Every Christmas number one single ever, ranked from worst to best

22 December 2021, 17:15

Christmas number ones from Queen, Shakin' Stevens and Mr Blobby
Christmas number ones from Queen, Shakin' Stevens and Mr Blobby. Picture: Alamy/YouTube

By Tom Eames

2021 marks what will be the 70th Christmas number one chart battle, but which song is the best?

We've gone through every single Christmas number one since 1952, to pick out the greatest ever.

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean the 'best song' ever from the list of 70, but rather the greatest songs that encapulate what it means to be Christmas number one, from festive feelings to novelty fun and beyond.

See the list below to see where you favourite ended up...

  1. Clean Bandit - 'Rockabye' (2016)

    We're not saying this is a bad song by any means, but we're putting it bottom as it was part of the most boring Christmas number one race ever.

    2016 saw zero novelty songs, charity records or Christmas efforts, and instead was essentially just any other chart, topped by whatever happened to be out at the time.

    Clean Bandit stayed at number one for its seventh week, and was the least-selling Christmas number one ever.

  2. Band Aid II - 'Do They Know it's Christmas' (1989)

    This bodge-job second version of the Band Aid original was made by Pete Waterman five years on, and it's so dated it hurts.

    Even with Kylie, Cliff, Chris Rea and others, it's the forgotten cousin of Band Aid.

  3. St. Winifred School's Choir - 'There's No One Quite Like Grandma' (1980)

    We'd like to applaud it for its novelty factor, but this was beyond naff at the time.

    Plus, it kept off both John Lennon just weeks after his tragic death, and Jona Lewie's 'Stop the Cavalry'. Unforgivable.

  4. Mr Blobby - 'Mr Blobby' (1993)

    Another novelty classic in the world of Christmas number ones, but this one has few redeeming features. Aside from perhaps a young Jeremy Clarkson in the video.

  5. Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir - 'A Bridge Over You' (2015)

    A well-meaning charity record, but this one was the third in five years to top the festive chart at the time, and it's quite a jarring mashup of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and 'Fix You', that just makes you wish you were listening to the originals.

  6. Cliff Richard & The Shadows - 'I Love You' (1960)

    A relatively forgettable song from Sir Cliff, but he'll be back with more memorable festive chart-toppers.

  7. Frankie Laine - 'Answer Me' (1953)

    People loved this soppy ballad so much in 1953, that the top two at Christmas was by different artists. Frankie Laine's version narrowly beat David Whitfield's effort this time.

  8. Conway Twitty - 'It's Only Make Believe' (1958)

    A classic country tune from Conway Twitty, but not one you'd associate with Christmas.

  9. Al Martino - 'Here In My Heart' (1952)

    The first ever UK number one single was also that year's Christmas number one.

  10. Emile Ford - 'What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For? (1959)

    Classic '50s track, but not very Christmassy.

  11. Dave Edmunds - 'I Hear You Knocking' (1970)

    Another classic, but another random one to be a Christmas number one.

  12. Johnnie Ray - 'Just Walkin' in the Rain' (1956)

    Something of a forgotten ballad, and we guess we're more likely to see rain than snow at Christmas.

  13. Rolf Harris - 'Two Little Boys' (1969)

    The final number one of the '60s, no less.

  14. Sam Bailey - 'Skyscraper' (2013)

    Yes, it's time for all the X Factor winning singles that topped the charts for perhaps too many years at Christmas. Let's just rank them in order of song merit, starting with Sam.

  15. Leon Jackson - 'When You Believe' (2007)

    Maybe Rhydian's version would have sounded more Christmassy?

  16. Leona Lewis - 'A Moment Like This' (2006)

    'One More Sleep' is a cracker, but this one was Leona's first hit.

  17. Shayne Ward - 'That's My Goal' (2005)

    The first X Factor single to get the Christmas number one was MASSIVE, selling over 700,000 copies in a week.

