Nine festive musical facts

Nine festive musical facts
Nine festive musical facts

With the whole family gathering to watch telly, have a singsong or indulge in some post-pud quizzes, what better time to impress everyone with some Xmas-themed pop trivia?

As well as topping the list on an ITV nationwide poll in the UK to find ‘The Nation’s Favourite Number One’, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is the only song to be Christmas No.1 twice by the same artist. Written by Freddie Mercury for the band’s 1975 album, A Night At The Opera, the song first topped the Christmas charts in 1975. Following Mercury’s death in November 1991, the song was re-released and became the UK’s Christmas No.1 a second time.

Christmas classics Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Holly Jolly Christmas were all written by Jewish songwriter Johnny Marks.

The Beatles hold the record for the most UK Christmas No.1 singles, topping the charts three years on the spin in 1963, 64 and 65, and again in 67. Welsh crooner Tom Jones topped the chart in 66 with Green, Green Grass Of Home. The Fab Four’s four festival chart-toppers were I Want To Hold Your Hand (63), I Feel Fine (64), Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out (65) and Hello, Goodbye (67). On two occasions, in 63 and 67, The Beatles held both the Christmas No.1 and No.2 spots.

The original version of Rockin Around The Christmas Tree was recorded by singer Brenda Lee when she was 13 years old.

Tinsel-tinged favourite Santa Claus Is Coming To Town has a depressing back-story. Songwriter James “Haven” Gillespie was broke, jobless, and his brother had just died when he was asked to write a Christmas song in 1934. Initially, he was too overcome with grief, but eventually found inspiration in his sibling’s death and drew on the Christmas memories they shared. More than 50 years later, the song’s popularity soared when Bruce Springsteen and the Pointer Sisters recorded versions.

Joy To The World and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing are two of the oldest English-language Christmas hymns, originating in the 1700s.

The first Christmas song to mention Santa Claus was Benjamin Hanby’s Up On The Housetop. Written in 1864, Hanby was inspired by Clement Moore’s 1823 poem, A Visit From Saint Nicholas. During his short life, Ohio-born Hanby wrote some 80 songs before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 33 in 1867. Other than Up On The Housetop, his best-known song is Darling Nelly Gray.

Festive favourite We Wish You A Merry Christmas is one of the oldest secular Christmas songs, originating in the 16th century.

Irving Berlin originally wrote White Christmas for a Broadway musical that never saw the light of day. It was later picked up by Hollywood producers, who used it in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Crosby’s version of White Christmas is the biggest-selling single of all time. Elvis Presley released a version of the song after it featured on his 1957 album, Elvis’ Christmas Album. Songwriter Berlin hated Elvis’ cover of White Christmas so much that he tried to prevent radio stations from the song.

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