diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 22, 2018

This year's Christmas Number 1 was announced yesterday. In good news, you probably know the song, even if you've never heard the sausage roll version.

But when did the Christmas chart topper go off the rails? Let's take a look back over 50 years and see.
1968: Scaffold - Lily The Pink
1969: Rolf Harris - Two Little Boys
1970: Dave Edmunds - I Hear You Knockin'
1971: Benny Hill - Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)
1972: Little Jimmy Osmond - Long Haired Lover From Liverpool
Christmas Number 1s were pretty much off the rails five decades ago. With the exception of Dave Edmunds these are all novelty songs, of a sort, without referencing any particularly Christmassy. That was an unfortunate title from the now-disgraced Australian.
1973: Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody
1974: Mud - Lonely This Christmas
1975: Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
1976: Johnny Mathis - When A Child Is Born
1977: Wings - Mull Of Kintyre
1978: Boney M - Mary's Boy Child - Oh My Lord
There are your classics. Many of the UK's most-replayed festive tunes emerged during the mid-1970s, which might be because they were immensely catchy (or might be because we've refused to let them go). Paul McCartney wouldn't have got his bagpipes to Number 1 at any other time of year. This might be as far down the list as you can sing along.
1979: Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall
1980: St Winifred's School Choir - There's No One Quite Like Grandma
1981: The Human League - Don't You Want Me
1982: Renee & Renato - Save Your Love
1983: The Flying Pickets - Only You
These songs had gone off-topic somewhat. Another Brick In The Wall is one of the unChristmassiest records ever to make Christmas Number 1, while Don't You Want Me confirmed that a brilliant song could cut through the glitter and hit the top regardless. Elsewhere, novelty (and sickliness) abounded.
1984: Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas?
1985: Shakin' Stevens - Merry Christmas Everyone
1986: Jackie Wilson - Reet Petite
1987: Pet Shop Boys - Always On My Mind
1988: Cliff Richard - Mistletoe & Wine
1989: Band Aid II - Do They Know It's Christmas?
1990: Cliff Richard - Saviours' Day
In the mid-80s Christmas was back, if not initially for the happiest of reasons. Band Aid proved you can write a big hit to order... and appear on the list twice, as does Cliff, with Shakin' Stevens completing the festive contingent. Who'd have guessed the Pet Shop Boys would have intruded inbetween?
1991: Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody / These Are The Days Of Our Lives
1992: Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
1993: Mr Blobby - Mr Blobby
1994: East 17 - Stay Another Day
1995: Michael Jackson - Earth Song
And then, unless you count East 17's sleigh bells and furry parkas, specific Christmasness faded away again. Big name American singers were back in on the act, as were big pink novelty characters. And although you may not think of Bohemian Rhapsody as a Christmas Number 1, it's actually achieved the feat twice. This might be as far down the list as you can sing along.
1996: Spice Girls - 2 Become 1
1997: Spice Girls - Too Much
1998: Spice Girls - Goodbye
1999: Westlife - I Have A Dream / Seasons In The Sun
Ah, those three successive years when the Spice Girls were unstoppable. If you count Westlife as a brazen attempt to devise an insipid male version, four.
2000: Bob The Builder - Can We Fix It?
2001: Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman - Somethin' Stupid
2002: Girls Aloud - Sound of the Underground
2003: Michael Andrews and Gary Jules - Mad World
2004: Band Aid 20 - Do They Know It's Christmas?
Here's the last sequence of Christmas Number 1s that could perhaps be described as 'normal'. A novelty song, a celebrity duet, an all-female belter, a leftfield cover and a 20-year-old repeat. This might be as far down the list as you can sing along. But that appearance by Girls Aloud presaged what was about to happen next... total TV dominance.
2005: Shayne Ward - That's My Goal
2006: Leona Lewis - A Moment Like This
2007: Leon Jackson - When You Believe
2008: Alexandra Burke - Hallelujah
2009: Rage Against The Machine - Killing In The Name
2010: Matt Cardle - When We Collide
In the mid 2000s the X Factor destroyed the race for Christmas Number 1. Whatever record the winner released would instantly top the charts at Christmas, indeed was deliberately designed to, so how we cheered when Rage Against The Machine snuck in and stomped on Joe McElderry in the crucial week.
2011: The Military Wives Choir - Wherever You Are
2012: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - The Justice Collective
Once the genie was out of the bottle, that an internet campaign could drive an unexpected song to Christmas Number 1, two followed on. As music headed increasingly online, the UK public preferred to give their money to a good cause rather than to Simon Cowell's bank balance.
2013: Skyscraper - Sam Bailey
2014: Something I Need - Ben Haenow
The X Factor hit back for a couple of years but it proved a last hurrah (and since 2017 the winner's single hasn't even been released in the right week to take the crown).
2015: A Bridge Over You - The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir
In 2015 another charity campaign won out (if you can call the NHS a charity, which it isn't yet, but maybe that was the point).
2016: Rockabye - Clean Bandit
2017: Perfect - Ed Sheeran
Then, unusually, the Christmas chart race returned to the realm of top pop acts. Proper chart heavyweights, not just warbling electronic voices bankrolled by formulaic producers.
2018: We Built This City... On Sausage Rolls - LadBaby
But this year the utter unexpectedness of the Christmas Number 1 is back again. The triumphant act is a YouTube vlogger from Hemel Hempstead with a novelty song based on the 1985 hit by Starship of almost the same name. It came from nowhere, propelled by the British public's love of an underdog and an excellent charitable cause (not to mention a love of meat-filled pastry tubes). It's endearing, it's rubbish, it's the sort of purchase you'll only play once, but it is inimitably the unpredictable spirit of the Christmas Number 1. Some things never change.

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