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How Elvis Presley became the king of Christmas albums

BY READERS DIGEST

13th Dec 2022 Music

How Elvis Presley became the king of Christmas albums
Elvis’s Christmas Album has dominated the charts for over 60 years—but it caused quite the stir when the king of rock & roll first took on the festive holiday
Browsing the Official Charts’ list of Christmas singles throws up some unique curveballs—remember when the mischievous public got Rage Against The Machine to No.1 in 2009?
There’s Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” too, and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)”.
Unsurprisingly, all these are beaten to first place by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, which has sold nearly four million copies.

What is the best selling Christmas album of all time?

So who holds the title for the biggest Christmas album? In the 21st century, that accolade belongs to Michael Buble’s Christmas, which has returned to the UK’s top ten almost every year since its release in 2011, and shifted more than 12 million copies worldwide.
But looking further back, beating Buble by a fair mile at 20 million copies is Elvis Presley

A very Elvis Christmas

Elvis’s Christmas Album came out in 1957, only a year after he launched his eponymous debut. When he introduced his album to the press, Presley called it “a rock ’n’ roll Christmas”.
Songs like “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” and “Blue Christmas” got a rhythm and blues treatment, while “Take My Hand Precious Lord” evidenced Presley’s love for gospel. 
"Time called it 'the most serious menace to Christmas since I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'"
The conservative press, already horrified by Presley’s erotic stage presence (critic Dick Williams had just labelled him a “sexhibitionist”), were beside themselves about his Christmas album.
Time called it “the most serious menace to Christmas since ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’”. To their mind, the holiday’s Christian values simply did not go together with Presley’s pop.
Even more upset was the writer of “White Christmas”, Irving Berlin, who could not countenance Elvis tarnishing his song. He allegedly had his staff phone radio stations across the United States to get the song banned from air.
"DJ Al Priddy of the Portland station KEX played Elvis's 'White Christmas' and was fired"
Whether Berlin really campaigned against Presley or not, some stations did ban “White Christmas”. The DJ Al Priddy, of the Portland station KEX, rebelled and played it anyway, and was fired. 
Nonetheless, Elvis’s Christmas Album persists as the world’s favourite festive record. It became Elvis’s first ever Diamond-selling album, spent four weeks at No.1 in Billboard’s album chart, and emerged again in Billboard’s top 40 albums in 2019.
It’s long outlived its maker and its critics, proving that even at Christmastime, Elvis is king.

Top 10 most streamed Christmas songs

  1. “All I Want For Christmas Is You”—Mariah Carey
  2. “Last Christmas”—Wham!
  3. “Fairytale of New York”—Pogues ft Kirsty MacColl
  4. “Merry Christmas Everyone”—Shakin’ Stevens
  5. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”—Band Aid
  6. “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like”—Michael Buble
  7. “Step Into Christmas”—Elton John
  8. “Santa Tell Me”—Ariana Grande
  9. “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”—Wizzard
  10. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”—Brenda Lee
Re-live the king of rock's Christmas album here, available on CD, cassette and vinyl.
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