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Christmas Number Ones: Every UK Singles Chart-Topper In History
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Christmas Number Ones: Every UK Singles Chart-Topper In History

The UK’s Christmas number ones have ranged from classic holiday tunes to some surprisingly unseasonal songs. Here’s a complete run-down.

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The music industry has changed beyond recognition since Britain’s singles chart first took shape in 1952, but some of its traditions are immoveable. Like the anticipation that now greets each year’s John Lewis Christmas advert, the race for the UK Christmas No.1 spot is an annual event that almost gets music fans as excited as the big day itself. Here, then, is a rundown of all the official UK Christmas No.1s since chart records began.

Some entries won’t surprise you. The Beatles still hold the record for the most Christmas No.1s – with four to their name – while Spice Girls managed an impressive three consecutive seasonal chart-toppers in the mid-90s. Cliff Richard also has a hat trick of successes, though Band Aid’s charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, enjoys the distinction of being the only song to have topped the charts on 25 December on three occasions.

Elsewhere, it’s amazing to discover that some of the best Christmas songs, including The Pogues’ Fairytale Of New York and Wham!’s Last Christmas, never made it to the top spot – unlike toe-curling novelty one-offs by Benny Hill, Mr Blobby and Bob The Builder. Still, it’s the season of goodwill, so let’s pull some crackers with a roll call of all the UK Christmas No.1s.

Al Martino: Here In My Heart (1952)

Al Martino’s stirring, orchestral ballad made history twice. Prior to scooping the UK’s first ever Christmas No.1 slot, Here In My Heart became the UK’s first official No.1 single. Topping the chart on 14 November 1952, it remained there for nine consecutive weeks.

Frankie Laine: Answer Me (1953)

Originally composed with German lyrics, Gerhard Winkler and Fred Rauch’s Mütterlein was given an English rewrite by Carl Sigman and recorded as Answer Me by both David Whitfield and Frankie Laine in 1953. Whitfield’s version went to No.1 first, only to be knocked off the top spot by Laine’s, which is widely regarded as the stronger of the two.

Winifred Atwell: Let’s Have Another Party (1954)

Helmed by future Scott Walker producer Johnny Franz, Let’s Have Another Party was the follow-up to pianist Winifred Atwell’s previous hit, titled (ahem) Let’s Have A Party. Effectively a ragtime medley, it included parts of standards including Bye Bye Blackbird, Nellie Dean and The Sheik Of Araby.

Dickie Valentine: Christmas Alphabet (1955)

The first specifically festive-themed smash in this list, Christmas Alphabet was first recorded by US trio The Maguire Sisters in 1954. However, former big band star Dickie Valentine’s version was notably more successful, scooping the coveted Christmas No. 1 during an unbroken three-week run atop the British charts.

Johnnie Ray: Just Walking In The Rain (1956)

It’s hard to envisage a ballad written in prison becoming one of the UK’s Christmas No.1s, but Just Walkin’ In The Rain was nonetheless penned by Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley, two inmates at the Tennessee State Prison in Nashville. On release, Bragg and his band, The Prisonaires, recorded it for the legendary Sun Record, but proto-rock’n’roller Johnnie Ray’s version topped the UK charts at Christmas 1956.

Harry Belafonte: Mary’s Boy Child (1957)

A Christmas hit with a calypso flavour, Mary’s Boy Child was penned by US composer and choral conductor Jester Hairston, and twice recorded by Harry Belafonte. Also a feature of his An Evening With Belafonte album, the second, longer version became the first UK No.1 single with a playing time of over four minutes.

Conway Twitty: It’s Only Make Believe (1958)

It’s Only Make Believe was originally the B-side of country star Conway Twitty’s I’ll Try; not only did it go on to join the ranks of UK Christmas No1.s, but it also rewarded the Mississippi-born singer with the only chart-topper of his career. The song has since become something of a standard, with artists as disparate as The Hollies and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins taking a tilt at it.

