Christmas Carol Commentary Tracks: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Did you know you know that record labels used to release special commentary tracks to play along with 45s, much like the ones available on your modern DVDs? It’s true! This holiday season, Scratchbomb has transcribed some Yuletide examples of this bygone format and presents them to you now for your reading pleasure. Today, the commentary track for “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

EDWARD POLA, LYRICIST: This was a really fun song to write. We were tapped to come up with a few songs for the first Andy Williams Christmas album, and they wanted something really rollicking, a song that captured the fun aspects of all the hustle and bustle of the season. Funny story: the label was not a huge fan of the song and tried to promote Andy’s version of “White Christmas” as the big single. But before long, “Wonderful Time” took on a life on its own, in a way that was really flattering.

GEORGE WYLE, COMPOSER: Ed read off his lyrics to me, and they sounded pretty great, exactly what we were looking for, until he says something about “scary ghost stories.” I said to him, “Ed, this is supposed to be a Christmas song.” And he says, “Yeah, that’s why I put in the line about the scary ghost stories.” I stared at him for a while and said, “You know what holiday Christmas is, right?”

POLA: My family comes from a somewhat obscure Eastern Orthodox sect that believes Christmas should be a combination of joyful gift-giving and terror. It used to be so hard for me to go to sleep on Christmas eve because I was so excited about Santa coming, and because my father would rap on my window and shriek demonically through this strange metal horn of his own design. Sounded like a goat being whipped. The next morning, we would all run to the tree and see who got what they wanted and who received the box full of mousetraps and snakes. Mother would make us hot cocoa and lovingly read to us from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthuhlu tales. And of course, there was the traditional Yuletide bloodening.

WYLE: I told Ed we couldn’t put that line in the song; it would just confuse and disturb people. Everything else is great, just take the line about your childhood of horror.

POLA: I can be pretty stubborn when I want to be, especially when it comes to lyrics. I know what fits the meter perfectly when I see it, and I saw it with “scary ghost stories.” It’s not like I went into graphic detail about our yearly Barn Dance Macabre, or talked about the purification rituals.

WYLE: Ed wouldn’t budge. It got so bad I went to the record label and asked them to do something about it, but it turned out Ed had gone behind my back and talked to Andy Williams first. Andy was behind the idea 100 percent.

ANDY WILLIAMS, SINGER: Ed’s lyrics really took me back to my own childlike wonder and terror. My old man used to wake us up on Christmas morning with pitchforks!