Every Christmas Number 2: The songs that just missed out on the Christmas Number 1
We remember the big Christmas Number 1s, but what about songs that just missed out?
The ones that came oh-so close to being immortalised in the Christmas Number 1 hall of fame, the unlucky few that glory eluded in the biggest chart race of the year - we're talking the Christmas Number 2s.
We look at a selection of tracks that were knocked off the top or pipped at the post on that all-important Christmas chart week, before revealing the full list at the bottom of the page.
Joe McElderry – The Climb (2009)
Since Shayne Ward claimed it in the second series in 2005, scoring the Christmas Number 1 was pretty much a perk of winning The X Factor. 2009's winner Joe McElderry, however, felt the might of public opinion when a backlash against the talent show led to a Facebook campaign to install Rage Against the Machine's Killing In The Name as Christmas Number 1. And it worked! Joe had to settle for taking the top spot a week later with his Miley Cyrus-covering winner's single The Climb. See The Climb's week-by-week chart success journey.
Nizlopi – JCB Song (2005)
Speaking of Shayne Ward, his 2005 X Factory victory meant that bookies' favourite Nizlopi's JCB Song was denied the chance of being the first "novelty" Christmas Number 1 since 2000's Bob The Builder.
Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You (1994, 2020)
We're still recovering, but back in 1994 a last-minute surge of affection for East 17's Stay Another Day, with huge sales for both, meant Mariah was left at Number 2, with only what was left of the advent calendar chocolate for company. History was repeated in 2020, when All I Want For Christmas Is You took second place to LadBaby's Don't Stop Me Eatin' on Christmas week.
Mariah got her moment in 2020 when All I Want For Christmas Is You finally landed at Number 1 on the UK Official Singles Chart some 26 years after its original release, albeit not Christmas week, but she did set a new chart record. Reaching the summit in its 70th week on chart, Official Charts confirmed that no other song in UK chart history had spent more weeks in the Official Chart Top 40 before eventually reaching Number 1.
To this day, however, the coveted Christmas Number 1 slot still eludes Mariah.
Kylie & Jason – Especially For You (1988)
The duet all soap and pop fans had been waiting for was the very essence of Christmas Number 1 – two huge stars rumoured to be real-life lovers, a slushy duet, and a schmaltzy video of the pair being reunited. However. Step forward Cliff Richard, who was brandishing some Mistletoe and proffering some festive Wine. Kylie and Jason had to settle for being the first Number 1 of 1989 instead.
Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York (1987)
"I could've been someone." "Well so could anyone…" And the anyone in 1987 was not the Pogues classic with Kirsty MacColl but instead Pet Shop Boys with their "not very festive but still amazing hi-NRG banger" cover of Elvis's Always On My Mind.
One True Voice – Sacred Trust (2002)
Cliff Richard – Millennium Prayer (1999)
Cliff Richard is the King of Christmas, with three Christmas Number 1s of his own, plus his contribution to 1989's winner, Band Aid II. But Cliff is also king of Christmas Number 2, having landed there an incredible four times with Millennium Prayer (1999), Daddy's Home (1981), Wind Me Up (1965), and Bachelor Boy (1962).
Little Mix - Cannonball (2011)
Perhaps not wanting a repeat of the Joe McElderry and Rage Against The Machine chart battle (but more on that later), Little Mix's Cannonball was released a few weeks out from the festive chart. This meant their cover of Damian Rice's Cannonball hit Number 1 on 18 December, one week before the Christmas Number 1 slot. On the big day, they had to play second fiddle to Gareth Malone and the Military Wives Choir with Wherever You Are.
Chef – Chocolate Salty Balls (1998)
1998 was a big battle between Queens of Christmas Number 1 Spice Girls and… a cartoon character with a taste for massively problematic innuendo. Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls were the perfect recipe for a novelty chart-topper, but the top spot was in search of a bit more Spice, and a post-Geri quartet took it with Goodbye. Sales were massive that week, with Spice Girls shifting 380,711 copies, and Chef – actually soul singer Isaac Hayes – just under 8,000 behind.
Mike Flowers' Pops – Wonderwall (1995)
Mike Flowers' Pops Wonderwall...a novelty cover that eventually melted the heart of its originators Oasis.
The fab and groovy and totally hip (yes, we are cringing typing those words, why do you ask?) Mike Flowers took a heartfelt ballad and turned it into a delightfully cheesy easy listening masterpiece. Sadly, ballads were what the great British public were after and Mike lost out to a Michael – Jackson, in fact, with his lowkey, understated classic Earth Song.
Take That – Babe (1993)
Take That seemed locked on to be the star atop the tree in 1993, but there was a shock awaiting them – and it was pink and shaped like a great big lump of… well, stuff. The charms of Mr Blobby outwitted the dimples of Mark Owen and snatched it from Take That at the last minute with his imaginatively titled Mr Blobby. Possibly one of the most controversial Christmas Number 1 upsets, it was the catalyst for more hotly contested battles, as artists sought to reclaim the idea that landing the festive chart topper was a serious accolade. Which it is!
Whitney – Saving All My Love For You (1985)
Whitney would, of course, secure the Christmas Number 1 in 1992 with I Will Always Love You, but she first came pretty close seven years earlier with her big debut single, Saving All My Love For You. After two weeks at the top, Whitney was deposed just as the turkey was cooking in the oven, by rocking and rolling Cliff-Elvis hybrid Shakin' Stevens, with his perennial fave Merry Christmas Everyone.
