In Britain, pop music fans are dead chuffed (as they might have said, oh, I don’t know, maybe 40 years ago) about the annual race for the Christmas Number One on the British singles chart. This year, it will almost certainly be “That’s My Goal” by Shayne Ward. It’s the winning song from the TV show X Factor, which is the British American Idol. However, because the song isn’t being released until today, some bookmakers have stopped taking bets on the Christmas Number One (as they do each year), because they’re unsure how “That’s My Goal”‘s release so close to Christmas Day will affect sales.
As I wrote one year ago today, there’s no tradition in America like that of the Christmas Number One single. But every year, there’s something topping the American charts on December 25. Here are five worth noting from back in the day:
1984: “Like a Virgin”/Madonna. Snicker at the virgin metaphor if you want (Bette Midler once said, “‘Touched for the very first time’? First time today!”), but this is as perfect a pop record as anyone made in the 80s.
1977: “How Deep Is Your Love”/Bee Gees. Snicker at the very idea of the Bee Gees if you want, but this is as perfect a pop record as anyone made in the 70s. A genuinely lovely song performed charmingly and well.
1972: “Me and Mrs. Jones”/Billy Paul. Philly soul perfection, proving again the thin line between pain and pleasure. It had to be hard being in the adulterers’ shoes–but you can tell (if only from that languorous guitar) that it must have felt pretty good, too.
1962: “Telstar”/The Tornadoes. There’s never really been anything else remotely like this–a highly futuristic, electronically-driven record perfect for the forward-looking space-age world of 1962. (Killer trivia fact: The Tornadoes were the first Btitish group to have a Number One song in the States, a year before the Beatles. More amazing “Telstar” facts can be found here.)
1958: “The Chipmunk Song”/Alvin and the Chipmunks. Only twice in American chart history has a Christmas-themed song been Number One on Christmas Day itself, and this was one of those times.
The top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 during Christmas week this year belongs to 16-year-old R&B singer Chris Brown and his debut single “Run It.” The very first song to top an American chart on Christmas Day was “The Thunderer” by the U.S. Marine Band under the direction of John Philip Sousa in 1890.