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The Towns That Christmas Forgot, Until Now

Magic Radio Christmas London UK BauerIn most places, the holiday music juggernaut has been such that most “our market is different” arguments were steamrollered (or sleigh-rollered) a long time ago. But in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, the Christmas format has only existed as a pop-up format change stunt, and on the dial in nearby West Palm Beach. In the U.K., it lived separately on DAB channels. That changed on Nov. 21 when WLYF (101.5 Lite FM) became “your holiday music station” and this morning when London’s Magic Radio launched its “100% Christmas” programming.

Magic’s launch earned BBC coverage as well as a spoiler attempt by rival Heart London, which played  holiday music for the previous hour. When Magic’s launch came, it was a terrific hour of radio with the breakfast show joined by the still hitmaking U.K. act Take That and Gary Barlow. (The last song of the run-up hour was Take That’s ‘90s disco version of “Could It Be Magic.”)

Barlow helped unveil the results of listener voting for the first song. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was only #3, which prompted the exchange, “She’s not going to be happy with that, is she?” “You’ve lost your interview there.”) My vote, if only for the thematic tie-in, would have been Kate Bush’s “December Will Be Magic Again,” but that song has drifted to a minor place in the U.K. holiday canon over the years.

If you’ve ever felt that American radio’s AC Christmas has drifted too soft (obviously, not a problem for most), U.K. Christmas music has always had the advantage of a handful of enduring holiday songs by mid-‘70s glam rockers Slade, Wizard, and others. There’s also the tradition of the Christmas #1 song, and it’s interesting to note that the first hour of Magic Christmas did include East 17’s “Stay Another Day,” a mid-‘90s boy band hit that has become part of the holiday collection by dint of being a holiday #1 (and some pealing bells at the end).

Here’s the first hour of Magic London at 9 a.m., November 30, beginning with the obvious winner of the listener voting for top holiday song:

  • Wham!, “Last Christmas”
  • Andy Williams, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
  • Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
  • Michael Bublé, “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas”
  • East 17, “Stay Another Day”
  • Darlene Love, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
  • Dean Martin, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Pogues & Kirsty MacColl, “Fairytale of New York”
  • Leona Lewis, “One More Sleep”
  • Elton John, “Step Into Christmas”
  • Stevie Wonder, “What Christmas Means To Me”
  • Ronettes, “Sleigh Ride”
  • Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas”
  • Bing Crosby, “White Christmas” (with a stager voiced by Rick Astley about his holiday favorite; “that’s when it’s Christmas, when Bing sings”).
  • Coldplay, “Christmas Lights”
  • Chris Rea, “Driving Home For Christmas” (kicks off the 10:00 hour; you’ll still hear this on holiday formats in Canada as well)

And here’s Miami’s Lite FM at 7 a.m. this morning:

  • Jackson 5, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (the Jacksons are kicking off the cluster’s Riptide Music Festival tonight)
  • Perry Como, “Home for the Holidays”
  • Taylor Swift, “Last Christmas”
  • Burl Ives, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
  • Amy Grant, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
  • Percy Faith, “Happy Holiday”
  • David Foster, “Carol of the Bells”
  • Lady Antebellum, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”
  • Bruce Springsteen, “Merry Christmas Baby”
  • Andy Williams, “Winter Wonderland”
  • Eagles, “Please Come Home for Christmas”
  • Ronettes, “Sleigh Ride”
  • Josh Groban, “O Holy Night”

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