The U.K.'s much sought-after Christmas No. 1 crown was won yesterday (Sunday) by the Justice Collective's cover of the Hollies' 1969 hit "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" (Metropolis). Emeli Sandé's "Our Version Of Events" (Virgin/EMI), already the bestselling artist album of 2012, climbed back 4-1.
The Justice Collective is an all-star aggregation of artists, mainly but not entirely from Liverpool, gathered by producer Guy Chambers to raise funds for the legal battles still being endured by the families of 96 Liverpool Football Club fans killed in an infamous 1989 tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. The track features contributions from such local heroes as Sir Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden (Gerry & the Pacemakers), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Melanie Chisholm (Spice Girls), Peter Hooton (The Farm), John Power (Cast) and Rebecca Fergsuon plus other notables including Robbie Williams, Paloma Faith, Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze), Mick Jones (Clash, Big Audio Dynamite) and Beverley Knight.
The track had been part of what was, in the early part of the chart week at least, the closest-ever race for the festive title, with last week's No. 1, "X Factor" winner James Arthur's "Impossible" (Syco Music/Sony Music Entertainment). The latter single opened up an initial lead of 3,000 sales which the Justice Collective overturned by midweek and eventually converted into a winning margin of 45,000, finishing with 269,000 sales. Arthur added another 224,000 to his massive opening tally of 489,000 for a two-week total of 713,000. That also made "Impossible" the third-biggest-selling No. 2 single of the century.
"He Ain't Heavy," written by Bob Scott and Bob Russell, was first recorded in 1969 by Kelly Gordon but was covered soon afterwards by the Hollies, whose version reached No. 3 on first release in 1969, becoming the 15th of the Manchester group's original 17 top ten U.K. hits. It hit No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1970, with Neil Diamond's recording of it reaching No. 20. The Hollies' single then reached No. 1 in the U.K. in a 1988 reissue prompted by its use in a beer commercial.
McCartney's appearance on the new interpretation means he now has eight U.K. Christmas No. 1s to his name, including four with the Beatles, one with Wings, one with Band Aid and another with Band Aid 20.
The new singles chart also featured a 6-4 climb for Rihanna's "Stay" (Def Jam/Universal), featuring Mikky Ekko; a 9-6 rebound for Psy's "Gangnam Style" (Universal Island) and an 11-8 climb for Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" (Mercury/Universal). The evergreen "Fairytale of New York" (Warner Bros./Warner Music) by the Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl was the top-rated festive title, climbing 18-12.
Sandé's album sold aother 178,000 units last week, bringing its running total to 1.32 million copies, according to the OCC. This is its sixth aggregate week at the top of the artist album chart. Olly Murs held at No. 2 with "Right Place Right Time" (Epic/Sony Music Entertainment) and Michael Bublé at No. 3 with "Christmas" (Reprise/Warner Music). Bruno Mars fell 1-4 with "Unorthodox Jukebox" (Atlantic/Warner Music) and "The Very Best of Neil Diamond" (Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment) improved 8-5. "Now! That's What I Call Music 83" (EMI TV/Universal Music TV) is in a fifth week atop the compilation chart.