Why Dee Snider Finally Recorded His Big Hit Christmas Song: Exclusive Interview
Dee Snider has always been a big fan of Christmas. Still, there was a time when recording a holiday tune was an idea this heavy-metal guy couldn’t necessarily get behind.
“Over 30 years ago, I’m not going to release a Christmas song! I would have punched you in the face for saying that Twisted Sister would do a Christmas album,” Snider said with a laugh in an exclusive interview with UCR. “But time changes everything – and perspective.”
His wife Suzette began to change that perspective when she made a request: She wanted Snider to write a holiday song. He began to protest, arguing that it was unlikely he was going to craft something that would measure up to the time-honored classics.
“She said to me in these words, 'You’re a classically trained counter tenor, you can do it' – which I am. And I said, 'Okay, yeah, sure,'" the veteran frontman recalls. “I was writing other metal songs and I just suddenly got this idea. It was just a legit Christmas song; it was not a rock song. It was called 'God Bless Us Everyone,' not 'The Magic of Christmas Day' and I had session musicians record it, because I couldn’t do it – not the type of song that it was.”
Thankfully for Snider, "The Magic of Christmas Day" ended up having pretty good legs at a time when his post-Twisted Sister career was in the doldrums. Producer Ric Wake, a longtime friend who credits Snider with kickstarting his career, saw a future for the track. He knew that someone would eventually record it, though Snider scoffed at the idea.
Listen to Celine Dion Perform 'The Magic of Christmas Day'
Boyz II Men had interest in doing a version at one point, but it didn’t come together. Then Wake shared some big news: “Five years or so later, he calls me up and he says, ‘Are you sitting down? Celine Dion wants to record your wife’s Christmas song.’”
“I was broke and struggling. This was the early to mid-90s. I said to him, ‘Does she know who wrote it?’ He said, ‘No, I didn’t tell her yet.’ I said, ‘Do not tell her that Satan wrote her Christmas song. Just put it on the fuckin’ album,’” Snider says with particular emphasis on the F-bomb. “It just says D. Snider on the song. I don’t know to this day if she knows that I wrote the song, but it’s the biggest selling holiday record in history – 14 million copies worldwide, or something like that. So, that was just a gift. Saint Celine gave my family a gift, and now the song has taken on a life of its own.”
Snider later featured "The Magic of Christmas Day" in his holiday musical, Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale. Now, he’s recast the number as a true rock 'n' roll Christmas song. He shares the spirit – and the vocals – with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm.
Longtime Dokken and Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson, who's also become well-known these days for his production work, stepped in to help craft the new version. The result is an anthem that could easily hold its own in an arena.
“I knew the place we wanted to land. I said, 'Look, think Queen; think Trans-Siberian Orchestra,'" Snider remembers. He kept one element of the original song, something he said was important sentimentally: “I’m a big fan of Phil Spector, of his Christmas album. The drum groove was very much taken from that – so there is a rock connection. I said, 'I want to keep that [Snider imitates drum pattern], that Phil Spector rhythm drum feel.' So, I built it off of that. But credit to Pilson, because as he put it together, it really worked.”
Listen to Dee Snider and Lzzy Hale Perform 'The Magic of Christmas Day'
Credit also goes to Hale, who Snider says “lit a Yule log under my ass." The pair worked on their vocals remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. When he heard her take, Snider knew he had to make a second run at his parts: “She just kicked my fucking ass.”
Clearly, the competitive spirit still burns within Snider. He sees that as a natural component of what he does. “I think that’s what we’re supposed to do!" he says. "You know, we’re not supposed to sit there and phone it in and go easy on the other guy or whatever. We’re all pros, man. Light a fire, get in the ring!”
The results speak for themselves. Snider and Hale have crafted a new holiday classic which will find a home on many playlists for years to come. In the meantime, he hopes “The Magic of Christmas Day” will offer some needed positivity during this difficult period.
“It was lyrically inspired by the fact that Christmas always seemed to be the time of year where people set aside their differences, if only for a day or two, and got together and said, 'Hey, let’s enjoy each other’s company. Let’s set this aside,'" Snider says. "That’s what the message of ‘The Magic of Christmas Day’ was, about that time of year. I said, ‘Maybe people need to hear those words now more than ever.’ I don’t know if the message will get out there, but it was my attempt to send that message.”