Whatever happened to the ‘Christmas Number 1’?


Whatever happened to the great British tradition of The Christmas Number One? The answer, predictably, is Simon Cowell. Cowell, and his bank balance, have demolished the decades-old tradition of bands recording festive tunes for the race to be the Christmas number one.

The last Sunday before Christmas used to have people tuning into the radio for the Top Forty countdown, placing bets on which band would do it, and either rejoicing or booing, dependent on the outcome, whilst recording their own mix tapes of the tunes they liked the best.

Nowadays, all that happens is that the winner of the X-Factor is Christmas number one. Ta-daah. End of. Unless you have a random year (2009 and the Rage Against the Machine campaign to beat Cowell, for example), then you can predict the Christmas number one for 2016 before Christmas 2015 has even begun.

And how boringly miserable is that? Who even watches The X-Factor these days? Clearly a fair number must, although it’s declined greatly in number since its heyday, when we all enjoyed the novelty and got into the swing of things. But surely people miss the enjoyment of variety, and Christmas songs?

My girls love nothing more than a festive CD in the car as soon as December begins. They love the bonkers joy of Wizard, the sweet, haunting overtones of traditional choir-sung carols, and the melancholic chords of I Believe In Father Christmas.

This year, whilst listening their choice of Chrimbo CD, my husband and I started discussing the now-past phenomenon of the Christmas Number One, and it suddenly dawned on us that our kids have absolutely no idea of what that means. Not a clue. The realization of this was akin to when you realise that your kids will never know who Princess Diana really was, and a little piece of you notes that times truly are, as Dylan said, a changin’.

Great British institutions, like the shops shutting for several days at Christmas, carol singers in residential streets, the excitement of listening to the top forty and hearing your favourite bands’ entries for the race to the number one spot, are gone.

Instead, we have Simon Cowell, with a programme that lost its sparkle years ago, and the dull routine of giving him a massive Christmas bonus each year. In the words of the aforementioned I Believe In Father Christmas, ‘the Christmas we get, we deserve’. Perhaps harkening back to the old traditions, the core values, and the daft fun of festive seasons past, would be good for all of us.


First published in The Portsmouth News on Tuesday 8th December 2015

Image courtesy of thrillson.blogspot.com (The Darkness, Don’t Let the Bells End)


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