The 1970s was undoubtedly and indisputably the Golden Era of the Christmas Hit Single. Of course there had been Xmas hits before then, stretching back to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” in the 1940s and then courtesy of Dean Martin and Nat King Cole in the 1950s and Brenda Lee and the Ronettes in the 1960s. However Christmas time in the 1970s saw an “avalanche” of Christmas hit singles, the like of which we have not witnessed before or since!!
It all started quite innocuously in 1972 when John Lennon and Yoko Ono released “Happy Xmas, War is Over”, which ostensibly was an anti Vietnam War song. Little did the arch innovator Lennon know what he was unleashing. For the following year 1973 saw Slade release “Merry Xmas Everybody” and Wizzard “I Wish it could be Xmas Everyday”, which were fantastic feel good songs, the perfect antidote to the Miners’ Strikes and resulting misery in the UK caused by power cuts and blackouts and the industrial three day week!!
In 1974 Mud, having seen the success the previous year of fellow Glam Rockers Slade, matched them by holding the Christmas No1 with “Lonely this christmas”, spot for four weeks. From then onwards throughout the rest of the decade, it became almost mandatory for the leading pop acts to release a festive ditty!! For me, the best Christmas hit song came in 1975, when quite unexpectedly Greg Lake of Prog Rock band Emerson Lake & Palmer found himself a wise man’s camel hair’s breadth from being the Christmas No1 with “I Believe in Father Christmas”. He was only denied the rare achievement and status of “One Hit Wonder No1” by the equally sublime song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.
Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” which ended the decade might be the most divisive Christmas song in existence. To some, the twee keyboard tune sounds like twinkling Tannenbaum lights; to others, it is the sound of cold shivers up and down the spine. But there is one thing about the 1979 single that we can all agree on — it gets a lot of airplay around the holidays. No wonder, Paul is a Beatle, after all. Still, it got us thinking about less often heard Christmas songs that are overlooked from the decade in general when it comes to Christmas classics. And they are these gems;
Roberta Flack – “25th of Last December”
Not every Xmas tune needs to be merry and bright. In fact, melancholy and blue is a nice change of pace. Flack’s mellow acoustic number is for those who appreciate the sentiment of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” but want a little more ice and soul.
Elton John – “Step Into Christmas”
How could you not love a single that comes bundled with a B-side called “”Ho, Ho, Ho (Who’d Be a Turkey at Christmas)”? Considering how big it was in 1973, this giddy, galloping B-Side is hardly ever played
Dana – “It’s Gonna Be a Cold, Cold Christmas”
The Irish crooner might have easily been mistaken for the Carpenters of Captain & Tennille in 1975. She later became a Member of the European Parliament.
Kate Bush – “December Will Be Magic Again”
In 1979, Kate Bush hosted her very own baroque and delightfully bonkers Christmas special on television. This was the standout number from the showcase, as the 21-year-old sang of “Bing Crosby,” “mistletoe,” “mystery” and “magic.”
Chris De Burgh – “A Spaceman Came Travelling”
First released in 1975, this track gained far more popularity a decade later on the heels of De Burgh’s breakthrough “Lady in Red.” He turned the Christmas tale into something extra-terrestrial, but the big hook here is the catchy “Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na” in the chorus.
George Harrison – “Ding Dong, Ding Dong”
We shouldn’t be surprised that George remains overshadowed by Paul’s “Wonderful Christmastime” and John’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” when it comes to holiday classics. To be fair, this single off his underrated album Dark Horse is technically a New Year’s anthem, but with its chiming bells and upbeat mood, it merits a spin every time the big ball drops at midnight.