If you’re a television personality, having a hit Christmas single is harder than it looks.
For instance, UK Top 10 singles such as ‘I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas’ by The Goons, ‘Your Christmas Wish’ by The Smurfs and ‘I Believe in Christmas’ by the Tweenies are exceptions to the rule.
Also, because several of these singles have flopped, even minor Top 40 hits such as Mr Blobby’s ‘Christmas In Blobbyland’ and The Goodies’ ‘Make A Daft Noise For Christmas’ can be considered as success stories.
And this is without considering the numerous tie-in singles that were released during the Christmas period. For example, ‘Supermarket Sweep (Will You Dance With Me?)’, by The Bar-Codes featuring Alison Brown and M.C. Dale [Winton], reached Number 72 in December 1994.
There are too many celebrity-related Christmas singles to mention – including ‘I Dream Of Christmas’ by Anita Dobson, ‘The Christmas Singles’ by Spitting Image, ‘Light Up The World For Christmas’ by The Lampies and ‘Help Yourself/Bigamy At Christmas’ by Tony Ferrino – but here are ten of the more interesting flops.
‘White Christmas’ by Freddie Starr (1975)
Surprisingly, Freddie Starr has released a number of serious-minded singles and albums. This stemmed from his collaborations with the Midnighters and Joe Meek in the 1960s, and his Top 10 single ‘It’s You’ in 1974.
Also, between 1974 and 1990, he released four easy listening LPs, which mostly contained cover versions.
The comedian’s version of ‘White Christmas’, however, took a ‘comedic’ turn, as it involved Starr impersonating Elvis Presley and Adolf Hitler throughout the song.
Considering that it was Starr’s second and last UK Top 75 single – peaking at Number 41 in December 1975 and having a month-long stay in the charts – it can be seen as a minor success for Starr.
Additionally, Jim Davidson’s version of the same song reached Number 52 in December 1980.
‘Home For Christmas Day’ by The Red Car and The Blue Car (1991)
For those who aren’t in the know, “The Red Car and The Blue Car” was a Milky Way television advert from the late 1980s.
‘Home For Christmas Day’ reworked the advert’s 40-second jingle and, unsurprisingly, turning it into a three-minute pop song was too much of a stretch for it to work.
After entering the UK Singles Chart at Number 73 in December 1991, it eventually rose to Number 44; making it one of the more successful Christmas single flops.
‘Boom Boom/Christmas Slide’ by Basil Brush featuring India Beau (2003)
In December 2003, Basil Brush teamed up with his ‘The Basil Brush Show’ co-star India Beau to release a double A-side single.
And it’s particularly telling that Right Records, rather than BBC Worldwide (who released singles by the Teletubbies and Tweenies, among others), released this single.
In a non-shocker, ‘Christmas Slide’ is soulless pap and only the most easily pleased group of tiddlers will enjoy it.
No wonder it faltered at Number 44 in the UK Singles Chart.
‘Rockin’ Good Christmas’ by Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown (1996)
There are three things about Roy Chubby Brown’s Christmas single that shouldn’t surprise you: a) it features lots of swearing, b) it peaked at Number 51 in the UK Singles Chart and c) it’s a beggared song, aimed at fans of tasteless vulgarity.
‘Another Blooming Christmas’ by Mel Smith (1991)
Mel Smith’s ‘Another Blooming Christmas’ – which was taken from the animated short, ‘Father Christmas’ – should have replicated the Top 10 success of ‘Walking In The Air’ during the 1991 Christmas period.
However, there was one problem. The single was released before Channel 4’s original transmission of the cartoon on 24 December 1991, and it made its last appearance in the UK Singles Chart just five days later.
Had it been released a year or two later, it would have been a sure-fire Top 30 hit, at the very least, and Epic Records must have been disappointed with its Number 59 peak.
‘Old Fashioned Christmas’ by Anne Charleston and Ian Smith (1989)
Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan were all the rage in 1989, so it surprised no one when other Australian soap stars jumped on the bandwagon.
