The song ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ was written by Johnny Marks, and based on the 1939 story of the same name. Gene Autry’s 1949 recording topped the US charts that Christmas, and it became a seasonal classic. A number of cover versions followed, including ones by Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, The Jackson Five, and Ringo Starr.
McCartney’s reggae version was recorded unseasonably in May 1975 at Abbey Road Studios. He recorded a total of four pieces intended for Empty Hand, a short film about an Amateur Karate Association tournament in London, which Wings drummer Geoff Britton entered. The other recordings were ‘Karate Sequence’ (later retitled ‘Karate Chaos’), ‘Piano, Violin, Etc.’, and ‘Backwards One’.
Bob Loveday was press-ganged into playing on ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reggae’ after delivering a hired violin to the studio. He and McCartney were the only performers on the song.
What I’m finding about all that stuff, all my own contemporary b-sides and strange tracks, is that it takes time. People are only just discovering the b-sides of Beatles singles. They’re only just discovering things like ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’ – probably my favourite Beatles track!
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
The ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ single was issued in the United Kingdom on Parlophone as R 6029 on Friday 16 November 1979, and reached number six in the charts.
In the United States it was issued as Columbia 1-11162 on Tuesday 26 November, and peaked at number eight. In the run-out groove of the single’s a-side was the message “To lift a glass … Xmas ’79”, while the b-side read: “Love from Rudi! … Xmas ’79”.
‘Wonderful Christmastime’ was the first single credited solely to McCartney since ‘Another Day’ in 1971, and was the first signal that Wings’ time together might be drawing to a close.