Another year, another depressingly shit Christmas Number One. Here’s a look back at every festive chart-topper since the ’50s. It wasn’t always crap you know…
Starting with 1952, we’re looking at which song took the top spot every year, starting with Al Martino’s ‘Here In My Heart’. It wasn’t just the first Xmas chart-topper, it was the first Number One full stop. It stayed there for nine weeks.
1953: Frankie Laine, ‘Answer Me’. Although this song made it to the top spot, the BBC banned the song after its head of religious broadcasting thought it was “a sentimental mockery of Christian prayer”. David Whitfield then recorded a cover of the song, without the offending lines (“Answer me, Lord above”), and both versions reached Number One.
1954: Winifred Atwell, ‘Let’s Have Another Party’. A piano ragtime song comprising several pieces of music, it was a follow-up to Atwell’s 1953 hit ‘Let’s Have A Party’. The Number One song for five weeks, it marked the first time a black person reached the top spot on the charts in Britain.
1955: Dickie Valentine, ‘Christmas Alphabet’. Written by Buddy Kaye and Jules Loman, this song spent three weeks at Number One. That same year, he had another Number One single, as well as three other Top Ten hits. He was also voted best male vocalist in the 1955 NME poll, and continued to win in that category until 1957.
1956: Johnnie Ray, ‘Just Walkin’ In The Rain’. While there are various recordings of this song (originally written in 1952 by two prisoners at Tennessee State Prison ), this is the best-known version. While it didn’t quite make it to Number One in America (topping at Number Two), it topped the UK charts.
1957: Harry Belafonte, ‘Mary’s Boy Child’. This song, originally written by Jester Hairston, was first recorded by Belafonte in 1956 for his album ‘An Evening With Belafonte’. An edited version was released as a single, and it topped the UK charts. In 1962, the full version was added to a reissue of his album ‘To Wish You a Merry Christmas’.
1958: Conway Twitty, ‘It’s Only Make Believe’. Twitty co-wrote this song with Jack Nance. Topping both the US and UK charts, the song was Twitty’s only Number One song on the pop charts in both countries. He recorded a follow-up duet in 1970 with Loretta Lynn, as well as contributed on a 1988 cover by Ronnie McDowell.
1959: Emile Ford & The Checkmates, ‘What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes At Me For?’. This song stayed at Number One for six weeks, and it remains the longest question ever asked by a chart topper in the UK.
1960: Cliff Richard & The Shadows, ‘I Love You’. This song, written by Shadows’ rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch, was the band’s second Number One in the UK in the ’60s. The track stayed on top for two weeks.
1961: Danny Williams, ‘Moon River’. His version of ‘Moon River’ remains his most famous song, as he never had another hit in the UK after this one reached Number One. His song ‘White On White’ did, however, make it into the Top Ten in the States in 1964.
1962: Elvis Presley, ‘Return to Sender’. Presley performed this song in the film Girls! Girls! Girls!. It reached Number One in the UK and Ireland, and Number Two on America’s Billboard chart. The song received Platinum status from the RIAA for selling more than one million units in America.
1963: The Beatles, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. Written by Lennon and McCartney, this was also the fab four’s first Number One in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. At least one million copies of the single had already been ordered before it was even released, and the song became the band’s best-selling single globally.
1964: The Beatles, ‘I Feel Fine’. Knocking The Rolling Stones’ ‘Little Red Rooster’ out of the way, this song stayed at the top of the chart for five weeks. This was the band’s first single to be released nearly the same time in both the US and the UK.
1965: The Beatles, ‘Day Tripper’/’We Can Work It Out’. These two chart-topping songs were released as a double A-side single, and both were recorded during the ‘Rubber Soul’ sessions.
1966: Tom Jones, ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’. Originally written by Claude “Curly” Putman Jr., this song was covered by Jones and stayed at Number One for seven weeks. Jerry Lee Lewis had recorded the song the year before, and that version was where Jones learned the song from.
1967: The Beatles, ‘Hello, Goodbye’. Topping the charts in the UK, the States and Norway (and reaching Number Two in Australia and Switzerland), the song stayed at the top of the UK charts for seven weeks.
1968: The Scaffold, ‘Lily The Pink’. A modification of folk song ‘The Ballad Of Lydia Pinkham’, this was an unexpected hit for The Scaffold, staying at Number One for four weeks. Elton John and Graham Nash of The Hollies contributed on backing vocals while Jack Bruce (Cream) played bass guitar.
1969: Rolf Harris, ‘Two Little Boys’. This song, said to be Margaret Thatcher’s favourite song, spent six weeks at the top of the chart. In 2008, Harris announced he would re-record it, with backing vocals from North Wales’ Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir, to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.
1970: Dave Edmunds, ‘I Hear You Knocking’. While there were plenty of versions recorded before 1970, Edmunds’ cover reached the top of the UK chart, staying there for six weeks. Apparently John Lennon once told Jann Wenner that this was his favourite recording of the song.