Craig McLachlan and Home & Away’s Dannii Minogue reached the UK Top 10 in the early 1990s, but Madge and Harold Bishop’s short-lived music career raised more than a few eyebrows.
The duo, Anne Charleston and Ian Smith, went on the promotional chase in December 1989, as they appeared on 22 television shows to promote the single including kids’ programmes ‘Going Live!’ and ‘Wac 90’.
However, they couldn’t muster up a hit single – it entered the charts at Number 89 and, although it climbed to Number 77, a week later, it soon sunk without a trace.
Still, at least it didn’t flop as much as Mark Stevens’ non-hit wonder ‘This Is The Way To Heaven’ in 1991.
‘Christmas Wrapping’ by Tony Robinson and The Angel Voices (1990)
Tony Robinson’s venture into novelty rap records was perhaps overlooked and unappreciated in December 1990, as it stumbled into the UK Singles Chart at Number 78.
Also, the fact that it was released by independent label Nico Polo wouldn’t have helped matters at all.
It’s a genuinely amusing song, though, and the dance-cum-choir mix is a nice touch.
And it wasn’t even a cover of The Waitresses’ ‘Christmas Wrapping’, as Robinson co-wrote the song.
Furthermore, and very interestingly, the ‘Blackadder’ actor seemingly performed the song under the guise of his Sheriff of Nottingham character.
‘Christmas Wrapping’ may have performed far better if it had been an official ‘Maid Marian and her Merry Men’ tie-in single.
‘Give Us A Kiss For Christmas’ by Pinky and Perky (1990)
Here’s a surprising fact: until May 1993, Pinky and Perky had never entered the UK Top 75.
And that wasn’t going to change with their cover of Lionel Bart’s ‘Give Us A Kiss For Christmas’.
Especially when their version – which failed to peak beyond Number 79 in early December 1990 – was originally recorded in 1962.
Old-hat doesn’t even come into it.
‘Cashing In On Christmas’ by Bad News (1987)
Before 1987, comedy fans knew all about spoof rock band Bad News. After all, Channel 4 had aired a ‘Comic Strip… Presents’ episode, entitled ‘Bad News Tour’, in 1983.
Over four years later, Bad News – also known as comedians Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Rik Mayall and Peter Richardson – teamed up with Queen guitarist Brian May (as a producer) to release a self-titled LP.
Also, two singles were released from the album: a cover of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Cashing In On Christmas’.
Both the LP and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ reached the Top 70, but ‘Cashing In On Christmas’ sounded tepid and the joke was perhaps becoming a parody of itself.
Despite the 7” single featuring a range of free gifts – including a signed Christmas card, press release, foldout poster and fake £10 note – ‘Cashing In On Christmas’ peaked at Number 81 in November 1987.
‘Songs For Christmas’ (EP) by Minipops (1986)
Although the ‘Minipops’ television series on Channel 4 lasted for only six weeks in 1983, it was successful enough to spawn a bunch of singles and albums during the 1980s.
One of them, the ‘Songs for Christmas’ EP, was in aid of the Leukaemia Research Fund’s Silver Jubilee Appeal.
In May 1986, the TV Times launched a competition for under 18s to write a “Song For Christmas”.
The entries were whittled down to four shortlisted songs, which were performed by the Minipops on TV-am’s ‘Wide Awake Club’.
The programme’s viewers selected ‘Adventures of Santa’ as the winner, but the other three songs (‘Christmas Scenes’, ‘Ring A Bell For Christmas’ and ‘Rock Baby Jesus’) were also featured on the EP.
Although it sold poorly – it peaked at Number 88 in December 1986 – two further ‘Songs For Christmas’ EPs reached Number 39 in 1987 and Number 97 in 1988.
This feature was self-published in December 2012.
Roberts, D. (ed) (2004) The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums. 17th edition. London: Guinness World Records.