As our final Diamond Moment from Elton's 50-year career, celebrating the recent release of Elton’s ultimate greatest hits collection, Diamonds, we are presenting you with "Ten Things You May Not Have Known About Step Into Christmas".
Step Into Christmas was the first song Elton wrote to be a stand-alone single. "The Christmas single is a real loon about and something we'd like to do a lot more of" Elton explained in a 1973 interview with Melody Maker. “We've never written a song especially tailored to be a single." Elton and Bernie would go on to write other non-album singles, Philadelphia Freedom and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.
Both Step Into Christmas and it’s B-side Ho, Ho, Ho (Who'd Be A Turkey At Christmas) were written and recorded in one day – Sunday, November 11, 1973 – at Morgan Studios in London. “I came up with this pretty cool acoustic/electric guitar riff and we were off to the races!”, says Davey Johnstone.
The recording studio was owned by drummer Barry Morgan, who played drums on 11 Elton songs in 1970 and 1971. Barry was the drummer on, amongst others, Levon, Burn Down The Mission, Bad Side Of The Moon and Your Song.
A number of guest musicians appear on Step Into Christmas. Kiki Dee and members of her band happened to be in the studio at the same time, so Kiki and guitarist Jo Partridge sang background vocals (along with Elton's band, Davey, Dee, and Nigel) and drummer Roger Pope played tambourine. And, according to Davey, “[Producer] Gus Dudgeon and [engineer] David Hentschel came up with the ‘reindeer’ sound after the first ‘the admission’s free’ bit." David played the ARP on that part.
★ Elton John – Piano, Vocals
★ Davey Johnstone – Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals
★ Dee Murray – Bass, Backing Vocals
★ Nigel Olsson – Drums, Backing Vocals
★ Ray Cooper – Percussion
★ David Hentschel – ARP Synthesizer (uncredited)
★ Kiki Dee – Backing Vocals (uncredited)
★ Jo Partridge – Backing Vocals (uncredited)
★ Roger Pope – Tambourine (uncredited)
The tracks were mixed later that same day at Trident Studios on their 16-track board. Dudgeon went for, and achieved, a Phil Spector “wall of sound” feel, as an homage to his classic A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector album (1963) and its songs by acts like Darlene Love, the Ronettes, and the Crystals.
The single was released on November 23 in Britain (tucked in between Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which was still on the UK Singles Chart, and early 1974’s Candle In The Wind) and peaked at #24 during a 7-week run. In the US it reached #1 on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart in December 1973.
The video was filmed early one morning (for Elton, anyway) a week or so after the song was recorded.
In it, Elton’s lyricist Bernie Taupin can be seen “hitting” the gongs (actually played by percussionist Ray Cooper), during the instrumental break…after which Elton holds up his beloved Watford Hornets Football Club membership card.
During the third verse of the video, the band members switch instruments: Nigel (drums) is on guitar, Elton plays drums and then bass, Dee (bass) plays piano, and Davey can be seen on drums.
As Davey explains, “It was a very loony video. Crazy days. It still gets played regularly over the Christmas holidays!!”
Step Into Christmas was recently issued a Silver award by the British Phonographic Industry. As of this article, it has appeared on the UK Singles Chart in six of the past ten Decembers, for a total of 27 weeks. In 2009 it was the ninth most played Christmas song in the UK and in 2017 it reached #19, becoming his 46th UK Top 20 hit.
Step Into Christmas has been covered by:
The Wedding Present (1992), The Business (a punk version in 2007), The Puppini Sisters (Big Band in 2010), and The Christmas All-Stars (2015). Max McCabe gave it a Country turn in 2016.
A marvelous remastered version of Step Into Christmas closes disc 3 of the Deluxe version of Elton’s new greatest hits package Diamonds.
It previously has appeared on the 1995 reissue of Caribou as well as Elton’s To Be Continued…, Rare Masters, and Elton John’s Christmas Party compilations.
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