I Wanna Be Santa Claus is Ringo Starr’s twelfth solo studio album, and contains a range of traditional and older Christmas songs as well as new compositions.
It was the first Christmas album by a former Beatle, although ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ and ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ had been successful singles by John Lennon and Paul McCartney respectively. The Beatles had also released a number of Christmas recordings for members of their fan club, one of which – ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’ – was re-recorded by Starr for I Wanna Be Santa Claus.
The album was Starr’s third and final one for Mercury, and followed Vertical Man and the live album VH1 Storytellers.
In the studio
I Wanna Be Santa Claus was recorded in a number of studios in the USA and England: Whatinthewhatthe? Studios, Westlake Studios and Village Recorders in Los Angeles; The Boneyard in Boston; and Abbey Road Studios, Funny Bunny, and Stable Cottage Studios in England.
Starr and his co-producer, Mark Hudson, wrote ‘Christmas Eve’ and ‘Dear Santa’ at Starr’s home in Surrey in the July 1998. They were both recorded in the UK between 14 and 16 September.
Recording then switched to the USA. On 8 March 1999 three songs were recorded, along with additional overdubs for ‘Dear Santa’: ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’, and ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’.
The sessions continued during the spring and summer in the US and UK. Jeff Lynne contributed backing vocals to ‘Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On’, ‘I Wanna Be Santa Claus’, and ‘Christmas Time (Is Here Again)’. Other guest musicians included Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and The Eagles’ Timothy B Schmit.
Recording concluded on 8 and 9 September 1999 at Whatinthewhatthe? Studio, and mixing sessions took place at A&M Studios in Los Angeles and Sterling Sound in New York.
I Wanna Be Santa Claus was released on 19 October 1999.
The album was not a commercial success, and was given minimal promotion by Mercury. It did not chart, and Starr left the label shortly afterwards.
They actually gave the Christmas album no support. We have now parted company due to their incompetence, they let me go. I’m hoping to record another studio album… and I’m hoping it will be on any label other than Mercury.
I Wanna Be Santa Claus was reissued on 23 September 2003 as 20th Century Masters: The Best of Ringo Starr/The Christmas Collection.