341. ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, by Slade

OK everyone. On three. A-one, two… It’s CHRRRIIISSTTTMMAAAAASSSSSS!

Merry Xmas Everybody, by Slade (their 6th and final #1)

5 weeks, from 9th December 1973 – 13th January 1974

Yep, despite me sitting down to write this in real world October; our journey through the charts has us at Christmas 1973. Slade, the biggest band in the land have written an instant festive classic… Was there any way this wasn’t going to smash straight in at the top of the charts?

For the first time ever, two consecutive #1s have entered at the very top. (This won’t happen again until 1989!) All three of Slade’s chart-topping discs this year have debuted there. And they’ve saved their biggest one for last. The one that sold half a million copies in its first week on sale. Are you hanging up the stocking on your wall, It’s the time that every Santa has a ball…

To be honest, this song long since became muzak; I know all the words but never actually pay attention to them. Sitting down now and concentrating, you notice some clever touches. The ‘fairies’ sobering Santa up (pretty sure they’d be elves, but who am I to disagree with Slade?), the hints to the nativity and having room to spare inside. And of course, granny telling you that the old songs are the best but, presumably after a sherry or three, she’s up and rock ‘n’ rolling with the rest…

Musically, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ (the ‘s’ in Xmas should technically be back to front; but Microsoft Word cannot cope with Slade’s anarchic handwriting) sounds a bit subdued next to Slade’s more raucous earlier hits, ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’, ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’ and the like. Maybe they dialled it back a bit, to ensure that it appealed to the widest possible audience; but it means it lacks a little something. It does mean, though, that we get some nice Beatlesy backing vocals and the brilliant What will your daddy do when he sees your momma kissing Santa Claus, a-ha…. bridge. Apparently Holder had written it in the sixties, long before Slade existed, which may explain the retro sound.

It must have sounded great when it first came out. Most Christmas standards up to then were either novelties, hymns or classics sung by Bing Crosby. But can anyone born in the UK, inside the last fifty years, actually remember the first time they heard this song? It’s just there. Each and every Christmas, on a loop. This, and the other big Christmas hit that was released in 1973, kicked off the idea of the Christmas #1 single, meaning that we perhaps have this to blame for Cliff’s Christmas efforts, Mr. Blobby, Bob the Builder, and all the horrible X-Factor winners’ singles… Dammit Slade, what did you do??

I could happily never hear this song again. It is Slade’s least enjoyable #1, and that’s not just because it’s a Christmas song. After this they turned away from commercial glam-pop and went heavier. The hits that immediately followed – ‘Everyday’, ‘The Bangin’ Man’ and ‘Far, Far Away’ – are for my money ten times better than this one. But hey ho.

Plus, the record I alluded to earlier, the other Christmas hit by a glam rock band from 1973, Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ is a better song, and one that I can still stomach when it starts coming on in the supermarket right about, hmmm, now. It only made #4. But. I love Slade, and don’t want to end my final post on them with a whimper. It’s lucky, then, that the band didn’t let this one end without one final moment of brilliance. It’s now pretty much enshrined in British law that Christmas hasn’t officially started until Noddy Holder has announced it at the top of his voice.

How much do Slade make from this record? About half a million pounds a year, it’s estimated. It was re-released in the early eighties, then again in the late nineties, and has made the charts every year since 2006 thanks to downloads and streaming. Last year, it reached #19. In a month or so it will start its latest ascent up the charts. It is a song that will probably outlive each and every one of you reading this. Slade’s legacy, for better or worse…

Enjoy (almost) all the #1s from 1973, and beyond, before we launch headfirst into ’74…

32 thoughts on “341. ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, by Slade

  1. I suppose familiarity breeds contempt, or something rather like it. You only have to look at the title, and the jukebox in your head immediately starts playing the intro on John Lennon’s harmonium. You may have heard it far too much year in year out, but Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. Speaking as someone still just in his teens when it was first issued, my generation all loved Slade – or if they didn’t, probably had the good sense to pretend they did. This record will indeed outlive Noddy, outlive me, outlive us all, as will its glam rock twin brother from Wizzard. Between them they set the bar so high. (And apologies if the word ‘bar’ makes you feel thirsty…)

