Jocky Wilson

1986 Christmas Top 40

Something seemed to have shifted in 1986. Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and Frankie Goes To Hollywood all returned from their mid-decade break to lesser acclaim, failing to score a top three hit between them. Wham! called it a day in the middle of the year with a farewell concert at Wembley Stadium and a final single while Madonna began to tighten her stranglehold on the chart with four top two hits. The first stirrings of house music had arrived on these shores in the latter part of the year and soon everything would change, but for now the charts were a confused mish-mash of newcomers (Pet Shop Boys, a-ha), TV tie-ins (Nick Berry, Spitting Image), bubble permed rockers (Bon Jovi, Europe), unexpected one-hit wonders (Doctor & The Medics, Boris Gardiner) and easy listening hell (Chris De Burgh).

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

Party Starters

The Hair Rock movement is in full swing with Europe’s The Final Countdown at 3, having spent a fortnight at number 1, while Bon Jovi are at number 10 with Livin’ On A Prayer. Status Quo’s attempt to join in is somewhat hampered by the lack of hair to be bubble permed, but Dreamin’ is up to number 17, ahead of the naturally hirsute Gary Moore at 31 with Over The Hills And Far Away. It’s not all rock though, there’s plenty of dance music around too. Perhaps Stock, Aitken & Waterman’s finest moment, Showing Out by Mel & Kim is at 30; Kim Wilde’s version of You Keep Me Hangin’ On is at 28 and Erasure’s début hit after 18 months of trying, Sometimes is at 5. Madonna’s fourth hit from the True Blue album Open Your Heart is at 4, and the Gap Band’s Big Fun at number 12 is already their biggest hit since Oops Upside Your Head six years earlier and will go on to overtake it in the new year. There’s also peerless pop from a-ha (Cry Wolf at 7), Alison Moyet (Is This Love? at 8), the Bangles (Walk Like An Egyptian still clinging on at 37) and Swing Out Sister (Breakout at 23). With so much great party music around, what could possibly spoil the mood?

Related:  Virtual C90 - August 2016

Party Poopers

Oh, it’s Lionel Richie again with another gushing ballad Ballerina Girl at 34. Elkie Brooks’ first top 40 hit in four years No More The Fool is at 18, while the gruesome twosome of Cliff Richard and Sarah Brightman are at 29 with All I Ask Of You from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera. Paul Simon’s deceptively dark The Boy In The Bubble is at number 33 and the Pretenders’ slow burner Hymn To Her climbs to 27.

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaas!!!

It’s unthinkable these days when download sales return the same festive songs to the chart every December, but amazingly there is only one Christmas single in the whole of the top 40. Even Wham!’s Last Christmas, reissued again as an afterthought to George and Andrew’s farewell single in the summer, only got to number 45 this time around. So it is that the only Christmas song in the chart is the scathingly cynical Santa Claus Is On The Dole by Spitting Image. Starting life as a sketch on the puppet-based satirical TV comedy show, as did their number 1 hit The Chicken Song earlier in the year, Santa Claus Is On The Dole imagines a scenario in which “Father Christmas has been sacked and his gnomes are all redundant,” presumably a cost-cutting measure after seven years of Thatcher government. By cloaking it in a Christmas novelty song, Spitting Image got a more powerful political statement into the chart than the likes of Billy Bragg or Paul Weller had managed all year, and the song is still depressingly relevant today; lyrics such as “the igloo heating’s been cut off, I’ll die of hypothermia” still resonate in the current climate. At least Santa will eat well though: “real fairy cake and Rudolph steak will be my Christmas dinner.” The show also had a hand in another semi-protest song: the video for Land Of Confusion by Genesis (at number 16 this week) featured Spitting Image puppets of Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Colonel Gadaffi and the band themselves.

Novelty Island

It was said at the time that future historians would look back on this and wonder what the hell happened, and almost thirty years on there still seems to be no logical explanation for it, but there it is at number 20, large as life, The Skye Boat Song by Roger Whittaker & Des O’Connor. Kenyan born whistler Whittaker had last been in the chart in 1975 with The Last Farewell, yet here he was again, doing seagull impressions while the perennial butt of Eric Morecambe’s jokes Des (“short for ‘desperate'”) crooned a Scottish folk song about the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie after his defeat at Culloden. In light of this, even the spectacle of respected broadcaster Ray Moore reciting O’ My Father Had A Rabbit at 24 seems like the height of sanity. At least it was for charity.

Related:  Off The Chart: 16 June 1983

The number 1

Right up until the last minute it appeared that the Housemartins would emulate the Flying Pickets’ achievement of three years earlier by scoring an a cappella Christmas number 1. The self-proclaimed “fourth best band in Hull” had been at the top of the chart with their vocal arrangement of Isley Jasper Isley’s Caravan Of Love, a gospel ballad subtly transformed into an anti-Thatcher rallying cry, in line with the Housemartins’ socialist beliefs. Certain conspiracy theorists have maintained ever since that because of its political undertones and potential offence to religious observers, the song was manoeuvred out of the Christmas number 1 spot in favour of the week’s second best selling record. Whether or not this is true, the fact remains that 1986’s official Christmas number 1 was a reissue of Jackie Wilson’s 1957 number 6 hit Reet Petite. Even without any alleged chart manipulation, Reet Petite would almost certainly have made it to number 1 anyway; it had been reissued after a claymation video for the song was shown on TV and caught the public’s imagination. Over the next eight months Wilson scored three consecutive top twenty hits, following up his Christmas hit with reissues of I Get The Sweetest Feeling and (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher. Sadly Wilson wasn’t around to enjoy his new-found success; he died in 1984 after spending nine years in a coma following an on-stage heart attack in 1975.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Sound of the Crowd on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.