Above: Jade Thirlwell, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and the dawning realisation that we’re going to be so far down the Google rankings for those search terms we really, really shouldn’t have bothered
Almost time to find out what this year’s Christmas Number One is*! Except everyone already knows it’s going to be Little Mix off of X Factor. That’s X Factor’s Little Mix and their cover version of Damien Rice’s Cannonball. Sung by Jade Thirlwell, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Leigh-Anne Pinnock. Little Mix, X Factor, Little Mix, X Factor, Little Mix, X Factor, X Factor, Little Mix. This is how search engine optimisation works, isn’t it?
Anyway, far more fun these days is looking at all the “spoil Cowell’s fun” songs nominated by the Facebook hive mind, and for the most part, their valiant but ultimately futile attempt to get anyway near the same postcode as the Christmas top ten. Last year at least saw Kunt And The Gang make the Official UK Singles Chart (albeit just outside the top 40), after all.
This time round, it sounds like the official spoilersong is Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, which is a bit boring – we’d have gone for Smells Like Nirvana by “Weird” Al Yankovic, at least. There are a few other token efforts hoping to challenge the Syco supremacy, but they’re all a bit, well, boring and worthy. The Military Wives (not an indie band, actual military wives), 10-year-old Arianna Morgan, the cast of The Only Way Is Essexzzzzz, and basically, well, oh dear.
BUT! What of years gone by? When proper bands, cynical record companies and two-bit celebs brought out special records in time for the big day, hoping that this could be their year? Which then utterly, utterly failed to challenge the likes of Cliff for the top spot? Well, here are a few we’ve uncovered from the early 1990s.
Pet Shop Boys – Was It Worth It?
Year: 1991 Peak chart position: 24
Just four years after their cover of Always On My Mind shoved Rick Astley into the Gallup Christmas tree to steal the big prize, The Smiths You Can Dance To had big hopes for this effort, a song only otherwise available as a bonus track on their singles collection Discography. A big brash bouncy belter about countering doubt with jubilant enthusiasm, could this lift the hopes of a Britain still adjusting to a grey future under John Majors?
Nope, it couldn’t. Not even a Moby remix on the 12” could drag this into the top 20, and it’s not even really remembered fondly by Pet Shop Boys fans. Well, not us, anyway. It’s certainly no You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk.
Digital Dream Baby - Walking In The Air
Year: 1991 Peak chart position: 49
Well, it was an age when you could shove a drum track behind the music from Tetris and get a top ten smash. Doing the same with Aled Jones’ theme from The Snowman? A sure fire banker, one would have to assume? Well, nope. The song being terrible certainly didn’t help.
Mel Smith – Another Blooming Christmas
Year: 1991 Peak chart position: 59
Digital Dream Baby weren’t the only act to attempt an assault on the festive countdown by appropriating a Raymond Briggs character in 1991. Mel Smith – at the time when Smith & Jones had not long made the successful transfer to BBC-1 – voiced this kid-friendly track, performing as cheeky curmudgeon Father Christmas. Note lots of use of the word ‘blooming’, which was really rather quite daring if you were a tiny child at the time, we imagine.
We haven’t looked, but we’re also going to assume that someone brought out a Christmas single by the old couple from Briggs’ When The Wind Blows. And that it was a festive pastiche of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes. And that it only got to number 74.
Spitting Image - The Christmas Singles
Year: 1990 Peak chart position: 84
The third, final and most frequently forgotten single from Spitting Image, this being an attack on cheap cash-in Christmas singles, despite it actually being a cheap cash-in Christmas etc etc. It’s not especially bad (it’s by Phil Pope, and therefore automatically worthy of merit), but you can just tell it was a regular song used to close an episode of the series, subsequently shoved onto the shelves of Woolworths and Our Price, y’know, just in case.
Sadly for Fluck and co, the series had long since stopped being a national talking point, and the success of The Chicken Song didn’t happen again. Or even the semi-success of Santa Claus Is On The Dole.
Vic Reeves – Abide With Me
Year: 1990 Peak chart position: 47
If ever you needed proof that being a hero to students didn’t mean Jack Shit in the Christmas pop charts, here’s Vic Reeves and Abide With Me. Coming off the back of two top ten hits in 1991 – his cover of ‘Born Free’ having made number six in April, and ‘Dizzy’ reaching the top spot alongside The Wonder Stuff in the month before this single – success seemed certain. A rave stomper of the hymn (we think remixed by The Grid, though we could be wrong), a video containing a muddy Vic on a horse while an astonished Bob Mortimer looked on, and a CD single containing several remixes and even a ‘straight’ cover of the song that you could play to your mum. Top ten at least, shurely?
Well, it bombed spectacularly, not even making the top forty. Copies of the single cropped up in record shop bargain bins well into the summer, and it took another four years until Mr Vic plucked up the courage to put out another single (the much better I’m A Believer, along with Bob and The EMF, of course).
Hulk Hogan with Green Jelly - I'm the Leader of the Gang
Year: 1993 Peak chart position: 25
This actually existed.
Remember kids, if anyone over the age of 30 tries to tell you music was better before The X Factor came along, play them this, then kick them in the shins and run off. It’s the only way people like us will ever learn.
(* “Aah, but this year’s Xmas number one will be announced on Xmas Day, not this weekend, you wrongfaced idiot. Don’t you even know that?”, you may whinny. To which we retort “shove off bignose, our original idea of exposing how all the Comedy Award nominees come from the same few management companies kind of fell apart, when it turns out that they didn’t. We’d prepared a funny joke about Jack Whitehall and everything.”)