Kylie & Jason

1988 Christmas Top 40

Thanks to the increased availability of samplers and home recording equipment, in 1988 36% of the population was taking old records apart and welding them back together to make new ones. Bomb The Bass, Coldcut and S-Express were the most successful, but there were countless others and with the addition of Acid House into the mix over the summer things soon began to spiral out of control. While the mainstream media were getting their collective knickers in a twist over this threat to the nation’s youth, Australian TV soap opera Neighbours crept in through the back door – Stock, Aitken & Waterman had made Kylie Minogue a superstar at the start of the year, by its end Jason Donovan was on his way to similar success and with their respective characters getting married on the show, it was the most obvious move in the world to get them to record a duet. Sure fire Christmas number 1, right? No, the Christmas chart never works like that.

The full top 100 for this week can be found on the Official Charts Company site.

Party Starters

There’s all sorts of baffling dance nonsense in the chart this year, from the confusingly titled Stakker Humanoid by Humanoid at 38 to the future Mary Whitehouse Experience theme tune Jack To The Sound Of The Underground by Hithouse at 36 and even a house remix of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit Downtown at number 11. More enduring is Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance at 7 and Inner City’s Good Life just above it at 6, while even New Order have caught the house bug with their Fine Time at number 17. Last year’s chart toppers the Pet Shop Boys are down at 33 with Left To My Own Devices and as well as producing the Neneh Cherry hit, one of this year’s major success stories Bomb The Bass are at 26 with their version of I Say A Little Prayer. For a bit of variety Bon Jovi are back at 29 with Born To Be My Baby and INXS’ Need You Tonight has finally been the massive hit it deserved to be a year earlier, on its way down at 25 after reaching number 2 a few weeks earlier.

Related:  Off The Chart: 23 September 1984

Party Poopers

Well, you all made Enya’s Orinoco Flow number 1 a few months ago and now look, it was like kicking a wasp’s nest. Her – let’s be charitable and call it “ambient” – Evening Falls is at number 20. Slightly less tedious is Londonbeat’s 9AM (The Comfort Zone) at 19, because what you want to hear over the Christmas holidays is a song about commuting. Shakin’ Stevens has a spirited but ultimately futile attempt at Cole Porter’s True Love at 23, presumably based on the Elvis version rather than Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly’s original.

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaas!!!

It’s kind of a stealth Christmas this year, from Alexander O’Neal’s reading of The Christmas Song sneaking in as a double A-side with Thank You For A Good Year at 35 to Bros’s unprovoked assault on Silent Night, another double A-side with Cat Among The Pigeons at number 8. One of the great Christmas songs that isn’t actually about Christmas but sounds like it should be, Freiheit’s Keeping The Dream Alive is at number 15. Another self proclaimed Christmas hit is Erasure’s Crackers International EP at number 3, although everyone only remembers the lead track Stop! and not the actual Christmas song She Won’t Be Home which was track 4. So the only real Christmas song that wasn’t piggybacked in on the back of something else is the number 1, which we’ll come to in a moment.

Novelty Island

Absolutely not a novelty hit in any way (because he looks like he’d kneecap us if we suggested otherwise), Angry Anderson’s Suddenly is at number 4 entirely on its own musical merit and not because it was the music played as Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene (Kylie Minogue) got married on the TV soap Neighbours. Similarly, Kylie and Jason’s Especially For You is at number 2 because it’s a perfect love song, and Robin Beck’s First Time is at number 22 (having been a number 1) because of its amazing soft rock credentials and not because it was used in a Coca Cola commercial. So if you’re looking for a proper novelty hit, one of the best remembered of the genre is at 21: all sorts of celebrities crowbarred into unlikely rhyming couplets – “Ayrton Senna’s got the voice of a tenor”, “Richard Keyes has got no knees”, “David Icke rides a bike” and so on – intoned over a jangly indie guitar backing. The only two actual truths in the whole song are “Johnny Marr, he plays guitar” and of course the one in the title. Yes, we’re talking about John Kettley (Is A Weatherman) by A Tribe Of Toffs. And so, lest we forget, is Ian McCaskill. Actually, there doesn’t seem to be any publicly available footage of Ayrton Senna singing, so maybe he did. We just don’t know.

Related:  1989 Christmas Top 40

The number 1

Although it feels like Cliff Richard must have had more Christmas number 1s than anyone else – and he certainly had a number of cracks at it, especially in the late ’80s and early ’90s – he only actually held the festive top spot three times; this was his first Christmas number 1 since the not particularly seasonal I Love You in 1960. The original version of Mistletoe And Wine wasn’t very festive either. Written for the 1976 musical Scraps, writer Jeremy Paul describes it as “a satirical Christmas carol when the little match girl is being kicked away into the snow by the unfeeling middle classes in a Dickensian setting.” Eventually Sir Cliff got wind of it, turned it into a proper, traditional Christmas carol and released it in November as his 99th single. Despite being completely at odds with just about everything in the chart at the time, it sold three-quarters of a million copies and spent most of December at number 1. Cliff had a bit part in next year’s Christmas number 1, scored again with Saviour’s Day in 1990 and was denied the top spot in 1999 with The Millennium Prayer by the might of Westlife.

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