The Story of... 'Step Into Christmas' by Elton John

17 December 2021, 14:27 | Updated: 17 December 2021, 14:39

'Step Into Christmas' is the 9th most played Christmas song of the 2000's in the UK.
'Step Into Christmas' is the 9th most played Christmas song of the 2000's in the UK. Picture: UMG

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

Given it's played every year without fail, 'Step Into Christmas' remains one of Elton John's most beloved songs.

Elton John's first foray in writing festive songs is also one of his most famous, certainly in comparison to his other efforts like 'Ho! Ho! Ho! (Who'd be a turkey at Christmas)' and 'Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year)'.

A perennial hit each time Christmas comes around, you can rely on Elton's chipper track to provide that festive feeling.

Originally released on 23 November 1973, 'Step Into Christmas' has provided plenty of joy for nearly five decades.

But what inspired the song, and how did it come together? Here's all you need to know:

What inspired 'Step Into Christmas'?

1973 was a pretty epic year for Elton John, with the release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road making him globally renowned and revered superstar.

For the love and support he received after its release, he wanted to say "thank you" to his fans as an audible version of a Christmas card.

"Let's do a Christmas record! we thought" said Elton who recalled the song's creation years later. "In those days we made records all the time. Bernie absolutely loves Christmas songs, so he was all for it".

"The Christmas single is a real loon about and something we’d like to do a lot more of,” he explained in an interview with Melody Maker around the time of the song's release.

Who wrote the song?

Elton John and Bernie Taupin are one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in music history. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Elton John and Bernie Taupin are one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in music history. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Sir Elton wrote 'Step Into Christmas' with (you guessed it) his long time collaborator and friend Bernie Taupin.

For the time time, they decided to write a stand-alone single specifically for Christmas: "We've never written a song specially tailored to be a single." said Elton.

"This time we wrote it last Sunday morning, recorded it on the afternoon, and it'll be out on Friday" he added. The entire recording session at London Trident Studios took only one day's work in total, unheard of at the time given that Elton was such a meticulous craftsman.

Elton and Bernie wanted to recall The Ronettes' honey-sweet vocal, paying homage to the band's producer Phil Spector who had influenced them both significantly.

"We wanted to make an homage to Phil Spector. Part of what made Phil Spector records were the rooms, the musicians and the ambience" explained Elton, with Kiki Dee providing uncredited backing vocals.

What happens in the music video?

Elton John's love for Watford FC has never been in question.
Elton John's love for Watford FC has never been in question. Picture: UMG

During the performance-based video, where Elton dons a red feather bower whilst goofing around beside his piano, he reveals his Watford FC membership card.

It was arguably the first time Elton revealed his adoration for the North London football club, who he's avidly supported for his entire life. He now has a stand named after him at their stadium Vicarage Road.

Predominantly a joyous romp around their instruments, the music video for 'Step Into Christmas' also features a cameo from Bernie Taupin who plays tubular bells, a rare appearance from the songwriter who seldom steps into the spotlight.

How did it perform in the charts?

At the time of its release, 'Step Into Christmas' only reached No.24 in the charts here in the UK, but later re-entered the charts in 2019 where it peaked at No.8.

Across the pond the song had more success, hitting the No.1 spot on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart in the US.

PRS For Music declared 'Step Into Christmas' as the 9th most played Christmas song throughout the 2000's here in the UK.

Has anyone ever covered the song?

A few artists have covered 'Step Into Christmas' throughout the year since it was initially released, including soul singer Madeline Bell in 2004, and country musician Clare Dunn in 2019, neither of which received much fanfare.

Arguably the most notable cover of Elton's Christmas favourite was by Leeds' indie rockers The Wedding Present who released their rendition in 1992 at the height of their mainstream popularity.