What makes a great Christmas song? This is a debatable point, but one of the main points of Christmas (and therefore, of Christmas songs) is a sense of bounty and relief; a sense (especially in the UK, I feel) of abundance*. Christmas is a time for pure celebration and joy, which gets the straight treatment here; indeed of all the big UK Christmas songs, this NME #2 feels the most American.
The density of Wizzard - straight out of the whole Spector/Beach Boys wall of sound - suggests plenty, to an almost ridiculous degree. Of all the Glam Slam bands Wizzard were the ones with the most members, the most fun, and the most sincerity, I believe. Slade's monumental achievement of getting to #1 first week with "Merry Xmas Everybody" was one thing - Noddy's voice waking the dead with good rattling cheer - but Roy Wood is taking everyone back to the early 60s via the early 70s, wishing a moribund we-haven't-had-it-so-good UK not just a happy Christmas for one day but a wish that the love (did I forget to say the best Christmas songs are love songs? No?) the day represents would be here every day, perpetually. The snowman brings the snow, all the better for Wood to write his name on the roof so Santa (who comes from the Milky Way - yes, Santa is an alien here) can find him.
In a way, this makes the song a plea for deliverance from the ordinary into the extraordinary - if Slade are asking you to look to the future, Wizzard are asking that love and abundance be part of everyone's lives, that the bells should ring and ring, that it should be like this every day. (The absurdity of this is what makes the song British, I feel - he wishes it could be like this, whereas Slade are "well, here it is, Christmas, have fun while you can" Wizzard want this to go on and on, and of course there's a children's choir because who doesn't want Christmas to end as a child**?) The snow arrives, glowing cheeks light the way, romance is also in the air - this isn't altogether a throwback to a decade previous but a kind of Utopian 70s thing, as an ideal to hold up as the 70s begin to buckle down into The Fog and good cheer is desperately needed. Christmas began as a celebration of the birth of (if I may say so) a revolutionary figure; and something of that has rubbed off here. So it is no surprise that this is one of the most enduring British Christmas songs and it is apt that Wizzard, that multi-instrumental Glam band that Roy Wood led, are leading the way as Friendly Forebears for New Pop. This is revolution, kids-choir-and-sleigh-bell style.
Next up: the end is nigh...
*In the US there's Thanksgiving, which doesn't exist in the UK, so I feel some of its qualities are celebrated at Christmas, more or less.
**Well, maybe not all kids, but most, methinks.