Music CD starMrs. C says: What an integral part of the festive season this has become – the race for Christmas number one. It is a quintessentially British tradition and, to this day, carries with it enormous prestige. Sales of singles are especially high in the two weeks before Christmas. Who will take the coveted top spot has for decades been the subject of debate, conjecture and wagers.

Ed Elf: What? People actually bet money on it?

Mrs. C: Some people will have a flutter on most anything, dear, even whether or Music CD starnot it will be a white Christmas.

Ed Elf: That’s a pretty safe bet in the North Pole, I can tell ya.

Mrs. C: Just as well there are no bookmakers there, then. Here’s some interesting history on the songs that made it to the top. And if this piques your interest, take a look elsewhere in this Music and Movies section for those songs that just missed out, chart-topping albums and a few absolute stinkers – all put together by our busy elves at How to Christmas.


Glory, Glory Number One

The British Christmas institution of the number one single began in 1952 with Al Martino’s “Here in My Heart” taking top spot. For the first British chart, Percy Dickens, of the New Musical Express, compiled a list of 52 stores willing to report sales figures.

The charts and how record sales were determined changed through the years and Christmas number one would eventually become the target of quirky performers whose novelty songs attracted interest at the not-so-cool Yule, when at any other time of the year would likely have been scorned.

Reality television would later take a stranglehold on the number one berth, starting with “Popstars: The Rivals” in 2002, followed by the X Factor and even “The Choir” in 2011. A new trend may have been set in 2015 as pop superstar Justin Bieber, the first artist to have three singles simultaneously occupy the top three chart positions in the UK, put his weight behind a charity song – asking his own fans to buy that single and make it Christmas No.1 instead of his own track “Love Yourself”. It worked. Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir’s “Bridge Over You” took top spot. In 2018, a novelty single by YouTuber LadBaby (an ode to sausage rolls) took top spot while also raising money for a good cause, in this case for a food bank charity. He tried his luck again in 2019 and once more came out tops with a sausage roll parody of an eighties Joan Jett hit “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, then completed the hat-trick in 2020 and added a record-breaking fourth Christmas No.1 in a row in 2021 in collaboration with Sir Elton John and Ed Sheeranagain raising funds for The Trussell Trust.

1952 – Al Martino

1953 – Frankie Laine

1954 – Winifred Atwell

1955 – Dickie Valentine

1956 – Johnnie Ray

1957 – Harry Belafonte

1958 – Conway Twitty

1959 – Emile Ford & The Checkmates

1960 – Cliff Richard & The Shadows

1961 – Danny Williams

1962 – Elvis Presley

1963 – The Beatles

1964 – The Beatles

1965 – The Beatles

1966 – Tom Jones

1967 – The Beatles

1968 – The Scaffold

1969 – Rolf Harris

1970 – Dave Edmunds

1971 – Benny Hill

1972 – Jimmy Osmond

1973 – Slade

1974 – Mud

1975 – Queen

1976 – Johnny Mathis

1977 – Wings

1978 – Boney M

1979 – Pink Floyd

1980 – St Winifred’s School Choir

1981 – The Human League

1982 – Renee & Ronato

1983 – The Flying Picketts

1984 – Band Aid

1985 – Shakin’ Stevens

1986 – Jackie Wilson

1987 – Pet Shop Boys

1988 – Cliff Richard

1989 – Band Aid II

1990 – Cliff Richard

1991 – Queen

1992 – Whitney Houston

1993 – Mr. Blobby

1994 – East 17

1995 – Michael Jackson

1996 – Spice Girls

1997 – Spice Girls

1998 – Spice Girls

1999 – Westlife

2000 – Bob the Builder

2001 – Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman

2002 – Girls Aloud

2003 – Michael Andrews & Gary Jules

2004 – Band Aid 20

2005 – Shayne Ward

2006 – Leona Lewis

2007 – Leon Jackson

2008 – Alexandra Burke

2009 – Rage Against The Machine

2010 – Matt Cardle

2011 – Military Wives with Gareth Malone

2012 – The Justice Collective

2013 – Sam Bailey

2014 – Ben Haenow

2015 – Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

2016 – Clean Bandit

2017 – Ed Sheeran

2018 – LadBaby

2019 – LadBaby

2020 – LadBaby

2021 – LadBaby with Sir Elton John & Ed Sheeran

“Here in My Heart”

“Answer Me”

“Let’s Have Another Party”

“Christmas Alphabet”

“Just Walkin’ in the Rain”

“Mary’s Boy Child”

“It’s Only Make Believe”

“What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?”

“I Love You”

“Moon River”

“Return to Sender”

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”

“I Feel Fine”

“Day Tripper”/”We Can Work it Out”

“Green Green Grass of Home”

“Hello, Goodbye”

“Lily the Pink”

“Two Little Boys”

“I Hear You Knocking”

“Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)”

“Long Haired Lover from Liverpool”

“Merry Xmas Everybody”

“Lonely This Christmas”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“When A Child is Born (Soleado)”

“Mull of Kintyre”/“Girls’ School”

“Mary’s Boy Child”/“Oh My Lord”

“Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”

“There’s No One Quite Like Grandma”

“Don’t You Want Me”

“Save Your Love”

“Only You”

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“Merry Christmas Everyone”

“Reet Petite”

“Always on My Mind”

“Mistletoe and Wine”

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“Saviour’s Day”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”/”These Are The Days of Our Lives”

“I Will Always Love You”

“Mr Blobby”

“Stay Another Day”

“Earth Song”

“2 Become 1”

“Too Much”


“I Have a Dream”/”Seasons in the Sun”

“Can We Fix It?”

“Somethin’ Stupid”

“Sound of the Underground”

“Mad World”

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

“That’s My Goal”

“A Moment Like This”

“When You Believe”


“Killing in the Name”

“When We Collide”

“Wherever You Are”

“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”


“Something I Need”

“Bridge Over You”



“We Built This City”

“I Love Sausage Rolls”

“Don’t Stop Me Eatin'”

“Sausage Rolls for Everyone”

Music CD star

Pop megastars never to have a UK Christmas No.1 single include: Madonna, ABBA, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, U2, Prince, The Beach Boys, Take That and Lady Gaga.

Did you know…it is incorrectly believed by many that Jackie Wilson, who reached Christmas No.1 in 1986 with “Reet Petite”, was mistaken for Scottish darts player Jocky Wilson in one of the great TV bloopers of all-time? Dexy’s Midnight Runners were performing their cover of Van Morrison’s “Jackie Wilson Said” – a tribute to the soul singer – on Top of the Pops. When Kevin Rowland sang: “I’m in Heaven When You Smile”, a picture of the darts player appeared on the big screen behind him. A television howler? No, it was Rowland’s idea all along – as he told the Guardian newspaper in a 2002 interview.

And did you know…Paul Young’s opening lyrics in Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” were originally meant for David Bowie? Young revealed as much in a documentary. Bowie was unable to make the recording session but later made a contribution to the B-side. Boy George flew over on Concorde to add his lines late in the day. Culture Club were on a US tour at the time.

What’s more, did you know…Slade are reported to make £500,000 in royalties each year from their 1973 No.1 hit “Merry Xmas Everybody”?