By Kate Lillie
Originally published on Global Comment
Today’s entry on our musical advent calendar takes us back to 1973 and has been a perennial favourite ever since. It’s definitely one of the most beloved Christmas songs of my childhood, and perfectly encapsulates a thought that most kids have had at some point – yes, it’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Wizzard, those titans of glam rock.
It opens with the ker-ching of a cash register, presumably in a damning indictment of the commercialisation of modern Christmas – clever, Wizzard, very clever – and also gets bonus points for featuring school children from Birmingham, where I grew up. The band made a conscious decision to feature local school kids in the song and take them down to London for the recording, and one of the things I love about this song is that you can hear their Brummie accents when they’re singing.
Roy Wood was one of the most creative artists of the 1970s (which is high praise for a decade of such huge talent) and had some unique ways of working. There is a great behind the scenes piece on the making of the song here which mentions their influences, and the fact they were trying to find a Phil Spector-inspired sound. Has anyone had more influence on Christmas pop music than Phil Spector? Rick Price is quoted in the article as saying “…mostly we were drunk. I can still smell every breath of vodka in that record” and the song definitely has a real party atmosphere to it, as well a carefree sort of abandon that works really well in a Christmas context. It’s also refreshing to have a straight-up party song, especially when you think about the other Christmas music that was around at the time – it must have been a huge breath of fresh air to have two big rock n roll Christmas songs (Slade’s Merry Xmas Everyone was released at almost the same time) in a single year.
Now, the video to this is a real treat, as you might expect from the era of glam rock. A veritable feast for the eyes, the wardrobe department and the make-up artist(s) must have had a field day. Even for the 1970s this is exceptional – the hair. The glitter. The make-up. The not-quite-colour-matched-beard. The costumes… ohhhh, the costumes. I see sunglasses, Santa-cut tunics with embroidered fish, animals, moons and flowers, a tailored Santa jacket, one drummer wearing a drummer boy outfit and one with possibly the best hair I’ve ever seen in a Christmas music video (George Michael and Greg Lake would be close contenders) and certainly the best moustache, a shiny blue coat that looks like it might be made from mermaid skin, stripes, sequins, bow ties, a white fur coat (could it have been borrowed from Boney M?), a hat that looks like it’s been borrowed from a pirate and Blue Petered with feathers, and as for Roy’s outfit… wow. The hat alone is worth the viewing.
The set itself is pretty simple and nondescript but who needs a fancy set who you have a band like this? No point spending money on something no one is even going to notice. About halfway through the video the band are joined by some rather small children who manage to be cute without being sickly, mostly because of their expressions of earnest concentration as they play their musical instruments, and slight bemusement at the Christmas circus they seem to have wandered into. Definitely a bit different from playing in school assembly, this. In all seriousness though, the thing I love about this video is that the kids aren’t ‘performing’ and there’s nothing perfect about it – it’s quite natural and unmanufactured. Their facial expressions are brilliant. It certainly wouldn’t pass muster with today’s video producers but it’s all the more refreshing for that.
There’s a line in the song where, according to most lyrics listings, Wood sings “now the frosty paws appear / and they’ve frozen up my beard” – I always thought he was singing something completely different. I thought these lines were “now the frosticles appear / and they’ve frozen up my beer”. I feel slightly disappointed at this revelation (frosticles in beer seems to capture quite a British sense of humour, I feel) but I also figure that if I’ve been getting it wrong all this time I can basically just carry on singing my own version of the lyrics.
Recorded in August 1973 in a studio with air conditioning on at full blast, with a band wearing coats and scarves and with tinsel hung everywhere to get them all in the mood, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day reached number 4 that Christmas – famously held off the top spot by Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody – but I feel it should have been an equal contender for the number 1 spot. Whatever the results of the chart that year, no one can argue that Wizzard have been less successful since – this is still one of the best Christmas songs of all time.
Feast your eyes (and ears) here: