Merry Xmas Everybody

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"Merry Xmas Everybody"
A monochrome photograph of Slade, with a white border, set almost centrally in a red square. The words "SLADE" dominate the cover, underneath which is written "MERRY X'MAS EVERYBODY". Underneath the photograph are the words "DONT BLAME ME". White stars border the left and right sides of the photograph.
Single by Slade
B-side "Don't Blame Me"
Released 7 December 1973[1]
Format 7" single
Recorded July 1973
Genre Christmas, Glam rock
Length 3:26
Label Polydor
Writer(s) Noddy Holder, Jim Lea
Producer(s) Chas Chandler
Certification Platinum
Slade singles chronology
"My Friend Stan"
(1973)
"Merry Xmas Everybody"
(1973)
"Everyday"
(1974)

"Merry Xmas Everybody" is a 1973 song by the English rock band Slade. Written by lead vocalist and guitarist Noddy Holder and bassist Jim Lea, and produced by Chas Chandler, it was the band's sixth number-one single in the UK. It earned the UK Christmas Number One slot in December 1973, beating another Christmas-themed song, Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", which reached fourth place. By mid-January it was still at number one; it stayed in the UK Singles Chart well into February 1974.

Based on melodies from discarded songs written six years before, "Merry Xmas Everybody" was Slade's best-selling single, released at the peak of their popularity, and sold over a million copies upon its first release. It is Slade's last number-one single, and by far their most successful. It has been released during every decade since 1973, and has been covered by numerous artists. In a 2007 poll, "Merry Xmas Everybody" was voted the UK's most popular Christmas song.

According to the Fan Club Newsletter for January and February 1974, the album was rewarded a Silver Disc for pre-order sales, even before the single's release. Within the first week of release, the single had sold 500,000 copies.[2][3] Also, according to the same newsletter, "Merry Xmas Everybody" was in such big demand that Polydor records had to make special arrangements to have 250,000 discs sent from Los Angeles, as well as 30,000 copies a day they were receiving from Germany.[2][3]

The single was certified UK Platinum by BPI in December 1980.[4] Since 2007 and the advent of downloads counting toward the UK Singles Chart, it has re-entered the charts each December. Therefore, it has sold 1.21 million copies in the UK as of December 2012.[5]

On 8 December 2013 it re-entered the UK Singles Charts, at number 57.

History and background[edit]

By 1973 Slade were one of the most popular bands in Britain, having achieved two number one singles—"Cum On Feel The Noize" and "Skweeze Me Pleeze Me"—in three months. These singles had both entered the charts straight at number one, a rare feat at the time as this was the first occurrence since The Beatles hit number one in 1969 with "Get Back".

The band and their record company, Polydor, decided to produce a Christmas hit. For inspiration Slade members Noddy Holder and Jim Lea looked at previous material they had written.[6] Lea recalled a melody and verse he came up with while showering, and Holder recalled a song he had discarded in 1967, which he had written when the band were named the N'Betweeners. It was entitled "Buy Me a Rocking Chair", and was Holder's first solo work.[7][8] Holder used the melody of this song for the chorus, and Lea's melody became the verse. After an evening out drinking, Holder worked through the night at his mother's house in Walsall to write the lyrics, which he completed in one draft.[6][8] In a 2007 interview with the Daily Mail, he spoke about the song's creation:

We'd decided to write a Christmas song and I wanted to make it reflect a British family Christmas. Economically, the country was up the creek. The miners had been on strike, along with the grave-diggers, the bakers and almost everybody else. I think people wanted something to cheer them up – and so did I. That's why I came up with the line 'Look to the future now, it's only just begun'. Once I got the line, 'Does your Granny always tell you that the old ones are the best', I knew I'd got a right cracker on my hands.[9]

Holder showed the lyrics to Lea and Slade's manager, Chas Chandler, and played the song for them on acoustic guitars. Both believed the song would be a success. Slade then set off on a sell-out tour. Ten weeks before the song was recorded, drummer Don Powell was injured in a car accident. His girlfriend Angela Morris was killed, and Powell remained in a coma for almost a week. After his eventual recovery, he was able to join the band to record the song.[9] In 2009, PRS for Music announced that up to forty-two percent of the world's population could have listened to the song.[10][11][11]

Recording[edit]

"Merry Xmas Everybody" is one of the most popular Christmas-themed songs in the UK. This short excerpt is from the song's chorus.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The song was recorded in the late summer of 1973, during Slade's east coast US tour. Despite its association with the British working class, it was actually recorded at the Record Plant in New York,[6] where, in an adjoining studio, musician John Lennon was working on his album Mind Games. Lennon planned to use a harmonium, which Slade's producer Chas Chandler decided the song needed.[12] "Merry Xmas Everybody" took five days to finish, but the band disliked the first completed version.[8] It ended up being rerecorded, with the corridor outside used to record the chorus,[6] as it provided an appropriate echo.[8]

Composition[edit]

"Merry Xmas Everybody" opens with the introduction using a B♭ triad, a 7-second melody consisting of a harmonium and bass.[13] The first verse then emerges in G major.[14] This is followed by the bridge then the chorus. This sequence is then repeated once, and followed by a solo part sung by Holder (What will your daddy do/if he sees your mamma kissin' Santa Claus). The first sequence is then repeated, with the final chorus sung four times. On the last rendition, Holder screams out "It's Christmas!" after the Everybody's having fun line and over the rest of the chorus; the final part decreases its tempo and fades out to a D major chord played by the harmonium.

"Merry Xmas Everybody" was featured in the "Famous Last Words" section of the December 1999 issue of Melody Maker magazine, in which Holder explained some of the song's lyrics. For the line "Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?", he stated "I always hang up a stocking on the wall if the wife lets me. This lyric was originally very different - it was taken from the first song I ever wrote, in the acid flower power days of 1967: ‘So won’t you buy me a rocking chair to watch the world go by and a looking glass to look you in the eye’. You can imagine why we never released that." For the line "Do the fairies keep him sober for a day?", Holder stated "It’s the one day Father Christmas has got to stay sober, cos he’s got a big job to do, so he’s got to lay off the booze for one day of the year. I like a hot toddy when I get up on Christmas morning, then I shall have a drop of wine at lunchtime. Maybe then I’ll progress on to a little vodka and, after that, I’ll move on to brandy." For the line "Are you waiting for the family to arrive?", Holder stated "Lyrically, I wanted it to be a working-class thing. Christmas is a family time, and you always want the family around. But there’s another side to it. Quite often, in a lot of families, you invite people that you don’t really like, out of a sense of duty. Though I’m lucky, cos I get on with all my family."[15]

For the line "The old songs are the best", Holder stated "When your granny comes round at Christmas time, and you put on the modern songs, she always says they’re not as good as they were in her day. As soon as she’s had a couple of sherries inside her, she’s up dancing, showing her knickers off. Old songs aren’t always the best. There are good songs today, as there were in the past." For the line "Look to the future now", Holder stated "I always wanted this song to be our optimistic song and certainly this year, with the new millennium, it works even better. I’ve got a lot of things on the horizon, like the BBC1 documentary on Slade, with guest stars like Noel Gallagher and Ozzy Osbourne talking about us." For the line "Do you ride on down the hillside", Holder stated "I always remember as a lad we used to knock these old sledges together with old orange boxes and go tobogganing down this big old quarry. In the older days, it always used to snow regularly at Christmas, so using your sleigh was something we did." For the line "Are you hoping that the snow will start to fall?", Holder stated "I do like a white Christmas and we don’t seem to get many nowadays. It sets the mood for the whole of Christmas, I reckon. And yes, I will be outside building a snowman with my little lad if it does snow." For the line "Everybody’s having fun", Holder stated "I want everyone to have fun. If you have fun and a sense of humour, you can get by in most situations. When I’ve had a few drinks, I like to have a good party. It takes me a bit of time to warm up these days, but my enthusiasm has not waned over the years. At parties, I tend to get too pissed to care what anyone else thinks, ha ha!"[15]

Release[edit]

Two men walking down some stairs. In front, the man is wearing a suit, and a jacket on top. He carries a guitar. His hair comes down to his shoulders, and he has large sideburns. On his head is a top hat, covered with large coins. The man following him is wearing metallic plates on his knees, arms and shoulders, and is wearing platform shoes. He carries a guitar, and on his arms is some jewellery. He is wearing a hood of some sort on his head.
Noddy Holder in 1973, followed by Dave Hill, Slade's guitarist

Before its release, "Merry Xmas Everybody" received about half a million advance orders. 350,000 copies were bought upon its release on 7 December 1973.[9] On 15 December it became the third song by Slade to enter the UK Singles Chart at number one (all in 1973) and the sixth number one of their career,[7] and became the fastest selling single in the UK. Polydor, Slade's record label, were forced to use their French pressing plant to keep up with the demand, and the song eventually went on to sell over one million copies,[9] becoming the Christmas number one of 1973, beating another Christmas-themed song, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by Wizzard.[16] "Merry Xmas Everybody" remained number one until mid-January, and stayed in the charts for a total of nine weeks.[17] That it remained in the charts after Christmas caused confusion for Holder, who wondered why people continued to buy it.[8]

For the fan club newsletter in 1979, Jim Lea spoke of the b-side "Don't Blame Me", "Don't Blame Me was a time-filler, I think that it was created as that. When it was used as a b-side, we didn't even know it was being used, it was chosen by the offices. We were in America recording the Christmas single, there was a rush to choose what to put on the back of it, and that track happened to be used."[18]

In the September–December 1986 Slade fan club magazine, the poll results were announced for the 1986 opinion poll based on Slade’s material. For the best single of the 1970s, "Merry Xmas Everybody" placed at #2.

The song was sampled in the 1989 track "Let's Party" from Novelty pop music act Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, where The Sun newspaper stated Slade received £20,000 for the featuring of the track. A Slade spokesman at the time said this was exaggerated.[19][20] The "Let's Party" track would peak at #1 on the UK chart,[21] whilst becoming successful all across Europe.[22]

For the song's first CD single release in the late 1980s, the Slade fan club of early 1990 had confirmed the CD single had sold 15,000 copies within the UK.[20]

In a December 1984 interview with Record Mirror, the magazine tested Lea's memory by asking him to recall the story behind certain hits. For "Merry Xmas Everybody", Lea stated "Nod had written the chorus of it in 1967. In those days it was all flower power and Sgt. Pepper and Nod had written this tune. The verse was naff but then he came to the chorus and went 'Buy me a rocking chair to watch the world go by, buy me a looking glass, I'll look you in the eye' - very Sgt. Pepper. I don't use tape recorders, I just remember everything and if something's been written 10 or 15 years ago, it stays up there in my head. I never forgot that chorus, and I was in the shower in America somewhere thinking - Boy Dylan, Boy Dylan - and suddenly out came 'are you hanging up the stocking on the wall' and I thought that'll go with that chorus Nod did in '67. So I rang Nod and said what about doing a Christmas song and he said alright, so I played it to him and that was it. We recorded it in the Record Plant in New York which is on top of a skyscraper. We said we needed an echoey room but in those days nobody went for this big, big sound that they're all into now. These engineers thought we were mad, they're going 'no man, you know the Eagles, a very tight sound, 'Hotel California and all that pinging out of the speakers at you. I said what about the hallway downstairs and they went 'we can't use the hallway, there's all these businessmen walking through for the other offices'. Anyway we ran lines down to the hallway and there we were in September singing 'so here it is merry Xmas' and we were totally unknown over there and people thought we were mad. Of course it was a monster hit and now we have to keep competing with it every Christmas. Polydor send us crates of champagne every year and we keep telling them, we don't drink the stuff, we don't like it - give us beer."

Promotion[edit]

No promotional video was created for the single. Bassist/co-writer Lea stated that no film was needed for the single as the band absolutely blitzed the TV over Christmas, appearing on shows as bizarre as The Les Dawson Christmas Show. Lea remembered that on the Tuesday that the single went straight to number one in the charts, the band were filming the Lift Off TV show in Manchester. Apparently the band drove around the streets of the city to check that they were number one before arriving at the studios. When they arrived, Roy Wood's girlfriend of the time Ayshea Brough, said that the next few weeks would be interesting to see who had the Christmas number one out of Slade, Wizzard and Elton John (with "Step into Christmas"). Slade then surprised her by saying that they were there already.[23][24]

The band later performed the song again on Top of the Pops in 1983 on 22 December, and on Dutch TV whilst promoting the 1983 single "My Oh My".[25] In 1985, Holder and Lea performed a short acoustic version on the UK show Razamatazz whilst promoting the single "Do You Believe in Miracles". The band mimed the song on Pebble Mill at One, whilst promoting the band's final single "Universe" from 1991.

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, Record Mirror magazine reviewed the single, "When Slade get hold of a Christmas song, inevitably it's something different. They enquire whether the fairies keep Santa sober for a day and granny says old songs are the best, then gets up and rock rock and rolls with the rest and what will daddy do when he sees mama kissing Santa Claus. Lyrics courtesy Holder and Lea, that well known tunesmith duo, here on a gentler, more melodic, less rumbustious, guaranteed number one than usual. Flip is Don't Blame Me. I don't. It's blameless rock - chart certain."[26]

Disc Magazine wrote "There is no doubt that this slice of festive cheer will be a huge monster hit: the main question is whether it'll go straight to number one..."[2][27]

Sounds magazine wrote "Noddy is in particularly fine voice and there's also some super-neat thumping bass. "Look to the future now, it's only just begun" suggests Noddy, and if Slade's future holds more singles of this standard then I look forward to the new year."[2][27]

Record Mirror magazine reviewed the re-release of the single in 1978. "And dirt we have. Or grit really. Not only that, but five year old grit, cos this first saw you through the Xmas of 1973. Wonder how many copies they had left over that they're still releasing it. A hit of course but a shame they couldn't do something new cos I think they're great."[28]

Legacy[edit]

"Merry Xmas Everybody" is a perennial feature, and is played regularly at UK nightclubs around Christmas. It is included on numerous Christmas-themed compilation albums, and has been featured in several of Slade's subsequent compilation albums.[6] Despite the song's popularity it became the band's last number-one hit.[16] The song charted in every year in the early half of the 1980s, and again in 1998 and 2006–2011,[29] and is a regular feature of television and radio playlists in the Christmas season.[16] However, some venues have removed it from their Christmas playlist because it was overplayed, and became "irritating" to some people.[30][31] Despite this negative response, Peter Buckley describes the song in The Rough Guide To Rock as "arguably the best Christmas single ever";[32] this opinion was reflected in a 2007 poll carried out by MSN Music, where it was voted the UK's most popular Christmas song.[33]

It can be heard playing in the background during five episodes of the British television programme Doctor Who: "The Christmas Invasion" (2005) (where it is the song being played in Mickey Smith's garage), "The Runaway Bride" (2006) (in which it is the song that is being played at Donna Noble's first wedding reception; Donna and the Doctor end up arriving and cutting off the song after the first verse), "Turn Left" (2008) (where it is heard on a car radio), "The End of Time" (2009) and "The Power of Three" (2012).

Noddy Holder has referred to the song as his pension scheme, reflecting its continuing popularity as it makes £500.000 each year from Royalties.[34] The song has been credited with popularizing the annual race for the UK Christmas Number One Single.[35]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by various artists. Notable covers include a version by 4 Skins, as part of the Bollocks to Christmas compilation album.[36] Others include a 1990 version by the British gothic rock band The Mission, performing under the name Metal Gurus.[37] A 1998 dance remix by Swedish dance duo Flush was a UK top 30 entry.[38] The song was parodied as "Party Paradise" performed by children's British television game show Kerwhizz on the Cbeebies song time album Kerwhizz: The Album.[39] The British children's sitcom Tweenies recorded a cover of the song, which is sung by Jake on The Christmas Album.[40] A version was performed live by the girl group Spice Girls in December 1999, at all eight concerts on their Christmas in Spiceworld tour.[41] An acoustic version was performed on The Royle Family's Christmas Special episode by guitarist Noel Gallagher.[42] Irish band Westlife sang this song live on 2000s. Rooney covered the song on The O.C. Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah. Girls Aloud included a cover version as the closing track on the bonus disc of Christmas songs issued as a limited edition of their Chemistry album in 2005. British artist Tony Christie has also covered the song.[43] R.E.M.'s 2007 Holiday Christmas single included another cover of this song. In 2010, Glenn Gregory from electronic band Heaven 17 performed an acoustic version of the track on Paul Morley's Christmas Songs.[44] American musician and songwriter Brendan Benson performed a version of the song in December 2010 for The A.V. Club '​s Holiday Undercover series.[45] Later, in the same A.V. Club series, English singer-songwriter Kate Nash also covered "Merry Xmas Everybody".[46] In December 2012, the song was covered by Canadian rock band Sloan and released as a free download. Idols (South African TV series) singer Mark Haze covered the song on the Idols Top 10 Christmas Album in 2011.[47]

In 2013 a cover of the song sung by Ella Walker featured in a Christmas advert for the NSPCC.[48]

Formats[edit]

7" Single
  1. "Merry Xmas Everybody" – 3:26
  2. "Don't Blame Me" – 2:40
12" Single (1985 reissue)
  1. "Merry Xmas Everybody (Extended version)" – 5:17 (This version has never been available on CD)
  2. "Don't Blame Me" – 2:40
CD Single (Slade vs. Flush '98 remix)
  1. "Merry Xmas Everybody '98 Remix (Flush Edit)" – 3:44
  2. "Merry Xmas Everybody (Original version)" – 3:26
  3. "Cum On Feel the Noize" – 4:23
CD Single (2006 reissue)
  1. "Merry Xmas Everybody" – 3:26
  2. "Cum On Feel the Noize" – 4:23

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
position
Total
weeks
Belgian Singles Chart[49] 3 9
Dutch Singles Chart[50] 3 10
Finnish Singles Chart 19
French Singles Chart[51] 28 21
German Singles Chart[52] 4 12
Irish Singles Chart[53] 1 7
Norwegian Singles Chart[54] 4 11
UK Singles Chart[55] 1 9
Chart (1980) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[56] 70 2
Chart (1981) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[57] 32 4
Chart (1982) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[58] 67 3
Chart (1983) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[59] 20 6
Chart (1984) Peak
position
Total
weeks
Irish Singles Chart[60] 18 2
UK Singles Chart[61] 47 4
Chart (1985) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[62] 48 5
Chart (1986) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[63] 71 3
Chart (1989) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[64] 99 1
Chart (1990) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[65] 93 2
Chart (1991) Peak
position
Total
weeks
Dutch Singles Chart[66] 73 4
Chart (1998) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[67] 30 3
Chart (2006) Peak
position
Total
weeks
European Hot 100 Singles Chart[68] 65 ?
UK Singles Chart[69] 21 5
Chart (2007) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[69] 20 4
Chart (2008) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[69] 32 5
Chart (2009) Peak
position
Total
weeks
German Singles Chart[70] 80 2
UK Singles Chart[69] 41 4
Chart (2010) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[69] 50 4
Chart (2011) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[69] 33 4
Chart (2012) Peak
position
Total
weeks
UK Singles Chart[69] 35 2

Personnel[edit]

  • Noddy Holder: Lead vocals and rhythm guitar
  • Jim Lea: Bass guitar, harmonium and backing vocals
  • Dave Hill: Lead guitar and backing vocals
  • Don Powell: Drums

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.45cat.com/record/2058422-2
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  3. ^ a b [1][dead link]
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  68. ^ "Music News, Reviews, Articles, Information, News Online & Free Music". Billboard. 7 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011. 
  69. ^ a b c d e f g "Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody". Chart Stats. 15 December 1973. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  70. ^ musicline.de / PhonoNet GmbH. "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche". musicline.de. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
Preceded by
"Long Haired Lover From Liverpool" by Little Jimmy Osmond
UK Christmas Number One single
1973
Succeeded by
"Lonely This Christmas" by Mud
Preceded by
"I Love You Love Me Love" by Gary Glitter
UK number one single
15 December 1973 for five weeks
Succeeded by
"You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me" by The New Seekers