Simply the best Christmas songs of all time '“ Simon Carter

Fed up yet with going into a high street shop and hearing Slade or Wizzard for the 1,000th time?

Friday, 21st December 2018, 7:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:41 am
Wizard I wish it could be christmas every day

Fed up with turning on the car radio and once more listening to Bono (complete with period-defining mullet) singing 'well tonight thank God it's them, instead of you' down your speakers?

If so, I suggest you immediately go somewhere else on the internet '“ perhaps look at some cat videos, that sort of thing. For this article is a celebration of the best Christmas songs of all time. In my humble opinion, of course.

So, pop pickers, let's metaphorically gather around the Christmas tree and start our festive countdown, starting at No 10'¦

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Mariah Carey and Santa Claus who had just come to town.


10) Various - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Heard of John Coots or Haven Gillespie? Thought not, but you know this tune they wrote together in the early 1930s, recorded by more than 200 artists including the great and the good such as Bruce Springsteen, the Jackson Five, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and The Four Seasons. Oh, and Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber. Having said that, the song's highest UK chart position is a paltry No55 in 1992 '“ courtesy of Abba tribute act Bjorn Again. Despite the British record-buying public's ongoing apathy '“ Michael Bublé could only take it to No87 in 2011 '“ this is a great feelgood festive cracker.


Aled Jones is still walking in the air decades after his voice broke.

9) Aled Jones - Walking In The Air

Sung by the virtual unknown Peter Auty in the 1982 film of Raymond Briggs' classic picture book The Snowman, the song reached No5 in the charts three years later (by which time Auty's voice had broken) for then 14-year-old Welsh chorister Aled Jones. It's not a song groups of drunken co-workers can raucously belt out at an office party (if it is, you work with some strange people); instead it's a low-tempo, beautiful '“ haunting even '“ score which should be imprinted on the psyche of everyone who's ever seen the film about a young boy and his fleeting friendship with, yep, a snowman. If either the song or film doesn't melt your heart and give you a Ready Brek-type glow, I bring grim news '“ you're not human.


8) Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon

John and Yoko, Happy Christmas War is Over - it wasn't.

Released in 1972, the title has its origin in an anti-Vietnam War publicity campaign staged by Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono two years earlier. 'War is Over! If you want it '“ Happy Christmas from John and Yoko' was the slogan on billboards in major cities across the globe. Their efforts didn't work, at least not initially '“ the Vietnam War eventually ended in 1975 '“ but this song remains a festive favourite. Possibly because of the fact I remember Lennon's death in December 1980 so vividly, even though I was just 11 years old, and possibly because of its anti-war protest background. Music shouldn't all be bubblegum pop with no message. Re-released following his death, this song reached No2 in the UK charts, two places higher than eight years earlier, and was only kept off top spot by another Lennon classic, Imagine.


7) Stop The Cavalry - Jonah Lewie

Born in Southampton as John Lewis, did you know Jonah also once released a song in the early 1970s under the moniker Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs? If you didn't, this is turning out to be your lucky day. Anyway, giant lizards notwithstanding, Stop The Cavalry has remained a well-known, oft-played ditty on the radio every Christmas time since its release on December 8, 1980. Music lovers will sadly remember that day more for the fact John Lennon was killed in New York. As a result, it was a Lennon song  (Just Like) Starting Over that was No 2 on Christmas Day with Lewie's poignant tale of a First World War soldier at No3. Lewie probably didn't mind his most famous song being overtaken by Lennon. At No1, though, was the St Winnifred's School Choir singing about loving their grandmas. Lewie might have been a bit more annoyed by that. I certainly would have been...

Jonah Lewie stopping the cavalry


6) Greg Lake - I Believe In Father Christmas

Another musician hailing from the south coast '“ Lake was born in Poole '“ who was only kept off the Christmas No1 spot in 1975 by a song which remains among the greatest of all-time (Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody). Not necessarily a composition you'd perform in a Christmas karaoke evening '“ unless you were either a) brave or b) very good at singing '“ Lake's contribution to festive compilation CDs has been described as '˜morbid' by none other than Peter Sinfield, a man whose view is worth listening to '“ after all, he wrote the song. Sample lyric - 'And I believed in Father Christmas, And I looked at the sky with excited eyes, 'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn, And I saw him and through his disguise.'  Perhaps not one for the kids, eh? But as an antidote to all the other merry festive tunes that abound, however, this is worth numerous rewinds.


5) Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas

BBC 1 news, October 23, 1984. Michael Buerk reports from Ethiopia. 'Dawn, and as the sun breaks through the piercing chill of night on the plains outside Korem, it lights up a biblical famine, now, in the 20th century. This place, say workers here, is the closest place to hell on earth.' The legendary words that changed so much '“ words that led to the rise of celebrity fundraising still evident today, and in some ways led to the rise of celebrity culture that has been dominant for so long now. Thirty-four years ago, they led to Bob Geldof and Midge Ure sitting down to write a song with the intention of raising tens of thousands of pounds for the millions starving in Africa. They had no idea how successful it would be '“ the second biggest-selling record in UK history (at the time the biggest, prior to Diana's death in 1997 and Elton John's reworking of Candle In The Wind). Not everyone liked it. 'It was an awful record considering the mass of talent involved. And it wasn't done shyly. It was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music,' said Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths. Perhaps he's right, perhaps he isn't. Doesn't matter, though. Granted, the song is by no means a classic, but that wasn't the point. The point was to make money, and that it certainly did '“ in tens of millions. But I liked it, and still do '“ after all, it's nice to remember when you were 15, pumped full of youthful innocence and living in an age where the mullet was considered stylish...

Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas


4) Last Christmas - Wham!

With almost 1.9m sales, this is the biggest-selling single NEVER to be make it to No1 in the UK charts. Going straight in at No2 on its release in December 1984, it had the very bad luck to be up against the all-star Band Aid famine relief single. Do They Know It's Christmas spent five weeks in the No1 slot, and for every single one of them Last Christmas remained second. As a result, George Michael remains the only musician to have appeared on both the No1 and 2 songs in the same Christmas Day UK singles chart. All these years on, Last Christmas '“ the biggest-selling Christmas song of all time in Germany, where it has charted every year since 1997 '“ remains almost as fresh as when I first heard it, its gorgeous melody and bitter-sweet lyrics rarely sounding dated. Great video, too '“ the last time George Michael was seen in public clean shaven as well, fact fans!


3) Wizzard - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

Let's wind the clock frantically back to 1973, when English pop music bowed to the power of glam rock. T Rex, Slade, the Sweet, Gary Glitter and Mud dominated the charts '“ and don't forget the slightly scary Roy Wood and co. With the singer's long hair and beard adorned with glitter, and with Wood wearing a red and white striped woolly hat '“ wonder what Pompey boot boys of the time thought of THAT! '“ the official video for this perennial Christmas classic is a phenomenal piece of early '˜70s nostalgia thankfully forever preserved on YouTube. I have no idea what today's teenagers would make of it. I was only four at the time this song was released, and therefore missed out on the era of men wearing make-up and glitter, stackheel boots and garishly coloured outfits singing fantastic terrace-style anthems. I feel I missed out, I really do. Both Wizzard and Slade released Christmas songs in the same year, and it could be argued that this and Merry Xmas Everybody are the two most well-loved crimbo ditties of modern times.Put it this way, I wouldn't argue against you. Slade claimed the No1 slot '“ strangely, the highest Wizzard reached was No4 '“ but if I only had to hear one of them ever again it would be the latter.


2) Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses

Clever lyrics put to a jaunty new wave, slightly post-punk melody, this is just a fantastic festive fun song. How it didn't chart on its UK release in 1981, and only peaked at No45 a year later, is '“ as Toyah once said '“ a mystery. In a nutshell, it tells the tale of an American career woman '“ the band were from the USA '“ who has spent most of a year failing to contact a guy she once met and who handed her his phone number because she was soooooo busy. She aims to give Christmas 'a miss this year' until fate intervenes on Christmas Eve. And we all like a heartwarming end, don't we? Forget Eminem, this is the best wrap music I've ever heard. But ask anyone you know to name five well-known festive pop songs, and I'll bet no-one says this. Unless you ask me, that is, because in my eyes there's only been one better ...


1) Fairytale of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

The only festive favourite that would make my all-time top 10 and, depending on my mood, possibly My Favourite Song Ever. I love everything about this song '“ the black and white video, the lyrics, the melody, the pervasive melancholy. This is truly a work of timeless beauty. Wonderful performances from Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl, and a travesty that it only spent two weeks at No2 - beaten to the 1987 Christmas No1 spot by the Pet Shop Boys giving Always On My Mind '“ a song that had nothing to do with Christmas and made famous thanks to Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson '“ a synthesizer-drenched 1980s' make-over. I was a big fan of the Pet Shop Boys, and I liked their song. But nowhere near as much as I liked Fairytale ...

By the way, did you know this '“ the NYPD don't have a choir. Didn't have one in 1987, even though McGowan sang of them warbling Galway Bay, and they haven't got one now. In fact, they've never had one. 

And shame on the snowflakes who want the word 'faggot' airbrushed out of history...

Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses.
Wham - Last Christmas
Fairytale of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl