Thursday, December 24, 2015

"Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade

Among the most popular Christmas songs of all time in the United Kingdom is "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade. It is most probably Slade's biggest hit of all time and one of the biggest selling Christmas singles in Britain. It also sold well elsewhere in the world. While it did not chart in the United States, over the years it has become much more familiar to Americans (particularly due to its repeated use on Doctor Who) and hence more popular Stateside as well.

In 1973 Slade was one of the most successful bands in the United Kingdom. They already had an impressive five number one records ("Coz I Luv You", "Take Me Bak 'Ome", "Mama Weer All Crazee Now", "Cum On Feel the Noize", and "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me"). They had many more singles that reached the top twenty. With such success, the band, as well as their label (Polydor Records) decided that they should record a Christmas single.

The song ultimately emerged from a melody that bassist Jim Lea had come up with earlier, as well as a song that lead vocalist Noddy Holder had written in 1967 ("Buy Me a Rocking Chair"). Ultimately Jim Lea's melody would be used for the verses, while Noddy Holder's old song would provide the basis for the chorus. Slade decided that they wanted the song to be about a typical British family Christmas. With the British economy in a poor state, Noddy Holder said of the song later, "I think people wanted something to cheer them up – and so did I." Ultimately the lyrics would reflect this, with lines such as "Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?" and "Are you waiting for the family to arrive?"

While "Merry Xmas Everybody" portrayed a typical British family Christmas, it was actually recorded in the United States, where Slade was on tour. It was in the late summer of 1973 that Slade recorded the song at the Record Plant in New York City. The initial recording took five days to complete, but the band did not like the finished product. As a result they rerecorded the whole song.

Their effort appears to have been worth it, as "Merry Xmas Everybody" sold half a million in advance copies. It entered the UK singles chart at number one, becoming the third such song by Slade to do so (the other two were "Cum On Feel the Noize" amd "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me"). So great was the demand that Polydor had to use their French pressing plant to make more copies. Needless to say, "Merry Xmas Everybody" was the Christmas number one for 1973, beating out , "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" by Wizzard (which peaked at number 3). Curiously, "Merry Xmas Everybody" remained on the charts well past Christmas. It remained in the number one slot until mid-January and remained on the chart into February.

"Merry Xmas Everybody" also did well outside of Britain. It went to no. 1 in the Republic of Ireland, and hit the top ten in Belgium, Germany, and Norway. It did not chart in the United States, where for whatever reason Slade never was particularly successful. 

What is more, "Merry Xmas Everybody" has repeatedly re-entered the UK singles chart. It re-entered the chart every year in the first half of the Eighties. It once more re-entered the chart in 1998. Since 2006 it has re-entered the chart every year. Not surprisingly, it was certified platinum in 1980.

Despite the success of "Merry Xmas Everybody", the song would be the last number one record for Slade. The band still regularly hit the top ten into 1975 and the top twenty into 1976, but found their fortunes turn for the worse in the late Seventies when most of their new singles failed to chart at all.

"Merry Xmas Everybody" has been covered several times through the years. In 1990 The Mission recorded a version under the name "The Metal Gurus". R.E.M. covered the song in 2007. In 2012 power pop band Sloan released a cover of the song as a free digital download. This year Train recorded a version of the song.

Here it should be pointed out that "Merry Xmas Everybody" has featured in five Doctor Who episodes, including "The Christmas Invasion", "The Runaway Bride", "Turn Left", "The Power of Three", and "Last Christmas".

"Merry Xmas Everybody" remains popular and shows no sign of declining in popularity. It is arguably one of the most successful Christmas rock songs of all time. Indeed, in a a 2007 poll carried out by MSN Music, it was voted the most popular British Christmas song. Noddy Holder has even jokingly referred to "Merry Xmas Everybody" as his pension plan due to the amount of royalties he receives from it.

Without further ado, here it is, "Merry Xmas Everybody".

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