Emile Ford And The Checkmates: What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For? (1959)

What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For? dates back to the 1916 Broadway production Follow Me. However, Emile Ford’s doo-wop-styled remake later took the song to the top of the UK singles chart in 1959, edging out Adam Faith’s What Do You Want? To become that year’s Christmas No.1

Cliff Richard And The Shadows: I Love You (1960)

Written by The Shadows’ rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch, the heartfelt I Love You was Cliff Richard And The Shadows’ fourth UK No.1 hit, and was so popular it remained at the top of the charts for two weeks over the Christmas period, despite having no discernible festive theme.

Danny Williams: Moon River (1961)

For many, the Grammy Award-winning Moon River remains synonymous with Audrey Hepburn’s performance in Breakfast In Tiffany’s, but this Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer composition has enjoyed an extremely healthy afterlife, providing celebrated US crooner Andy Williams with his theme song, and South African-born UK pop sensation Danny Williams with the UK’s Christmas No.1 in 1961.

Elvis Presley: Return To Sender (1962)

Helped along by its inclusion in the Golden Globe-nominated Girls! Girls! Girls!, Elvis’ Return To Sender topped the UK singles chart – and also the very first Irish singles chart – at Christmas 1962.

The Beatles: I Want To Hold Your Hand (1963)

I Want To Hold Your Hand sat at the UK No.1 spot for five weeks across the festive period. Later topping the US Billboard chart, it became the band’s best-selling global release, moving over 12 million copies.

The Beatles: I Feel Fine (1964)

Knocking The Rolling Stones’ Little Red Rooster off the top of the charts, I Feel Fine first hit No.1 on 12 December 1964, where it remained for five weeks, becoming the second of The Beatles’ four UK Christmas No.1s

The Beatles: Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out (1965)

The Fab Four’s third consecutive UK Christmas No.1 marked the first time in Britain that a single was promoted as a double-A-side. Both songs were recorded during the sessions for the band’s Rubber Soul album; We Can Work It Out went on to win an Ivor Novello Award for song composition, while none other than Stax Records’ soul legend Otis Redding would go on to cover Day Tripper.

Tom Jones: Green, Green Grass Of Home (1966)

Porter Wagoner first popularised Green, Green Grass Of Home, taking it into the Top 5 of the US country music chart in 1965. Tom Jones, however, learned it from Jerry Lee Lewis’ cover, and his emotive reading topped the UK charts for seven weeks over the Christmas period in 1966.

The Beatles: Hello, Goodbye (1967)

Backed by the considerably more leftfield I Am The Walrus, the jaunty Hello, Goodbye provided The Beatles with their fourth and final UK Christmas No.1 single. It also topped the charts in ten other countries, including the US and Australia.

The Scaffold: Lily The Pink (1968)

Scouse comedy trio The Scaffold featured Paul McCartney’s brother Mike (billed as Mike McGear). They scored an unlikely smash with their daft, but enjoyable Lily The Pink in 1968. The “medicinal compound” they sang of in the chorus was clearly “efficacious” to the British public its success ensured the Christmas No. 1 remained on Merseyside for another year.

Rolf Harris: Two Little Boys (1969)

The Boer War-related Two Little Boys was written by US composers Theodore F Morse and Edward Madden, and popularised by Scottish singer Harry Lauder during the early 20th century. Rolf Harris’ revival of the song allowed the disgraced Australian-born entertainer to bag the last of the 60s’ Christmas No.1s – and the first UK chart-topper of the 70s.

Dave Edmunds: I Hear You Knocking (1970)

Smiley Lewis’ 1955 recording of I Hear You Knocking was a piano-driven R&B shuffle, but Welsh singer-songwriter Dave Edmunds’ infectiously bluesy take of the song had an across-the-board appeal which led to it nabbing the UK’s Christmas No.1 slot in 1970, on its way to selling over three million copies worldwide.

Benny Hill: Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West) (1971)

Late British comic Benny Hill worked as a milkman before he became famous. His old job inspired this innuendo-laden novelty song, which first featured in the BBC’s Benny Hill Show in 1970 before topping the UK’s Christmas singles chart the following year.

