Christmas advertisements start in late October, shopping centres start putting up their decorations in early November, but I personally don’t believe in starting to think about Christmas until December starts. Luckily, we’re now there, so let’s get festive!
A UK festive obsession – who will be number one?
One tradition of this time of year is that all the old favourite Christmas songs start appearing on radios, music channels and in shops. Some people hate them, but I’m definitely a fan. There’s also huge media interest in the UK about what will be the “Christmas Number One”, in other words, the biggest selling single in the week before Christmas. Here are six of my favourite songs, spanning five decades. Have a sing, I mean, read, through and let me know your favourite UK festive hit.
1960s: Sleigh Ride by the Ronettes
This song originally appeared on Phil Spector’s Christmas Album. Released in 1963, it is considered one of the most iconic Christmas albums ever and still sounds great. Other tracks included, “Winter Wonderland”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snowman”, which was also sung by the Ronettes. “Sleigh Ride” is best known for the “ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding” in the chorus.
For many people, this is THE Christmas song. It was originally released in 1973, and returns to the UK charts almost every year. Slade were part of the glam-rock movement in the 1970s, and were considered uncool by many. However, even if they’d only ever released this one song, their place in music history would still be assured. Singer Noddy Holder and the rest of the group can probably afford to live off the royalties generated by this classic!
Another all-time classic. Wham! were a duo, with George Michael singing, writing and producing, and Andrew Ridgeley doing, er, not much actually! Amazingly, Last Christmas didn’t even reach Number One in the charts, despite Wham! being the 80s equivalent of One Direction. The reason? It was released the same year as the charity single by Band Aid, ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas?’. The charitable song became the biggest-selling single ever. Fear not George Michael fans, he was also one of the featured stars in the Band Aid song.
After Christmas, many festive songs drop out of the charts very quickly, but Wham! avoided this by having a double-A-side, withEverything She Wants as the B side of the single. According to George Michael, this was the best song that the band ever did.
I’m choosing two songs from the 80s, because it’s “my” decade and because I can’t leave this one out. If I had to choose, this would be my favourite Christmas song, which is ironic in a way because I don’t drive! A few years after this, Chris Rea released the album “The Road to Hell” which was inspired by being stuck in traffic on the M25 motorway. Clearly Chris Rea is tarmac inspired and it must be quite an achievement for him to get home in time for Christmas!
Usually, I’m not a fan of Mariah Carey at all. But this one qualifies because of the film Love Actually. In the film, a dozen mini-stories combine at the end to produce a finale with this song, which also regularly returns to the UK Charts each year. Many people now wonder what came first, the song or the movie (a nice seasonal twist on the chicken versus egg debate). Mariah’s hit is based on a very simple idea that people are more important than presents!
This song was originally from the 1960s, but was revived in 2008 by Gabriella Cilmi, who was only 17 years old at the time. The song was featured in Christmas advertisements for the Co-op, a familiar sight on any British high street. It seems strange that Gabriella sings about snow and being cold at Christmas time, because she’s from Australia, where it’s high summer during the Christmas period and they eat their turkey on the beach!
Five decade countdown
There you have it my top six festive hits. If you are looking for a way to pass the time at work before Christmas, why don’t you start a ‘best Christmas tune debate’. It’s guaranteed to create some excitement and lots of distraction. Let me know what the office decision is via the comment box.
Ho, ho, ho! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!