Tag Archives: Steve Van Zandt

CSOTD 12/31/16: Wizzard in winter

It’s time to end our Christmas Song of the Day feature for another year. Including today, I have featured 93 different songs, the majority of which don’t get the love from Christmas radio stations that they deserve. I’ve heard from several people that they’ve made playlists based on my selections, and at least one person who circulates an annual Christmas mix to friends has used some of my choices. I thank all of you for listening and reading the past three years.

I love most aspects of the Christmas season, and my song for December 31 is a reflection of how I feel about it – “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.”

British singer Roy Wood was one of the founders of the band called The Move, which had some success in the U.K., but never broke through in the U.S.  Late in The Move’s life, Wood and one of his fellow band members, Jeff Lynne, came up with the idea for Electric Light Orchestra, which would meld classical instruments with rock. Part of the inspiration behind ELO was to be able to reproduce the later songs of the Beatles in a concert setting. After one album, Wood left ELO because of creative differences with Lynne; ELO went on to become one of the most popular groups of the 1970s and early 1980s.

As for Wood, he formed a band he called Wizzard with a couple members of the original ELO, an ex-member of The Move, and several others. His goal was to emulate Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound in a concert atmosphere, and at first, he succeeded. Right out of the box, Wizzard had two #1 singles in the U.K., “See My Baby Jive” and “Angel Fingers.”

Just in time for the Christmas season of 1973, Wizzard recorded “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.” It got to #4 in the British charts, but it was overwhelmed by Slade’s slab of holiday cheer, “Merry Xmas Everybody.” Regardless, it became a perennial, as it has made the British pop charts in 12 different years. It was a different story in the U.S.: The single wasn’t officially released here at all, though a white-label test pressing is known to exist.

In the years since, the song has been covered regularly by British artists, but rarely by Americans. An exception is the 2010 version by Wilson Phillips from their album Christmas in Harmony. Their cover, which was probably the first time most Americans had heard the song, was a Top 20 hit on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart that Christmas season.

Though common in England, the Wizzard version is quite rare in the States. Steve Van Zandt included it on his Little Steven’s Underground Garage Presents Christmas A-Go-Go compilation CD in 2008, and that might be the only time it’s ever been released on an American compact disc.

 

CSOTD 12/26/2015: Lost on E Street

I don’t believe that the Christmas season should end on December 25. Unfortunately, radio stations do, as on December 26, most of those that switched to a holiday format drag out the same old stuff they were playing in early to mid November. Well, I grew up at a time when the 12 Days of Christmas began, not ended, on Christmas Day.  I will continue to post songs of holiday cheer until December 31, as sort of a compromise between today’s here-today, gone-tomorrow attitude and the traditional end of the Christmas season on January 6.

My Christmas Song of the Day for December 26 is Darlene Love’s other great holiday song, one that receives a fraction of the attention given to her undeniable classic, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Lyrically, it mentions some of the sights of the holidays in New York, and it also name-drops “Baby Please Come Home,” which it stylistically resembles. But if that were all, it might not have been as great as it became.

An all-star cast helped Love on her 1992 single “All Alone on Christmas,” which was one of the featured tracks in the film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. “Miami Steve” Van Zandt wrote the song, and he assembled a stellar group of musicians to help approximate Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production technique.  The recording included pretty much the entire E Street Band, which was then on hiatus from Bruce Springsteen: Van Zandt, Danny Federici, Garry Tallent, Max Weinberg, Clarence Clemons, and even Springsteen’s wife Patti Scialfa. The Miami Horns, a regular fixture of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes albums, also joined in.

“All Alone on Christmas” was one of two singles released from the Home Alone 2 soundtrack in 1992. (The other was Alan Jackson’s version of “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”)  I remember it getting a lot of airplay during that holiday season, even more than the songs from the Special Olympics benefit CD A Very Special Christmas 2, which came out the same year. It got to #83 on the Hot 100 charts; in 1992, that was still a respectable performance for a Christmas song.

Because there was no 45 in the United States, only a cassette single, I bought the full Home Alone 2 CD just to get Darlene Love’s awesome song. And here it is, for your day-after enjoyment.