Following up last year's brainwave, here's the first of four more Christmas top forties of years past in elucidated retrospect, beginning with a year nobody seems to have been that prepared for festivity-wise, twenty years ago not today:
40 Spandau Ballet - Through The Barricades
End of an era alert with this being their final top ten single. They'll take the ones about what pressure is needed and souls to believe in, but songs about lovers from different religious backgrounds in Northern Ireland was probably a step too far.
39 Five Star - If I Say Yes
Into their fifteenth year of promising a major comeback every couple of months. Yes, Steadman does look more than mildly scary these days. Bet they never got the money back.
38 Anita Baker - Sweet Love
Eight time Grammy winner, apparently, but this was her only UK hit, superior swooning soul well remembered for a number 13.
37 Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian
One of them used to be a man. Pass it on. Legions of poor children's TV gags have been set up since by atypical riffy jauntiness with ace whistling break. Also, Susannah Hoffs does that thing where she's seemingly unable to look straight ahead that we always find amenable in female singers.
36 Red Box - For America
35 Paul McCartney - Only Love Remains
And that was as high as it got, as Fluff used to say. From the not well regarded Press To Play period, followed by hurried reminder All The Best a year later, followed by revitalising Costello cowrites, followed by the 90s.
34 Lionel Richie - Ballerina Girl
"There's something going on in the ballet class, you'd better check it out"
33 Paul Simon - The Boy In The Bubble
These were the days of lazers in the jungle, as we recall. The opening track off Graceland, so lots of authentic percussion and Ladysmithesque backing vocals, plus a cutout-based video.
32 Cameo - Candy
Gun didn't do this one.
31 Gary Moore - Over The Hills And Far Away
Meaningful phallicism on a hillside put aside for a moment for Moore's idea of a jaunty campfire standard. Surely he's made an album with BB King by now.
30 Mel & Kim - Showing Out
Good god, everyone's got a website these days. This is the "get fresh at the weekend" one.
29 Cliff Richard & Sarah Brightman - All I Ask Of You
There was a time when Cliff At Christmas wasn't a running joke, although by the looks of this one he wasn't going to take any chances even pre-Mistletoe And Wine.
28 Kim Wilde - You Keep Me Hangin' On
Number one in America, a number two high here for the formerly stripy T-shirt wearing, Smash Hits question-confusing sulstress, now jacket-wearing 80s glam type about to head Hit Factorywards. Still going, and indeed a remix of You Came has been big in Europe recently. No longer the face of Holland & Barrett, but nobody'll let her forget it now, you watch.
27 Pretenders - Hymn To Her
One of the great singles in their underrated 45s canon, not to mention Chrissie's similarly underappreciated pipes. Surely time for a new album?
26 George Benson - Shiver
Lemar, one day all this will be yours.
25 Eurythmics - Miracle Of Love
Nobody's buying the whole Platinum Weird thing, largely because Dave hasn't worked out a way of properly explaining it and we're not getting the accompanying false documentary on British telly.
24 Ray Moore - O' My Father Had A Rabbit
Now, we remember the Radio 2 stalwart's charity-focused, kid-chorused The Bog Eyed Jog ("gathering speed for the Children In Need!") but not this one. We think we can guess, however.
23 Swing Out Sister - Breakout
The best UK singer called Corinne ever and The Two Blokes with blue-eyed female-fronted soul of fine quality, plus one of our favourite codas ever.
22 Spitting Image - Santa Claus Is On The Dole/First Atheist Tabernacle Choir
Latex lampoonery failing to make the same impact as the Chicken Song had with relatively Route One acerbicity sporting lyrics by future Red Dwarf scribes Grant & Naylor. Look, here it is. No idea what the other side was.
21 Nick Kamen - Each Time You Break My Heart
Son of Harlow who became famous by showing his pants. Insert Britney joke here. Serviceable Europop written by Madonna and then writing partner Stephen Bray. He's gone into writing now, apparently.
20 Roger Whittaker & Des O'Connor - The Skye Boat Song
Vague memory of Jools Holland attempting to shoot them out of the sky on a late period The Tube. The video might well have been taken from Live At The Palladium at somesuch too.
19 Debbie Harry - French Kissin' In The USA
Never again Deborah, remember. First single and worth the effort, despite the subtle steals from the Cars' Drive.
18 Elkie Brooks - No More The Fool
One of female pop's last great raspers, she released a live DVD last year featuring guest slots for Humphrey Lyttleton and Rick Wakeman. Say, if Colin Sell's unavailable one week...
