Coolest Christmas Number 1’s
December 4, 2010 Leave a comment
It’s 2010 and the race for the Christmas number 1 is well underway. We’ve had some Christmas goodies and some Christmas baddies, and who can forget last years epic battle against Facebook and X-Factor?
We’ve had tears, punches and tantrums, but finally the Stoke Gigs office managed to come up with our definitive list of the 10 best Christmas tracks. So grab yourself a cuppa and a biscuit, sit tight, and enjoy Stoke Gigs coolest Christmas number 1’s.
(10) Do They Know It’s Christmas? Band Aid – 1984
Back in the 80’s a BBC report by Micheal Buerk was aired highlighting the famine that had hit the people of Ethiopia. Former Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldof saw the report and called on his good friend Midge Ure to write and produce a single to raise money for the relief of the 1984-85 famine, and a legend was born.
Geldof put together a group called Band Aid, consisting of Irish and British musicians such as Paul Weller, Bono, David Bowie, Jools Holland and many more besides, and Do They Know It’s Christmas? Quickly became the biggest selling single in UK singles chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone.
In 2001, the song was included on the Now That’s What I Call Christmas! CD, along with 35 other popular Christmas songs, many by the original artists. Those artists who participated on the CD received a platinum album for their contributions to its success.
(9) The Killers Don’t Shoot Me Santa – 2007
In 2007 Las Vegas Rockers The Killers turned their hand to the Christmas charity single market, releasing Don’t Shoot Me Santa as part of the Product Red campaign with proceeds going to AIDS charities.
Although the single didn’t clamber into the top 20, the song quickly claimed cult status amongst Killers fans, with one of the oddest accompanying videos. Shot by Matthew Gray Gubler, it featured Ryan Pardey a musician in his own right and also a named muse for the American band.
The kings of cool were not content with this, their second Christmas single, and have since released Joseph Better You Than Me, featuring Elton John and last years offering, Happy Birthday Guadalupe featuring 90210 heart throb Luke Perry in the video. Further displaying their giving style, all records have been released in the name of charity, making the band not only cool, but also caring.
(8) The Beatles Christmas Time (Is Here Again) – 1967
These Liverpudlians were the original kings of cool. The Godfather of boybands, the champions of groupies and the saviours of the north turned their hand to the Christmas market back in 1967.
The track was originally released exclusively to members of the Beatles’ fan club who were willing to order the record through the mail and then found itself included in the 1970 compilation LP The Beatles’ Christmas Album before being officially released in the 1995 Free As A Bird single.
The track has since been released as a cover version by REM in 2000 for their fan club, bringing the track full circle.
Indie geniuses The Strokes christened the new Millenium with their music making its way into our record collections and hearts. The band stood for everything we wanted to be, as we quickly adopted stonewash denim, Chelsea boots, and a penchant for bottled beer, eager to be more like our new idols.
The bands lead singer, Julian Casablancas, was literally so cool, looking at him for too long would turn you into a block of ice.
Now, it’s difficult to explain to UK audiences but over in America, Saturday Night Live is one of the BIGGEST shows on television. I Wish It Was Christmas Today has been SNL’s running Christmas joke song since 2000, yet in true Casablancas style, just one verse in and this naff novelty song has been transformed into a sulty re-mastered version, worthy of making it onto any Strokes album.
The single comes from Julian’s recent solo album, Phrazes For The Young, and was be released as a limited edition 7” and download last December.
(6) Bob Dylan Must Be Santa – 2009
Last year Bob Dylan released ‘Christmas in the Heart,’ a collection of traditional holiday classics, including ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ and more besides.
Just days later a music video of Dylan’s polka-inspired take on ‘Must Be Santa’ was posted on YouTube. The theme of which is arguably bizarre, with the musical legend donning different hats and seeming quite out of place, while crazed Christmas revelers dance and party around him.
It’s a mystery whether Dylan was aiming to celebrate the holiday or gently poke fun at the music, but we like it. We like it a lot.
(5) Manic Street Preachers Ghost Of Christmas – 2007
Alternative Glam Punk Rockers, Manic Street Preachers, have epitomized cool since the early 90’s.
The Manics released their debut album Generation Terrorists in 1992, and their outspoken songs about alienation and despair became the angst filled anthems that teenagers had been looking for. Then on February 1st 1995, the hugely iconic lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards mysteriously vanished, never to be seen again. Despite the bands despair, they continued to plough on and recorded a further 6 albums, cementing their position as serious musicians in the face of adversity.