Wham! – Last Christmas (1984, 2022)
George's whispered "Merry Christmas" in the first verse is the stuff of legend, but Last Christmas is perhaps the most famous festive near-miss of them all. On original release in 1984, it entered at Number 2 and stayed there for five weeks, kept off the top by the original Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas.
It was reissued in 1985 for another go, making it to Number 6. Last Christmas has returned to the Top 40 14 every year since 2007, and finally claimed the Number 1 spot in the first week of 2021, the week after the Official Christmas Chart.
Last year, George and Andrew once again became Official Christmas Number 2, taking second place to LadBaby's Food Aid, but 2023 saw the duo battle with Sam Ryder before WHAM's Last Christmas secured the Official Christmas Number 1 in 2023 for the first time ever. At 39 years in the making, Last Christmas set a new record for the longest ever journey to the UK's Christmas Number 1.
John Lennon – (Just Like) Starting Over (1980)
The former Beatle's death in December 1980 sent shockwaves through the entertainment world and led to an upsurge in demand for the star's old material, but it wasn't enough to give him a Christmas Number 1. He was toppled Christmas week by St Winifred's School Choir's tribute to their grandma, but he did have another record in the Top 5 – the altogether more Christmassy, albeit a bit depressing, Happy Xmas (War Is Over).
ABBA – I Have A Dream (1979)
Not all dreams can come true, however, and this celestial ballad was pipped by Pink Floyd's only slightly less festive Another Brick in the Wall. I Have A Dream would get a shot at being Christmas Number 1 20 years later, however, when Westlife covered it and took it all the way. Take a look at all ABBA's UK hit singles and albums.
Village People – YMCA (1978)
Dancefloors of Christmas discos up and down the country will have been bouncing to camp classic YMCA, but sadly there's only room in the history books for one festive Number 1. But camp did win through – the prize went to Boney M's Mary's Boy Child, not exactly the most shy and retiring of all the Christmas Number 1s, we have to say.
But for the Village People, as their anthem itself declared - there's no need to feel down, YMCA picked itself off the ground and climbed to Number 1 a week later instead.
Petula Clark – Downtown (1964)
"The lights are much brighter there…" Petula could've been talking about Christmas tree lights in Downtown, couldn't she? She wasn't, however, and her uplifting appreciation for going into town for a few drinks, and maybe to buy a couple of records, was stopped in its gallop by the Beatles, enjoying their second of three Christmas Number 1s with I Feel Fine.
Every Christmas Number 2 on the Official Chart
|YOU BELONG TO ME
|ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
|BILL HALEY AND HIS COMETS
|SINGING THE BLUES
|MA HE'S MAKING EYES AT ME
|JOHNNY OTIS AND HIS ORCHESTRA WITH MARIE ADAMS
|LORD ROCKINGHAM'S XI
|WHAT DO YOU WANT
|IT'S NOW OR NEVER
|TOWER OF STRENGTH
|THE NEXT TIME/BACHELOR BOY
|SHE LOVES YOU
|WIND ME UP (LET ME GO)
|MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (EP)
|BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP
|RUBY, DON'T TAKE YOUR LOVE TO TOWN
|KENNY ROGERS AND THE FIRST EDITION
|WHEN I'M DEAD AND GONE
|I LOVE YOU LOVE ME LOVE
|YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET
|I BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS
|UNDER THE MOON OF LOVE
|THE FLORAL DANCE
|BRIGHOUSE AND RASTRICK BRASS BAND
|THE VILLAGE PEOPLE
|I HAVE A DREAM
|(JUST LIKE) STARTING OVER
|BLUE CHRISTMAS (EP)
|MY OH MY
|LAST CHRISTMAS/EVERYTHING SHE WANTS
|SAVING ALL MY LOVE FOR YOU
|CARAVAN OF LOVE
|FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK
|THE POGUES & KIRSTY MACCOLL
|ESPECIALLY FOR YOU
|KYLIE AND JASON
|JIVE BUNNY AND THE MASTERMIXERS
|ICE ICE BABY
|WHEN YOU TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME
|HEAL THE WORLD
|ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU
|THE MIKE FLOWER POPS
|KNOCKIN' ON HEAVEN'S DOOR
|TELETUBBIES SAY EH-OH!
|CHOCOLATE SALTY BALLS (P.S. I LOVE YOU)
|THE MILLENNUM PRAYER
|WHAT MAKES A MAN
|HOW WONDERFUL YOU ARE
|ONE TRUE VOICE
|CHRISTMAS TIME (DON'T LET THE BELLS END)
|FATHER AND SON
|RONAN KEATING FT. YUSUF ISLAM
|WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD
|KATIE MELUA AND EVA CASSIDY
|WHAT'S MY NAME
|RIHANNA FT. DRAKE
|MARK RONSON FT. BRUNO MARS
|EMINEM FT. ED SHEERAN
|SWEET BUT PSYCHO
|STORMZY FT ED SHEERAN & BURNA BOY
|ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU
|ED SHEERAN & ELTON JOHN
|YOU'RE CHRISTMAS TO ME
©2023 Official Charts Company. All rights reserved.
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