The third installment in the National Lampoon’s Vacation series came in 1989, giving us the Griswolds in typically fine form as they spend their Christmas at home. There are hi-jinks, explosions, and Chevy Chase – the perfect trio for some festive fun. The music score to Christmas Vacation was composed by Angelo Badalamenti, but unlike most films, an official soundtrack was never released. In 1999, a bootleg called “10th Anniversary Limited Edition” started doing the rounds on internet auction sites, boasting the claim that the release was sanctioned by Warner Bros. and RedDotNet. It wasn’t, and the record tuned out to have numerous inaccuracies, including a song entitled Christmas Vacation Medley credited to Angelo Badalamenti that actually turned out to be John Williams’ Christmas at Carnegie Hall from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Over 30 years later, there’s still no sign of an official release, but if you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember the songs. In case you can’t, prepare for a trip down memory lane as we rank all the songs from the Christmas Vacation soundtrack… which someone really should get around to releasing one of these days.
7. The Star-Spangled Banner – The Griswolds
When Francis Scott Key first wrote Defence of Fort M’Henry, the epic poem which would later go on to form the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner, he probably had no idea that his words would later be sung by a fictitious family called the Griswolds. But that’s what happens when you put your art into the public domain. Even if things never run smoothly for Clark, Ellen and the kids, they do a fine job of getting behind the flag here, even if they are watching Santa’s burning sleigh ride as they do it.
6. Hey, Santa Claus – The Moonglows
If all the turkey, pies, puddings, and parties of Christmas ever leave you feeling more Scrooge-like than festive, pop on this Christmas cracker from the Christmas Vacation soundtrack and you’ll be rocking around the Christmas tree before you know it. Written by Harvey Fuqua and released as the B-side to The Moonglows’ other seasonal classic, Just a Lonely Christmas, in 1953, it didn’t make the charts, but still ranks as one of the all-time holiday greats.
5. The 12 Days of Christmas – Perry Como
The intimate, easy-listening style of Perry Como captured millions of hearts during his 50 plus year recording career. His discography is vast, covering dozens of albums and hundreds of songs. This festive treat from Christmas Vacation was originally recorded in 1953 for the classic holiday album, Around The Christmas Tree.
4. Here Comes Santa Claus – Gene Autry
Here Comes Santa Claus was Singing Cowboy Gene Autry’s first-ever holiday recording. It’s not entirely clear why he chose to pronounce Santa Claus as Santy Claus, but the jingling sleigh bells and Autry’s dulcet croon make it impossible to get caught up in any pronunciation issues. First released in November 1947, the song climbed to number 5 on the country charts and number 9 on the pop charts. Autry revisited it multiple times over the coming decades, as did Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Billy Idol, Bob Dylan, and even the cast of Glee.
3. Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters
You’d have thought that if a soundtrack to a movie about Christmas was going to feature any Bing Crosby song at all, it would be White Christmas, that perennial festive classic and best-selling single of all time. Instead, the makers of Christmas Vacation went another route, maybe deciding that the royalties for the Hawaiian-themed Mele Kalikimaka would be less of a bitter pill to swallow than the ones for White Christmas. Either way, it’s a festive cracker, with Crosby’s honied croon beautifully backed by the soaring harmonies of the Andrews Sisters. Find the original version on Crosby’s multi-platinum selling holiday album, Merry Christmas.
2. Christmas Vacation – Mavis Staples
Christmas Vacation is the only film in the Vacation franchise that doesn’t include Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road. Fortunately, we get an equally awesome song in its place, the very festive Christmas Vacation. The song was written especially for the movie by husband and wife songwriting duo, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Doing an exceptionally good job of filling Buckingham’s rather large shoes is the legendary Mavis Staples, who rose to fame with The Staple Singers in the 1950s and has been an unstoppable force for good in the music business ever since.
1. That Spirit of Christmas – Ray Charles
Described by All Music as “perfect background music for any holiday celebration,” the Spirit of Christmas is one of the highlights of Ray Charles’ 1985 album of the same name, a collection of 10 holiday standards and originals performed with typical elegance by Charles and given a little extra sprinkling of festive magic by his support acts, the Raeletters and legendary jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.