Seven Songs for Christmas: Wizzard, I wish it could be Christmas every day

If the astonishing success of Slade?s Merry Christmas, Everybody was the catalyst for the now-established annual race to secure the coveted Christmas number one in Britain, it had some stiff competition from the song that ended up finishing close on its heels, Wizzard?s I wish it could be Christmas every day.

In the grim winter of 1973, Britain desperately needed to forget its troubles and find some Christmas cheer. While Slade topped the charts with a stomping Christmas salute to the traditional British family Christmas and looking forward to a brighter New Year, Wizzard were right behind them, with a rousing, rocking anthem of pure happiness.

Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Roy Wood was a member and co-founder of Summer-of-Lovers, the Move, and the Electric Light Orchestra. The Move had a number of hits in the late 60s, although their most successful single, Flowers in the Rain, attracted the sort of financial troubles that would dog Wood throughout his career. Without consulting the band, their manager promoted the single with a scurrilous postcard of Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The ensuing libel action saw the band lose all their royalties to their biggest hit.

Wood and some of his Move bandmates then founded ELO in 1970, showcasing Wood?s orchestral approach to rock music. But, by 1972 ?creative differences? led Wood to quit ELO and found Wizzard. While Wizzard would have several hits, the band struggled to turn a profit, partly because of the sheer size of its lineup, and a perfectionism that cost a fortune in studio time.

I wish it could be Christmas every day was one of Wizzard?s most successful singles, second only to their sole number one, See my baby jive. Like Slade?s Merry Christmas, Everybody, Wizzard actually recorded their Christmas song in the middle of summer. To create the appropriate atmosphere, engineer Steve Brown turned the air-conditioning to freezing and festooned the studio with Christmas decorations.

The result is a Wizzard song through and through, a rock?n?roll Big Band anthem. Its characteristic wall of sound and Wood?s distinctive voice deliberately and affectionately hearkens back to the soaring sound of Phil Spector?s rock classic. The splendid silliness of the lyrics perfectly undercuts the musical bombast.

Splendid silliness is also an apt description for its accompanying performance video. Like early Split Enz, Wizzard were a colourful rock?n?roll cabaret act, known for appearing on Top of the Pops in outlandish costumes and indulging in custard pie fights. Wood has said that part of the reason for this was that, having to mime the same song on the telly every week would get boring, so they just got sillier and sillier each time.

The band outdid themselves for I wish it could be Christmas every day. Wood looks like some kind of gangling psychedelic Winter King out of Scandinavian folklore, while the rest of the band are dressed as panto Wise Men and Nutcrackers. The joyful festive atmosphere is completed by an onstage invasion of cherubic British schoolchildren, miming on toy instruments. The obvious fun being had by all creates an experience that is pure, unadulterated joy to watch.

The song was re-released in 1981, but it turned out that the original tapes had disappeared, so it was re-recorded, with a new children?s choir. I wish it could be Christmas every day has charted regularly every December, and appeared in the British top 40 every Christmas since 2007.