The Record Press guest blogger Polly Taylor takes a look at that peculiarly British phenomenon and institution known as the Christmas No1…….
So, Ed Sheeran did it. He secured the coveted Christmas 2017 number 1 spot on the singles chart, despite stiff competition from Eminem, who Ed pipped at the post, forcing the American bestselling artist of the noughties into 2nd place. A campaign to win Wham the top spot saw them take 3rd, behind Ed and Eminem.
Wham peaked at number 2 on the New Year chart a week later, matching the best position ‘Last Christmas’ achieved back in 1984, when the success of the original Band Aid’s ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ meant that George and Andrew had to settle for number 2. George also sang on the Band Aid record, meaning that he is 1 of only 3 acts ever to have simultaneously featured on the top 2 singles. The other 2 are Ed Sheehan, who has just joined this exclusive club with his own 2017 number 1, ‘Perfect’, and his vocals on Eminem’s track, ‘River’, which took number 2. The Beatles, in 1963 and again in 1967, held the top 2 places on the Christmas charts of those years.
Although I supported the Wham campaign, I was perfectly happy to see Mr Sheeran secure first place. Why? Well, it meant that X Factor didn’t have anything to do with number 1 – nor in fact any of the top 3. The 2017 winners were at number 9 by Christmas, having spent the previous week at number 6, after entering the chart the week before at number 2.
Last Christmas, 2016, Clean Bandit took number 1 and it was Rag ’n’ Bone Man who secured 2nd. X factor winner Matt Terry was at number 8 by Christmas week, having previously peaked at number 3. In 2015, Lewisham & Greenwich NHS choir beat Justin Bieber to the number 1 spot, although he could be comforted by the fact that he held number 3 as well as 2, with ‘Sorry’ and ‘Love Yourself’ respectively.
In contrast to previous X Factor winners, then, over the last 3 years the top 3 have not been held by the X Factor. Before that, they dominated the coveted festive top spot, when Simon Cowell’s darlings quickly followed coming first in TV’s music competition by seizing the Christmas number 1. The chart cherry, on top of winning the X factor (the cake).
Since 2005, over decade ago, the Christmas number 1 has been taken by a succession of victorious X Factor contestants, starting with Shayne Ward, who triggered a 4-year run of success for the show’s winners who followed him – Leona Lewis, Leon Jackson and Alexandra Burke took the top slot in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Then, in 2009, there was a backlash. Some punters were utterly fed up with the X Factor and its perceived effect on the music business. Hankering, perhaps, for the days when the ultimate Christmas present on any artist’s wish-list was the hotly contested seat at the top of the British singles chart, they came out in force – by backing a campaign to get Rage Against the Machine to prime position.
In 2010, Matt Cardle flew the flag for Mr Cowell and bore it all the way to the top of the Christmas chart again, but I think the doubt had started to creep in. There was something else, people who’d grown up with a string of X Factor Christmas number ones began to realise; theirs weren’t the only contenders.
In 2011 and 2012 the hugely popular Military Wives’ choir and the Justice Collective grabbed the festive top slots, both with their charity singles in aid of various Armed Forces and Hillsborough disaster funds. In 2013 and 2014 X Factor winners triumphed once more, but 3 years have now passed since those successes and I think – I hope – that that Christmas N01 spot has become an open contest once more.
Quite rightly so, in my book. It was so exciting, back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when I grew up, waiting to see who’d made it. By the time they announced who was number 2, it was all over – weeks of watching Top Of the Pops to hear this year’s festive offerings, picking a favourite, then waiting for the Sunday night chart show with bated breath to see if the nation agreed with you.
I’m not alone, it seems. Last month, the 2017 Christmas top 20 featured an unprecedented 8 ‘old’ Christmas songs – from Band Aid, Brenda Lee, Shakin’ Stevens, Elton John and Chris Rea as well as Wham and the ever-present Pogues and Mariah Carey tunes. The year before there were 4; and in every year for the preceding decade – i.e. between 2005 and 2015, there were between 1 and 3. Is this the start of a new seasonal trend, where the classics make a massive impact on the UK’s Christmas top 20?
It wasn’t to be for Shakin’ Stevens back in 1982 with his ‘Blue Christmas’ EP, which got to number 2; he had to wait until 1985 to make it with ‘Merry Christmas everyone’. In 1987, absolute Christmas classic The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl’s ‘Fairytale of New York’ was beaten into 2nd place by the Pet Shop Boys.
The Pogues are, in fact, the only artists to feature in every Christmas top 20 since 2005. Their position has varied; they climbed to number 3 in 2005, then 6 in 2006 and 4 in 2007. Between 2008 and 2016, they charted yearly between numbers 10 and 20, then in 2017 they climbed into the top 10 once more, spending yuletide at number 7. It is, seemingly the UK’s favourite Christmas song, topping various media polls time and time again, and holding court as the most played Christmas song in Britain.
Mariah Carey, ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ is another massive Christmas hit, but like the Pogues, it didn’t ever reach number 1 on the British singles chart; like them, Mariah only made number 2 in 1994. She has featured in festive top 20s almost every year since, and this single is the 11th best seller of all time. It is astonishing, to me, that both of these ever-popular Christmas classics didn’t even peak at number 1. Can you imagine such songs being released now, tunes that would become irrepressible – and irresistible – festive favourites?
Take That missed out in 1993, when Mr Blobby snatched number 1. Mr Blobby wasn’t the only incongruous one; in 2000 Bob the Builder saw off another boy band, Westlife, after the second half of the 90s was dominated the Spice Girls, who secured 1st place with 3 successive Christmas hits in 1996, 1997 and 1998. In 1997, at least, this was a good thing, keeping the Teletubbies snapping at their towering heels in second place.
Mr Blobby, Bob the Builder, the Teletubbies – bring them on, I say. It just makes the big Christmas No1 reveal all the more thrilling. As long as it’s an open contest open more, to peak on the Christmas chart could once more be a very real dream for up and coming singer/songwriters and bands who play proper instruments. Hallelujah, Amen and thank the Lord for the likes of Ed Sheeran. Perhaps in future he can be joined by more of his kind, and we won’t have to rely only upon the great, but well-worn, Christmas tunes to prop up the festive top 20.
This article was written by our guest blogger Polly Taylor @ BloggerByTheSea.com
Check out Polly’s blog……There are some very entertaining and informative articles on a diverse range of subjects & topics. For instance her home made recipes are mouth watering and delicious!!