Back in my day, the Christmas Number One in the music charts was a big deal! My teenage years gave me Christmas number ones such as Stay Another Day by East 17 in 1994, and much less Christmassy, Mr. Blobby, the year before. In 1995, I really hoped my beloved Pulp would hit the Christmas Number 1 with Disco 2000 but it peaked at number 7 a couple of weeks before. Again I was disappointed when the “reformed” Beatles released Free as a Bird failed to knock the eventual 1995 Christmas Number One, Michael Jackson’s Earth Song from the peak of the charts. After Jarvis Cocker waggled his bum to that same song at the Brit Awards in 1996, I felt some sort of vicarious revenge.
This was in the age before the X Factor used to produce the Christmas Number One and then Spotify came along and someone called LadBaby seems to have the monopoly on the whole thing. While Band Aid released another edition of Do they know it’s Christmas? in 2004, which reached number one, the last Christmassy song to reach that was East 17, and some people might not consider it a Christmas song – me included. To get an absolutely Christmas-themed number one single, you’d have to go back to Cliff Richard and his Saviour’s Day but who in their right mind would want to do that!
Why am I telling you this on an Irish primary education website? For me, pop music is a brilliant way to cover listening and responding in the primary music curriculum. Ask your average 7-year old why they think Stay Another Day is a Christmas Song and they might puzzle as there’s nothing Christmassy in the lyrics.
However, that isn’t the case for the first number one of 1950 in the US charts. On 5th January, 1950, the number one song in the American charts was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and it sold over 8 million copies!
As we head back to school for 2021, how about finding some of the best number ones from the first week of the year and playing them to your class? What was the number one single when they were born? What was the number one single when you were born? What do the songs tell you about the culture of the time? What was the most popular and influential instrument at the time in pop music?
Here are a few famous examples of the first number one of each year:
- 1979 – YMCA: Village People
- 1981 – Imagine: John Lennon
- 1989 – Especially for You: Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue (Yes, really!)
- 1997 – 2 Become 1: Spice Girls
- 2001 – Can We Fix It?: Bob the Builder 👷🏻♂️
- 2003 – Sound of the Underground: Girls Aloud
- 2010 – The Climb: Joe McElderry (Famous as the first X-Factor contestant not to have Christmas Number One)
- 2014 – Happy: Pharrell Williams
- 2015 – Uptown Funk: Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
You might explore the reasons why the songs were number 1 at the time. For example, John Lennon’s Imagine was number one because only a few weeks earlier, he had been killed, (although I’m not sure it’s a good idea to explore that with primary school children!) More appropriately, you might use the lyrics to explore a world that they might imagine!
What is your favourite new year number one?