17 Status Quo - Dreamin'
Three chords and the truth. This was the follow up to the actually standable because it didn't sound like the rest and just kept its bombast under check In The Army Now. This is on YouTube with two of the best comments we've ever seen: "this song is really hard to sing, since he has such a bright voice" and "i dont really agree with this video...thats not how the army is". Christ, we hope that's ironic.
16 Genesis - Land Of Confusion
Everyone remembers the Spitting Image video, Phil, Mike and Tony gamely allowing themselves to be sent up during the standard Reagan baiting. Also massive in America, although god knows what they made of some of the puppetry cameos.
15 Jaki Graham - Step Right Up
One of those soul sistas which nearly took everything over in the mid-80s, noted for occasional duets with David Grant. Exactly how old are he and Carrie? By our estimation they seem to have stopped ageing in about 1993.
14 Berlin - Take My Breath Away
Love Theme From Top Gun, for full marks. Berlin weren't actually balladeers but synthy new wave stalwarts with a line in suggestive lyrics and a main songwriting bassist. They've been covered by System Of A Down and covered Marilyn Manson's The Dope Show. That's why music is so fascinating.
13 Dexys Midnight Runners - Because Of You
Note the Lynne Truss-approving spelling - it was the Dexys taken by the Midnight Runners, see. Kevin Rowland's last chart hurrah, a year after Don't Stand Me Down had done his career killing for him, and this for Karl Howman sitcom Brush Strokes. Dexys are apparently ready with new material, but we've heard that before.
12 Gap Band - Big Fun
A surprise chart high of 4, especially given they'd gone on hiatus in 1984. No associated disco dancefloor moves, though.
11 Communards - So Cold The Night
Richard Coles is famously now C of E - Curate at St Boltoph’s church, Boston, Lincs, to be precise - although he'll always be an odd job documentary presenter on Five Live to us. Jimmy Somerville is Big In Europe, inevitably.
10 Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer
Like Sweet Child O' Mine, the poodle rock track it's OK to like. Like Sweet Child O' Mine, we don't. We doubt their UK Music Hall Of Fame place will be revoked just yet, although when they see who they've jumped in front of in the illustrious queue it might be worth the hope.
9 Gregory Abbott - Shake You Down
Makeweight soul balladeering, again something overcommon at about this time, like a 33 1/3 RPM Jermaine Stewart.
8 Alison Moyet - Is This Love
Amenable belting Shrimper (born Genevieve Alison, pop kids) who was a punk siren in her teens, if you can imagine such a thing. New album in 2007, Brit nomination 2008.
7 A-Ha - Cry Wolf
Of course the critical reappropriation's focusing on all the wrong bits - Manhattan Skyline yet, Take On sodding Me no. Morten reputedly last heard being a right arse on Colin & Edith's Radio 1 show, where you'd think such behaviour was a prerequisite.
6 Oran 'Juice' Jones - The Rain
More soul emoting in a shiny jacket.
5 Erasure - Sometimes
Having seen all eras of synth development, Vince Clarke got round to a Fairlight for some Hi-NRG moves while his Melody Maker-derived foil Andy Bell donned the white vest of destiny.
4 Madonna - Open Your Heart
Still all lace, but caught between True Blue's fifties girlyness and La Isla Bonita's exotic dancer imageries the synth horns would make more impact than the image.
3 Europe - The Final Countdown
And take your irony with you!
2 Housemartins - Caravan Of Love
We had a sudden Housemartins kick round here not long ago and reckon their amalgam of the purest guitar pop, fun-meaningful lyrics full of northern satire and the occasional high quality slower one - here's one now, even if it was borrowed from the Isleys - might just make them one of the decade's most underrated bands. If they emerged now... they wouldn't get a deal. Crucifixes shaved into sideys, standing up/sitting down in pews video dance routine, all mod cons. Best not mention the axe business.
1 Jackie Wilson - Reet Petite
What was going on here? Pipping the 'Martins at the post, a 29 year old Berry Gordy written soul not-quite-standard that was released seemingly for no other reason than someone had made a Plasticine video for it (Wikipedia says it was in a Levis ad, but we don't recall it) two years after Wilson's death, after he'd spent the last nine years of his life in a coma after suffering a heart attack and falling headfirst from the stage. The video was of course pointlessly nuts genius and scared the shit out of us in our youth. We think we're over it by now.