Should’ve Been a #1… ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’, by Wizzard

Are you ready children…? (*Fart noise*)… Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a Christmas classic.

‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’, by Wizzard – #4 in December 1973

People complain that few good Christmas pop hits are written these days – though I would argue that The Darkness, Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani (and even Miss Britney Spears) have all added their own classics to the canon this century – and then they look wistfully back to 1973, when two of the most enduring Christmas songs of all time raced up the singles chart.

Slade made #1 – and you can read all about that here – while an even better record got stuck at number four. (I always knew that they came out at the same time, but for years I assumed that Wizzard were runners-up.) Roy Wood’s band had already scored two superlative chart-toppers in ’73 – ‘See My Baby Jive’ and ‘Angel Fingers’ – when they turned on the snow machine and went even heavier on the French horns.

While Slade went quite tongue in cheek – with talk of drunken Santas and dancing grandmas – Wizzard lay the traditional Christmas tropes on thick: When the snowman brings the snow, Well he might just like to know, He’s put a great big smile on somebody’s face… And while Slade toned down the glam, for a Beatlesy ode to the season, Wood chucks everything at this one. It’s every bit as OTT, if not more, than their earlier #1s. And why not? When has Christmas ever been a time for subtlety?

By the end, if the two drummers and multiple brass instruments weren’t enough, the sweet, sweet voices of the Stockland Green School choir are added into the mix. Ok, you lot… Take it! (The full credit for the single is: ‘Wizzard ft. vocal backing from the Suedettes plus the Stockland Green Bilateral School First Year Choir with additional noises by Miss Snob and 3C’, which is every bit as extra as the song itself.) And for the last line, Roy earnestly implores us: Why don’t you give, Your love, For Christmas…?

See, it’s not as wild and anarchic as it sounds. Except, when you actually stop to imagine it being Christmas every single day, when the kids start singing and the band begins to play, and it quickly becomes a dystopian nightmare vision of never ending lights, noise, gift giving and turkey…. Still, I can forgive them, for this is a classic. A song that has been played every December since, but that somehow doesn’t ever inspire in me the feelings of irritation that, say, Slade, the Pogues and Mariah Carey do. As I write this, ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ sits at #16 in the UK Singles charts, and will probably climb even higher next week.

All that’s left for me to do is to wish everyone who reads and follows the UK Number 1s Blog, a very merry Christmas. It doesn’t come everyday – and this year might be different than most – but, still, make it a good one!

337. ‘Angel Fingers’, by Wizzard

Back to business. Last time out, thanks to teen idol supreme Donny Osmond, we endured a throwback to the soppy ballads of the 1950s. This time out, we have another trip back to the future. Imagine yourself in an American diner, waitresses in pink polka-dots and beehives, frothy milkshakes and burgers on the menu, a Wurlitzer flashing in the corner just waiting for you to drop a dime in and spin the latest smash-hit platter. And then Roy Wood rolls up, all wild hair and glitter, astride his hog. Yes, this is the fifties, Wizzard-ified.

Angel Fingers, by Wizzard (their 2nd and final #1)

1 week, from 16th – 23rd September 1973

First of all, let’s just appreciate motorcycle effect. It means two of the past three chart-toppers have featured heavy revving. It’s clear that artists were having a lot of fun in the studio, throwing whatever the hell they fancied into the mix. Secondly, isn’t this just the most gorgeous, layered, swaying and swooping, pastiche of late fifties, early sixties pop? With a big, big nod to one man in particular – Phil Spector.

As I was lying in my bedroom fast asleep, Filled with those famous teenage pictures that you keep… The singer, Roy Wood, or the character that Wood happens to be assuming for the next four and a half minutes, is a rock ‘n’ roll singer who loves a girl. But she is distracted by teen idol after teen idol (to give this hit its full title: ‘Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)’. Will Dion still be so important to you on your wedding day…?

He plans to ride over the café, on his bike, to prove his love. Maybe pick up a guitar and join a rockin’ band. Finally make it big, or maybe just get her to notice him. As with Wizzard’s first #1 – ‘See My Baby Jive’ – the lyrics aren’t really what you’re here for. You want the whole package, the melodies, the fevered imaginings of Roy Wood’s brain condensed into pop perfection. How it lingers, Angel fingers, That’s why I fell in love, With you…

Actually, to call this a mere ‘pastiche’ is unfair. This hangs together as a brilliant song in its own right. Just because it tips its hat to what went before doesn’t detract. It also sounds completely original. ‘Angel Fingers’ gets a bit lost and forgotten, I think, coming between ‘See My Baby Jive’ and Wizzard’s huge Christmas smash. And that’s not fair. I think it might hold together even better than SMBJ – the sensory overload is still there, all the saxophones and drum tracks and French horns cascading over one another, fighting for air time – but it always pulls back before it gets too much.