  18. Alexandra Burke - 'Hallelujah' (2008)

    This single prompted people to download the Jeff Buckley version, getting it to number two, but it wasn't enough to beat the might of Burke.

  19. Ben Haenow - 'Something I Need' (2014)

    The final X Factor track to achieve the feat before streaming got in the way.

  20. Matt Cardle - 'When We Collide' (2010)

    X Factor's peak in terms of ratings saw Matt Cardle beat One Direction, and another huge hit for Simon Cowell.

  21. LadBaby - 'Don't Stop Me Eatin'' (2020)

    Love them or hate them, the new monarchs of the Christmas number one are Mark and Roxanne Hoyle - who have had three chart-toppers in a row (and are likely to get a fourth in 2021).

    At least they're novelty fun and for charity. But they have almost zero longevity or legacy compared to others.

    Here are all the sausage roll-themed parodies in a row, then, starting with this Journey cover.

  22. LadBaby - 'I Love Sausage Rolls' (2019)

    This time Mark and Roxanne took on Joan Jett. Minus points for suggesting that gravy is a regular sausage roll accompaniment.

  23. LadBaby - 'We Built This City' (2018)

    LadBaby's first one is probably also their best. Any song which gets 'M1' and 'Greggs' in the lyrics has got to be applauded.

  24. The Justice Collective - 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' (2012)

    This record was raising money for various charities related to the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

    While it was never going to be as good as the Hollies original, it was still fun hearing a song that featured Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Mel C and Paloma Faith among many others.

  25. Elvis Presley - 'Return to Sender' (1962)

    Elvis had to have had a Christmas number one at some point, but we would have preferred 'Blue Christmas'.

  26. Winifred Atwell - 'Let's Have Another Party' (1954)

    Who doesn't love a knees-up pub party anthem?

  27. Dickie Valentine - 'Christmas Alphabet' (1955)

    The first actual Christmas song to be at the top is sadly forgotten.

    Not the greatest Christmas song by any means, but it deserves a bit of love.

  28. Jackie Wilson - 'Reet Petite' (1986)

    You might have forgotten that this even happened, but Jackie Wilson's '50s anthem was a surprise Christmas number one in 1986.

    One to remember for pub quizzes, this one.

  29. Band Aid 20 - 'Do They Know it's Christmas' (2004)

    Far better than the 1989 effort, but still pretty forgettable compared to the original, obviously.

    Still, at least you've still got Bono.

  30. Little Jimmy Osmond - 'Long Haired Lover from Liverpool' (1972)

    The youngest artist ever to have a number one single. Sure, it's cheesy as heck but you'll be singing it for days.

    Plus, it kept off Chuck Berry's 'My Ding a Ling' so it could have been worse.

  31. Renee & Renato - 'Save Your Love' (1982)

    Another one hit wonder, and one that could only have worked at Christmas. One of those ones that you know is horrifically cheesy but you find yourself kinda liking it.

  32. The Scaffold - 'Lily the Pink' (1968)

    Continuing the theme of wacky Christmas number ones, here's a brilliant '60s novelty track, featuring Paul McCartney's brother no less.

  33. Danny Williams - 'Moon River' (1961)

    While Andy Williams might be best known for having a hit with this song from Breakfast at Tiffany's, it was actually his namesake Danny who had the bigger success in the UK.

    Known as the 'British Johnny Mathis', Danny died aged 63 in 2005.

  34. The Military Wives - 'Wherever You Are' (2011)

    Gareth Malone put together a group of wives and partners of servicemen in the TV show The Choir.

    The song was created using letters to their loved ones, and it created a truly moving song at Christmas.

  35. Cliff Richard - 'Saviour's Day' (1990)

    Sir Cliff scored his third Christmas number one with this underrated track, which had a video with Cliff on a Cliff!

  36. Girls Aloud - 'Sound of the Underground' (2002)

    This was the first time that reality TV talent competitions first got their hands on the Christmas chart, but at least it was a pretty decent song.