Little Jimmy Osmond: Long Haired Lover From Liverpool (1972)

US family entertainers The Osmonds were massive during the early 70s. Donny and Marie were arguably the most popular, but the littlest sibling, Jimmy Osmond, became the youngest person to score a UK No.1 single when, aged nine years and eight months, he released this quirky pop song.

Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody (1973)

Released at the height of the band’s popularity, Slade’s ubiquitous Merry Xmas Everybody sold well over a million copies and went silver on pre-orders alone. It narrowly edged out another festive perennial – Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – to stake its claim among the UK’s Christmas No.1s in 1973.

Mud: Lonely This Christmas (1974)

Mud never had the critical cachet of glam-era stars Marc Bolan or Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, but they were contenders in 1974, scoring their first UK chart-topper with Tiger Feet and then nabbing the Christmas No.1 spot with Lonely This Christmas, an Elvis pastiche with a broad demographic appeal.

Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

Officially the most-streamed song of the 20th century, Queen’s singular Bohemian Rhapsody continues to enjoy a remarkable afterlife. It’s broken numerous records along the way, but it can also boast of being the only song to reach the UK Christmas No.1 spot twice by the same artist – first in 1975 and then after singer Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991.

Johnny Mathis: When A Child Is Born (Soleado) (1976)

Rather like Frankie Laine’s Answer Me, When A Child Is Born has a convoluted history. The song’s original melody (Soleado) was written in 1974 by Italian composer Ciro Dammicco, with English lyrics later penned by Boney M collaborator Fred Jay. US crooner Johnny Mathis’ arguably definitive version topped the UK charts for Christmas 1976.

Wings: Mull Of Kintyre/Girls’ School (1977)

Paul McCartney wrote Mull Of Kintyre in tribute to the Scottish peninsula housing High Park Farm, which he bought in 1966. A yearning ballad which interpolates part of Auld Lang Syne, it scooped the Christmas No.1 in 1977 and become the first UK single to sell two million copies.

Boney M: Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord (1978)

Harry Belafonte’s version of Mary’s Boy Child hit the UK No.1 spot for Christmas 1957, but Boney M returned it to the top of the chart in 1978 as part of a medley incorporating a new song, Oh My Lord, co-penned by the group’s producer, Frank Farian.

Pink Floyd: Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) (1979)

On paper, it’s hard to imagine a less festive Christmas No.1 single than this smouldering protest song about abusive teachers. There again, schoolchildren everywhere could surely relate to Another Brick In The Wall’s kiss-off line: “Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!” The song’s universal message eventually led to it selling four million copies worldwide.

St Winifred’s School Choir: There’s No One Quite Like Grandma (1980)

The well-drilled choir from this Greater Manchester school couldn’t lose with There’s No One Quite Like Grandma. Written to mark the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday, the song was a surefire Christmas gift from grandchildren all over the country.

The Human League: Don’t You Want Me (1981)

The Human League’s third album, the glossy, Martin Rushent-produced Dare, was one of 1981’s biggest albums and it provided the band with their signature hit, Don’t You Want Me. Not only the Christmas No.1 for that year, it became the UK’s biggest-selling single of 1981.

Renée And Renato: Save Your Love (1982)

Short-lived duo Renée And Renato are dismissed as one-hit wonders, but their 1982 Christmas chart topper, Save Your Love – released through co-writer Johnny Edward’s own Hollywood imprint – became the first totally independently-released single to make No.1 in the UK.

The Flying Pickets: Only You (1983)

So named because their members had been involved in the miners’ strikes of the 70s, The Flying Pickets were a group of thespians turned singers whose USP was to transfer the art of a cappella singing to pop music. It worked a dream with their cover of Yazoo’s Only You, which sat at No.1 over Christmas 1983 as part of a five-week stay at the top of the charts.

