Ah, those old Christmas number ones, eh? Where would Christmas be without them? Right, well, just about ... here, but without any number ones, that's where. So, let's wander down memory lane and take a look at some of those famous old hit songs that made Christmas great!
I'm Gonna Catch me a Nigger for Christmas, by Dexbert Brightwood and his Alabami Good-Ol' Boys (1935)
Nobody thought too much of it when old Dexbert recorded this festive contribution in 1935. Record company wisdom had it that lynching songs were on their way out and guitar bands were coming in. So everyone was surprised when it became a huge "word of mouth" hit all over the southern states and not just in Alabama. The new power of radio was one reason. Housewives across America were soon humming the refrain while they polished their husband's saddles:
- I'm gonna catch me a nigger for Christmas,
- I'm gonna put him in my tree.
This, incidentally, was the first ever racist diatribe to feature sleigh bells.
I saw Santa Stuffing Mommie's Stocking (and she seemed to be enjoying it too), by the Randettes (1956)
The Randettes were three "sisters" from Ohio who liked singing songs about Farmhands and G.I.s. Their perennial festive show-stopper was launched on the famous "Popster Family" show in 1956. "Pop Popster", the show's erstwhile presenter, made a point of showcasing the Randettes brand of doo-wop string arrangements with his famous catch-line "And now folks, I think we got something really special for you, and so does the whole Popster Family".
The fifties were such an innocent time that no one realised that "Stuffing Mommie's Stocking" was in fact gay street slang for sexual congress between consenting lawyers, and that Randy Randette, the lead singer of the trio, was actually a man. Pop Popster was sued in 1961 for corrupting American children, and he died alone in a cardboard box of venereal disease.
Surfin' Christmas, by Duke Dale and the Wavecresters (1966)
Duke Dale had one mission in life - to encourage every human being on the planet to take up surfing by 1970. Son of the CEO of Wavecrester Industries, Duke was put out by the company simply to cash in on the surfing craze. His smash hit "Surfin' Christmas" was just one tool in Wavecrester's "Surf Propaganda" kit. Dale's record company, Higland Farms and Record-Makers of Illinois, advised him against releasing the song, claiming that Christmas was too cold for surfing and that many of Dale's fans actually lived a long way from any beach. But Duke ignored them and released the song, with it's now famous chorus:
It's Christmas time, and the squares are eatin' turkey (Ooh-a-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh!)
But I got myself a board, and I'm a-goin' surfin' (Ooh-a-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh!)
After the huge success of the song, Duke drove to the nearest beach to see how many people were surfing, only to find it completely deserted. Soon after, he stopped singing and then he was admitted, gratefully, to a home. The rest of Wavecresters, a temp band, eventually joined the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
It's Christmas, Folks, and Just Look at the Mess We've Made, by John Lennon (1974)
John Lennon made a huge innovation in the Christmas cannon when he pointed out that even though Christmas was a happy time for adults and children, it remained a fact that lots of people had shot each other in wars and we shouldn't forget that either. It also remained true that there were huge landfills stuffed with the rotting carcasses of dead turkeys all over the planet. And in China, peasant workers were being forced to wear special gloves in cracker factories.
When asked for a solution that would help everyone enjoy Christmas again, Lennon quipped: Well you could try looking at the sky, except all the radiation from Christmas puddings would burn your eyes out. Lennon also caused controversy himself with the song by outsourcing half of the singing work to school children for a dollar an hour.
LET'S ALL SHOUT REALLY LOUDLY!!!, by Slade (1977)
Popular beat combo "Slade" had their own solution to the problem of Christmas. SHOUTING! It didn't matter what else people did around the festive season as long as they SHOUTED ABOUT IT. Some popular phrases for shouting included the obviously true, such as "IT'S CHRISTMAS!!", and various Freudian social comments such as "WE'RE ALL CRAZY MOMMA!".
Slade had a huge hit all over the north of England causing grown men to shout at their whippets and school children to sneak up behind old ladies and yell "GRAB SOME TINSEL GRANDMA!". This caused widespread disruption across England and panic in the home. Cliff Richard stepped in and made an announcement that Christmas was a quiet time for reflective thought, but nobody heard him, due to all the SHOUTING!
All the surviving members of Slade are now deaf. But it was all in the Christmas spirit.
My Little Festive Spot, by Michael Jackson (1980)
Everyone remembers Jackson's romantic jerker from 1980, especially the refrain:
His face is lovely
His tongue is pink
I feed him doggy chunks
and wash him in the sink
It was only much later that children's groups pointed out that Spot wasn't in fact the name of Jackson's pet Labrador puppy. Spot was a small child which Jackson had specially brought up by wolves. Jackson denied the charges and was later found not guilty, but the charges stuck and now everyone thinks he's some kind of pervert.
Die Kristmas Machine, by Kraftwerk (1984)
Kraftwerk broke the mould with "Die Kristmas Machine", a forty-five minute opus featuring one sleigh bell oscillating at a constant rate while Ralf Hütter intoned "Ze Raindeer Ist Dead. Ja, Ja" over and over again. The group went so far as to bring an animatronic reindeer on stage with the for the song, which Florian Schneider-Esleben would have ceremonially shot at the end. Also features a 25-minute-long synthesizer solo, with horse whips.
The song is celebrated for being smashed up on air by UK D.J. Marky Freeman, because it gave him haemorrhoids.
All I Want from Jesus is a Medium Sized Diamond, by Whitney Houston (1986)
For Whitney Houston, a Christmas song should come with a message. Her message was that while, ordinarily, she would expect a delivery of at least six very large Cartier diamonds every week, for Christmas time all she wanted was one medium sized one. This noble sacrifice would cause Jesus to weep helplessly, and children all over the world could collect the tears in buckets. These would then be brought to Whitney's house and emptied into her personal bathing room, bringing her happiness on this festive occasion. Many nations suffered in the rush following, and it is partly responsible for the collapse of most third world countries.
The song is also famous for its ambiguous line:
"Bring me snow from all over the world, but make sure to wrap it carefully in little plastic bags first"
Big Butt Christmas, by Biggy and the Buttsuckers (1992)
Rapster Biggy wanted a certain largess of life - call it a fullness of being, or perhaps the voluptuousness of the human spirit, and he wanted it in everything he did or touched, but he especially wanted it in the ass department, and was ready and willing to tell the world at every opportunity. Christmas time was no exception for Biggy. Indeed, Christmas just wasn't Christmas for him unless it featured, very prominently, a huge female ass in a tight thong, or six of them, lined up with the crackers.
With "Big Butt Christmas", Biggy was able to articulate his desire in such a way that it brought happiness to millions. He was soon able to afford more butts than he knew what to do with. Sadly, however, his follow ups, "Easter Ass" and "Two Cheeks with a Sprig of Holly" were not so popular, and Biggy ended up trading favors dockside just so he could at least get to see a medium sized and rather grubby butt from time to time. He was gunned down in 1993 after accidentally pinching the Notorious B.I.G.'s booty.
I'm Committing Suicide for Christmas, by Nirvana (1994)
Christmas isn't just a time for gathering the presents and bringing home the festive cheer. It's also a good time for blowing the back part of your head all over the mantelpiece with a large shot gun, as Kurt Cobain made clear with what was to turn out to be his final number one single.
Oddly enough, no one suspected much at the time, despite verses such as this one:
The snow is falling
The logs are on the fire
I've got my shotgun with me
and I'm feeling kinda tired.