A look back at the history of the UK’s festive charts

Slade produced the season number one, Merry Xmas Everybody.

Slade produced the season number one, Merry Xmas Everybody. (Image: Getty)

On Christmas Day, the Queen makes her first speech to the Commonwealth – the first of 69 speeches on December 25 over the course of her long and storied reign. But while her Majesty was busy making history, another tradition had been born.

At number one on the charts is the Italian-American singer Al Martino, with the song Here In My Heart.

The ballad is not just the first Christmas number one, but the first hit of all time, as the official “hit parade” only started in November.

Today, with downloads and streaming replacing 7-inch single sales, the number one spot is arguably less prestigious.

But there’s still high praise for reclaiming the space, especially at Christmas.

The importance and influence of the Christmas number one grew during the rock’n’roll era and it became a big deal to top the charts in the last week of December.

Over the years that followed, reaching the top at Christmas became even more prestigious.

Al Martino sang Here In My Heart in 1952

Al Martino sang Here In My Heart in 1952 (Image: Getty)

There were tremendous battles between some of the biggest names in the business to claim the coveted spot at the time of year when record sales were at their highest.

Some iconic songs have been crowned holiday number ones, from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to Human League’s Don’t You Want Me.

There have also been some stirring number ones, such as Justice Collective, a group that raised funds for charities associated with the Hillsborough disaster, whose rendition of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother hit the top spot in 2012.

In 1984, Band Aid topped the Christmas chart with Do They Know It’s Christmas?, subsequently returning to the slot twice.

This year’s battle for the charts involves artists as diverse as Sir Cliff Richard, Stormzy, Sam Smith, Martin Lewis… and Sooty & Sweep, among others.

Sir Cliff Richard is on the charts this year

Sir Cliff Richard is on the charts this year (Image: Getty)

Tinsel all the way: The most Christmas HITS

Seven number ones since 1952 have had the “C” word in their title, but many more have had a holiday theme. Perhaps the most popular Christmas number one of all time is Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody, which sold a million copies on its original release in 1973 and has been re-released in every decade since.

Ironically, the song, never off the airwaves this time of year, was recorded in a summer heat wave during the band’s US tour.

“I think people wanted something to cheer them up, and so did I. That’s why I came up with the line: ‘Look to the future now, it’s just beginning,’” recalled Noddy Holder of Slade.

“Once I got the line. ‘Your grandmother always tells you that the old ones are the best,’ she knew she had a proper cookie in my hands”.

Cliff Richard is another artist closely associated with this time of year.

He topped the Christmas charts with I Love You, with The Shadows in 1960, and twice as a solo artist, with Mistletoe And Wine in 1988 and Saviour’s Day two years later.

This year he hopes to claim his fourth holiday hit with the new single Heart Of Christmas.

The definitive golden age of truly classic Christmas number ones was in the mid-1970s. In four of the six years between 1973 and 1978, tunes with a holiday theme rose to the top.

After Merry Xmas Everybody in 1973, came Mud’s Lonely This Christmas in 1974, Johnny Matthis’s When A Child Is Born in 1976, and Boney M’s Mary’s Boy Child in 1978 (the second time the song about baby Jesus hit the mainstream). peak at Christmas, having also been number one for Harry Belafonte in 1957).

Another enduring Christmas hit was Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone, number one in 1985 and re-entering the top 10 in both 2019 and 2020.

Is this just fantasy?

Several tracks that have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas topped the charts on December 25 and have since become standards.

Queen’s six-minute epic Bohemian Rhapsody was number one for nine weeks between November 1975 and January 1976, returning to the Yuletide pole position 16 years later when it was re-released following the death of singer Freddie Mercury.

Other Christmas number one classics were Don’t You Want Me by The Human League in 1981, and The Pet Shop Boys’ version of Always On My Mind in 1987.

Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury and Brian May of Queen in 1975

Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury and Brian May of Queen in 1975 (Image: Getty)

The novelty hits

Christmas lists wouldn’t be the same without novelty records, a tradition that dates back to the late 1960s.

In 1971, comedian Benny Hill reached the top of the musical Christmas tree with his touching Ernie story, The Fastest Milkman In The West, which former Prime Minister David Cameron later revealed as the only song he could sing in its entirety. .

In 1993, Mr Blobby, one of the stars of Noel Edmonds’ House Party, took first place, while seven years later it was the turn of animated children’s television character Bob the Builder with We Can Fix It.

Dad’s Army star Clive Dunn was at number six in Christmas 1970 with Grandad, but the man who played Lance-Corporal Jones didn’t have to panic as he claimed the number one position earlier in the year. New.

