It’s Friday which can only mean one thing, it’s time for Top of the Pops!
Whoops, slipped into 80s mode a little early then. However, it’s partly true, because Friday’s this December mean a rundown of Christmas No. 1’s from years gone by.
So, who topped the tree in the 1980s – the decade of big hair, colourful plastic jewellery and Bullseye (Who the hell needed a speedboat in Leicester?).
Which song topped the charts twice?
Which Corrie star fought off one of the most influential musicians of all time?
But most importantly, who topped the charts when I was only three days old?
Read on and hold on to your hairspray!
How Many 1980s Christmas No. 1’s Do You Remember?
St Winifred’s Choir – There’s No-one Quite Like Grandma
Sung by a primary school from Stockport which included former Coronation St actor Sally Lindsay (still a child then, obvs!) this sickly-sweet number held off some pretty stiff competition to claim the Christmas crown.
There’s No-one Quite Like Grandma’s success is all the more surprising considering it knocked John Lennon’s final release ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ off the top three weeks after his death, held off a posthumous release of his classic single, ‘Imagine’, and beat off further competition in the shape of the now Christmas staple ‘Stop the Cavalry’ by Jona Lewie.
And with lyrics such as:
There’s no one quite like Grandma
She’s there in times of need
Before it’s bedtime, on her knee
To us a book she’ll read
Means it makes you feel nauseous from the first line, right through to the last.
Honestly, Lennon was robbed!
The Human League – Don’t You Want Me
And they did.
They really did.
My parents really did want me, that is.
Yes, 1981, the year of my birth saw The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ claim the Christmas No. 1 when I was just three days old (and yes, I do get separate presents).
It entered the charts on 27th November and hung on to top spot for five weeks. It’s since gone on to sell over 1.5 million copies and, at time of writing, is the 23rd most successful single in UK chart history.
The Human League asked: “Don’t you want me?”
And the public answered: “Yes. Yes, we do.”
As did my parents.
Thanks, Mum. Thanks, Dad.
Renée and Renato – Save Your Love
Renée and Renato’s ‘Save Your Love’ was a slow burner. So slow in fact that it had already been in the charts for six weeks before radio play and subsequent airings on Top of the Pops pushed up sales until it claimed the top spot just in time for Christmas.
It was also the first entirely ‘indie’ chart-topper selling around 980,000 copies.
It stayed at No. 1 for four weeks before Phil Collins’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ replaced it.
You can’t hurry love, but Renée and Renato didn’t need to, it may have taken six weeks, but they got there in the end.
The Flying Pickets – Only You
‘Only You’ was initially released in March 1982 by former Depeche Mode singer Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet (also known as Yazoo).
It was a hit in its own right, making it to No. 2 in the charts. However, ‘Only You’ was to go on to have further success twenty months later when The Flying Pickets recorded an a cappella version and took it to No. 1 for five weeks, including Christmas.
It was the first ever a cappella song to top the UK Charts.
Remember that. You never know when it’ll come in handy during an argument.
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
What is there to say about one of the most important songs of all time?
Because that’s what it is.
In 1984, Bob Geldof created a supergroup that included some of the biggest acts of the time, including:
- George Michael
- Spandau Ballet
- Duran Duran
- Boy George
- Paul Weller
- Paul Young
- Phil Collins, and
To raise awareness of the famine in Ethiopia. It became the fastest selling single in UK history, selling over one million copies in its first week of release and ensuring it topped the charts for five weeks.
By 31st December 1984, it had sold over 3 million copies and replaced ‘Mull of Kintyre’ (thank God) as the biggest selling single in UK chart history up to that point.
‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ is another Christmas classic we hear every year, and with children still starving in countries around the world, it’s a message still relevant today.
Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone
Did you know ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ was released a year late?
See that as my gift to you (sorry, bit skint to get you all an iFi xDSD, maybe next year?)
But why was it released twelve months later than planned?
Well, scroll back up to 1984, and there’s your reason.
To make sure it didn’t clash with Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, ol’ Shaky delayed the release and the gamble paid off by landing the Christmas No. 1 as hoped.
And as Shakin’ Stevens fancied himself as a British Elvis, he even covered ‘Blue Christmas’ on the B-side, a song made famous by the King himself.
Thank you very much!
Jackie Wilson – Reet Petite (The Sweetest Girl In Town)
After two years of songs with Christmas in the title, Jackie Wilson climbed to the top of the tree in 1986 with ‘Reet Petite (The Sweetest Girl In Town)’.
This fun, upbeat number is a classic toe-tapper with a Claymation video to boot. Okay, by Wallace and Gromit standards, it’s pretty dated (and there’s no cheese in sight!) – but for the time, it looked fantastic.
It’s a brilliant tune worthy of its four weeks at No. 1 in 1986, three years after Wilson’s death.
A remarkable feat considering it only reached No. 6 in the UK charts on its original release in 1957.
Was it down to the Claymation?
Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind
I love Elvis. My wife loves Elvis. Loads of people love Elvis.
So, how do you cover an iconic Elvis song (which was a cover in itself!) without it being universally hated by fans of the King worldwide?
You do what the Pet Shop Boys did.
Their mix was so far removed from the Elvis version that it almost feels like you’re listening to a completely different song. If you’re going to do a cover, do it differently to the version done by one of the biggest artists ever and do it well.
It’s pure 80s electronica – yet it hasn’t dated a day.
Cliff Richard – Mistletoe and Wine
Okay, I have a bone to pick with ‘Mistletoe and Wine’.
But don’t worry, I’m not the BBC, so I don’t have helicopters circling his house.
I don’t mind ‘Mistletoe and Wine’. It’s one of those cosy Christmas songs that you hear and you’re happy to hear it while sitting on the sofa in a Christmas jumper as you quaff a class of, well, wine.
However, I was seven when I first heard this song, and something has bugged me for every one of the proceeding twenty-nine years.
What’s bugged me?
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
Now, I’ve been to a lot of houses at Christmas in my time, but I’m yet to see gifts on a tree.
Does he mean actual gifts?
Is he referring to the decorations?
Or was this something that happened long before I was born and was halted abruptly when it became apparent people might be killed by a falling Atari or Spectrum due to the inadequate strength of the tree branches?
Honestly, if anyone can clarify this for me in the comments, please do, it’s haunted me my entire life.
Oh, and it enjoyed four weeks at No. 1.
Band Aid II – Do They Know It’s Christmas
Five years after its initial release, this was actually the third version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ in five years (including the re-release of the original in 1985 which peaked at No. 3 in the charts).
However, the difference with Band Aid II was it was re-issued by Stock, Aitkin and Waterman, and involved different artists, including:
- Big Fun
- Cathy Dennis
- D Mob
- Jason Donovan
- Kylie Minogue
- Chris Rea
- Cliff Richard
- Jimmy Somerville
- Lisa Stansfield, and
- Wet Wet Wet
In fact, only one artist from the original release returned to add vocals to the 1989 version, and that was Bananarama.
However, it was still a massive hit and claimed three weeks at No. 1.
Join me next time when I’ll be reminiscing about the Christmas hits of the 1990s – including a group who’d dominate for three straight years and some bloke in a big pink foam suit covered in yellow spots.
Yeah, hold on tight and pour yourself a large glass of wine for that one.
See you then!