Not quite Top of the Pops: Stuck at Number Two for Christmas

For decades, megastars have felt the ignominy of coming second to a festive novelty record

It is every pop and rock star's nightmare: missing out by the narrowest of margins on the coveted Christmas Number One spot because of the public's unnerving appetite for "novelty" tracks such as Mr Blobby or, for the past four years, the inescapable X Factor.

Almost since the charts started 50 years ago, musicians have been frustrated by the nation's fondness for froth. This year, however, record-buyers (and downloaders) are in revolt. The latest spawn of Simon Cowell is being held off the top spot by an expletive-laden alt rock anthem recorded 17 years ago. Rage Against the Machine have gone head-to-head with The X Factor's Joe McElderry. So far, Geordie Joe is behind on points, with today his last chance to land a knockout blow.

Zack de la Rocha's "Killing in the Name" could not be further from the Hannah Montana ballad "The Climb", this year's offering from the ITV talent show. Whether or not Rage win the top spot battle, it could still be said that they – with the help of a huge Facebook campaign – won the war, with 60,000 sales more than Joe last week.

Dave McAleer, record historian for the Official Charts Company, spoke for many yesterday, saying he'd love to see X Factor kicked off the number one pedestal. "It works wonderfully well," he said, "but I can't wait for it to stop working wonderfully well."

Rage guitarist Tony Morello, who has pledged that his unexpected royalty bonus will go to Britain's Youth Music charity, told BBC6 Music: "This is a grassroots effort. Your country has such a rich history of exciting rebel music. It's a little dose of anarchy for the holidays; it's good for the soul."

1969

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town

"Success is never what drove me – I always loved the music," Kenny said after he lost out to Rolf Harris and "Two Little Boys". "It wasn't so much that I could make great money or do this, that or the other; it was that I could do everything that I truly loved for a living."

1978

The Village People – YMCA

"'YMCA' was meant to be a filler on an album," David Hodo of the Village People said in 2007. "Neil [Bogart, president of Casablanca Records] said, 'No, no. This is the hit. This is the one we're gonna push.'" Sure enough, despite being kept at bay by Boney M's "Mary's Boy Child" for two weeks, it went to number one in the New Year.

1980

John Lennon – (Just Like) Starting Over

"All through the taping of 'Starting Over', I was calling what I was doing 'Elvis Orbison'," Lennon said in his last Rolling Stone interview in 1980. "It's like Dylan doing Nashville Skyline, except I don't have any Nashville, being from Liverpool. So I go back to the records I know – Elvis and Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis." It is now lauded as one of his best tracks, but was still pipped by St Winifred's School Choir's "There's No One Quite Like Grandma".

1985

Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love for You

"I'm very proud to be among those artists who have achieved a number one, with a really traditional Christmas song – especially as it has become a classic that continues to chart, without any physical product," said Michael Barrett, aka Shakin' Stevens, responsible for ousting Houston from number one with "Merry Christmas Everyone". He knows how it feels to be second, however – his EP was kept off the top spot by Renée and Renato with "Save Your Love" in 1982. "It was frustrating to be at number two."

1987

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

It's got harder to perform the classic Christmas hit since Kirsty MacColl's death in December 2000, said accordion player James Fearnley. "The issue of guest singer on 'Fairytale of New York', since Kirsty's death, has been a problematic one. We've had varying degrees of success with guest singers." Nevertheless, many would argue it's still the greatest Christmas song never to be number one, beaten that year by the Pet Shop Boys' "Always on My Mind".

1993

Take That – Babe

"If a song does well and I don't like the song then I'm not going to get a great feeling from that, or if the critic says that the album's rubbish but I know I've done my best, then I'll just think, 'Fair enough, that's your opinion, but I like it,'" said Take That's Mark Owen. "Babe" was replaced after just one week at the top by the pink-and-yellow TV "star" Mr Blobby with the eponymous "Mr Blobby".

2000

Westlife – What Makes a Man

Brian McFadden was infuriated when Bob the Builder beat Westlife to the top with "Can We Fix It?". "We had seven number one hits in a row," he told Alastair Campbell. "If it had not been for him we would have had 12 number ones consecutively, something nobody has ever done."

2005

Nizlopi – JCB Song

Adolescent folk duo Nizlopi's ballad, an ode to a father-and-son relationship, was an internet hit, but failed to triumph when faced with the winner of the second X Factor series, Shayne Ward. His debut single, "That's My Goal", became the fastest-selling Christmas number one and third fastest selling track at that time in UK music history. He was the first but by no means the last of the X Factor winners to storm to festive glory. In 2006, Leona Lewis beat Take That's "Patience" with "A Moment Like This"; in 2007 Leon Jackson's "When You Believe" won out over a remake of Eva Cassidy's "What a Wonderful World" featuring Katie Melua; and in 2008 Alexandra Burke's reprisal of "Hallelujah" beat both the Leonard Cohen original and the Jeff Buckley cover, both of which made it to the charts after fans mounted a Facebook campaign. " X Factor has replaced the novelty single," said Dave McAleer. "What we need now is a return to a strong children's TV character; a new hero like Mr Blobby, who can come in and knock X Factor off the top spot."

