Despite being of the biggest stars in the world for nearly twenty years, Elvis Presley only achieved one Christmas number one, with Return To Sender in 1962.
By 1974 Presley was on the downward stretch of his career, with peanut butter sandwiches and pills replacing the quiff and splendor of his youth. This decline was in conjunction with a musical genre that was shaking up Britain.
Glam rock was music that appealed to pretty much everybody, with acts like Slade, T-Rex, and Roxy Music frequently charting musically, while also attracting physical attention from girls and boys all over the nation. Much of the appeal of the genre was in the image, with make up and feminine clothes adding to the mystique.
Like any scene in music, there were people who lived the gimmick, and those who were just along for the ride. Mud were definitely one of those bands in for the ride. They had formed in the late sixties, releasing a number of unsuccessful singles, before riding the coat-tails of the glam rock revolution and achieving notable success in the seventies.
You can see this in songs like Tiger Feet, which was a number one single in 1974 also. The guitars and the melodies are there from other songs in the genre, but it’s almost a pastiche, a song with no real artistic merit, just a slightly soulless version of something much better. Undeniably catchy yes, but in same way the common cold is. It’s all fun and games until you’re the one to get it.
Like a lot of clever bands of that generation, Mud decided to make the most of their popularity in 1974 by releasing a Christmas single. They came up with Lonely This Christmas, a song that was about being lonely at Christmas.
It’s a great song, with a top melody, good lyrics and an important message. However, as you may have noticed, the vocals in the track sounds differently to the vocals in Tiger Feet. This is because the song was written in the style and voice of Elvis Presley, which has led to many uneducated ears thinking that Elvis himself sang this song.
He didn’t. A) because of the sandwiches and pills, but probably more of b) he had never heard of the band or the song. Still though, the song bought Elvis back into public awareness, and in many regards this track to many people was probably his last good song, even though he never sang it!
As you may also have noticed, this entry has somewhat of a phoned in feel about it, and for that I can only apologise. You see, when I initially put together this list I did in a very foolish way. I looked at the list at all of Christmas number ones there has ever been, and picked my favourites from the list.
As you can see from the above photo (with the top three still being a classified secret) I always had Lonely This Christmas as a solid top five entry in the countdown. I love the song, I always have, it’s been a staple of my Christmas playlists ever since I understood the concept of loneliness. Yet it’s hard to write anything of substance about it. The song is what it is – a Christmas tune which got to number one. How can that be expanded?
A few people were initially disappointed when they realised this countdown would consist of Christmas number ones and not purely Christmas songs. I made the choice because it was always in the back of my mind that there really was nothing to say about the majority of Christmas tunes, as they tend to be – in a good way, cliched nonsense. I was interested more into the songs that had been successful around Christmas, and if that in turn had any significance into the psyche of the country at the time, or whether the songs were very much of their time.
In a surprising number of these articles I have extrapolated on the concepts of sadness and misery around the Christmas period, and to be honest it seems a bit obvious to go on about it yet again, especially considering tomorrow’s entry is possibly the most depressing Christmas number one in history. So let’s just take the time here to reflect on how great this countdown has been so far, and just how hard it is to write about generic songs.
Smash Hits writers over the years – my sympathies are now with you. Let’s play out today with this rather nice cover version of Lonely This Christmas by KT Tunstall. Remember her? She’s the one who felt like a map of the world, like a map of the world.
Listen to the original, and all the other songs on the countdown here:
And catch up on the rest of the countdown – just CLICK HERE