Ringo Starr: I Wanna Be Santa Claus (1999)

Kronomyth 18.0: FIVE GOLD RINGOS. Best. Beatles. Christmas. Record. Ever. Not that it’s been an historically rich field of endeavor for the Fab Four. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reggae. Ding Dong Ding Dong. You know what I’m talking about. But it’s always been odd that The Beatles and Christmas, two of the more profitable institutions in our little post-Industrial-Revolution paradise, have never been warmer bedfellows. Ringo generates enough warm feelings for all of them on I Wanna Be Santa Claus. Now, truth be told, my reaction to learning that Ringo had released a Christmas album only one year after Vertical Man was akin to a cold shudder. Upon learning that more of the half of the songs were originals written by Ringo, that shudder got even colder. But the opening “Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On” more than broke the ice—it completely warmed me up to the idea of a Ringo Christmas album. Imagine Gary Glitter singing a Christmas record (and try not to imagine all of the other stuff that comes into your head after that), and you’ll have a good idea of what the opening minutes of I Wanna Be Santa Claus sounds like. That’s followed by a boogaloo version of “Winter Wonderland” that sounds like classic Ringo rock and roll. The rest of the record follows suit, mixing fab originals done in the Vertical Man production style (The Beatles by way of Jeff Lynne and XTC) with smartly re-done classics (no reggae elevator music here). Even that perennial downer, “Little Drummer Boy,” gets a lift from Ringo’s drumming. Co-produced by Mark Hudson and featuring the same core Vertical Man group of Hudson, Jim Cox and Steve Dudas, I Wanna Be Santa Claus could be seen as its twin, a sort of Seasonal Man. For reasons due perhaps to underpromotion, the record got a chillier reception than it deserved (it has since been repackaged as The Best of Ringo Starr: The Christmas Collection under the 20th Century Masters series). If you enjoyed Vertical Man and you also enjoy Ringo Starr and Christmas, you’ll wanna be picking this one up. In some ways, it’s even better than Vertical Man because it has more variety, including a credible country version of “Blue Christmas,” a reggae version of “White Christmas” that runs circles around Paul McCartney’s Rudolph and a very psychedelic closer, “Pax Um Biscum,” complete with tabla and mellotron.

The Songs
1. Come On Christmas, Christmas Come One (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Dean Grakal)
2. Winter Wonderland (Richard B. Smith/Felix Bernard)
3. I Wanna Be Santa Claus (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Dick Monda)
4. The Little Drummer Boy (Harry Simeone/Henry V. Onorati/Katherine K. Davis)
5. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (John D. Marks)
6. Christmas Eve (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson)
7. The Christmas Dance (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Jim Cox/Steve Dudas)
8. Christmas Time Is Here Again (George Harrison/John Lennon/Paul McCartney/Richard Starkey)
9. Blue Christmas (Jay W. Johnson/Billy Hayes)
10. Dear Santa (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Steve Dudas)
11. White Christmas (Irving Berlin)
12. Pax Um Biscum (Peace Be With You) (Richard Starkey/Mark Hudson/Scott Gordon)

The Players
Ringo Starr (drums, percussion, bellows, mellotron, synthesizer), Gary Burr (background vocals), Jim Cox (Wurlitzer, piano, B3 organ, keyboards, synthesizers, accordion, acoustic guitar, percussion, string arrangement, horn arrangement), Scott Gordon (percussion, harmonica, keyboards, synthesizer), Steve Dudas (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion), Mark Hudson (bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion, background vocals, keyboards, mellotron, synthesizer, recorder, horn arrangement) with Kalijut Bhamra (table on track 12), Willie Cochrane (bagpipes on tracks 4 and 8), Marc Fantini (background vocals, electric guitar), Steffan Fantini (background vocals, electric guitar), Ian Halliday (bagpipes on tracks 4 and 8), Teisha Helgerson (background vocals on track 12), Dan Higgins (sax, recorder), Roger Houth (bagpipes on tracks 4 and 8), Bill Hudson (electric guitar, background vocals), Brett Hudson (background vocals on tracks 1 and 8), Sarah Hudson (background vocals on tracks 1 and 8), Matt Hurwitz (acoustic guitar on track 8), Jim’s Bag and Mark’s Pipes (bagpipe arrangements on tracks 4 and 8), Ben Labi (electric guitar on track 4), Jaydee Maness (pedal steel guitar on tracks 9 and 11), Dick Monda (background vocals on tracks 1 and 8), Bob Murphy (bagpipes on tracks 4 and 8), Natasha and Tanya (little elves on track 3), Kiley Oliver (background vocals on tracks 1 and 8), Joe Perry (guitar solo on track 8, electric guitar on track 12), Christina Rasch (background vocals, percussion), Armand Sabal-Lecco (bass on tracks 6 and 11), Timothy B. Schmit (background vocals), John Titta (background vocals on track 8), Tess Whiteheart (background vocals on tracks 1 and 8), Pat Zicari (sax on track 1),

Did You Know?

  • “Christmas Time Is Here Again” was originally recorded by The Beatles on November 27, 1968 and released to fans as a 7-inch flexi-disc single on Lyntone (LYN 1360). An edited version later appeared as the B side to the “Free As A Bird” single.
  • Paul McCartney recorded an instrumental version of Johnny Marks’ “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (called “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reggae”) for the B side to his 1979 single, “Wonderful Christmastime.”

The Plastic
Released on compact disc on October 19, 1999 in the US (Mercury, 546 668-2) and Japan (Mercury, PHCW-1061).

  1. Re-packaged as The Best of Ringo Starr: The Christmas Collection on compact disc on September 23, 2003 in the US (Mercury, B0000703-02).
  2. Above re-package re-issued on compact disc on December 3, 2008 in Japan (Universal, UICY-1564).

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