How they reveal a decade.

By hal fish: music Columnist

For most (or at least those who are not Jeff Bezos) 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year.  So the hope for thaings to improve hangs on the year soon upon us and the decade that follows. 

With that in mind, it might be quite interesting to look at some of the Christmas number ones of the past – specifically those which came at the turn of the decade – and see what they revealed of the following ten years. 

Hop on a time machine and come all the way back to 1960: an era which presents itself as the decade of ‘love’.  What better way to begin than with a catchy love song with simple soppy lyrics.  Cliff Richard and The Shadows’ classic I Love You marks a departure away from more conventional ideals and sounds of the 50s.  It’s poppy melody also seems to foreshadow The Beatles who dominated the decade with four Christmas number ones. 

A decade on, in 1970 we have Dave EdmundsI Hear You Knocking.  He sings: “I hear you knocking, but you can’t come in.  I hear you knocking, go back where you been.”  This is not the same open-hearted sentiment we saw so often in the 60s.  Novelist Tom Wolfe noted this change in attitudes, and coined the term the “ ’Me’ decade” in 1976 as a way of describing how people in the 70s became much more individualistic than they had been in the previous decade.

In 1980 and 1990 we have St Winifred’s School Choir’s There’s No One Quite Like Grandma and Cliff Richard’s Saviour’s Day respectively.  Both songs feel more or less produced to serve the purpose of being Christmas number ones – so there’s not much to glean from there.

Skip now all the way to the year 2000.  Not only a new decade but also the turn of a century.  What would be the number one for this seismic change? Bob the Builder and Can We Fix It? of course.

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It may be a kid’s song, but this paved the way for more playful, throwaway tunes that would top the charts this century.  For instance, We Built This City and I Love Sausage Rolls by LadBaby have topped the charts for the past two years.

The song could also be seen to display changing attitudes towards women in the workplace with the lyrics: “Scoop, Muck, and Dizzy, and Roley too.  Lofty and Wendy join the crew”.  With Wendy being Bob’s wife, and Dizzy being a female-voiced cement mixer.  Though, admittedly, that might be a bit of a stretch.

The X Factor?

In 2010 Matt Cardle claimed the Christmas number one with When We Collide.  Cardle was propelled into the limelight having recently won The X Factor; indeed this song was his debut single following his victory.  Cardle’s success foretold a decade which could be defined by a sudden burst of ‘normal people’ becoming celebrities through reality TV – for example, Scarlett Moffatt appearing first on Gogglebox and then winning I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! – and also on social media with ‘influencers’.   Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You and Wham’s Last Christmas are currently locked in a battle for 2020’s number one spot, which suggests people are really embracing the festive spirit.   Perhaps everyone is hoping to forget a difficult year with a bit of seasonal escapism.  Let’s pray those attempts to avoid reality don’t set the tone for the upcoming decade.