    1. You are right, of course. I’d miss it if on Xmas it just disappeared. And contempt is too strong a word… more numbness. ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’, though, is still enjoyable, and I must have heard them the same number of times (if you hear one, the other can’t be far behind…)

    1. You’re right to connect it to the economic situation at the time, of course. The ‘look to the future’ line becomes much more prescient. My main issue with it is that, in 2020, it is pretty much all Slade are remembered for, as if they were a novelty act and not one of the greatest rock bands of all time! Sigh…

      1. Completely agree with you on that. Much as I love their song it has overshadowed the rest of their career. Although the recently-released compilation finally saw them entering the top ten album charts for the first time since 1974. Justice at last!

  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    I’m lucky…the first time I heard it was on a Doctor Who episode I believe…later on I looked it up and I still love it…because it’s not worn out to me. Every year I post it someone from the UK…says Bloody Hell!
    It never caught on in America…it’s one Christmas song that is not worn out to me. I probably found it…other than the Doctor Who episode…2-3 years ago…not many seasons to ruin it yet for me.

    1. To be honest, I was probably one of your moaners last Christmas… Like I said in another reply, to kids and even people my age, in 2020, this bloody song is all Slade are remembered for, as if they were a one-hit novelty, and not one of the greatest rock n roll bands ever!

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        That part is sad because I like their other songs a lot.
        I guess being from here I don’t think of them like that…of coursre I haven’t heard it over and over.

  3. All true, and the link to the 3-day week, Tv going off at 10 and a dark dismal winter is the backdrop to everyone looking for uplifting glam to brighten up the day. My younger brother bought the Slade single, I bought the Wizzard single and Wizzard only peaked at 4 cos it was unlucky enough to be outgunned by 2 million-sellers from acts at their commercial peak. There wouldnt be another until Bo Rap. The Xmas playlist started pretty much in 1974, there was also Elton John in 1973, John & Yoko, the Spector & Beach Boys albums, Crosby, and newies from Mud, Gilbert, Showaddywaddy and others and my own personal charts became stuffed with Xmas oldies 30 years ahead of downloads and streaming doing the same to sales charts. So, I also am now happy to not hear any of The Usual Suspects if I can possibly avoid them, records I once adored I avoid (hah! as if! Try avoiding stuff in supermarkets and bars, restaurants, radio) and my love goes to the lesser-charted xmas classics that get missed….

    1. For whatever reason, I do still enjoy, and feel less tired of, Wizzard’s Xmas evergreen than Slade’s… If you hear one in a shop or bar the other won’t be far behind, so I don’t think it’s because I’ve heard it significantly fewer times. ‘Last Christmas’ is the same, for me – I still have time for it. ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’, though, can die and never, ever come back. (The My Chemical Romance cover, however, is a little-known Christmas treat!) Any recommended lesser-charted Xmas classics for my playlist this year…?

      1. Ooh loads of obscure Xmas goodies I love, The (Bucks) Fizz’ Don’t Start Without Me is a cheesy delight, Poly Styrene Black Christmas, Gwen Stefani You Make It Feel Like Christmas, Kim Wilde Isobel’s Dream off the fab Wilde Winter Songbook album, You’re All I Want For Xmas (Caro Emerald/Brooke Benton,) Warm This Winter Connie Francis, Showaddywaddy Hey Mr Xmas, Kate Bush December Will Be Magic, and if it all gets too much there’s F**k You Christmas from Kim Wilde & Lawnmower Deth 🙂

      2. Thanks for the list! I like the Gwen Stefani and Connie Francis hits. The others I’ll check out, but not until at least mid-November. Any earlier than that would be ridiculous…

  4. What a great blog!I remember watching them on top of the pops on Christmas day. I saw them live in 1980 and they finished with this one(it was December!)and you’re right, they had much better songs.

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