Sometimes the most unlikely holiday songs turn out to be the best, and such is the case with Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” a ray of sunshine taken from the band’s otherwise spooky and unsettling third album. Most of the time Alex Chilton was a contender for the most ornery man in rock & roll, but this song is a simple (yet never simplistic) expression of festive joy that gets more joyous as it goes on, building up to that big saxophone solo at the end.
Big Star was hardly a band by the time this song came together, so it wasn’t until Chilton reunited with drummer Jody Stephens, flanked by two members of the Posies, in the 90s before it got a little more recognition. I even saw the reunited band play this live in 1998. Chilton was in rare form, telling jokes and stories in between songs, and before this one he said something about how he’d just set some lines from a borrowed hymnal to music and called it a song. As the song concluded he strolled up to the mic, put up the horns and said, laughing, “Hail Satan.”