Band Aid: Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984)

Perhaps the most high-profile charity single ever, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s star-studded Do They Know It’s Christmas? was written and recorded to raise funds for famine-ridden Ethiopia. Not only 1984’s addition to the UK’s Christmas No.1s, Do They Know It’s Christmas became the fastest-selling single of all time in the UK, even leaving Mull Of Kintyre in its wake.

Shakin’ Stevens: Merry Christmas Everyone (1985)

Produced by Dave Edmunds of I Hear You Knockin’ fame, Shakin’ Stevens’ feelgood festive hit, Merry Christmas Everyone, was the Welshman’s fourth and (to date) final UK No.1. A Christmas evergreen, it has since re-charted in numerous Christmas run-downs, most recently reaching No.9 in 2018.

Jackie Wilson: Reet Petite (1986)

Reet Petite was US soul star Jackie Wilson’s first solo hit following his tenure with The Dominoes. A UK Top 10 hit in 1957, the song enjoyed a surge in popularity and shot to the UK for Christmas 1986, following the showing of a claymation video on the BBC Two documentary series Arena.

Pet Shop Boys: Always On My Mind (1987)

Already recorded with discernment by Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley, and yielding a Grammy for Willie Nelson, Always On My Mind also lent itself to admirably to Pet Shop Boys’ radical synth-pop treatment. It rewarded the band with their third UK chart-topper and famously beat The Pogues’ Fairytale Of New York to the punch to become 1987’s Christmas No.1.

Cliff Richard: Mistletoe And Wine (1988)

Sir Cliff’s previous Christmas No.1, I Love You (with The Shadows), wasn’t really a Christmas song, but his second, Mistletoe And Wine, certainly was. With slightly different lyrics, the song had initially been written for a stage musical, Scraps: an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl.

Band Aid II: Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1989)

The final UK No.1 of the 80s, the first remake of Do They Know It’s Christmas? was overseen by in-vogue production team Stock Aitken & Waterman and featured contributions from Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Bananarama, Jimi Somerville and more

Cliff Richard: Saviour’s Day (1990)

Saviour’s Day’s writer Chris Eaton was reputedly so insistent that Cliff Richard record the song, he left his original demo in Cliff’s Rolls-Royce at a Christmas Party. Eaton’s persistence was rewarded when Cliff’s version knocked Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby off the No.1 spot in time for Christmas 1990.

Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody/These Are The Days Of Our Lives (1991)

Coupled with the emotive These Are The Days Of Our Lives, from their Innuendo album, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody returned to make its second appearance among the UK’s Christmas No.1s, just weeks after Freddie Mercury’s death on 24 November 1991.

Whitney Houston: I Will Always Love You (1992)

Originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973, I Will Always Love You made a spectacular comeback in 1992 when Whitney Houston recorded her version for the blockbuster movie, The Bodyguard. Aside from confidently taking its place among the UK Christmas No.1s, it spent 14 weeks at the top spot in the US and sold a whopping 20 million copies globally. So much did Houston own the song, her version has become one of those recordings people don’t even know are covers.

Mr Blobby: Mr Blobby (1993)

This self-titled novelty song credited to a fantasy character who appeared on the UK TV show Noel’s House Party was greeted by howls of derision by serious music fans. It had the last laugh, though, when it nabbed the year’s Christmas No.1 spot

East 17: Stay Another Day (1994)

Arguably Take That’s biggest rivals, London boy band East 17 scored their only UK No.1 with Stay Another Day, co-written by the band’s leader, Tony Mortimer. Hardly typical boy band fare, this classy ballad succeeded because its subject matter was close to home, with Mortimer writing the song in response to his brother’s suicide.

Michael Jackson: Earth Song (1995)

Beating off challenges from The Beatles’ Free As A Bird and Oasis’ Wonderwall for 1995’s Christmas No.1 single, Michael Jackson’s lavish eco-ballad Earth Song was a huge success, though it’s difficult to hear it without recalling Jarvis Cocker’s anarchic stage invasion during Jackson’s performance at the 1996 BRIT Awards.

