Updated: Dec 16, 2020
In possibly the only instance of this happening, Elton John’s song is underrated amongst its peers.
Though still hugely popular, ‘Step Into Christmas’ has never quite been held in the same regard as the likes of ‘Fairytale of New York’, ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ or ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ and it’s hard to understand why. It’s brisk, it’s full of energy and it’s certainly got the obligatory bells and tambourines.
However, Elton has one thing that the others don’t: a hugely successful career outside of his Christmas hit. Whilst the others did attain success, it wasn’t nearly on the level of Elton and in terms of Christmas hits, this works in their favour. When your Christmas song is your most famous effort, your name automatically becomes synonymous with the festive season. Outside of their Christmas singles, I could not name one song by Wizzard, The Pogues or Brenda Lee.
This isn’t a slight on them either; it’s pretty difficult to be as successful as Reggie Dwight. However, what it means is that when I think of them, I think ‘Christmas’. On the other hand, the name Elton John makes me think of ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and The Lion King. As a result, ‘Step Into Christmas’ doesn’t come with the same advantage the others do and this is, no doubt, a huge reason why it goes slightly more under the radar.
But when the song is judged just as that, it is right up there with the very best. The typically exemplary piano work, Elton’s enthusiasm, one Hell of an acoustic guitar riff...it’s more than just a great Christmas song, it’s a great song full stop. If the Christmas lyrics were to be replaced by regular ones, it would simply represent a fantastically fun tune. Many Christmas songs wouldn’t work outside of their purpose, but ‘Step Into Christmas’ absolutely would.
All this makes it a huge shame that, far from being a Christmas #1, it only reached a pretty abject #24 on the UK charts upon release in 1973. Though it would re-enter the charts numerous times in later years, it didn’t reach the top 10 until as recently as 2018, with a peak of #8 coming last year in 2019. At the time of writing (15/12/20), it currently occupies #10 in the singles chart during 2020’s festive season.
It’s strange to think that it is Elton’s overall fame and success that works against him at Christmas, but let’s be honest, he probably doesn’t mind. His Christmas tune is simply yet another example of his phenomenal talent, and that’s not to mention the glorious video that comes with it. John’s clearly having the time of his life during the performance and can even be seen with sticks up his nose towards the end. There’s also a nod to Watford Football Club, whom he supports and would later own.
As its recent chart performances prove, ‘Step Into Christmas’ appears to be gaining momentum with audiences. It may have been released in 1973 but it’s proving to be a late bloomer with the public. The cream always rises to the top, and ‘Step Into Christmas’ finally appears to be getting the credit it deserves. Making it #1 is the final piece of the puzzle. Let’s see if it can get there.