The band have gone on to make major music festival appearances such as Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight, and to thank fans for being so loyal over the years, decided to give them an early Christmas present.
On December 1st 2007, the band announced their festive track The Ghost Of Christmas would be available as a free download from their website, with Bassist Nicky Wire saying “The song is an old school Christmas, the anti-‘X Factor’, for us it’s actual fun.”
Sadly as the song was never available to buy, it never made it into any Christmas charts, but for being the first X-Factor contender that truly made it into our hearts, we applaud you.
(4) East 17 Stay Another Day – 1994
We realize that East 17 have made it into our line up. And we realize that they came fourth. Yes we also know what they are wearing. But listen again.
It’s actually an incredibly moving song, written by Tony Mortimer about his brother Ollie who committed suicide, and Tony subsequently received an Ivor Novello songwriting award for the song.
And if you’re still not convinced BBC 1 producers couldn’t think of a more fitting song to play as Wellard the dog was put down during an episode of Eastenders.
All joking aside, Christmas, unfortunately, isn’t just about getting plastered and shoving too much food down your throat, but also about love and family. And for touching our hearts, this track is number 4. So there.
(3) Rage Against The Machine Killing In The Name Of – 2009
For years the winner of the X Factor has been a dead cert for the Christmas number one, and 2009’s winner Joe McElderry was a dead cert, that is until Facebook poked it’s nose in.
Disillusioned by the Christmas market an online campaign which started small, encouraged others to buy Rage Against The Machine’s 1992 hit Killing In The Name Of. After the music press and news channels alike jumped onto the bandwagon, the single gave Joe McElderry’s Climb a run for its money and finally pipped it to the number one spot.
Simon Cowell himself was impressed with Jon and Tracey Mortor who spearheaded the campaign and was quoted as saying, ” I am genuinely impressed by the campaign, It has been good with no dirty tricks and without any funding. They have been passionate and worked hard. I offered them jobs at my record company. It could be in marketing or perhaps even running the company. This is their first attempt at putting out a record and they got a Christmas no 1, so they have not done badly at all. I wanted them to come and work for us. I was deadly serious but they haven’t taken me up on the offer.”
(2) John Lennon Happy Christmas (War Is Over) – 1972
Often credited as the coolest and the first original British pop stars, The Beatles cemented their place in the history of British Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Lennon had a rebellious nature and sharp wit, which proved to be a source of controversy throughout his working career.
After the break up of The Beatles Lennon had embarked on a solo career with politically fuelled tracks like Imagine.
In late 1969 America was deeply entrenched in the unpopular Vietnam War, so John and his wife, Yoko Ono, rented billboards and posters in eleven cities around the world reading “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) Happy Christmas from John and Yoko.”
Following this stunt, the couple decided to put their message into the now immortal song, which was released in 1972. Lennon was shot and killed less than 3 weeks before Christmas in 1980, leading to the re-release of the song on December 20th.
Years on, the single is just as poignant and thought provoking, and a perfect complement to any Christmas compilation.
(1) The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl Fairytale of New York – 1987
Fairytale Of New York is by far the coolest Christmas song of all time. The Irish folk style Ballard was first released in 1987 but it’s legacy lives on.
The song features Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl, and tells the story of a drunken man’s Christmas Eve in a New York City drunk tank, reminiscing about a failed relationship.
Unlike it’s Christmas predecessors this romantic tale of woe is weaved into an intricate plot of a pair of Irish immigrants moving to America to seek their fame and fortune but were ultimately destroyed by our fascination with commercialism and greed.
It’s a stark tale that highlights the plight of a modern Christmas with most UK families choosing to plunge into debt each year to cover the costs of their children’s wild expectations. And whilst this song is a yearly fixture, much like your decorations and turkey dinners, it’s true meaning seems to have been lost over the years, much like Christmas itself.
So while the song is not full of your traditional yuletide cheer, it’s certainly a thought provoking look at the state of the music industry, from the volume of illegal downloads bringing artists and manufacturers to their knees, to Sony BMG and Simon Cowell’s X-Factor legion hijacking the charts year in year out.
However, as Buddy the Elf once but it, ‘the best way to spread Christmas cheer, is to sing it loud for all to hear.’
So sing them loud and proud and have a very merry Christmas from all of us at the Stoke Gigs team.