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.
Mike Burney: Roy didn't smoke dope at all. He didn't like smoking. He occasionally nibbled a bit, and he would take the odd pill mixed with a bit of booze.
Bill Hunt: He wanted a choir of children on the track, and he insisted it had to be Birmingham kids, even though we were recording in London, so I got the job of sorting it out. I lived near Stockland Green School in Slade Road, which always amused me because in the end we battled it out with Slade for the Number 1 spot.
Hilary Gunton (schoolgirl): My mother didn't want me to go. I was just 12 and she was worried about what might happen to me with these rock types, but I said I would never ever talk to her again if she stopped me. One day at assembly, the music teacher auditioned us by having us sing hymns unaccompanied in front of the whole school. It was incredibly embarrassing but I knew that if I wanted to meet Wizzard, I had to do it.
Steve Brown: When it came time for Roy to lay down his vocals, they went out for a curry and I stayed behind. It was the summer, don't forget, so while they were out, I removed all the lights and replaced them with blue bulbs to make the place look colder.
Roy Wood: We sent the roadies out to bring some fans into the studio. I don't mean girls. These were the kind with motors which whirr round. We had the place decorated with tinsel, silver balls and fairy lights round the speakers, all the party gear. We got the December atmosphere all right. It was so cold that we played in scarves and overcoats — just what the song needed.
Hilary Gunton: One Saturday morning, a minibus picked us up, and we were given cakes and chocolate to eat on the way to London. I was disappointed at the studio because I expected the whole band to be there, but it was just Roy and a pair of headphones. He didn't even have his make-up on. I asked if his hair was real and he let me pull it. He recorded us several times, building it up on tape to make it sound like a bigger choir. After it was done, we were all sitting round on this big sofa listening to the song, and Roy shouted, "What number will we get to?" and we all screamed, "Number 1!"
Roy Wood: When I was in the control room listening to the kids singing what I'd written, I got really choked up, and the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck. It was glorious.
Hilary Gunton: They took us to the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly in Roy's Rolls-Royce and fed us burgers and banana splits. A boy from another table came over to ask for an autograph and we felt really cool, because we were actually with Roy Wood. We didn't get money, but when it was all over, he gave us each a Wizzard album, and as many badges as we could carry. Mine said, "I'm busting for a Wizz". I was terrified of what my mother would say when she saw it. He promised us all a copy of the single, but I'm still waiting!
Roy Wood: I did the sleigh bells at the end myself. I just shook them until I was too tired to do it any more. People talk about it being over-produced, but the effect I was trying to get was something I personally associate with Christmas, that Walt Disney music feel. It's Disney movie music without the film. There was some funny business going on, because we were contracted to Harvest Records, but our manager Don Arden did a deal for the single with Warner Brothers. They even got as far as pressing them up before EMI found out and came storming in and demanded it be on Harvest, which it was. Don operated in his own unique ways. You could never figure out what was going on in his mind. For Top Of The Pops, I really wanted to use the schoolkids but we had to use Equity children, so we got them from the Italia Conti acting school. I was really brassed off because the kids they sent were much too big, and they didn't even know the song, so half of them just stood there. They didn't even sing the words.
Bill Hunt: Of course, Slade got the Christmas Number 1 and we were Number 2, but when we did it on Top Of The Pops there was a staged custard pie fight. While Slade were on, one of our drummers sneaked into the audience and hit Noddy full in the face with one. If you see the video, you'll notice that Noddy doesn't appear again after that, so we got our own back for not being Number 1.
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