    Girls Aloud took on One True Voice for festive chart supremacy, and came out on top with this rocky pop number. Not that Christmassy, though.

  37. The Human League - 'Don't You Want Me' (1981)

    A fantastic track that would finish very highly in any '80s song list, but perhaps not that well known for being a Christmas number one.

    The Human League beat Cliff Richard to the top spot in 1981 with this synthpop anthem.

  38. Pink Floyd - 'Another Brick in the Wall' (1979)

    Another truly fantastic record, but another one that you won't associate with Christmas.

    We doubt the Pink Floyd boys cared that much at all that they even achieved a festive chart-topper.

  39. The Beatles - 'Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out' (1965)

    The Beatles scored four Christmas number ones in total, but sadly none of them were Christmassy tunes, so they'll all have to land here.

    Starting with this classic double-A side, and their third in a row at the time.

  40. The Beatles - 'I Feel Fine' (1964)

    Here's their second Christmas number one, written by John Lennon and not included on an album, which no doubt helped.

  41. The Beatles - 'Hello Goodbye' (1967)

    Their final Christmas number one had an apt song title.

  42. The Beatles - 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' (1963)

    Their first Christmas number one was also their best, and saw them beat themselves to the top, as 'She Loves You' was number two.

  43. Wings - 'Mull of Kintyre' (1977)

    10 years after The Beatles' final Christmas number one, Paul McCartney got another with this festive-ish ballad.

    It became the best-selling single of all time at the time, before another certain Christmas number one took over.

  44. Tom Jones - 'The Green Green Grass of Home' (1966)

    In between all the Beatles Christmas number ones, Sir Tom Jones triumphed with this tragic country ballad, about a man on death row longing for home before he is killed.

    Ah, Christmas.

  45. Ed Sheeran - 'Perfect' (2017)

    Ed's gorgeous ballad - complete with Christmassy music video - was the clear winner in 2017.

    He was a bit cheeky by exploiting chart rules by also releasing versions with Andrea Bocelli and Beyoncé that still counted as the same song, but still.

  46. Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman - 'Somethin' Stupid' (2001)

    For Robbie's swing album in 2001, he teamed up with Hollywood star Nicole Kidman for this Christmassy cover of the Frank & Nancy ballad.

    It worked, giving him the Christmas number one that alluded him with Take That when they got beaten by Mr Blobby of all people.

  47. Westlife - 'I Have a Dream' (1999)

    The Westlife achieved their fourth number one in their debut year, which is pretty darn impressive.

    They completed the rout by not only beating Cliff Richard to the top, but securing the final number one of the century, with a song ABBA stalled at the Christmas number two spot 20 years previously.

  48. Spice Girls - 'Too Much' (1997)

    The Spice Girls equalled The Beatles' record of three Christmas number ones in the mid-to-late '90s.

    They did it with three ballads, all of which had a Christmassy-ish vibe. This was their second, from their Spice World movie.

  49. Spice Girls - 'Goodbye' (1998)

    Their third and final Christmas number one was a farewell to Geri Halliwell, and spelt the beginning of the end of the group's chart dominance.

  50. Spice Girls - '2 Become 1' (1996)

    Their first Christmas chart-topper was also perhaps their greatest song ever. The song was written about the importance of contraception, because... why not?

  51. Whitney Houston - 'I Will Always Love You' (1992)

    Perhaps the greatest power ballad and movie love song ever made, and Whitney was the clear winner of the '92 Christmas number one race.

  52. Michael Jackson - 'Earth Song' (1995)

    Michael Jackson's best-selling UK single was also a surprise festive chart-topper.

    The song proved that he was way ahead of his time when it came to environmental issues and climate change concerns.

  53. Rage Against the Machine - 'Killing in the Name' (2009)

    OK, it's probably the least Christmassy song in this list, but it's this high for what it stood for.

