The Rock’s Backpages Flashback: The Greatest Christmas Record of Them All
Former Move man Roy Wood was a Phil-Spector-influenced pop genius, and his band Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" proved it. Pipped to the UK No. 1 post in December 1973 by Slade's markedly inferior "Merry Xmas Everybody", Wood and chums relived the making of the track for Q's Johnny Black in January 1996——Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
Mike Burney (sax): I'd been doing really boring big band gigs on the ballroom circuit, so when Roy offered me a job in Wizzard I was just knocked out. I used to say to him, "Roy, being in this band, it's like Christmas every day." And, as far as I know, Roy picked up on that as a song title.
Roy Wood (former Move man, head Wizzard): I decided to make a Christmas single because they'd been unfashionable for years. We thought it would be worth trying a real rock'n'roll Christmas song.
Steve Brown (tape op): Very little was achieved in daylight. In fact, he taught me to play guitar during the afternoons. But he expected you to work with him all night. Doing viola overdubs one night, I just crashed, fell asleep with my head on the mixing desk. Roy had to tap me on the shoulder to wake me up. For about three years I couldn't have a girlfriend. Roy was the nearest I got.
Roy Wood: I started by putting a click track down, just a cow bell, on quarter-inch tape, then I played the arrangement on acoustic guitars, then double-tracked that. It wasn't a demo, as such, because it became the basis for the whole song. We just over-dubbed everything else on top. The cash till at the start was recorded at AIR studios on Oxford Street. We got a sound effects record but it was crap, so we hired a proper old fashioned metal cash register with all the scroll work on the sides, and I pressed the buttons while Rick (Price, bass) dropped the coins in. It was exactly what I wanted.
Keith Smart (drums): Charlie Grima, our second drummer, was on holiday, but, once Roy had written a song, he was always desperate to record it, so he didn't wait for Charlie to get back. Besides, Woody could play anything, so he and I set up two huge double drum kits in the studio.
Bill Hunt (keyboards): Roy was amazing about drums. He hired loads of unusual percussion instruments, shakers and scrapers and maracas, then he threw them all into a big bass drum case and shook the case to see what it sounded like. And, sure enough, it sounded like nothing you'd ever heard before.
Keith Smart: That first day, we recorded until eight o'clock the next morning just to get the drum sounds he wanted. Rather than close-mike everything in a booth, he used ambience mikes to get a big Phil Spector-ish sound. When we went back into the studio the next day and listened, he didn't like it any more. Some tiny detail wasn't right, so we dumped those tapes and did another 12-hour session to get it right.
Roy Wood: I couldn't write music, so I developed my own musical code. I would write out the names of the notes, and if it was high I'd put a little circle over it, and if it was low, a capital 'L'. If I wanted the notes joined together, I'd do a wavy line under them. Luckily, the band got very good at reading it.
Rick Price: The vocal tracks were the most important thing. We always tried to get a sort of party vibe when we recorded the vocals. I would do a lot of the high and low vocal parts. We didn't go in for drugs, but mostly we were drunk. I can still smell every breath of vodka in that record.