Spice Girls: 2 Become 1 (1996)

Released at the height of Spice Girls mania, the all-conquering girl group’s third single, 2 Become 1, was only released on 16 December, but it rapidly swept all before it to top the UK chart over Christmas, moving well over a million copies in the process.

Spice Girls: Too Much (1997)

Using doo-wop records as its template, the R&B-flavoured Too Much was a bit of a departure for the Spice Girls, but that didn’t prevent it from repeating 2 Become 1’s success and rewarding the band with their second UK Christmas No.1 in a row.

Spice Girls: Goodbye (1998)

Spice Girls equalled The Beatles’ long-held record of three consecutive Christmas No.1s with 1998’s Goodbye. The song’s title set off unfounded rumours of the group’s demise, but it was written as a farewell to Geri Halliwell, who had left the group earlier in the year.

Westlife: I Have A Dream/Seasons In The Sun (1999)

Arguably the mainstream pop sensations of 1999, Irish boy band Westlife left the competition standing with their self-titled debut album, which included no less than five UK No. 1 singles. Their double A-side pairing of ABBA’s I Have A Dream and Jacques Brel/Rod McKuen’s Seasons In The Sun rewarded them with the final Christmas No.1 of the millennium.

Bob The Builder: Can We Fix It? (2000)

After their all-consuming performance in 1999, Westlife were confident they’d chalk up a second Christmas No.1 single with What Makes A Man. Their plans came undone, however, when Can We Fix It?, the theme song from children’s TV series Bob The Builder, sold a million copies and stole their thunder.

Robbie Williams And Nicole Kidman: Somethin’ Stupid (2001)

Composed by songwriter C Carson Parks in 1966, Somethin’ Stupid was originally recorded by Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy, and topped the US Billboard chart in 1967. Williams and Kidman’s version of the song appeared on the former’s 2001 covers album, Swing When Your Winning, but also topped that year’s Christmas chart as a standalone single, becoming the first entry in the 21st century’s growing list of UK Christmas No.1s.

Girls Aloud: Sound Of The Underground (2002)

Barely two weeks after their formation was announced on ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals, Girls Aloud’s debut single, Sound Of The Underground, was released, on 16 December 2002, and zoomed up the charts to become the year’s Christmas No.1.

Michael Andrews And Gary Jules: Mad World (2003)

Tears For Fears’ breakthrough hit, Mad World, was revisited by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules for the soundtrack to sci-fi thriller Donnie Darko in 2001. Andrews and Jules’ piano-led cover pared the song’s arrangement back, and their memorable version triumphed as a standalone single in 2003.

Band Aid 20: Do They Know It’s Christmas? (2004)

Do They Know It’s Christmas? celebrated its 20th anniversary with a third UK Christmas No.1. This time, the project’s instigator was Coldplay’s Chris Martin, though Bob Geldof and Midge Ure were again involved, as were a host of contemporary pop names ranging from Natasha Bedingfield to Ash’s Tim Wheeler.

Shayne Ward: That’s My Goal (2005)

Shayne Ward won the second series of The X Factor, and his original winners debut single, That’s My Goal, sold over 700, 000 copies in under a week to secure 2005’s Christmas No.1 slot, where it remained for four weeks.

Leona Lewis: A Moment Like This (2006)

Continuing the trend begun by Shayne Ward, the 2006 X Factor winner, Leona Lewis, took over the festive top spot with her debut single, A Moment Like This. A safe bet for success, the song had already scored a US No.1 for Kelly Clarkson in 2003, while Lewis’ cover reputedly outsold the rest of the songs in the UK’s Christmas chat put together.

Leon Jackson: When You Believe (2007)

Having cornered the mainstream pop market, The X Factor team scored a third consecutive Christmas No.1 single courtesy of Scottish singer Leon Jackson’s version of When You Believe, originally performed by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston for DreamWorks’ 1998 animated musical feature, The Prince Of Egypt.

