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 Rock, Christmas, Glam rock
Length 3:26
Label Polydor
Songwriter(s) Noddy Holder, Jim Lea
Producer(s) Chas Chandler
Slade singles chronology
"My Friend Stan"
(1973)
"Merry Xmas Everybody"
(1973)
"Everyday"
(1974)

"My Friend Stan"
(1973)
"Merry Xmas Everybody"
(1973)
"Everyday"
(1974)

"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.[2]

Released at the peak of the band's popularity, "Merry Xmas Everybody" sold over a million copies upon its first release. It is Slade's last number-one single, and by far their best-selling single. 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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5][6] 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.[5][6]

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 feat unheard of since The Beatles with "Get Back" in 1969. During the year, manager Chas Chandler suggested that Slade write and record a Christmas song. Although the other band members were initially against the idea, Lea came up with the basis of the song while taking a shower.[7] After coming up the verse melody, Lea recalled a song Holder had discarded in 1967, which he had written when the band were named the 'N Betweens. Entitled "Buy Me a Rocking Chair", it was Holder's first solo work.[8][9] "Merry Xmas Everybody" used the melody of this song for the chorus, with Lea's melody as the verse. 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."

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.[10][9] 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.[11]

Holder presented his lyrics to Lea, and the pair played the song to Chandler on acoustic guitars. 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.[11] In 2009, PRS for Music announced that up to forty-two percent of the world's population could have listened to the song.[12][13][13]

Recording[edit]

The song was recorded in the late summer of 1973, partway through Slade's east coast US tour, at the Record Plant in New York,[10] where John Lennon had just finished working on his album Mind Games.[7] "Merry Xmas Everybody" took five days to finish, but the band disliked the first completed version.[9] It ended up being re-recorded, with the corridor outside used to record the chorus,[10] as it provided an appropriate echo.[9]

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."

Composition[edit]

"Merry Xmas Everybody" opens with the introduction using a B♭ triad, a 7-second melody consisting of a harmonium and bass.[14] The first verse then emerges in G major.[15] 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.

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.[11] It became the third song by Slade to enter the UK Singles Chart at number one in its first eligible week on 15 December 1973, the sixth number one of their career,[8][16] and 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,[11] becoming the Christmas number one of 1973, beating another Christmas-themed song, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by Wizzard.[17] "Merry Xmas Everybody" remained number one until mid-January, and stayed in the Top 50 for nine weeks.[18] That it remained in the charts after Christmas caused confusion for Holder, who wondered why people continued to buy it.[9]

The single's original B-side was "Don't Blame Me", which later appeared as an album track on their 1974 album Old New Borrowed and Blue.[19] In a 1979 fan club interview, Lea said: ""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."[20]

In 1985, the song was given its first 12" vinyl release. An extended remix version of the song was created by Lea and Peter Hammond for the release.[21] In 1989, it received its first release as a CD single, which sold 15,000 copies in the UK.[22][23] That same year, the song was sampled by the novelty pop music act Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers for their song "Let's Party". At the time, The Sun reported that Slade had received £20,000 for use of the track, however a Slade spokesman said the figure was exaggerated.[23] "Let's Party" would reach No. 1 in the UK,[24] and was also a success across Europe.[25]

Promotion[edit]

No promotional video was created for the single as the band focused on extensive TV work over the Christmas period instead. They performed the song on various shows including Top of the Pops, The Les Dawson Christmas Show and Lift Off with Ayshea.[26]

The band later performed the song again on Top of the Pops in 1983 on 22 December, and on Dutch TV while promoting the 1983 single "My Oh My".[27] In 1985, Holder and Lea performed a short acoustic version on the UK show Razamatazz while promoting the single "Do You Believe in Miracles". The band mimed the song on Pebble Mill at One in 1991 while promoting the band's final single "Universe".

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, Record Mirror stated: "When Slade get hold of a Christmas song, inevitably it's something different. Holder and Lea, that well known tunesmith duo, here on a gentler, more melodic, less rumbustious, guaranteed number one than usual."[28] 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..."[5][29] Sounds said: "Noddy is in particularly fine voice and there's also some super-neat thumping bass."[5][29] Melody Maker described the song as "another stomper" and "highly danceable".[30]

Legacy[edit]

"Merry Xmas Everybody" is played regularly at UK nightclubs and on TV or radio stations around Christmas. It is included on numerous Christmas-themed compilation albums and several of Slade's subsequent compilation albums.[10][17] Despite the song's popularity it became the band's last number-one hit.[17] The song charted in every year in the early half of the 1980s, and again in 1998 and every year since 2006.[31] 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] The song is virtually never played in the United States, having not been released as a single there in 1973.[34]

