Shane & Kirsty

1987 Christmas Top 40

1987 saw the proper arrival of house music in the UK, with Steve “Silk” Hurley’s Jack Your Body topping the chart in January and M/A/R/R/S blithely sampling every record they could get their hands on and reaching number 1 with the resulting Pump Up The Volume. In fact 1987 was quite a backwards looking year, especially in the first few months when Ben E. King, Jackie Wilson and Hot Chocolate all scored huge hits with reissues from previous decades, while later in the year the Bee Gees returned from exile with their first number 1 since 1979. The Christmas chart continued this theme, with cover versions and decades-old reissues dominating the top twenty, but in the midst of this nostalgia the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl gave birth to a bona fide classic.

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

Party Starters

House music isn’t quite dominating the charts yet in the way it will do in 1988, but top producer Arthur Baker, masquerading as Wally Jump Jr & The Criminal Element, is at 24 with Tighten Up (I Just Can’t Stop Dancin’) and Sheffield’s Krush are new at 28 with House Arrest – Krush’s Mark Brydon would find more success a decade later as a member of Moloko. Another dance producer John “Jellybean” Benitez has two singles in the top twenty: his cover of Santana’s Jingo at 19 and his own Who Found Who with vocals from Elisa Fiorillo at 12. Enterprisingly, lightweight pop purveyors Climie Fisher have had their acoustic ballad Rise To The Occasion remixed as a hip-hop floor filler, taking them into the chart for the first time at 37. After their number 1 success with Don’t Leave Me This Way last year, the Communards have applied the same formula to Never Can Say Goodbye, not quite topping the charts this time and on their way down to 26 this week. Shakin’ Stevens has a crack at What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For at number 10, a song which was written as far back as 1916 and had been the 1959 Christmas number 1 in a version by Emile Ford & The Checkmates. Belinda Carlisle’s future number 1 Heaven Is A Place On Earth is at number 8 and Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel is at 6.

Related:  Off The Chart: 22 December 1986

Party Poopers

They’ve always managed to avoid the Christmas chart before, but having split up a few months previously The Smiths’ final single Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me is making us all feel better about ourselves at number 30. Johnny Hates Jazz have entered a wistful phase at 15 with Turn Back The Clock, just below Madonna with her least upbeat single to date The Look Of Love at 14. T’Pau are still advising caution with their former number 1 China In Your Hand at number 9 and everyone’s favourite four-eyed Scottish twins The Proclaimers are bemoaning the rape of Scotland by the bastard English or some such in Letter From America at 16. Come the revolution, etc.

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaas!!!

There are many theories as to why the Pogues & Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale Of New York didn’t make it to number 1. The fact that it includes the words “faggot” and “arse” can’t have helped, and its inclusion on Now That’s What I Call Music 10 before it had even entered the chart must have lost a few potential sales. Nevertheless, this perennial favourite – some say the greatest Christmas song ever – was in the chart for the first time this year and was by far the biggest hit either Kirsty or the Pogues ever enjoyed, reaching number 2. After last year’s dearth of festive hits it’s great to see two Christmas songs in the top three, with Mel Smith and Kim Wilde’s epic reworking of Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree raising money for Comic Relief at number 3. Conceived as a pun on the other Mel & Kim, the joke has endured over the years and even increased the popularity of the original which, presumably due to some baffling record company politics, now charts every year while Mel & Kim’s version doesn’t.

Novelty Island

Apart from Mel & Kim and thrash metallers Anthrax’s baffling comedy number I’m The Man at 38, we’re depressingly short of novelty records this year, unless you count the novelty of there being two versions of the same song in the top ten: Nat “King” Cole’s 1957 ballad When I Fall In Love had been reissued in direct competition with Rick Astley’s almost indecently similar cover version. Rick’s version had been one of the early favourites for Christmas number 1 but had only made it to number 2 and was already on its way down (at number 4 this week) while Nat’s version climbed to 7 this week on its way to a peak position of number 4. After Christmas Rick’s single was flipped over and the B-side My Arms Keep Missing You became the A-side in an attempt to boost sales (as Wham! had done with Last Christmas / Everything She Wants in 1984). As far as we can tell, Nat “King” Cole never recorded My Arms Keep Missing You, given that he died in 1965.

Related:  Chart Watch: 23 December 2016

The number 1

1987 saw the Pet Shop Boys in what former Smash Hits assistant editor Neil Tennant would describe as their “imperial phase”. While the previous year’s follow-ups to West End Girls hadn’t really set the charts alight, they scored a second number 1 in the summer of ’87 with It’s A Sin and narrowly missed out on repeating the feat with the Dusty Springfield duet What Have I Done To Deserve This? Now well and truly part of the premier league, Neil and Chris were invited to take part in Love Me Tender, an ITV show which marked the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s demise by getting current acts to perform his songs. The Pet Shop Boys duly turned the ballad Always On My Mind into a towering synthpop monster, on the understanding that it was exclusive to the TV show and wouldn’t be released. Of course public demand intervened and a re-recorded version was issued as a single at the end of November, complete with a bizarre video which features Neil and Chris driving a taxi with Joss Ackland in the back. This can be explained by the fact that it comes from the Pet Shop Boys’ film It Couldn’t Happen Here (in as much as anything from the film can be explained). After the single kept the Pogues & Kirsty MacColl off the Xmas number 1 spot, the duo’s Actually album was repackaged with the single added, while a nine minute house mix of the track appeared on their next album Introspective.

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