A Trip Down Musical Memory Lane: UK Christmas Number One Hits 1952 - 2020
Posted on 20th December 2020 at 16:07
Did you know that, as of December 2020, Mariah Carey’s ever popular All I Want For Christmas Is You, which was released in 1994, has never topped the UK charts for Christmas, even though it has won critical acclaim and held top spots around the world?
On November 30th, NME suggested that this might be the year! At time of writing, 5 days before Christmas, the song is at Number One in the UK - but will it still be Number One on Christmas Day?
What makes a great seasonal single? Sick of hearing the same few songs every time you walk into a shop? Let’s take a look back over some of the great UK Christmas Number One Hits.
Some of them may surprise you.
The first Christmas number one in the UK was in 1952, the year charts were launched. Al Martino’s song, Here In My Heart stole the top festive spot.
The first party themed top track was Winifred Attwell’s 1954 track Let's Have Another Party. This was a piano medley including popular tracks such as When the Red, Red Robin and Bye, Bye Blackbird.
The first ‘Christmassy’ Christmas number one was in 1955 when Dickie Valentine’s song Christmas Alphabet topped the charts. This was followed two years later by Harry Belafonte singing Mary's Boy Child.
Between 1960 and 1967, big names from the pop world dominated the charts.
• Cliff Richards, I Love You, 1960
• Danny Williams, Moon River, (1961
• Elvis Presley, Return to Sender, 1962
• Tom Jones, Green, Green Grass of Home, 1966
And then The Beatles hit the scene with four consecutive Christmas number ones. I Want to Hold Your Hand (1963), I Feel Fine (1964), Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out (1965) and Hello Goodbye (1967).
In 1973, there was another Christmas-themed number one, Slade’s now ubiquitous Merry Xmas Everybody. In 1974, Mud came in top with Lonely This Christmas, and in 1978, Boney M topped the charts with Mary’s Boy Child.
For cuteness, it’s still hard to beat the 1980 chart topper, There's No One Quite Like Grandma, by St Winifred's School Choir.
In 1984, Band Aid hit the top spot for Christmas with Do They Know It's Christmas? The song was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for famine-hit Ethiopia. It was the first big charity single and went on to become the UK’s biggest-selling single of all time, until 1997 when Elton John released Candle in the Wind in tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales. Geldof’s song featured top British and Irish Pop Artists including Bono, Sting, Devid Bowie, Phil Collins, Sara Dallin and Siobhan Fahey from Bananarama, Boy George, Spandau Ballet, Simon Le Bon, and George Michael. This pop star collaboration led to the Live Aid benefit concert in 1985..
The song would return in 1989, 2004 and 2014, but only making the Christmas number one slot with the first two re-recordings.
In 1988, Cliff Richard reclaimed the Christmas top spot with Mistletoe and Wine, followed up in 1990 by Saviour’s Day.
Mariah Carey released All I Want For Christmas Is You back in 1994. It was beaten to the number one slot by East 17’s Stay Another Day.
In the late 1990s, Christmas was dominated by the Spice Girls with 2 Become 1 (1996), Too Much (1997) and Goodbye (1998).
The millennium came and went, and Christmas was dominated by one X-Factor winner after another: Shayne Ward (2005), Leona Lewis (2006), Leon Jackson (2007), Alexandra Burke (2008), and Matt Cardle (2010). This run of reality stars was briefly interrupted in 2009 by Rage Against the Machine’s song, Killing In the Name after a campaign to knock X-Factor winners off the coveted top spot.
Novelty singles come into their own at Christmas. There is no other way to explain how Mr Blobby topped the charts in 1993, nor how Bob the Builder made Christmas number one in 2000. In 2018, a novelty single raising funds for the Trussell Trust made the top of the charts. LadBaby adapted the lyrics to Starship’s We Built This City to reflect a love of sausage rolls. In 2019, LadBaby became the only artist (after The Beatles and the Spice Girls) to have back to back Christmas Numer One hits as I Love Sausage Rolls, to the tune of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock’n’Roll topping the charts.
So, will 2020 be Mariah Carey’s year at the top of the Christmas charts? Will she get pushed off the top spot by comedian Matt Lucas with his Merry Christmas, Baked Potato? Or will LadBaby triumph again?
Make up your own mind…
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