The party’s on, the feeling’s here... And a certain Paul McCartney holiday song is back in the charts! Written during the sessions for McCartney II, ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ didn’t make it onto the album but has since become one of Paul’s best-loved songs, making its annual return to radio and streaming playlists from November onwards. Whether you’re listening to the radio on your car journey home for the holidays or walking into a store to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, you’re guaranteed to hear that iconic synth intro at some point!
Over the past few years, we’ve shown ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ a lot of love. On the 40th anniversary of its release in 2019, we remastered the music video in HD, and last year it became the first Paul McCartney song to be released in Dolby ATMOS. Most recently, the single was reissued on 7” vinyl (with ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae’ on the B-side) as part of The 7” Singles Box.
One thing we haven’t done, however, is ask Paul what he thinks of the track and its popularity now. So, as the temperatures dropped here in London, we grabbed a hot drink and chatted to Paul about all things ‘Wonderful Christmastime’; got the lowdown on his own family Christmas traditions; and found out whether he might release another Christmas song (or album) one day…
PaulMcCartney.com: When you first released ‘Wonderful Christmastime’, did you think it was going to be a Christmas hit that would come back every year? Or does it surprise you that it’s still so popular now?
Paul: I like the idea of Christmas songs purely because they only come around at Christmas! They remind us of the fun atmosphere of the whole season, and when I was writing ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ I was trying to capture that party aspect. I did hope it would keep coming back – which it has. Sometimes people will go into a shop and hear it a little too much, but I don’t care! I’m happy!
PM.com: We really wanted to ask you about this ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ fan theory that has gone viral on social media. The theory suggests the song is about people practising witchcraft, chanting ‘the moon is right, the spirit’s up’, and when someone walks in, they must play it cool and pretend they are ‘simply having a wonderful Christmastime!’. Is this theory true?
Paul: Oh yeah. Well, thank goodness they found me out. This is completely true and in actual fact I am the head wizard of a Liverpool coven. (Paul laughs) Either that… or it’s complete nonsense. And you know it’s the latter!
PM.com: This theory may have come from people mishearing the lyrics. Could you confirm if the lyric is ‘the moon is right’ or ‘the mood is right’?
Paul: It’s ‘the mood’! This is the mood; I’ve gathered together the witches and wizards... I’ve got ‘the mood’, which is what we in wizardry call it (laughs). The thing is about this stuff, it’s so easy to convince half the people in the world. You do have to be a little bit careful!
No, it’s ‘the mood’. And you know what, I’m thinking about Liverpool Christmas parties, that’s really all I’m doing with that song. “The mood is right, let’s raise a glass, the spirit’s up” – you know, all the stuff you do at Christmas. Particularly with my old Liverpool family parties.
PM.com: You’ve spoken before about singing around the piano at parties in Liverpool, and in ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ the choir ‘sing their song’ - but do you have any memories of going carolling at Christmas?
Paul: I can’t remember ever having done it, so I probably didn’t. The fun thing about Christmas carolling, that probably would have influenced my decision NOT to do it, was that my dad always used to make fun of them. He'd say, ‘Here’s a shilling to go sing in the next street’. He was not a big fan of Christmas carols. I quite like them!
PM.com: Are there any Christmas traditions from your childhood which you have continued into adulthood, and shared with your own children and grandchildren?
Paul: I have actually started some new traditions. When the kids were little, I suddenly thought there wasn’t the ideal Christmas record, in my opinion. There’s some great Christmas records like the Phil Spector one, and Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby on the old standards, but I just wanted an instrumental of all the tunes. So, I ended up recording one for the family in my studio. And Eddie Klein, my engineer at the time, helped me. I now have this album I pull out every year, and it’s a bit of fun for the kids when we’re carving the veggie roast. I’ll stick it on and it means Christmas is here. It’s quite a cute little record actually! But it’s just for the family.
PM.com: Some fans already know this exists, it’s part of the Paul McCartney folklore! I think they’re hoping to hear it one day.
Paul: I’ve often thought it’s good enough if people would like it released, and I’ve thought I could do it for charity or something, but never really felt strongly enough to make a decision. It’s just a family record, and I’ll pull it out again this Christmas.
My main job is to carve the roast. That was one of the things I liked when we became veggie years ago. I said it would be nice for me to able to do what I thought of as the traditional ‘dad’ job, so that’s the carving of the turkey in the old days, and now it’s the carving of the veggie roast. I normally do that – unless someone gets in there first, and I get miffed! Steady on!
So yeah, I put on the Christmas record, carve the roast, and then we do all the normal Christmas things. Christmas crackers and reading out all the terrible jokes and trying to really be happy with the little gift that comes inside, which is something you’re never going to use or keep. This is the spirit of Christmas! We mainly do all the stuff that everyone else does at Christmas time.
Well, we might not be any closer to hearing that secret Christmas record, but at least we know the story behind ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ – and we can hold out hope for a magic-inspired song (with the Liverpool coven on backing vocals) in the future!
Let us know on the Maccaboard or on social media if you have any other theories about Paul’s songs, or if you receive any Paul-related gifts this festive season. However and wherever you are celebrating, we hope you have a ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ and a very happy New Year – see you in 2023!