MUCH like Christmas dinners with the family, Ireland’s Christmas number ones are either of the good, the bad or the very ugly variety.
Some years we do it well – like when Thin Lizzy or the Pogues hit the top spot on the big day – but whoever spurned their hard-earned cash on making Zig and Zag the sound of Christmas 1990, hang your heads in shame now.
Here are nine number ones that graced the Irish charts on Christmas Day, for better or for worse:
1. Brendan Bowyer – No More (1963)
The early 1960s were a good time for Waterford singer Brendan Bowyer – having had none other than The Beatles open for him in 1962 at the Liverpool Empire Theatre, he then went on to achieve Ireland’s second ever Christmas No. 1 in 1963 with No More. Apparently Elvis Presley himself used to turn up to Brendan’s concerts in Las Vegas in the 1970s – but by that time we’d forgotten him back home.
2. Pat Lynch and the Airchords – Treat Me Daughter Kindly (1967)
Formed by members of the Irish Air Corps, the Airchords came together in 1960, but weren’t joined by their most successful singer Pat Lynch until 1965. In late 1967, the band had its first number one hit with Treat Me Daughter Kindly. The song was covered a year later by The Wolfe Tones and to be honest, they did it better.
3. Tommy Drennan – O Holy Night (1971)
Tommy Drennan was a boy singing sensation from Limerick who joined his local band, the Monarchs, and helped catapult them to countrywide fame. The group reached Christmas number one in 1971, but within a year they had broken up and gone their separate ways. Poison chalice, much?
4. Thin Lizzy – Whiskey in the Jar (1972)
Before being popularised by the Dubliners and Thin Lizzy among others, Whiskey in the Jar had been a much celebrated Irish trad tune for decades. The song is about a Rapparee (Highwayman) betrayed by his lover. Thin Lizzy's take was the making of the band, who went on to achieve international success until lead singer Phil Lynott’s death in 1986. In 2005, a now well-known statue was erected in Lynott’s honour in his native Dublin.
5. Dermot Morgan – Thank You Very Much Mr Eastwood
Exactly a decade before he became Father Ted, Dermot Morgan was top of the Irish charts on Christmas Day 1985 with his comedy single, Thank You Very Much Mr Eastwood. The song essentially took the mick out of Irish boxer Barry McGuigan and his manager, Barney Eastwood. But Ronald Reagan, Bob Geldof and none other than Pope John Paul II came in for some flack – ironic, or what?
6. The Pogues & Kirsty McColl – Fairytale of New York (1987)
Obviously. Since it was first released in 1987, Fairytale of New York has rightfully become regarded as a classic, but it didn’t even hit the top spot in the British singles chart – being kept off the top spot by Pet Shop Boys’ Always on my Mind. Thankfully, we back at home had better taste. One lesser known fact about the song is that although Shane McGowan appears to play the piano in its music video, the instrument was actually played by bandmate James Fearnley – who had to wear Shane’s rings for close-ups of his hands, despite his protests.
7. Zig and Zag ft. Dustin the Turkey – Christmas Number One (1990)
In 1992 Zig and Zag found fame in Britain when they joined Chris Evans for the now iconic breakfast show The Big Breakfast. But two years previously the extra-terrestrial twins were top of the Irish charts on Christmas Day 1990 with, yes, Christmas Number One. Not only that, but they stayed on top for five weeks while thousands of people continued to purchase their single. The pair were soon signed by Simon Cowell and released two more singles. Zig-and-Zag-mania eventually died sometimes in the mid-90s, but the pair returned this year for a cartoon broadcast throughout Britain and Ireland – with a theme tune written by the Kaiser Chiefs. We look back on the days of Zig and Zag fondly, but really, Ireland?
8. Boyzone – Father and Son (1995)
It was a simpler time. Boyzone mania was in full force in December 1995, when the Dublin boyband released their take on the Cat Stevens’ classic Father and Son. The single reached number two in Britain but took its rightful place on top of the Irish Singles Chart. The release was accompanied by the most 90s music video ever (check out Ronan Keating’s spikes) and became the biggest selling boy band single of the 1990s in both Britain and Ireland – and remember, this was the decade of Take That and Backstreet Boys, so fair play.
9. Westlife – I Have a Dream (1999)
Westlife covered ABBA's classic 20 years after its original release, and made it their fourth number one. The B-side was a cover of Terry Jacks’ Seasons in the Sun, so the band were able to spend what time they would’ve spent writing music on making money out of Louis Walsh. I Have a Dream sold over 650,000 copies and was the final number one of the 1990s in both Britain and Ireland. Britney Spears’ Born to Make You Happy subsequently became Ireland’s first number one of the 21st century.