History of the hits that made Christmas

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Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody or Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe and Wine? What’s your favourite festive number one of all time?

Simon Warner: lecturer in popular music studies at the University of Leeds.

At the start of the 1980s, as the shadow of punk and angry guitars receded and the fluorescent shades of disco dimmed, a new wave of British, synth-driven electro acts stole the limelight and none more so than Sheffield’s Human League. Don’t You Want Me was a return to the delicious simplicities of the three-minute pop song – boy meets girl, boy loses girl – but with a compelling modernist twist.

Hardly a Christmas song as such, but Phil Oakey’s catchy tribute to a faded romance still became a festive chart-topper and has since achieved something close to classic status. The memorable backing of Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall seemed to be a robotic lampoon of the Motown school of supporting singers, adding to the track’s sci-fi gloss. I cannot hear it without memories of a noisy, seasonal knees-up in 1981 and the exciting possibilities of a new love affair.

Simon Warner is also the author of Text And Drugs And Rock ’N’ Roll.

Dave Best: guitarist in The Pigeon Detectives.

I had originally written an emotional and nostalgic tribute to the heartbreaking, bittersweet majesty of Fairytale Of New York by the Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. I read it, re-read it, spell checked it and I’m not ashamed to admit, shed a little tear over it.

It was at that very moment my dad called me for a chat and casually explained to me that Fairytale Of New York was never a Christmas number one. The Pet Shop Boys beat it to that privilege upon its release in 1987 with a cover of Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind. I have no option then but to opt instead for a Christmas number one that stands against such crimes. A Christmas number one that shows I am not alone in being nonplussed by the fickle nature of the music industry. Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in The Name Of. Well, that or Mr Blobby.

Ian De-Whytell: owner of Crash Records in Leeds.

I’m invariably disappointed with the Christmas number one single. A particularly low point was Mr Blobby in 1993. In recent years X Factor has reigned supreme and it feels as though the end of year chart has been pre-determined.

My favourite Christmas number one record is neither festive nor novelty and comes from a band who are far more acclaimed for their albums than singles. It opens with the grammatically ironic line “we don’t need no education” and is of course the 1979 chart topper Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd. At the time of its release I had escaped from my job at the Leeds Permanent Building Society and gone to work at Virgin Records in Leeds and was enjoying my second Christmas in the record industry. I’m about to enjoy my 36th and in my opinion there hasn’t been a better festive chart topper since.

Dr Kate Granger: author and terminal cancer patient

My all time favourite Christmas song has to be Band Aid - Feed the World. Besides being the archetypal charity single and everything good in that respect which it represents, it’s iconic sound and catchy tune always makes me think the festive season has arrived when I hear it on the radio. It is phenomenal to think that a single person’s idea transformed into such a wonderful legacy with unprecedented longevity.

I also think it importantly reminds us at a time of year when frivolity and greed are prominent, that there are many people in the world far worse off than ourselves and to consider them.

Dr Kate Granger has cancer and is terminally ill. During her illness she has written two books for fellow doctors describing life as a patient.

David Williams: member of Yorkshire band Rudolf Rocker

Choosing a favourite Christmas number one is not as easy as you may think. Most Christmas songs are pretty poor and the ones I do like love- like Stop the Cavalry- never made number one.

Prior to 1952, the UK the chart was based on sheet music bought by professional musicians and keen amateurs to play on the piano. With that in mind, I have to plump for Winter Wonderland which the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers claim is the number one most played Christmas song. Written in 1934 there are over 150 versions recorded from Bing Crosby to Dread Zeppelin. My favourites are Ella Fitzgerald and Macie Gray.

There are some beautiful hidden Christmas songs like Jake Thackray’s Remember Bethlehem which is why we chose to record it and hopefully reach a new audience.

Listen to Remember Bethlehem at www.rudolfrocker.com

Johnny I’Anson: BBC Radio Leeds presenter

Let me ask you a question – your reward is being able to remember when Christmas was good and just. In the past 18 years name the song that actually mentions “Christmas”.

There’s just one answer - it’s Band Aid 20 from 2004. This is the record to which I would like to pay deference. The only record since East 17’s Stay Another Day in 1994 that could be classed as Christmassy - and the only reason that’s a Christmas record is because they’re all wearing big white puffy coats.

I’m not proud. In fact frankly, I’m embarrassed I’ve picked a song that features Dizzee Rascal, Rachel Stevens and Daniel Bedingfield, hardly the Holy Trinity of festive artists. But purely for its ramshackle attempt at reigniting the dying sonic embers of the festive season, I have.

Paul Hudson: Look North weatherman

One of my favourite bands when I was young was Human League.
They were from Sheffield, so, since I grew up in Keighley, they were not too far away from being a local band, and they were my

In 1981 I was ten years old and they had a Christmas No 1 song with Don’t You Want Me Baby, so that was a good Christmas for me. It stayed there for five weeks and meant they were on Christmas Top of the Pops which made it even better.

There is another reason why I like the song though and that is, of course, to do with the weather.

December 1981 was the snowiest December of the last century and, although it didn’t snow on the actual day, it was a white Christmas in the sense that there was already about a foot of snow on the ground.

So whenever I hear the song now it reminds me of two great things: Human League and some record-breaking weather.

The Go! Team

Gig review: The Go! Team at The Wardrobe, Leeds