Alexandra Burke: Hallelujah (2008)

The X Factor was again responsible for a Christmas No.1 when the fifth series’ winner, Alexandra Burke, released her version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Something of a perennial, the song also spawned acclaimed covers by John Cale and Jeff Buckley.

Rage Against The Machine: Killing In The Name (2009)

Inevitably, The X Factor’s monopolisation of the Christmas No.1s throughout the 2000s was beginning to rankle with the general public, who responded by starting a Facebook campaign to get Rage Against The Machine’s furious anti-establishment anthem Killing In The Name to the top spot as a protest. Their campaign succeeded.

Matt Cardle: When We Collide (2010)

The X Factor’s unbroken run of Christmas No.1s came to an end in 2009, but they were back in a vengeance the following year. This time, the victor was Matt Cardle, the winner of the programme’s seventh series, with a cover of Biffy Clyro’s When We Collide which eventually sold over a million copies.

Military Wives With Gareth Malone: Wherever You Are (2011)

A spin-off from the BBC Two TV series of the same name, the Military Wives choir’s recording of choral composer Paul Mealor’s Wherever You Are was performed by the ladies of the Chivenor and Plymouth Choirs under the direction of English choirmaster Gareth Malone. The song claimed 2011’s Christmas No.1 spot with sales of over 550,000 copies in one week.

The Justice Collective: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (2012)

The Justice Collective was spearheaded by Peter Hooton of Liverpudlian indie-pop stars The Farm. Their celebrity cover of The Hollies’ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (featuring vocals from Mel C, Robbie Williams and two members of The Hollies) raised funds for charities associated with the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Sam Bailey: Skyscraper (2013)

After a three-year hiatus, The X Factor team again claimed the UK Christmas No.1. This time, Sam Bailey, the winner of the show’s tenth series, topped the singles chart with her cover of Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper.

Ben Haenow: Something I Need (2014)

Predictably, The X Factor was once again behind the Christmas No.1 when Ben Haenow, winner of the show’s 11th series, topped the UK singles chart with his version of OneRepublic’s Something I Need.

The Lewisham And Greenwich NHS Choir: A Bridge Over You (2015)

This London-based choir first appeared on Gareth Malone’s BBC Two show, The Choir: Sing While You Work, and, with help from a social-media campaign, their recording of A Bridge Over You (a mash-up of Simon & Garfunkel’s A Bridge Over Troubled Water and Coldplay’s Fix You) beat off challenges from Stormzy, Adele, Justin Bieber and The X Factor’s Louisa Johnson to win the coveted Christmas No.1 spot in 2015.

Clean Bandit: Rockabye (2016)

A song with a universal theme, Clean Bandit’s Rockabye dealt with hardships suffered by single mothers and alluded to the nursery rhyme Rock-A-Bye Baby. The song featured guest vocalists Anne-Marie and Jamaican dancehall star Sean Paul, and it had already topped the UK charts for six weeks before returning to the No.1 spot for Christmas week.

Ed Sheeran: Perfect (2017)

In March 2017, Ed Sheeran broke the record set by Frankie Laine in 1953, occupying all of the top five positions in the UK singles chart, and placing nine songs in the Top 10. Perfect, the fourth single (and second No.1) from his album of that year, ÷, topped the Christmas chart after Sheeran performed the song on The X Factor.

LadBaby: We Built This City (2018)

Dividing opinion from the off, Starship’s We Built This City (co-written by Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin) was a massive US hit in 1985. Lifestyle blogger and have-a-go pop star LadBaby’s cover didn’t do the song any favours in the eyes of its detractors, but it still topped the UK charts in 2018.

LadBaby: I Love Sausage Rolls (2019)

LadBaby was at it again in 2019 with his cover of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock’n’Roll, which will forever go down in history as the last of the 2010s’ Christmas No.1s. At least the proceeds went to The Trussell Trust, which works with charities aiming to end the need for food banks.

Missing your favourite in this list of Christmas No.1s? Check out our 20 best Christmas songs of all time

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