My two favourite bits are the piano flourishes that start and finish the solo, that I call the ‘Red Dwarf’ bit, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has ever watched the show. And then there’s the layered, doo-wop, Beach Boys ending that fades into those French horns, again. Oh baby, it’s perfect. It’s glam, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s doo-wop, it’s Spector, it’s teeny-bopper pop… It’s the entire history of the UK singles chart thus far, in four and a half minutes.

Wizzard only released eight singles before calling it a day in 1975. Two of them reached number one, another was one of the best Christmas songs ever recorded. By that point, Roy Wood had been a member of three hugely influential bands: The Move, Electric Light Orchestra, and the Wizz. Following the split, he went solo, working on projects with bands ranging from Doctor and the Medics, to the Wombles, along with whatever guise he was recording under himself. He produced for many other artists, and tried, unsuccessfully, to have Elvis record one of his songs. He was, is, a genius, and one of those who makes sure this trawl through every #1 single, past every terrible Donny, Dawn or Dana record, remains so much fun.

330. ‘See My Baby Jive’, by Wizzard

The last song before our next recap, and a late contender for one of the very best of the past bunch…?

See My Baby Jive, by Wizzard (their 1st of two #1s)

4 weeks, from 13th May – 10th June 1973

This record sets its stall out early. Remember when we thought The Sweet introing with an air-raid siren was ballsy? Well how about a Spitfire doing a fly-past, followed by some anti-aircraft fire? But this song is so good, you’ve somehow forgotten about the outrageous intro within ten seconds of the first verse. The guns turn into cascading drums, and a wall of sound comes in and kicks you up the backside.

Look out, Look out, Your momma would shout, You might as well go home… She said, My bed, Gets into your hair, So give me back my comb… Yeah… Me neither. These are definitely lyrics that need Googling. But as with most of the great glam singles from this era, the words don’t really matter. They’re about dancing, about making sweet music while strutting around in mascara and a feather boa. About how well your baby can move. See my baby jive, See my baby jive, She hangs on to me and she really goes, Woah, woah, woah…

That woah, woah, woah is perhaps the most gloriously uplifting, catchy moment that we’ve heard so far in any of the previous three hundred and twenty-nine number one records. It’s wonderful. It’s Prozac for the ears. In fact, the entire five minutes of ‘See My Baby Jive’ is pop perfection: a huge slice of glam, mixed with splashes of fifties malt shop and doo-wop, with a big knob of Phil Spector-esque production. Wizzard were an eight-man band, complete with cellists, saxophonists, clarinettists, French hornists, synthesisers, and more, all crammed into this one song, with a crazy genius at the helm.

Roy Wood has had one previous number one – The Move’s ‘Blackberry Way’ – and since then he’s founded Electric Light Orchestra. But it was with Wizzard that he really let loose, and showed just what he was capable of. And not many would be capable of taking all the different elements chucked into the mix on ‘See My Baby Jive’, and turning it into a hit.

The solo starts off classical, and finishes as jazz. The outro sounds like The Beach Boys are getting in on the act somewhere off in the background. (This record has too many references, too many Easter eggs, to keep track of. Five minutes long it may be, but it never drags.) All the while you can picture all the boys in town rushing down the street, just to see his baby jive. She’s an addictive woman, summed up in the brilliant line – one of the few that stand out against the chaos – You, You make things that get along, Turn out, So wrong…

Wizzard had had one previous hit, the almost as good – and just as loopy – ‘Ball Park Incident’ which made #6, and they will go on to have one further, brilliant chart-topper (and release a Christmas song that some of you may have heard, once or twice) before 1973 is out. But I’m not sure they ever topped ‘See My Baby Jive’. And I don’t think I’ve ever not loved this song. It was a regular feature of our ‘long family car journey’ tapes and CDs. (On many a trip did I sit in the back seat, waiting for the anti-aircraft fire to ring out…)

I don’t normally mention the ‘B’-sides to the #1 singles I cover, but how could I resist when I discovered that the flip-side to this single was called ‘Bend Over Beethoven’! Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as outrageous as its title implies… Anyway, like I said at the top, a recap is up next, in which the other recent chart-toppers will have to go some to stop me naming ‘See My Baby Jive’ as the very best.