With the holiday season fast approaching movie-mad readers may well be plundering the dustier sections of their DVD shelves, or flicking through the carefully curated offerings of their streaming service of choice, for the perfect Christmas movie. While many of you will find festive fun in Home Alone, Elf, Die Hard (yes… of course it is), Scrooged and so on there will be a hefty subset who turn to Richard Curtis’s 2003 sugar high of a film, Love Actually.
Time seems to be impervious to the perennial seasonal cheer of Curtis’s film. It is mawkish perhaps, ludicrously well-off certainly, but utterly charming nonetheless. One of the stories Curtis and his team follow in the film is that of faded rock star Billy Mack (a phoenix-like performance from national treasure Bill Nighy), whose seemingly disastrous final shot at fame all comes good with his ultimate triumph – a Christmas No. 1.
The scene is set in a hushed studio boardroom with Billy Mack surrounded by hundreds of executives and studio employees. Radio 1 is counting down the official Christmas Top 10 and lo! Billy Mack’s execrable cover of Love is All Around is top of the charts. Cue celebration, party invites from Elton John and – of course – the beginnings of understanding in Billy of the true meaning of Christmas (Love, obviously).
Fifteen years ago the charts were a huge deal. With Spotify and mp3 downloads now driving the vanguard of music entertainment it may be hard to understand exactly how big a deal it was to get a Christmas No. 1. It is often an indication as to the immense popularity of artists of the time. The Beatles had three successive festive hits from 1963 to 1965 – a feat only ever duplicated by the Spice girls in the late 90s. From then on the slew of carefully timed Reality TV competitions made their mark, but the accolade remained – getting a Christmas No. 1 was a huge deal.
In the last few months we’ve been reintroduced to the story of Queen and Freddie Mercury with Dexter Fletcher’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The title track was itself a Christmas No. 1 in both 1975 and 1991 – quite a triumph, and a testament to its own timeless quality.
The people down at Betway have delved a little deeper into the data to cover the fascinating history of the Christmas chart-toppers. Their infographic below sets out the main messages: cover versions are plentiful, if you were on X-Factor or Pop Idol your chances were high, and heartbreak and Christmas itself are less likely to sell than the eternal theme of Love.
But there’s so much more to dive into – check out their findings right here. And have a very Merry Christmas!