Elton John – “Step Into Christmas” / “Ho, Ho, Ho, (Who’d Be A Turkey At Christmas?)” [MCA Records MCA-65018, 7″ 45 rpm, 1973.]
Elton John’s “Step Into Christmas” is fairly well known, but I hadn’t heard the B-side of this single – “Ho Ho Ho (Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas?)” – until I played it for the first time recently. I like it a lot more than “Step Into Christmas,” maybe because that song has become too familiar. The title hints at what’s to come. It’s a really raucous song, and it’s funny, to boot. As you can see on the record sleeve, I paid a whole .25 cents for this at the San Francisco-based store Rasputin Music sometime when I lived in northern California back in the late 80s to early 90s. I most likely bought it at either their Berkeley location on Telegraph Avenue or the shop on Haight Street right in San Francisco. That’s a pretty great score for two bits! I’m glad to see that Rasputin is still around.
Both songs on this single were written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. According to the Wikipedia article and other sources I’ve read, they were recorded and released as a 7″ single in November, 1973. A promotional video was made for “Step Into Christmas,” which you can watch below. It has that classic Elton John sound to it. They recorded the song with a big, reverberating sonic presence, intentionally mimicking the “wall of sound” technique that Phil Spector used in his famous recordings of the 60s. On the other hand, the flip side – “Ho Ho Ho (Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas?)” – has a much more informal, rollicking, party atmosphere to it. You hear a lot of other voices and strange noises bubbling up throughout the song and it has a rousing group chorus which includes the wonderful lyrics:
“And I keep hearing ho ho ho, guess who’s here?
Your fat and jolly friend draws near.
Ho ho ho, surprise, surprise!
The bearded weirdy’s just arrived.”
I love it! It’s a really fun, irreverent tune that captures the joyous, celebratory aspect of the season well. What else would you expect from the guy who owns so many fancy glasses and feather boas?! Sir Elton and Bernie certainly know how to make some great pop-rock songs. (You can read the full lyrics here: “Ho, Ho, Ho, (Who’d Be A Turkey At Christmas?)” at Eltonography.)
Setting such jolliness aside for a moment, I do need to mention John Lennon today – this being the anniversary of his murder 34 years ago: December 8, 1980. Being a huge fan of the Beatles (like many, if not most, of you reading this) his sudden death and the awful circumstances surrounding it were a real shock to me and many of my friends. I can remember hearing the news on the car radio when I was riding back from a high school soccer match stuffed in the back compartment (it wasn’t really a seat) of a friend’s VW Karmann Ghia. I couldn’t believe it at first, but then as we kept hearing more details, it hit us hard. The news stunned us into silence. If you want to revisit the events of that sad day, I found this long piece written by journalist Pete Hamill for New York magazine in its December 20, 1980 issue: “The Death and Life of John Lennon”
I wish I had a copy of Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” on vinyl, but I don’t. This was originally released only as a single in 1971 and later on included on the album Shaved Fish, a compilation of Lennon’s solo work. Backing vocals for the chorus were sung by the Harlem Community Choir as noted on the cover of the 45. It’s a Christmas song that makes you think.
You can take a listen to it here:
Take care of each other…