1971: Benny Hill, ‘Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)’. Though Hill wrote the song in 1955, he didn’t perform it on television until the 1970s. Once it was released as a single, it remained at Number One for four weeks.
1972: Jimmy Osmond, ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool’. The youngest of the Osmond children, Jimmy remains the youngest artist to have a Number One single on the UK Singles Chart (at 9 years 8 months old). Staying at the top for five weeks, the single eventually sold 998,000 copies.
1973: Slade, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’. The band’s sixth Number One song in the UK, this one stayed at the top of the chart for five weeks, beating out Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ (which reached Number Four). This song was the band’s best-selling single of their career.
1974: Mud, ‘Lonely This Christmas’. The band achieved their second Number One single in the UK with this song, which stayed at the top of the chart for four weeks. Performed to sound like Elvis Presley, the song is often mistaken to be one of his songs.
1975: Queen, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Spending nine weeks at Number One, the band sold more than one million copies by the end of January 1976. The song returned to Number One once again in 1991, for five weeks, following Freddie Mercury’s death. This song was the UK’s third best-selling single of all time.
1976: Johnny Mathis, ‘When A Child Is Born’. Originally by Soleado (1972), the most successful version was from Mathis. This was his only Number One in the UK, and it stayed there for three weeks, selling 850,000 copies.
1977: Wings, ‘Mull Of Kintyre’. This song, written by Paul McCartney and his bandmade Denny Laine, spent nine weeks at Number One. It was the band’s biggest UK hit, and was the first single to sell over two million copies in the UK.
1978: Boney M, ‘Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord’. This song, from Boney M’s sixth studio album, ‘Christmas Album’, stayed at Number One for four weeks. Two more singles were released from the album: ‘Little Drummer Boy’ became a Top 20 hit in Germany, but ‘Zion’s Daughter’, released in 1982, failed to chart.
1979: Pink Floyd, ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)’. While it might not be very Christmassy, Pink Floyd’s song stayed at Number One on the UK chart for five weeks. It was also Number One in nine other countries at the time of its release. Part 2 sees the children revolting against their teachers in the school.
1980: St Winifred’s School Choir, ‘There’s No-one Quite Like Grandma’. There’s no better way to show holiday spirit than to show love for Grandma. The Stockport-based primary school choir’s recording of this song, written by Gordon Lorenz, stayed Number One for two weeks. In October 2009, it was re-recorded by 14 members of the original choir.
1981: The Human League, ‘Don’t You Want Me’. The biggest hit from the synthpop trio came from their third album, ‘Dare’. The song stayed on top of the UK chart for five weeks and sold more than 1,400,000 copies, making it the 25th most successful single in UK Singles Chart history.
1982: Renée and Renato, ‘Save Your Love’. This song entered the chart at Number 54, but eventually moved up to Number One, staying there for four weeks. Renée doesn’t appear in the video for this song, though, as she was replaced by a model. The duo’s follow-up, ‘Just One More Kiss’, peaked at Number 48, and they split up.
1983: The Flying Pickets, ‘Only You’. Their debut single, an a capella Yazoo cover, stayed on top of the charts for five weeks. The song also performed well in the rest of Europe and Canada.
1984: Band Aid, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. Written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for relief of the Eithiopia famine, this was the biggest selling single in UK Singles Chart history (one million copies sold in its first week). It remained the highest selling UK single until Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997”.
1985: Shakin’ Stevens: ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’. This was his fourth Number One in the UK. Originally, it was set for release in 1984, but it was postponed so it wouldn’t clash with Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’.
1986: Jackie Wilson, ‘Reet Petite (The Sweetest Girl In Town)’. His first solo recording after he left R&B group The Dominoes, the song initially only peaked at Number Six in the UK in 1957. However, nearly three years after Wilson’s death, the song reached Number One in 1986, staying on top of the chart for four weeks.
1987: Pet Shop Boys, ‘Always On My Mind’ The Pet Shop Boys performed a version of the song (first recorded by Brenda Lee in 1972) on Love Me Tender, an ITV special commemorating the 10th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death (who’d also recorded a version of the song). The song spent four weeks at the top of the chart.
1988: Cliff Richard, ‘Mistletoe and Wine’. This song was originally performed as part of the musical ‘Scraps’ in London in 1976. When Richards released it as a single, it became his 12th UK Number One hit, spending four weeks at the top of the chart and selling 750,000 copies.
1989: Band Aid II, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. The original one was an instant hit Christmas single in 1984, and Band Aid II’s made it to the top, too. However, this version never became as significant as the original. The only returning members from the original Band Aid were Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward (Bananarama).
1990: Cliff Richard, ‘Saviour’s Day’. It only spent one week at Number One, but this marked his 13th chart-topping single (and his third Christmas Number One).
