A while back, I had the privilege of an interview with Jim Vallance who was the songwriting partner of Bryan Adams during the ’80s. I asked him about many of the big hits they had written together, but I also took the opportunity to ask him about a couple holiday songs that they had released back in 1985.
I asked Vallance about “Christmas Time” and here is what he said: “Christmas Time” was written in May 1985. That’s summer in Vancouver, so I’m not sure why we were thinking about Christmas! Most of the track was recorded in my home studio. The drums were added in New York in October when Bob Clearmountain mixed the record. It was pressed on green vinyl and mailed to Bryan’s fans in December of that year.
I have always loved this song’s melody and the sentiment it delivers. The chorus, in particular, is quite poignant:
There’s something about Christmas time
Something about Christmas time
That makes you wish it was Christmas every day
To see the joy in the children’s eyes
The way that the old folks smile
Says that Christmas will never go away
It can’t be said much better than that. Though some might not agree with me, I consider this to be one of the best original Christmas songs to be released during the last few decades. And over 35 years later, it still deservingly gets lots of radio airplay during the holiday season. In 2001, Adams even performed “Christmas Time” at the Vatican for Pope John-Paul II. Alas, they never made a music video for it back when it was originally released, but here is a more recent video created for “Christmas Time” by Bryan Adams…
The B-side to “Christmas Time” was a song called “Reggae Christmas” that had been recorded the year prior, so I also asked Vallance about that song and here is what he said: I actually wrote “Reggae Christmas” for Ringo Starr in 1979. He was in Vancouver recording with Harry Nilsson, and they were looking for a Christmas song. I ran home, wrote “Reggae Christmas”, and delivered it to the studio the next morning. They said, “Wow, thanks!”, and then they wrote their own song called “Ringo Reggae”. Oh well. In 1984, Bryan and I added some extra bits to “Reggae Christmas” and he mailed it to his fan club members as a Christmas gift. The Beatles used to send Christmas singles to their fans. That might be where Bryan got the idea.
“Reggae Christmas” isn’t remembered as often and doesn’t get nearly the same radio airplay, but it does have a live music video which is pretty awesome! The video features some silliness from Pee-wee Herman in what turns out to be a dream sequence and was actually filmed at the original MTV studios in New York City in 1984. As an added bonus, it also includes original MTV VJs Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman and J.J. Jackson dancing, singing and having a good time. I wonder if anybody ever questioned a Canadian singing a song about Christmas in Jamaica. Here is that music video for “Reggae Christmas” by Bryan Adams…
Not sure why Pee-wee was there, but it sure makes the video both more fun and more memorable at least for me. As Jim mentioned, “Reggae Christmas” was first sent only to his fan club members in December of 1984, but then it went on to be the B-side when “Christmas Time” was released the following year. “Christmas Time” was originally pressed on special green vinyl and I still have a copy of that unique 45 record (see below showing the back of the picture sleeve as well).
When it comes to non-traditional Christmas songs from the ’80s, you can revisit my feature on “2000 Miles” by The Pretenders which is one of my favorites or “Last Christmas” by Wham or “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band Aid which might be the most popular. “Christmas Time” by Bryan Adams is a little more traditional in subject matter, but it is still one of the few original Christmas songs from the last 30-40 years that has now become a holiday classic. And, yep, it is pretty awesome that it was first released in the ’80s.
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