    The nation (well, a lot of it) reclaimed its Christmas number one after years and years of X Factor rule by getting this angst-ridden '90s track to the top. How very British.

  54. Bob the Builder - 'Can We Fix It?' (2000)

    One of the last truly novelty tracks (pre-LadBaby) to reach the top, good ol' Bob stopped one of Westlife's more forgettable tracks from grabbing the prize in 2000.

  55. Michael Andrews and Gary Jules - 'Mad World' (2003)

    This one was for all people who perhaps hate Christmas, as this one hit wonder beat The Darkness to the top in 2003.

    No-one saw this piano cover of Tears for Fears from the Donnie Darko soundtrack from achieving the feat. Only at Christmas.

  56. Harry Belafonte - 'Mary's Boy Child' (1957)

    Often forgotten about compared to the Boney M cover version, this was a beautiful festive ballad from Harry that topped the festive charts in 1957.

  57. Pet Shop Boys - 'Always on My Mind' (1987)

    We may not have quite forgiven them for beating The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl to the top spot in 1987, but at least it was a brilliant cover version that's still perfect for Christmas parties to this day.

  58. Queen - 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (1975)

    So good it was Christmas number one twice.

  59. The Flying Pickets - 'Only You' (1983)

    "Ba dah dah dah"

    It's no easy feat to turn a song that had nothing to do with Christmas into a Christmas song, but that's what this one hit wonder vocal harmony did with the classic Yazoo ballad.

  60. Cliff Richard - 'Mistletoe & Wine' (1988)

    Sir Cliff achieved his 843rd comeback with this Christmas staple. As much as you want to hate it, you've got to admire its festive power.

  61. Benny Hill - 'Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)' (1971)

    Yes, you read that right. When it comes to novelty one hit wonders at the top at Christmas time, you can't get any better than Benny Hill's 'Ernie'.

  62. Queen - 'These Are the Days of Our Lives' (1991)

    Paired with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' just weeks after Freddie Mercury's death, this poignant track was a perfect way to reflect on years gone by at what can be a difficult time of year for many.

  63. Boney M - 'Mary's Boy Child/O My Lord' (1978)

    Boney M capped off their incredible year of 1978 by achieving that year's Christmas number one, and it still sounds brilliant.

  64. Johnny Mathis - 'When a Child is Born' (1976)

    1950s crooner Johnny Mathis came out of nowhere to take the prize in 1976, and it became a true Christmas classic.

  65. Mud - 'Lonely This Christmas' (1974)

    Who can forget Les Gray and his puppet on Top of the Pops? And no, it wasn't Elvis.

  66. East 17 - 'Stay Another Day' (1994)

    It had to be a good song to beat Mariah Carey's 'All I Want for Christmas is You' to the top spot.

    Despite not being a song about Christmas, the festive-sounding ballad would become a UK Christmas staple.

  67. Slade - 'Merry Xmas Everybody' (1973)

    "IT'S CHRISTMAAAAAS!"

    Noddy Holder and the Slade boys changed everything when they came out with this festive anthem. Arguably the essence of the Christmas number one didn't begin until Slade beat Wizzard to the top spot in '73.

  68. Band Aid - 'Do They Know it's Christmas' (1984)

    This was the best-selling single of all time for 13 years, and it was the first time the idea of bringing together the nation's biggest singers for a charity record had occurred.

    Bob Geldof and Midge Ure's plan to raise money for Africa famine relief couldn't have gone more to plan.

    What's even more impressive was that they were able to write and record a song that is still played to this day, which is something you can't say for most charity records.

  69. Shakin' Stevens - 'Merry Christmas Everyone' (1985)

    You really can't get more Christmassy than this festive powerhouse from Shaky.

    Not only is it a brilliant song that has stood the test of time, but it gets extra points as it was meant to be released in 1984, but he decided to wait a year when he found out about Band Aid. It worked!