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Sunday, 23 December, 2001, 10:02 GMT
Have a chart-topping Christmas
Why do we care who tops the UK Christmas singles chart? BBC News Online's Jayne Douglas investigates.

Topping the UK singles chart is the ultimate goal of most artists.

Click here to listen to some Christmas number ones

It is a sure sign that your star is shining brightly in the music business and it virtually guarantees you a place on the nation's favourite music show, Top Of The Pops.

But there is a higher accolade and one that has eluded the majority of pop's finest - the coveted Christmas number one slot.

The Christmas charts are incredibly important in the music industry, says James Gillespie of the Official UK Charts Company.

People were taking bets on Hear'Say getting the Christmas number one even before they had released a record

The Official UK Charts Company's James Gillespie
"More records are sold in the couple of weeks coming up to Christmas than in any other weeks during the year.

"We've been noticing over the last couple of weeks that sales are quite a lot higher than normal as Christmas shopping patterns start emerging."

During the festive season record companies can expect to see their profits soar as their products fly off the shelves.

For an act to get to number one in an average week in the UK they need to have sold between 75,000-150,000 copies of their single.


During Christmas week the stakes get higher.

The Spice Girls claimed the number one spot in 1996 with their single 2 become 1, but only after selling more than 450,000 copies.

The Christmas chart battle is a long-running affair with bookmakers publishing odds on the Yuletide winner months in advance.

Slade topped the Christmas charts in 1973
"People were taking bets on Hear'Say getting the Christmas number one even before they had released a record," said Mr Gillespie.

In the UK, people show a greater interest in the charts than just about any other country in the world.

And according to Mr Gillespie, at least 150 million people from around the world look at the UK chart every week.

"The UK has always been one of the countries in the world that leads the way with defining popular music," he said.

"We also, per capita, buy more music than any other country in the world."

Glam Rock

HMV chart expert Gennaro Castaldo believes this can be traced back to the cultural explosion of the 60s and 70s when bands like the Beatles burst onto the music scene.

When the Christmas chart was announced in the 60s it was not the big event which we can expect today.

But, according to Mr Castaldo, it was during this time that its importance began to grow.

"Christmas lent itself perfectly to glam rock because it's associated with fun, colour and parties and that fell perfectly with the music scene as it was then.

"If you look elsewhere abroad they didn't really have glam rock, trends or eras, that was very much a UK phenomenon.

"The UK was so instrumental in that whole process it has become an important part of our culture now."

British institution

Since the 70s, an emotional attachment to the Christmas countdown has developed, and for many, it is part of the fabric of their childhood.

Mr Blobby
Mr Blobby was the first non-human to top the Christmas charts
And through having an integral part in many people's lives, the Christmas charts have become something of a British Institution.

Also helping to amplify its importance is the media.

"Newspapers are fairly unique in this country," says Mr Castaldo.

"They've obviously got to fill their columns and clearly the charts, celebrity and pop stars lives are key ways for them to constantly sell more and more papers.

"Even if we didn't initially care, the papers make sure we do care by the time they've finished with it."

But according to Mr Castaldo, the main reason we care about the Christmas chart is because it has played a fundamental part in our life or has formed part of its backdrop.

"Music has always had that role in the UK and that's why I think the Christmas chart and number one have developed to that important level."

Christmas toppers

In 1973 Slade's annual chart visitor Merry Xmas Everybody was the first Christmas chart topper to enter straight at number one.

 Merry Xmas Everybody

Although not a festive song, Whitney Houston holds the record for the longest running Christmas number one with I Will Always Love You.

It topped the charts in November 1992 and stayed there for 10 weeks until February the next year.

 I Will Always Love You

Only five Christmas number ones actually have Christmas in the title:

 Christmas Alphabet - Dickie Valentine (1955)
 Lonely This Christmas - Mud (1974)
 Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid (1984)
 Merry Christmas Everyone - Shakin' Stevens (1985)
 Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid II(1989)

Facts courtesy of the Guinness World Records Book of British Hit Singles.

See also:

23 Nov 01 | Music
Race on for Xmas number one
23 Nov 01 | Music
Robbie set to top both charts
25 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Bob is Christmas winner
17 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Pick of the Christmas singles
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