1991: Queen, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’/‘These Are The Days of Our Lives’. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ won the title of Christmas Number One in 1975, and it returned in 1991 (for five weeks), along with ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’, in the wake of Freddie Mercury’s death.
1992: Whitney Houston, ‘I Will Always Love You’. Sitting at the top of the charts for a whopping ten weeks, this song was originally released by Dolly Parton. Houston’s version went on to become one of the best-selling singles of all time. She recorded this song for her film debut, The Bodyguard.
1993: Mr Blobby, ‘Mr Blobby’. A character from Noel’s House Party, its theme song was released as a single and reached the top, staying there for two weeks. In 2002, it was voted the most annoying Christmas No. One by HMV. There was a follow-up song called ‘Christmas In Blobbyland’ in ’95, but it only peaked at 36.
1994: East 17, ‘Stay Another Day’. In 1994, East 17 topped the chart for five weeks. It also reached Number One in Sweden and Ireland. The band’s first ballad stayed at Number One for five weeks, becoming the third best-selling single of the year. It was also the fourth best-selling boyband single of the ’90s in the UK.
1995: Michael Jackson, ‘Earth Song’. This ’97 Grammy-nominated song was Jackson’s best-selling single in the UK. Jackson received recognition from several animal and environmental organisations for the song’s Utopian message. The song stayed at Number One for six weeks.
1996: Spice Girls, ‘2 Become 1’. This was the group’s third single that month and topped the chart for three weeks. The song was supposedly inspired by the relationship that was developing between Geri Halliwell and songwriter Matt Rowe.
1997: Spice Girls, ‘Too Much’. Their second Christmas Number One in a row, this song sat at the top of the charts for two weeks. It also marked their sixth consecutive chart-topper, making them the first act to do so in the UK.
1998: Spice Girls, ‘Goodbye’. It was only at the top for one week, but this was the band’s third consecutive Christmas Number One and it sold 380,000 copies in its first week. Written as a tribute to the people who died in the Dunblane Massacre, the song was reworked after Geri Halliwell left the group and her parts were removed.
2000: Bob The Builder, ‘Can We Fix It?’. The first Christmas Number One of the new millennium was from an animated builder. With three weeks on top, it beat Westlife’s ‘What Makes A Man’ (their first single to not reach No. One). This was the best-selling song of 2000 in the UK and the 10th biggest-selling single of the decade.
2001: Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman ‘Somethin’ Stupid’. This was Williams’ first Christmas Number One single, and it sold 98,506 copies in its first week and 366,000 copies over all. It spent three weeks at the top of the chart.
2002: Girls Aloud, ‘Sound of the Underground’. This single was released just sixteen days after Popstars: The Rivals wrapped up and instantly became a hit. Spending four weeks at Number One, it achieved Platinum status in the UK.
2003: Michael Andrews & Gary Jules ‘Mad World’. That haunting track from the Donnie Darko soundtrack spent three weeks at the top of the chart. A remake of the 1982 Tears for Fears track, it was initially released on CD in 2002, but due to the huge cult following for the film, they decided to release the song as a single.
2004: Band Aid 20, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. The third version of the song to achieve Christmas Number One status, this one stayed in its spot for four weeks. This version included vocals from artists including Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke and Fran Healy.
2005: Shayne Ward, ‘That’s My Goal’. The first single from the X Factor winner, it sold 742,180 copies in five days and was the biggest-selling single of the year in the UK. It spent four weeks at Number One and began the trend of X Factor Christmas chart dominance.
2006: Leona Lewis, ‘A Moment Like This’. The Series Three winner of X Factor released this song (originally recorded by Kelly Clarkson, American Idol’s Series One winner). It was the fastest-selling UK single and was downloaded more than 50,000 times within thirty minutes of its release. It spent four weeks at the top of the chart.
2007: Leon Jackson, ‘When You Believe’. Jackson, winner of Series Four of X Factor, covered the duet by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. It spent three weeks at the top of the chart, selling more than 275,000 copies.
2008: Alexandra Burke, ‘Hallelujah’. The fifth winner of X-Factor, Burke continued the Christmas No. 1 trend with her Leonard Cohen cover. It sold 105,000 copies in one day and was the best-selling song of the year. By January 2009, she sold more than one million copies, becoming the first female British solo artist to do so in the UK.
2009: Rage Against The Machine, ‘Killing In The Name’. Finally breaking the chain of X Factor Christmas Number Ones, a Facebook campaign was victorious, replacing the expected winner with RATM’s anti-establishment anthem. They rewarded the country with a free show at Finsbury Park.
X Factor dullard Matt Cardle was last year’s Christmas Number One, with ‘When We Collide’, a retitled cover version of Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many Of Horror’. He told Biffy fans: “I’m sorry if I’ve ruined it.”