version of ‘All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth’ is from the Sony Music compilation Christmas Favourites, released in 1976. Davidson is no stranger to novelty songs having written and performed many in his career such as ‘I Made a Hundred in the Backyard at Mum’s’ and ‘Beer, Beer Beautiful Beer’.
‘All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth’ was written by American songwriter Donald Yetter Gardner in 1944 while he was a primary school teacher in Smithtown, New York. The inspiration was his students, who almost all had at least one front tooth missing. On hearing Gardner perform his song at a music teachers’ conference, the song was picked up and published by Tin Pan Alley publishing house Whitmark and Sons in 1948.
This song has also been covered by The Three Stooges, Danny Kaye, The Platters, The Andrews Sisters, Nat King Cole and Count von Count of Sesame Street.
Long before John Farnham was ‘The Voice’ he was known as Johnny Farnham, Australia’s teen pop idol and honoured with the King of Pop crown from 1967 to 1979. ‘It Must Be Getting Close to Christmas’ is the perfect vehicle for Farnham’s clear and powerful tenor voice. This early release in his career shows his talent and showcases what is now regarded as one of the best male voices in the country.
Written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, ‘It Must Be Getting Close to Christmas’ follows their style of lush orchestration with a vocal melody which, while appearing simple, requires a singer of stature to execute. The lyric covers a topic many parents will relate to at this time of year - children becoming better behaved as Christmas draws closer. Indeed all family members, including the dog, are on their best behaviour with the promise of presents on Christmas morning.
The track is beautifully recorded with a subtle orchestration around Farnham’s young clear voice; a real highlight on the track is the grand piano played in the best wine-bar style and tinkling away in the corner. It is a great example of an early recording from the 1970s and the beginning of multitrack recording in Australia.
Initially released as Christmas Is… Johnny Farnham, the album Memories of Christmas was Farnham's only Christmas album for 46 years. In 2016 he released Friends for Christmas, a duet album with Olivia Newton-John.
‘Old Time Christmas’ is a traditional bush ballad chronicling an Australian Christmas from a bygone era. Slim Dusty paints a picture of family traditions - Christmas pudding with silver coins, ginger beer made in a kerosene tin, and the coming together of friends and kin with old-time dancing and an open door for all. The instrumentation is as traditional as any bush get-together with vocal and guitar in the lead and the occasional embellishment of fiddle and jaw harp.
‘Old Time Christmas’ is from the 1980 album The Slim Dusty Family Album, which Slim travelled the country performing with his wife Joy McKean and daughter Anne Kirkpatrick. The album was produced by Rod Coe who only three years earlier recorded the Saints’ iconic punk offering ‘I’m Stranded’.
Slim’s voice is as familiar as an old friend to so many Australians; he was considered an Australian National Treasure during his lifetime and 70-year career. One of his many accolades was being the first artist broadcast from space when astronauts played his rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ from the Space Shuttle Columbia on its maiden flight as it passed over Australia in 1981.
Bucko and Champs are known to many for their Australian take on Christmas songs. ‘We Wish You a Ripper Christmas’ is an extra track on the second release of their album Aussie Christmas (the album features karaoke versions of selected tracks for a fully immersive experience).
Recorded in Melbourne, the production features many top session musicians including Sam See on guitar. The sing-a-long vocals and comic harmonies make ‘We Wish You a Ripper Christmas’ memorable. Lyrics which resonate with many Australian families would be ‘Send cards through the post, have a big Christmas roast, then hitch up the caravan and shoot down the coast’.
When not recording Christmas albums, Irish-born Australian Colin Buchanan is a prolific country music songwriter and is the winner of nine Golden Guitar Awards from the Tamworth Country Music Festival. Greg 'Champs' Champion is a multi-talented and versatile performer best known for his sporting songs about AFL and cricket. He is an in-demand radio personality, comedian and corporate entertainer.