Shakin' Stevens

1985 Christmas Top 40

After the pop frenzy of the previous year, 1985 was something of a let down. With Frankie, Spandau and Culture Club all taking a year off and Wham! and Duran each offering up only one new song in the entire year, the stage was wide open for newcomers like a-ha and the Pet Shop Boys to assert their authority. July’s Live Aid concert boosted the careers of Queen and U2 while pretty much finishing off that of Adam Ant. There was also a shift towards more “grown up” music as sales of CD players began to take off – for a while it was actually illegal to own a CD player if you didn’t have a copy of Brothers In Arms to play on it. The Christmas chart had a distinctly safe feel to it – last year’s biggest hits from Band Aid, Wham! and Paul McCartney were back again, while the number 1 was a single that had been held over from the previous year to avoid the crush.

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

Party Starters

George Michael is definitely in party mood: Wham!’s former number 1 and only new song of the year I’m Your Man is still in the top ten at 8, Last Christmas is back in the chart too (we’ll come to that in a moment) and he also provides uncredited (but very recognisable) backing vocals on Elton John’s Wrap Her Up at number 20. That’s Elton and George singing a song about how much they love beautiful ladies, lest we forget. Fair play to them, it’s not easy to get the words “Princess Caroline of Monaco” into a song. Also pulling a double shift this week are a-ha, with Take On Me still clinging on at 37 while the follow-up The Sun Always Shines On TV débuts at 39 on its way to number 1 in January. They’ll have to form a queue behind the Pet Shop Boys though, who have been slowly climbing for several weeks with West End Girls which has now made it as far as number 4. Now without Jimmy Somerville, Bronski Beat soldier on; their first single with new vocalist Jon Jon Foster Hit That Perfect Beat is at 13. There’s classic hip hop from Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew, whose The Show is at 24, and Full Force, new at 38 with Alice, I Want You Just For Me! For sheer cheesiness though, nothing can touch Starship’s We Built This City at number 12.

Related:  "He is a song that's not easy to write" - Top of the Pops, 14 May 1981

Party Poopers

Not everyone enjoys the Christmas season of course, and the normally perky Level 42 are sounding particularly downbeat at number 23 with Leaving Me Now. Lionel Richie’s Say You, Say Me plods along at 14 (apart from the middle eight which seems to have fallen out of an entirely different song), while perennial party poopers UB40 plead Don’t Break My Heart at 27. Also experiencing Yuletide relationship problems are Princess (After The Love Has Gone at 28), former Wham! and current Style Council singer Dee C. Lee (See The Day at number 10, her only solo hit and a future Girls Aloud cover) and Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin whose duet Separate Lives is at number 7. Watch out, Marilyn, he might try and dump you by fax. Finally, after a couple of years off, that perennial Scrooge Mr Sting is back with the sinister Cold War comment Russians at 26. Merry Christmas Sting, wherever you are.

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaas!!!

Apart from the number 1 there’s a distinct lack of originality to this year’s Christmas hits. Best known for their enthusiastic backing on Madness’s Wings Of A Dove, the Inspirational Choir is at number 36 with Abide With Me, which isn’t a Christmas song but it is a hymn so it gets an honourable mention. Another of those songs which has become a Christmas song by default, Aled Jones’ version of Walking In The Air is at number 5; it’s not the version that’s used on the soundtrack to The Snowman, which is already on its fourth annual showing in 1985, but Peter Auty’s recording only made it to 42 this year. Bruce Springsteen’s incongruous version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town has already peaked and is on its way down to number 11; although this was its first single release, the track had been recorded live in concert a full decade earlier. Meanwhile, last year’s two Christmas behemoths are both in the top ten again – despite having sold over a million copies last year, Wham!’s Last Christmas is at number 6, with a track recorded live during their history making tour of China earlier in the year on the B-side, while Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas is at 3, this time backed with One Year On, a list of how the money raised over the year has been spent. Perhaps all charity singles should be required to disclose this information on the B-side.

Related:  Off The Chart: 28 October 1986

Novelty Island

Even the novelty records are half-arsed this year. Black Lace have run out of ideas for new dances and are forced to resort to the Hokey Cokey at 31, while the abject horror that is We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus inexplicably returns to the chart at 34. Other than that, it’s slim pickings on the novelty hit front this year, although you could make a case for Girlie Girlie by Sophia George at 15, a cautionary reggae-based tale of infidelity which was Sophia’s only UK hit.

The number 1

The most successful male artist of the decade, Shakin’ Stevens scored at least one top forty hit every year from 1980 to 1992, including three number 1s in a twelve month period in 1981-82. Not to be confused with Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody, Shaky’s Merry Christmas Everyone was his fourth chart topper and first for almost four years, although he had hit number 2 twice in between. The song was written by Bob Heatlie who had also penned Aneka’s 1981 chart topper Japanese Boy. Originally due to be released in 1984, the record was held back a year when it became clear that Do They Know It’s Christmas was going to dominate the listings; a wise move as it turned out as in 1985 it deposed Whitney Houston’s Saving All My Love For You at the last minute to take the Christmas number 1 spot. The song still regularly returns to the chart at Christmas thanks to download sales; Bob Heatlie went on to write the theme for the children’s TV series Trap Door.