Over the years, we’ve been served up some absolute whoppers, from Slade’s 1973 smash Merry Xmas Everybody to Band Aid’s four – yes, four! – iterations of Do They Know it's Christmas.
Some have been excessively festive (think Boney M’s Mary’s Boy’s Child and Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe And Wine); some have simply been epic songs from that year’s top-selling artist – be it Queen, the Spice Girls or Ed Sheeran; and others have given us Santa with a hefty dose of banter, offering up novelty songs from the likes of Bob the Builder, Mr Blobby and, over the past three years (could it be four?), LadBaby. But they’ve all had one thing in common: they’ve each reached the ultimate chart position and have duly become part of the country’s musical heritage forevermore.
Back in 1994, boy band East 17 joined that hallowed elite – thanks to their timeless ballad Stay Another Day – and some seriously fluffy white parkas. Speaking to heat, longtime band member Terry Coldwell takes us back to that history making moment. “We’d never reached No1 before – but we got to it that November,” says Terry, who’s still performing alongside new members Joe Livermore and Robbie Craig. “I remember sitting round the table at my mum and dad’s, having Christmas dinner. We were listening to the Top 40 and I was just praying we’d be the top spot. They counted down and said, ‘And still No1, East 17!’ I got a rush from my head to my feet, it was amazing. At that time of year, you really want that No1 – and we’d done it.”
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The official UK Singles Chart was launched in 1952, but it wasn’t until 1973 that the festive fisticuffs broke out between glam rock bands Slade and Wizzard. In the end, it was Slade who took the trophy, and from then onwards, every artist has coveted the top slot.
Over the years, we’ve seen different trends emerging: charity singles, tongue-in-cheek hits, and, what many people refer to as the reality TV years when, over a period of time, Pop Idol and The X Factor winners were all but guaranteed that coveted Christmas top spot.
Until, of course, a 2009 social media campaign to dethrone Simon Cowell’s minions led to the rap-metal band Rage Against The Machine beating that year’s winner Joe McElderry to No1.
“Getting a No1 at Christmas was extra-special,” says Terry, who still can’t quite believe that East 17 kept the Queen of Christmas herself, Mariah Carey, off the top spot that year with her ubiquitous smash-hit, All I Want For Christmas Is You. “It means that, from that time onwards, every Christmas, you’ll be played. It’s definitely made Christmas extra-special for us.”
As mentioned, the magical harmonies and soulful lyrics were just part of Stay Another Day’s success – it was also down to those fluffy white parkas the band wore in the video. “The record company hated them!” Terry laughs. “They said they were a bit soft for the bad-boy image we had, so we also shot another video without them. But you can’t beat the one with the white coats, they were so iconic. We still make a white parka look cool! We always put them on for the encore at our live sets and the audience just love it.”
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Reflecting on the song’s legacy, Terry tells us he’s proud.
“You’ve got to embrace what’s made you famous,” he says. “When I’m up there talking to God, I’ll be in my white parka! And my great-great-grandchildren will one day be able to say, ‘That’s my great-great granddad.’ That just feels amazing.”
Still, if Terry needed any more proof of the song’s impact, he only has to look at this year’s Chrimbo No1 contender from Elton John and Ed Sheeran, which features Ed paying tribute to East 17 in his very own white parka. How’s that for a Merry Christmas?