The race for the Christmas number one is heating up.
But as hopeful acts shuffle into position and await to be crowned the winner on Christmas Day, what can we learn from the history of the most coveted race in music?
Historically, the Christmas number one is so tightly fought over because the volume of record sales in the UK peaks around the festive season.
This means the Christmas number one is considered especially prestigious, more so than any other time of year – if you can outsell every other song at this time of year, especially those Christmas classics that make an annual resurgence in December, you really are doing well.
Here’s some history on the Christmas number one, and a full list of all the acts and artists who can proudly say they’ve held the top spot.
When did the Christmas number one race start?
The first Christmas number one came in December 1952, the first year of the Officials Single Chart.
It was awarded to American singer and actor Al Martino, whose recording of ‘Here in My Heart’ outsold all other songs and remained at the top of the charts for nine weeks.
While Christmas number ones have existed as long as the Official Singles Chart has, it wouldn’t be until about 20 years after the chart’s introduction that the race for the top spot on Christmas Day became as hotly contested as it is today.
1973 was the year when Slade and Wizzard deliberately released festive songs in an effort to reach the top of the charts at Christmas. The victor in that case was the former’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, but both that track and Wizzard's ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ remain festive classics.
Who has had the most Christmas number ones?
Only two acts in history can claim to have had three Christmas number ones in consecutive years. Those are The Beatles and the Spice Girls (the Fab Four actually have four to their name, more than anybody in history), though YouTuber LadBaby is hoping to join their ranks in 2020.
On two occasions The Beatles had both the Christmas number one and the number two; the only other acts to do this are George Michael, who echoed the feat in 1984 appearing on both Band Aid and Wham! tracks, and Ed Sheeran, whose duets with Beyoncé and Eminem topped the charts in 2017.
Paul McCartney has been top eight times (with The Beatles, Wings and Band Aid on various occasions), and Queen's ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the only record to have reached the top spot twice at Christmas (though Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It's Christmas?’ has been there three times, they were different recordings).
And according to the Official Charts Company, in “67 years of Christmas chart-toppers”, only 12 are “genuine” Christmas songs, eight are by TV talent show winners, four are novelty singles, and three are by choirs.
Every Christmas number one in history:
|1952||HERE IN MY HEART||AL MARTINO|
|1953||ANSWER ME||FRANKIE LAINE|
|1954||LET'S HAVE ANOTHER PARTY||WINIFRED ATWELL|
|1955||CHRISTMAS ALPHABET||DICKIE VALENTINE|
|1956||JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN||JOHNNIE RAY|
|1957||MARY'S BOY CHILD||HARRY BELAFONTE|
|1958||IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE||CONWAY TWITTY|
|1959||WHAT DO YOU WANT TO MAKE THOSE EYES AT ME FOR?||EMILE FORD & THE CHECKMATES|
|1960||I LOVE YOU||CLIFF RICHARD & THE SHADOWS|
|1961||MOON RIVER||DANNY WILLIAMS|
|1962||RETURN TO SENDER||ELVIS PRESLEY|
|1963||I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND||THE BEATLES|
|1964||I FEEL FINE||THE BEATLES|
|1965||DAY TRIPPER/WE CAN WORK IT OUT||THE BEATLES|
|1966||GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME||TOM JONES|
|1967||HELLO, GOODBYE||THE BEATLES|
|1968||LILY THE PINK||THE SCAFFOLD|
|1969||TWO LITTLE BOYS||ROLF HARRIS|
|1970||I HEAR YOU KNOCKING||DAVE EDMUNDS|
|1971||ERNIE (THE FASTEST MILKMAN IN THE WEST)||BENNY HILL|
|1972||LONG HAIRED LOVER FROM LIVERPOOL||JIMMY OSMOND|
|1973||MERRY XMAS EVERYBODY||SLADE|
|1974||LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS||MUD|
|1976||WHEN A CHILD IS BORN (SOLEADO)||JOHNNY MATHIS|
|1977||MULL OF KINTYRE/GIRLS' SCHOOL||WINGS|
|1978||MARY'S BOY CHILD – OH MY LORD||BONEY M|
|1979||ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL (PART 2)||PINK FLOYD|
|1980||THERE'S NO ONE QUITE LIKE GRANDMA||ST WINIFRED'S SCHOOL CHOIR|
|1981||DON'T YOU WANT ME||THE HUMAN LEAGUE|
|1982||SAVE YOUR LOVE||RENÉE AND RENATO|
|1983||ONLY YOU||THE FLYING PICKETS|
|1984||DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS?||BAND AID|
|1985||MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE||SHAKIN' STEVENS|
|1986||REET PETITE||JACKIE WILSON|
|1987||ALWAYS ON MY MIND||PET SHOP BOYS|
|1988||MISTLETOE AND WINE||CLIFF RICHARD|
|1989||DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS?||BAND AID II|
|1990||SAVIOUR'S DAY||CLIFF RICHARD|
|1991||BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY/THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES||QUEEN|
|1992||I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU||WHITNEY HOUSTON|
|1993||MR BLOBBY||MR BLOBBY|
|1994||STAY ANOTHER DAY||EAST 17|
|1995||EARTH SONG||MICHAEL JACKSON|
|1996||2 BECOME 1||SPICE GIRLS|
|1997||TOO MUCH||SPICE GIRLS|
|1999||I HAVE A DREAM/SEASONS IN THE SUN||WESTLIFE|
|2000||CAN WE FIX IT?||BOB THE BUILDER|
|2001||SOMETHIN' STUPID||ROBBIE WILLIAMS & NICOLE KIDMAN|
|2002||SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND||GIRLS ALOUD|
|2003||MAD WORLD||MICHAEL ANDREWS & GARY JULES|
|2004||DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS?||BAND AID 20|
|2005||THAT'S MY GOAL||SHAYNE WARD|
|2006||A MOMENT LIKE THIS||LEONA LEWIS|
|2007||WHEN YOU BELIEVE||LEON JACKSON|
|2009||KILLING IN THE NAME||RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE|
|2010||WHEN WE COLLIDE||MATT CARDLE|
|2011||WHEREVER YOU ARE||MILITARY WIVES WITH GARETH MALONE|
|2012||HE AIN'T HEAVY, HE'S MY BROTHER||THE JUSTICE COLLECTIVE|
|2014||SOMETHING I NEED||BEN HAENOW|
|2015||A BRIDGE OVER YOU||THE LEWISHAM & GREENWICH NHS CHOIR|
|2018||WE BUILT THIS CITY||LADBABY|
|2019||I LOVE SAUSAGE ROLLS||LADBABY|
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, the Scotsman