‘I wrote it in the summer during a heatwave. I was dripping sweat and standing there with jingling bells thinking: “This is crazy!”’
Shakin’ Stevens, singer
I always thought it would be nice to have a Christmas No 1 – if nobody remembers you for the rest of the year, they’ll remember you at Christmas. Bob Heatlie wrote the song especially for me and I thought it had all the ingredients for a Christmas single: festive lyrics, bells, the lot. I listened to it and I could picture snow.
Bob had made a really good demo, so [producer] Dave Edmunds and I basically just copied it, with a rockabilly beat, nice harmonies and imagery that families can relate to.
In those days, pop on TV was mostly kids’ programmes and Top of the Pops, so we made a video at Santaworld in Sweden. The young girl starring in it had won a competition to go to Lapland. My son was one of the kids in the log cabin full of toys. Making it was such fun. The Santa was an actor – you’d see him in the canteen having a cigarette and a sherry and he couldn’t get his ’tache off. Because it wasn’t snowing, we had to hire snow machines. It was the same when I did the video for It’s Raining: we used rain machines and I ended up absolutely soaked.
People always remind me of the embarrassing Christmas jumper in the video, but I didn’t have stylists, I just threw something on. The snowball fight was scripted, though. Duran Duran watched it on Saturday SuperstoreVideo Vote and said: “Oh look, he’s fallen over. Har har har!” Little did they know I did it on purpose, so it would look real.
I thought the song deserved to be No 1 and didn’t want it to be a No 2, but in 1984, Band Aid released Do They Know It’s Christmas? There was no way we could compete with such a high-profile charity single, so we held our song back for a year.
The Radio 1 “sleighlist” – the Christmas playlist – only lasted three weeks then, so you didn’t have long to get to No 1. Merry Christmas Everyone went from 38 to 10, then 2, and then it hit the top spot, by which time the rereleased Band Aid single was at No 3. I’m thrilled that people still play our song every year. It’s nice to be part of Christmas.
Bob Heatlie, songwriter
I worked in a studio in Edinburgh and a Scottish classical singer called Mary Sandeman kept saying to me: “Bobby, I’d love to have a bash at the charts. Could you come up with a song for me?” I avoided her for so long she phoned me to say she couldn’t wait any longer and had booked the studio. I bashed off a song called Japanese Boy the night before recording, then realised it was actually pretty catchy. It was rejected by all the labels. Even my own publisher hated it. Then Hansa put it out, with Mary using the more oriental-sounding name, Aneka. When it became an international No 1, it gave me the funds to build a studio in my garage and continue writing songs.
I wrote a few for Shaky but always wanted to write a Christmas single. I made some Christmassy sounds on a keyboard and the lyrics just started coming: “Snow is falling, all around me, children playing, having fun …” I threw it all in: “love and understanding”, kisses under the mistletoe, candles, parties, old records playing, the festive works. I wrote the song in summer, during a heatwave. It was so hot I was wearing shorts, dripping in sweat, standing there recording with jingling bells, thinking: “This is crazy!” I played everything on the demo – sax, drums, the lot – in the garage. Dave Edmunds will have got himself a lovely producer’s fee for just saying: “Copy that!”
When it first became a hit, I was walking through a shopping mall in Edinburgh and these two girls were arm in arm, with Christmas hats on, singing it at the top of their voices. I thought: “Wow!” It was almost better than seeing Shaky doing it on TV. It still goes in the charts every year after all this time and it always cheers me up if I’m out somewhere and hear it playing. And I get a Christmas card from Shaky every year.
• Shakin’ Stevens’ Greatest Hits and More tour starts on 1 March in Salisbury City Hall.
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EIL.COM Favourite Music Update Rare CDs, CD Singles, Rare Records, Vinyl Records, Albums and Music
- Shakin' Stevens - Endless Sleep - UK - 7" vinyl - £25.00, $27.75, €28.50 (New Item) (arrived 30-Sep-2022 11:46)on October 3, 2022 at 7:47 pm
SHAKIN' STEVENS Endless Sleep (Original 1979 UK solid centre 7" vinyl single, also including a cover version of Bruce Springsteen's Fire. Issued in the Epic die-cut company sleeve, the vinyl remains in excellent condition SEPC6845)
- Shakin' Stevens - Give Me Your Heart Tonight - Australian - CD album - £29.99, $33.29, €34.19 (New Item) (arrived 16-Sep-2022 12:08)on October 3, 2022 at 7:47 pm
SHAKIN' STEVENS Give Me Your Heart Tonight (Scarce 1990 Australian manufactured 13-track CD issue of his 1982 studio album which includes the singles Oh Julie, Shirley, I'll Be Satisfied, Vanessa plus the title track. The disc looks barely played issued in a jewel case with a fold-out picture inlay displaying alternate artwork. Back in stock for the first time in almost TWENTY years!)
- Shakin' Stevens - A Whole Lotta Shaky - UK - vinyl LP - £10.00, $11.10, €11.40 (New Item) (arrived 22-Aug-2022 11:31)on October 3, 2022 at 7:47 pm
SHAKIN' STEVENS A Whole Lotta Shaky (1988 UK 14-track LP compilation, including Jezebel, Oh Julie, Heart Beat, Mona Lisa & more. The picture sleeve shows minimal wear & the vinyl still looks barely played MOOD5)
- Shakin' Stevens - You Drive Me Crazy + Obi + Press Kit - Japanese - press kit - Promo - £75.00, $83.25, €85.50 (New Item) (arrived 18-Aug-2022 10:55)on October 3, 2022 at 7:47 pm
SHAKIN' STEVENS You Drive Me Crazy (1981 Japanese 12-track promo sample vinyl LP, housed in a 'Sample' stickered back pasted picture sleeve complete with 4-page Japanese text biography/lyric insert, 'No.1' obi-strip and rare Japanese press kitcomprising 8-page booklet and double sided sheet. The packaging displays only light wear, the contents shows little age and the vinyl looks barely played 25.3P-304)
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