In the UK, we pay a great deal of attention to what song sits the top of the UK singles chart over the Christmas period. The Christmas No.1 holds special significance for us Brits, and over the years some fantastic tracks have taken the top spot, including Merry Xmas Everybody and Lonely This Christmas.
But what about the Christmas songs that didn’t make it to No.1? Surely those songs can’t have been so good, right?
Well, you might be surprised to read that a number of well-known Christmas songs failed to make it to the top of the UK singles chart. Some of these songs are tunes you would swear down were Christmas No.1s, but alas they were not.
Prepare yourself, as I unveil the big Christmas crackers that didn’t quite make it. You will be shocked.
Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You
Let’s start with a big one and arguably one of the most famous Christmas songs of them all – Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. This song is wheeled out every December (and often long before), to signal the beginning of the holiday season, and yet All I Want for Christmas is You was never a Christmas No.1 in the UK.
Released in 1994, the track was an instant hit with us Brits, receiving a great deal of TV and radio play, but alas it did not make it to the No.1 spot. Instead, Mariah had to settle for the faint whiff of No.2, while East 17’s Stay Another Day took the crown instead.
Aled Jones – Walking in the Air
Every year without fail, British TV station, Channel 4 airs an animated special called The Snowman. This festive treat – based on the book of the same name by Raymond Briggs – is a firm favourite with audiences and has been popping up in the TV schedules since 1982.
One of the most memorable parts of The Snowman is a magical sequence which plays out to the track Walking in the Air. Such is the popularity of the song, that in 1985 it was released as a single, with Welsh singer Aled Jones covering the tune.
Walking in the Air often appears on Christmas compilations, and is a well-known Christmas song in the UK, and yet the song never made it to Christmas No.1. The track’s highest position was No.5.
The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)
During the early ‘00s, Brit rock band, The Darkness were extremely successful, scoring a huge hit with their 2003 album Permission to Land, as well a smash-hit with the single I Believe in a Thing Called Love. The same year, the band also released the festive tune, Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End), which picked up a big following, but did not land a Christmas No.1.
Despite a fierce chart battle, Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) had to settle for the Christmas No.2 position. The song lost out to Mad World, released by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules.
The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York
No, you are not going insane, it is true – Fairytale of New York did not make it to Christmas No.1. I know this must seem like some kind of a sick joke, but the song – often regarded as one of the greatest Christmas ditties of all time – DID NOT make it to the top of the charts for Christmas.
Released in 1987, The Pogues fought valiantly, but could only manage the Christmas No.2. The band were kept off the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys and the track, Always on My Mind.
Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas
If you thought the chart position of Fairytale of New York was a shocker, then you might want to sit down for this next revelation. Driving Home for Christmas by Chris Rea not only failed to make it to Christmas No.1, when the song was originally released in 1988 it only made it to No. 53 in the UK singles chart!
As with most Christmas songs, Driving Home for Christmas has been re-released countless times over the years, and has appeared on TV shows and adverts ensuring it a well-loved tune, regardless of its initial failure. And since its rather disappointing debut the song has managed to chart a lot better in recent years, taking a far more respectable No.11 back in 2018.
John Lennon – Happy Xmas (War is Over)
Another shocker, and yet another true story, John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over) was never a Christmas No.1 in the UK singles chart. Released in November 1972, the song peaked at No.4 in the charts, while the eventual Christmas No.1 that year was taken by Jimmy Osmond and the not-so Christmas themed, Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.
Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
And the shocks continue, because Wizzard’s forever popular Crimbo hit, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday was also NOT a Christmas No.1! Released in 1973, the glam rock band only managed to make it to No.4, being beaten to the top spot by Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody – which to be fair, was a worthy champion.
Wham! – Last Christmas
And finally, what can only be described as a crime against humanity, it is with deep sadness that I must tell you that Wham!’s Last Christmas also didn’t make it to Christmas No.1. Following a similar pattern as some of the other iconic tunes on this list, Last Christmas only made it to No.2 when it was released back in 1984, losing out to Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas.
I hope that this post hasn’t completely blown your mind – but I understand if your brain is currently dribbling out of your nose. However, if you still have enough grey matter to get you through the rest of the day, might I suggest you take a look at my post A list of UK Christmas No.1s and No.2s to see all of the festive tunes that either hit the top spot, or just missed out.
And for more corking Christmas posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below. Here you will find a wealth of festive fun, perfect for the holiday season.
- A list of Hallmark Christmas movies
- 60 Christmas movies to watch this holiday season
- A list of Disney Christmas movies