The first real Christmas song to peak the UK charts did just that and was nicely settled there in this week of 1955, not budging until the New Year, thereby making it the very first of many prestigious Christmas Number Ones: Dickie Valentine and ‘Christmas Alphabet’, which had been a minor hit in the US for The McGuire Sisters the previous year. Who did it knock off the top spot?, I hear you cry. Why, none other than Bill Haley and His Comets, whose ‘Rock Around the Clock’ had occupied the position for three weeks and, after allowing Dickie an equal amount of time at the top of the not entirely festive heap, returned there for another fortnight just to show him who was kiss-curled boss. In all, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ spent 36 weeks in the UK singles chart; Dickie, a still respectable seven.
Fancying another crack at what has since become a prized placing for all artists (somewhat surprisingly achieved by Pink Floyd, of course, in 1979 with ‘Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)’; for some, a disappointment for the time of year due to its inexcusable lack of bells, although there wasn’t much in the way of typical festive ditties other than Paul McCartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ that year and they did keep Abba off the top spot, at least, so all’s forgiven. Anyway, back to Dickie Valentine…), his ‘Christmas Island’ from 1956 made the UK Top Ten, faring better than the following year’s ‘Snowbound for Christmas’, which peaked at a disappointing #28 and spent only a solitary week in the charts.
How many of the UK Top Ten singles from this week in 1955 do you know of, associate with happy memories, or care to search for on YouTube? And aren’t you glad that we no longer live in a time where band names are prefaced not with an often needless yet also somewhat obliging The, but a thoroughly condescending His? (His Comets? Talk about being owned.)
01. Dickie Valentine, ‘Christmas Alphabet’
02. Bill Haley and His Comets, ‘Rock Around the Clock’
03. Four Aces, ‘Love Is a Many Splendored Thing’
04. Winifred Atwell, ‘Let’s Have a Ding Dong’
05. Stargazers, ‘Twenty Tiny Fingers’
06. Max Bygraves, ‘Meet Me on the Corner’
07. David Whitfield with Mantovani and His Orchestra, ‘When You Lose the One You Love’
08. Johnston Brothers, ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’
09. Mitch Miller, ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’
10. Pat Boone, ‘Ain’t That a Shame’
Anyway, as this is the last post of 2010, and as this is the fifth time I’ve had to wrap it up for Christmas with something suitably cheery, and as I’m now destined to be preoccupied for the rest of the day – at least – with thoughts of songs from the Christmas period which are severely lacking in the Bells Department, how about you join me in honouring the most exquisite use of the bell in music? Just like ‘Another Brick…’, the song can have naff all to do with Christmas, yet some festive tunes featuring bells of any type (shape, size, pitch) would be a welcome addition to any list. And the bells don’t have to be ‘exquisite’, either; they can be irritating, patronising, repetitive, desperate, unashamedly opportunistic or any other adjective you care to level at the song and performer should its bells matter enough to warrant your thought at this precise moment in time. Heck, the song could even be about a bell. It could even be a whole album.
Listen to this, it’ll help.
With reference to Christmas:
– Band Aid, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
– The Eagles (or Bon Jovi, if you prefer), ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’
– Cliff Richard, ‘Mistletoe and Wine’
Without reference to Christmas:
– Ben E. King, ‘Stand by Me’
– The Love Affair, ‘Everlasting Love’
– Metallica, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’
The chatroom is open and will be until 5pm (UK), if you want to listen to Cliff Richard’s finest with me whilst mulling over tracks where a bell is distinctly lacking, or, in some cases, perhaps even to the song’s detriment. If not, see you in 2011.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Thank you for your contributions throughout the year.