Love them or hate them, Christmas singles are here to stay, having entertained us for decades. But even those who hate them often end up singing along as they are hit by the seasonal spirit. Here Steve Rogerson gives his selection of the ten best Christmas singles of all time, and even gives his pick of what is the best of the best.
Ten Best Christmas Singles of All Time
Christmas singles are the sing-a-long tunes of pubs and clubs every year, but what are the ten best Christmas singles of all time?
Slade playing the 1980 Reading Rock Festival
They are played endlessly every year on the radio and in pubs and clubs, but, despite the groans, after a few drinks most punters are singing along to them with arms around their friends as they enhance the Christmas mood. The classic Christmas songs have become as much a part of the holiday as turkey and mistletoe.
They have also become the source of many a seasonal argument over which was the best Christmas song of all time. Undoubtedly, most will disagree with this selection of ten of the top songs but few can argue with the fact these are among the classics. The ten are listed below in alphabetical order.
“All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” – Spike Jones & His City Slickers (1948)
Written in 1944 by Donald Gardner, this version was the first to be published and has had numerous covers since then including by the Andrew Sisters, Platters, Nat King Cole, Chipmunks and the cast of Sesame Street.
“Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas” – Gary Glitter (1984)
After nearly a decade without a hit, this returned Gary Glitter to the top ten and is still one of the more popular seasonal jukebox hits, despite Gary Glitter having fallen from favour. The song was on the album Boys Will be Boys.
“Do They Know it’s Christmas” – Band Aid (1984)
Probably the most famous charity record ever, this was written by Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia. The band line-up was impressive including the likes of Phil Collins, Paul Weller, George Michael, Sting, Rick Parfitt, Bono, Marilyn, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Bananarama. Repeat charity versions of the song were recorded in 1989 and 2004.
“Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues (1987)
This is a brilliant song, proof that quality does not need to be sacrificed to make a Christmas hit. The song is a duet between Shane MacGowan and the late, great Kirsty MacColl. In 2005, the band performed the song again on television for the first time since 1988 with Katie Melua as the female vocalist.
“Happy Xmas (War is Over)” – John and Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band (1971)
This Vietnam War protest song was written by John Lennon and has had numerous covers that have elevated it to one of the classic Christmas songs. Bands and artists that have recorded it include the Moody Blues, Andy Williams, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross and Sarah Brightman.
“I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day” – Wizzard (1973)
This would probably have been number one if the glam rock fans’ purses hadn’t been divided with the equally popular “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade, which did make the top spot. Nevertheless, it has retained its popularity and is now one of the best-known Christmas songs ever.
“Lonely This Christmas” – Mud (1974)
One of two glam rock songs to be among the Christmas number ones of the 1970s (the other being Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody”), “Lonely this Christmas” was written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman and spent four weeks at the top of the charts.
“Mary’s Boy Child” – Boney M (1978)
Harry Belafonte first has a Christmas hit with “Mary’s Boy Child” in 1958 but the Boney M disco style cover was much better. The song was written by Jester Hairston in 1956.
“Merry Xmas Everybody” – Slade (1973)
Few songs sum up the glam rock movement of the 1970s better than Slade’s famous Christmas hit. It is the band’s best selling single and stayed in the charts for nine weeks, meaning people were still buying it well into February. One of the band’s most famous performances of the song was at the 1980 Reading Rock Festival in August, when they had the whole crowd singing along in the hot sunshine.
“White Christmas” – Bing Crosby (1942)
Bing Crosby’s version of this song is the best selling single of all time. Written by Irving Berlin, its fame was boosted when it was the title track of the 1954 film White Christmas, one of the best Christmas movies of all time. It has sold more than fifty million copies and has been covered by numerous artists including The Drifters, Andy Williams, The Supremes, Dean Martin, Bob Marley, Linda Rondstadt, Boy George and Stiff Little Fingers.
The Best Christmas Single of All Time
Picking the best from this compilation is easy as “Fairytale of New York” stands head and shoulders above the rest. But credit should also be given to the glam rock performances of Gary Glitter, Mud, Slade and Wizzard, who all created songs that have become Christmas classics. And who can knock “White Christmas” when it has sold so many copies? Feel free to put your own suggestions for the best Christmas hits in the comments box below.