It can be heard playing in the background during five episodes of the British television programme Doctor Who: "The Christmas Invasion" (2005) in Mickey Smith's garage, "The Runaway Bride" (2006) at Donna's first wedding reception, "Turn Left" (2008) inside a pub, "The Power of Three" (2012) in a 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 and 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.[citation needed]

Noddy Holder has referred to the song as his pension scheme, reflecting its continuing popularity and the royalties it generates.[35] In 2015 it was estimated that the song generates £500,000 of royalties per year.[36] The song has been credited with popularizing the annual race for the UK Christmas Number One Single.[37]

Cover versions[edit]

  • In 1981, British working class Oi! band The 4-Skins recorded a version for the various artists compilation E.P. Bollocks to Christmas.[38]
  • 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.[39][40]
  • In 1994, Kim McAuliffe of Girlschool recorded a version for the various artists compilation Metal Christmas.[41]
  • In 1998, Swedish dance duo Flush released a dance remix under the name "Slade vs Flush". It reached No. 30 in the UK.[42][43]
  • In 1999, the girl group Spice Girls performed the song at all eight concerts of their December Christmas in Spiceworld tour.[44]
  • In 2000, British dance-pop group Steps recorded a version for the various artists compilation Platinum Christmas.[45]
  • 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.[46]
  • In 2002, British rock band Oasis recorded an acoustic version for the various artists compilation NME in Association with War Child Presents 1 Love.[47][48][49]
  • In 2004, Rooney covered the song on The O.C. Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah.[50]
  • 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.[51]
  • In 2005, British singer Tony Christie covered the song and released it as a single.[52][53] It reached No. 49 in the UK.[54]
  • In 2007, American rock band R.E.M. released their own version of the song as a Christmas fan club single.[55]
  • In 2010, Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 performed an acoustic version of the track on Paul Morley's Christmas Songs.[56]
  • In 2010, American singer-songwriter Brendan Benson performed a version of the song in December for The A.V. Club's Holiday Undercover series.[57] Later, in the same series, English singer-songwriter Kate Nash also covered the song.[58]
  • In 2011, singer Mark Haze covered the song for Idols South Africa's Top 10 Christmas Album.[59]
  • In 2012, Canadian rock band Sloan released their own version of the song as a free download.[60]
  • In 2013, Ella Walker recorded a version of the song, which was used in a Christmas advert for the NSPCC.[61]
  • In 2015, American rock band Train covered the song for their album Christmas in Tahoe.[62]
  • In 2017, American rock band Cheap Trick covered the song on their album Christmas Christmas.[63]
  • In 2017, British progressive rock band IQ covered the song on their limited edition album Tales from a Dark Christmas

Formats and track listings[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
  2. "Don't Blame Me" – 2:40

CD single (1989 reissue)

  1. "Merry Xmas Everybody" – 3:23
  2. "Don't Blame Me" – 2:40
  3. "Far Far Away" – 3:33

CD single (1993 German reissue)

  1. "Merry Xmas Everybody" – 3:23
  2. "My Friend Stan" - 2:38
  3. "Cum On Feel the Noize" – 4:18

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

Personnel[edit]

Slade

  • Noddy Holder – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Dave Hill – lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Jim Lea – bass, harmonium, backing vocals
  • Don Powell – drums

Additional personnel

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
position
Belgian Singles Chart[64] 3
Dutch Singles Chart[65] 3
Finnish Singles Chart 19
French Singles Chart[66] 28
German Singles Chart[67] 4
Irish Singles Chart[68] 1
Norwegian Singles Chart[69] 4
UK Singles Chart[70] 1
Chart (1980) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 70
Chart (1981) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 32
Chart (1982) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 67
Chart (1983) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 20
Chart (1984) Peak
position
Irish Singles Chart[71] 18
UK Singles Chart[70] 47
Chart (1985) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 48
Chart (1986) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 71
Chart (1989) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 99
Chart (1990) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 93
Chart (1991) Peak
position
Dutch Singles Chart[72] 73
Chart (1998) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 30
Chart (2006) Peak
position
European Hot 100 Singles Chart[73] 65
UK Singles Chart[70] 21
Chart (2007) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 20
Chart (2008) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 32
Chart (2009) Peak
position
German Singles Chart[74] 80
UK Singles Chart[70] 41
Chart (2010) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 50
Chart (2011) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 33
Chart (2012) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 35
Chart (2013) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 49
Chart (2014) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[70] 55
Chart (2015) Peak
position
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[75] 61
UK Singles Chart[70] 55
Chart (2016) Peak
position
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[76] 53
UK Singles Chart[70] 30
Chart (2017) Peak
position
Irish Singles Chart[68] 65
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[77] 51
Slovenia (SloTop50)[78] 30
UK Singles Chart[70] 16

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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