Ever since Slade deliberately released Merry Xmas Everybody in an ultimately successful bid to top the United Kingdom’s singles chart at Christmas in 1973, there has been serious competition to have the UK’s Christmas number one single.
For much of this year both bookmakers and punters thought that The X Factor winner, which currently looks like being Grimsby teenager Ella Henderson, would be responsible for the 2012 UK Christmas number one single. But things change and now Merseyside is the favourite over Humberside.
The new frontrunner to be this year’s UK Christmas number one single is the celebrity re-recording of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, the proceeds of which will towards the legal fees that families of the Hillsborough tragedy have incurred fighting British authorities for 23 years.
Bookmakers reacted to the announcement of the Hillsborough charity single, which will feature Port Vale fan Robbie Williams, former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen and Reds legend Kenny Dalglish, by installing it as the 2012 UK Christmas number one single favourite at around 5-6.
And according to British media reports, Simon Cowell, the larger-than-life personality behind The X Factor, is set to react to the Hillsborough developments by turning this year’s winner’s singles into a charity record as well.
The X Factor winner’s single is around 11-8 to be the 2012 UK Christmas number one single, while one can get 3-1 and better about specific contestants topping the chart.
Surely the value bet is He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother at 10-11 with UK-based bookmaker Ladbrokes. Not only do charity singles have an excellent record in the UK Christmas number one single race but also The X Factor has been the subject of campaigns to keep its singers winning the prize.
There have been eight completed UK series of The X Factor since it debuted in 2004. Five winners have had the UK’s Christmas number one single – Shayne Ward (2005), Leona Lewis (2006), Leon Jackson (2007), Alexandra Burke (2008) and Matt Cardle (2010) – with the odd acts out being Steve Brookstein (2004), Joe McElderry (2009) and Little Mix (2011). Charity records beat Brookstein and Little Mix, while a social media backlash defeated McElderry.
Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name was the focus of a Facebook campaign to stop The X Factor winner’s single making it five UK Christmas number ones in a row. It worked, with the song being the first to reach the top of the chart on downloads alone. And it raised money for charity as well.
For every British person that watches The X Factor there are five that avoid it and there is a feeling that the talent pool is drying up as the ninth series reaches its climax.
While it would be folly to write off the chance of The X Factor winner’s single making it six victories from nine attempts – whatever one thinks of Cowell and the manner in which he conducts himself on and off screen, he is a master of music marketing – bookmakers are rating it too highly.
The Hillsborough charity single has so much going for it that, really, bookmakers should be betting 1-4 bar.
First, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother is a popular ballad that, incredibly, did not make it to number one on the UK singles chart when it was released by The Hollies in 1969. The people behind the Hillsborough charity single are guaranteed to mention this as part of their promotions.
Second, this year’s report into the Hillsborough disaster absolved Liverpool supporters of blame and meant that no right-minded football fan could continue to say that Reds diehards caused the deaths of 96 people. Soccer supporters represent a huge percentage of the British population and one can envisage many of them buying the single to assist the families of the men, women and children who died.
And third, it represents the best chance of beating The X Factor. If an American rock band can beat Cowell and company, surely a British sports sing can do likewise.
Guy Chambers, the three-time Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter best known for his collaborations with Williams, is producing He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, with the Hillsborough charity single scheduled for release on 17 December. It is going to take a lot of beating.