Two of the more unusual party hits were Liverpool comedy troupe The Scaffold’s Lily The Pink in 1968 and Serenading duo Renee and Renato’s Save Your Love in 1982.

Mr Blobby enjoying his number one season in 1993

Mr Blobby enjoying his number one season in 1993 (Image: Youtube)

No snow in sight: the very little Christmas numbers one

In 1979, progressive rock group Pink Floyd’s bleak and chilling, but musically brilliant, Another Brick In The Wall (Part Two), with its famous children’s chorus of “We Don’t Need No Education,” halted the much more seasonal I Have A Dream, by Abba.

Four years later, a cappella group The Flying Pickets had a surprise Christmas number one with Only You.

It wasn’t intended to be a Christmas hit, but the Pickets got into the spirit of the season by dressing up as snowmen for their appearance on Top of the Pops.

In 2009, American rock band Rage Against the Machine with the highly unfestive Killing In The Name, a song first released in 1992, claimed the top spot after an online campaign to prevent another single from the talent show. television show The X-Factor will reach number one for the fifth consecutive year.

What started as a small social media campaign to push American rockers to number one has grown into a national movement.

Simon Cowell called it “stupid” and “cynical”, but the public loved it and helped sell over half a million copies of the protest song.

Normal service resumed a year later when X Factor winner Matt Cardle regained the position for reality TV.

breaks them records

The Spice Girls had three consecutive Christmas number ones in the late 1990s, but could not match the Beatles, who took the number one spot four times in the 1960s, with non-holiday numbers.

However, the Fab Four’s own achievement was matched in 2021 by husband-and-wife YouTubers LadBaby (Mark and Roxanne Hall), who recorded their fourth consecutive Christmas number one, each raising money for the food bank charity. Russell Trust.

His Sausage Rolls For Everyone, which topped the charts in 2021, also featured Ed Sheeran and Elton John.

This year they have hired money-saving expert Martin Lewis for a rewritten version of Do You Know It’s Christmas? So will this year be his fifth consecutive number one?

do it for charity

The number one Christmas fundraiser for a good cause was Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid, first released in 1984 to raise money for Ethiopian famine efforts, and later re-released with different lineups of pop stars in 1989 and 2004.

Band Aid stars in the recording of Do They Know It's Christmas?  in 1984

Band Aid stars in the recording of Do They Know It’s Christmas? in 1984 (Image: Getty)

The original single sold one million copies in its first week, making it the best-selling single in UK chart history up to that point.

Other charity songs to top charts on Christmas Day include Military Wives’ Wherever You Are with Gareth Malone in 2011, The Justice Collective’s He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother in 2012 and Lewisham’s A Bridge Over You. . and the Greenwich NHS Choir, which raised money for various health-related causes.


From 2005 to 2014, X-Factor winners took home the coveted Christmas number one spot seven times, including four times in a row between 2005 and 2008.

These included Alexandra Burke’s Hallelujah in 2008 and Shayne Ward’s That’s My Goal in 2005, which sold over 300,000 copies in two days. X-Factor’s last Christmas hit was Ben Haenow’s Something I Need in 2014.

The stars on top of the Christmas tree

Some of the biggest names in popular music have been number one at Christmas, including Elvis Presley with Return To Sender in 1963, Whitney Houston with I Will Always Love You in 1992 and Tom Jones with Green, Green Grass Of Home in 1966.

The Queen's first Christmas Day broadcast in 1952

The Queen’s first Christmas Day broadcast in 1952 (Image: Getty)

But superstars who never made it include David Bowie, whose combined duet with Bing Crosby “Peace On Earth-Little Drummer Boy” could only reach No. 3 in 1982, and Abba, which reached No. 2 in 1979.

the songs that were lost

Surprisingly, some classic Christmas hits didn’t make it to number one, or at least not the first time we asked.

Perennial favorite Last Christmas from Wham! was unfortunate enough to go head-to-head with Band Aid in 1984, which also featured George Michael, but ultimately made it to the top of the charts 36 years later in January 2021.

Wizzard’s I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday, which you can’t go into a store without hearing in December, only reached number four in 1973, while Jona Lewie’s anti-war song Stop The Cavalry was pitted against the song Starting by John Lennon. Over and the St Winifred’s Choir, There’s No One Quite Like Grandma, in 1980 and only went to number three.

In 1994, Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You was thwarted by East 17’s Stay Another Day, but ultimately went to number one in the week leading up to Christmas 2020.

  • Christmas number one 2022 will be revealed on December 23

#history #UKs #festive #charts

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