Britain in the 1970s was an era of social discord, economic turmoil, and fantastic Christmas music. While many people remember Winter of discontent, the freezing winter between late 1978 and early 1979 which saw over 2,000 strikes, the winter of 1973 is arguably the UK’s most important winter finalist of the decade, at least for the music industry. It was then that two of the most popular rock bands of the time released landmark Christmas carols and in doing so started a festive tradition that continues today.
If you have ever seen Love in fact, you know what we’re talking about: the coveted Christmas number one. In the film, failed rocker Billy Mack (Billy Nighy) makes a comeback by reworking the Troggs classic “Love is All Around” into a festive diddly, aptly renamed “Christmas is All Around”, which he hopes to become number one in. time for Christmas day. What viewers overseas may not realize is that the battle for Christmas number one is a very real British tradition – a tradition people expect almost as much as a visit from Father every year. Christmas itself.
OK, so maybe that is an exaggeration. Yet the number one Christmas is A big deal. Every year, Britons bet millions of pounds on the song that will top the charts on Christmas Day.
A rock rivalry is born
It wasn’t always like this, however. For the first two decades of the charts’ existence, which artist was number one on Christmas Day was as interesting as who was number one on any other day of the year. The first UK rankings to keep track of record sales were established in 1952. Rightly so, the first Christmas number one was also the first number one in UK chart history: “Here in my heart” by Al Martino. Over the next two decades, artists such as Harry Belafonte, Conway Twitty and Elvis Presley would each claim Christmas number one, with the Beatles becoming the only group in history to do so four times, a record.
Yet it wasn’t until 1973 that audiences really started to pay attention to Christmas number one. It was then that two of the largest groups in the country, Slade and Wizzard, both released festive records: “Merry Xmas Everybody” and “I Wish it could be Christmas Everyday”, respectively. These songs were smash hits and became instant classics which are still popular to this day.
Fans of both groups were eager to see their favorite song topped the charts, triggering a run to number one that culminated with Slade winning No. 1 on Christmas Day. Thus, a rock rivalry gave birth to a tradition that continues today. Each year, who will be number one on Christmas Day is hotly debated and eagerly awaited, but not always with the utmost seriousness.
Feed the world with charity singles
You may think that since it is the Christmas Number one, Christmas carols and holiday songs regularly topped the charts. However, the British public rarely take something so literally (or seriously). According to the Official Charts Company, “In 69 years of Christmas charts, 12 are actual Christmas carols, eight are TV show winners, three are backing vocals and five could be categorized as novelty singles.”
Since Christmas is often considered the season of giving, it’s no surprise that charity singles do remarkably well this time of year. Fifty-seven charity singles topped the UK charts over the years, however, it was Christmas number one that started the tradition. In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure assembled a supergroup called Band Aid which included George Michael, Boy George, Duran Duran and many more to produce “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, Which topped the charts. To this day, it remains second best-selling UK single of all time.
More recently, the LadBaby novelty act has seen historic success with charity singles. The YouTuber has claimed Christmas number one for three years in a row – becoming the first act since the Spice Girls (who did so in the 1990s) to do so – reworking classic rock songs as odes to this British treat ubiquitous, the sausage roll.
Mr. Blobby is coming to town
LadBaby hardly has a monopoly on novelty songs, however. In 2000, “Can we fix it? By Bob the Handyman topped the charts. The most famous – or infamous, depending on who you ask – is “Mr. Blobby,” the eponymous song from what can only be described as McDonald’s Grinning on an acid trip. The character, an anthropomorphic dotted drop, was a character on the popular BBC TV show. Christmas house party, and only said “Blobby”.
“Sir. Blobby” is regularly classified as one of the worst Christmas number one of all time, but many would say the worst time was without a doubt the 2000s. Between 2005 and 2014, seven of the 10 Christmas numbers were claimed by that year’s Simon Cowell winner. The X factor. These include Leona Lewis covering American Idol the single “A Moment Like This” by winner Kelly Clarkson in 2006 and Sam Bailey covering Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” in 2013.
In 2009, fed up with the predictability and commercial calculation of the producers of the show and the Cowell’s label –the fans revolted. A social media campaign propelled Rage Against the Machine rock band “Killing In The Name” to number one, which was a startling upheaval for The X factor Brand. The year 2003 saw a similar shock, with “Mad World” by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules beating more predictable pop rates.
The number one contenders for Christmas 2021
Will 2021 see another upheaval? Bookmakers don’t think so. LadBaby, who this year teamed up with Ed Sheeran and Elton John to rework the duo’s Christmas single, “Merry Christmas,” released their latest single on December 17, and he should claim the first place.
Other nominees include Sheeran and John with their original single, ABBA, and a song called “Laura’s Gone” by Finn K, a North Wales singer-songwriter who teamed up with the Have a word podcast for the song. “We said jokingly that we would go for Christmas number one, just hoping to get into the top 40,” Finn said to Daily message. “But it just got mental, it’s really surreal.”
Even if Have a word can’t restrain LadBaby, they can take comfort in knowing that they are in good company. Many famous Christmas songs never reached the top of the charts, but always became classics, including “The Pogues”New York fairy tale. “For others, it took decades to take first place:” All I Want for Christmas is You “by Mariah Carey was released in 1994, but did not reached No. 1 on the UK charts until December 2020, more than a quarter of a century after its release. Meanwhile, Wham’s beloved “Last Christmas”, originally released in 1984, did not reach number one in the UK until January 1, 2021.
Whichever song claims first place in 2021 – and with it, a place in British pop culture history – if it deserves the honor, it will be debated in years to come. Because the only thing that’s really certain about Christmas Number One is that people will discuss it. And nothing says Christmas like fighting with your family. It’s a cherished holiday tradition, as dear as Christmas number one.