Christmas Number Ones... and Twos: Festive pop's winners and losers

1960

1. Cliff Richard and the Shadows – I Love You

2. Elvis Presley – It's Now or Never

1961

1. Danny Williams – Moon River

2. Frankie Vaughan – Tower of Strength

1962

1. Elvis Presley – Return to Sender

2. Cliff Richard and the Shadows – The Next Time/Bachelor Boy

1963

1. The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand

2. The Beatles – She Loves You

1964

1. The Beatles – I Feel Fine

2. Petula Clark – Downtown

1965

1. The Beatles – Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out

2. Cliff Richard – Wind Me Up

1966

1. Tom Jones – Green, Green Grass of Home

2. Donovan – Sunshine Superman

1967

1. The Beatles – Hello, Goodbye

2. The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

1968

1. Scaffold – Lily the Pink

2. The Foundations – Build Me Up Buttercup

1969

1. Rolf Harris – Two Little Boys

2. Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town

1970

1. Dave Edmunds – I Hear You Knockin'

2. McGuinness Flint – When I'm Dead and Gone

1971

1. Benny Hill – Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)

2. T Rex – Jeepster

1972

1. Little Jimmy Osmond – Long Haired Lover from Liverpool

2. Chuck Berry – My Ding-a-Ling

1973

1. Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody

2. Gary Glitter – I Love You Love Me

1974

1. Mud – Lonely This Christmas

2. Bachman Turner Overdrive – You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

1975

1. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

2. Greg Lake – I Believe in Father Christmas

1976

1. Johnny Mathis – When a Child Is Born (Soleado)

2. Showaddywaddy – Under the Moon of Love

1977

1. Wings – Mull of Kintyre/Girls' School

2. Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band – The Floral Dance

1978

1. Boney M – Mary's Boy Child

2. The Village People – YMCA

1979

1. Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall

2. Abba – I Have a Dream

1980

1. St Winifred's School Choir – There's No One Quite Like Grandma

2. John Lennon – (Just Like) Starting Over

1981

1. The Human League – Don't You Want Me

2. Cliff Richard – Daddy's Home

1982

1. Renée and Renato – Save Your Love

2. The Shakin' Stevens EP

1983

1. The Flying Pickets – Only You

2. Slade – My Oh My

1984

1. Band Aid – Do They Know It's Christmas?

2. Wham! – Last Christmas/Everything She Wants

1985

1. Shakin' Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone

2. Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love for You

1986

1. Jackie Wilson – Reet Petite

2. The Housemartins – Caravan of Love

1987

1. The Pet Shop Boys – Always on My Mind

2. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

1988

1 Cliff Richard – Mistletoe and Wine

2 Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan – Especially for You

1989

1. Band Aid II – Do They Know It's Christmas?

2. Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers – Let's Party

1990

1. Cliff Richard – Saviour's Day

2. Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby

1991

1. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody/These Are the Days of Our Lives

2. Diana Ross – When You Tell Me That You Love Me

1992

1. Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

2. Michael Jackson – Heal the World

1993

1. Mr Blobby – Mr Blobby

2. Take That – Babe

1994

1. East 17 – Stay Another Day

2. Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas Is You

1995

1. Michael Jackson – Earth Song

2. Mike Flowers Pops – Wonderwall

1996

1. Spice Girls – 2 Become 1

2. Dunblane – Knockin' on Heaven's Door/Throw These Guns Away

1997

1. Spice Girls – Too Much

2. Teletubbies Say Eh-Oh!

1998

1. Spice Girls – Goodbye

2. Chef (Isaac Hayes) – Chocolate Salty Balls

1999

1. Westlife – I Have a Dream/Seasons in the Sun

2. Cliff Richard – The Millennium Prayer

2000

1. Bob the Builder – Can We Fix It?

2. Westlife – What Makes a Man

2001

1. Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman – Somethin' Stupid

2. Gordon Haskell – How Wonderful You Are

2002

1. Girls Aloud – Sound of the Underground

2. One True Voice – Sacred Trust/After You're Gone

2003

1. Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules – Mad World

2. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)

2004

1. Band Aid 20 – Do They Know It's Christmas?

2. Ronan Keating and Yusuf Islam – Father and Son

2005

1. Shayne Ward – That's My Goal

2. Nizlopi – JCB Song

2006

1. Leona Lewis – A Moment Like This

2. Take That – Patience

2007

1. Leon Jackson – When You Believe

2. Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua – What a Wonderful World

2008

1. Alexandra Burke – Hallelujah

2. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Jess Glynne is UK number 1

music

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor