Merry Xmas Everybody
|"Merry Xmas Everybody"|
|Single by Slade|
|B-side||"Don't Blame Me"|
|Released||7 December 1973|
|Genre||Rock, Christmas, Glam rock|
|Songwriter(s)||Noddy Holder, Jim Lea|
|Slade singles chronology|
"Merry Xmas Everybody" is a song by the British rock band Slade, released as a non-album single in 1973. The song was written by lead vocalist Noddy Holder and bassist Jim Lea, and produced by Chas Chandler. It was the band's sixth and final number-one single in the UK. Earning the UK Christmas Number One slot in December 1973, the song beat another Christmas-themed song, Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", which reached fourth place. It remained in the charts for nine weeks until February 1974.
"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. The single was certified UK Platinum by BPI in December 1980. Since 2007 and the advent of downloads counting towards the UK Singles Chart, it has re-entered the charts each December. As of December 2012, it has sold 1.21 million copies in the UK. 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 song was rewarded a Silver Disc for pre-order sales. Within the first week of release, the single had sold 500,000 copies. 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.
History and background
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 with "Get Back" in 1969.
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. 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'Betweens. It was entitled "Buy Me a Rocking Chair", and was Holder's first solo work. 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. 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.
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. In 2009, PRS for Music announced that up to forty-two percent of the world's population could have listened to the song.
"Merry Xmas Everybody" is one of the most popular Christmas-themed songs in the UK. This short excerpt is from the song's chorus.
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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, 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. "Merry Xmas Everybody" took five days to finish, but the band disliked the first completed version. It ended up being rerecorded, with the corridor outside used to record the chorus, as it provided an appropriate echo.
In a 1984 interview with Record Mirror, Lea recalled of the song's recording:
"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."
"Merry Xmas Everybody" opens with the introduction using a B♭ triad, a 7-second melody consisting of a harmonium and bass. The first verse then emerges in G major. 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/when 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.
Speaking to Record Mirror in 1984, Lea revealed:
"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 - Bob Dylan, Bob 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."
"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. He said: "Lyrically, I wanted it to be a working-class thing. I always wanted this song to be our optimistic song."
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. 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, 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, becoming the Christmas number one of 1973, beating another Christmas-themed song, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by Wizzard. "Merry Xmas Everybody" remained number one until mid-January, and stayed in the charts for a total of nine weeks. That it remained in the charts after Christmas caused confusion for Holder, who wondered why people continued to buy it.
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."
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. The "Let's Party" track would peak at #1 on the UK chart, whilst becoming successful all across Europe.
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.
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.
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". 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.
Upon release, Record Mirror stated: "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 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." Disc commented: "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..." Sounds said: "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."
Record Mirror later reviewed the 1978 re-release of the single: "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."
"Merry Xmas Everybody" is a perennial feature, and is played regularly at UK nightclubs and on UK radio stations around Christmas. It is included on numerous Christmas-themed compilation albums, and has been featured in several of Slade's subsequent compilation albums. Despite the song's popularity it became the band's last number-one hit. The song charted in every year in the early half of the 1980s, and again in 1998 and every year since 2006, and is a regular feature of television and radio playlists in the Christmas season. However, some venues have removed it from their Christmas playlist because it was overplayed, and became "irritating" to some people. Despite this negative response, Peter Buckley describes the song in The Rough Guide To Rock as "arguably the best Christmas single ever"; this opinion was reflected in a 2007 poll carried out by MSN Music, where it was voted the UK's most popular Christmas song.
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 inside a pub), "The Power of Three" (2012) when Rory is working in the hospital and "Last Christmas" (2014) to keep a woman distracted from the monsters in the episode.
The song has also become the last song that Mark Radcliffe & Stuart Maconie play before Christmas on their BBC Radio 6 Music show and on a number of occasions Noddy Holder has been a guest on the show to introduce it.
Noddy Holder has referred to the song as his pension scheme, reflecting its continuing popularity and the royalties it generates. In 2015 it was estimated that the song generates £500,000 of royalties per year. The song has been credited with popularizing the annual race for the UK Christmas Number One Single.
- In 1981, British working class Oi! band The 4-Skins recorded a version for the various artists compilation E.P. Bollocks to Christmas.
- In 1990, Glam rock tribute band The Metal Gurus released a cover of the song as a charity single. Their version was produced by Holder and Lea, and reached No. 55 in the UK. Sales of the single raised proceeds for the Childline charity.
- In 1994, Kim McAuliffe of Girlschool recorded a version for the various artists compilation Metal Christmas.
- In 1998, Swedish dance duo Flush released a dance remix under the name "Slade vs Flush". It reached No. 30 in the UK.
- In 1999, the girl group Spice Girls performed the song at all eight concerts of their December Christmas in Spiceworld tour.
- In 2000, British dance-pop group Steps recorded a version for the various artists compilation Platinum Christmas.
- In 2001, the British children's sitcom Tweenies recorded a cover of the song for The Christmas Album. The version is sung by the character Jake.
- In 2002, British rock band Oasis recorded an acoustic version for the various artists compilation NME in Association with War Child Presents 1 Love.
- In 2004, Rooney covered the song on The O.C. Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah.
- In 2005, girl group 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 singer Tony Christie covered the song and released it as a single. It reached No. 49 in the UK.
- In 2007, American rock band R.E.M. released their own version of the song as a Christmas fan club single.
- In 2010, Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 performed an acoustic version of the track on Paul Morley's Christmas Songs.
- In 2010, American singer-songwriter Brendan Benson performed a version of the song in December for The A.V. Club's Holiday Undercover series. Later, in the same series, English singer-songwriter Kate Nash also covered the song.
- In 2011, singer Mark Haze covered the song for Idols South Africa's Top 10 Christmas Album.
- In 2012, Canadian rock band Sloan released their own version of the song as a free download.
- In 2013, Ella Walker recorded a version of the song, which was featured in a Christmas advert for the NSPCC.
- In 2015, American rock band Train covered the song for their album Christmas in Tahoe.
- 7" Single
- "Merry Xmas Everybody" – 3:26
- "Don't Blame Me" – 2:40
- 12" Single (1985 reissue)
- "Merry Xmas Everybody (Extended version)" – 5:17 (This version has never been available on CD)
- "Don't Blame Me" – 2:40
- CD Single (Slade vs. Flush '98 remix)
- "Merry Xmas Everybody '98 Remix (Flush Edit)" – 3:44
- "Merry Xmas Everybody (Original version)" – 3:26
- "Cum On Feel the Noize" – 4:23
- CD Single (2006 reissue)
- "Merry Xmas Everybody" – 3:26
- "Cum On Feel the Noize" – 4:23
|Belgian Singles Chart||3|
|Dutch Singles Chart||3|
|Finnish Singles Chart||19|
|French Singles Chart||28|
|German Singles Chart||4|
|Irish Singles Chart||1|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||4|
|UK Singles Chart||1|
|UK Singles Chart||70|
|UK Singles Chart||32|
|UK Singles Chart||67|
|UK Singles Chart||20|
|Irish Singles Chart||18|
|UK Singles Chart||47|
|UK Singles Chart||48|
|UK Singles Chart||71|
|UK Singles Chart||99|
|UK Singles Chart||93|
|Dutch Singles Chart||73|
|UK Singles Chart||30|
|European Hot 100 Singles Chart||65|
|UK Singles Chart||21|
|UK Singles Chart||20|
|UK Singles Chart||32|
|German Singles Chart||80|
|UK Singles Chart||41|
|UK Singles Chart||50|
|UK Singles Chart||33|
|UK Singles Chart||35|
|UK Singles Chart||49|
|UK Singles Chart||55|
|Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)||54|
|UK Singles Chart||55|
|Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)||53|
|UK Singles Chart||30|
- 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
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