I grew up in the days when there were proper Christmas number ones. Slade, Wizard, Mud – even dear old Sir Cliff. Top Of The Pops was the programme that no-one missed on Christmas Day and tinsel, bad miming and lyrics more sickly-sweet than grandma’s Christmas pudding were the norm.
But, in the last 20 years, we’ve only had one Christmas chart-topper with an unashamed seasonal theme, the Band Aid 20 version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ in 2004, though I suppose Alexandra Burke‘s ‘Hallelujah’ in 2008 was vaguely representative. Ms Burke was one of the Simon Cowell-sponsored acts that have dominated the top spot in recent years. Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson, Leona Lewis and Matt Cardle being other X Factor winners riding to number one backed by Mr Cowell’s seamless publicity machine, though Rage Against The Machine and the Military Wives have started to reverse the trend in recent years.
Nowadays, with downloads clouding the issue, there maybe isn’t the prestige there once was but British punters still like to back their musical judgement with a few pounds, though this year’s race only has one horse if the bookmakers’ assessment is correct. With just a week remaining before Santa Claus loads up his sleigh, X Factor winner James Arthur’s version of Shontelle‘s 2010 track ‘Impossible’ is out-selling everyone and has pushed Gabrielle Aplin‘s re-working of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit ‘ The Power Of Love’, which backs a seasonal department store TV commercial, down to fourth spot. But it’s improbable ‘Impossible’ (5/1 with Betfred, Ladbrokes and Stan James) will stay number one as the celebrity-laden ‘The Justice Collection’ version of the Hollies‘ class ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ gathers momentum. Released to support the families of the Hillsborough victims, the Sir Paul McCartney/Robbie Williams-backed single is only a best 2/9 with Paddy Power to be number one, though the sentiment behind the Jimmy Higham Bursary Fund is almost as poignant. The late teacher’s acapella version of Stevie Wonder‘s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ brings a tear to the eye and is 40/1 to be Christmas number one with Paddy Power while youtube sensation ‘One Pound Fish’ is 66/1 with Ladbrokes.