TheJohn Peel Festive Fifties

The Festive Fifty was an annual chart broadcast at Christmas on the John Peel show on BBC Radio One from 1976 until his untimely death in 2004.  The charts were compiled from listeners’ votes for their favourite tracks and initially allowed tracks from any year.  But in 1982, weary of the same tracks dominating the chart year after year, Peel changed it by broadcasting an all-time chart plus a chart of 1982 tracks alone.  That idea proved so popular that only the yearly chart continued thereafter.  The shows were a glorious annual highlight for thousands of listeners in amongst the usual dreary shenanigans of the festive period, but not always to Peel; he had no influence over the chart himself, and would often damningly utter “More Janice (Long) than me” or “For the first time on these programmes…” prior to playing The Mission or a similarly out of favour collective.

There were exceptions to the steady yearly constructing of the chart. In 1977 Peel simply chose a Festive 61 of his own.  In 1991 no chart was broadcast, but it was compiled and eventually played in a somewhat obtuse manner, one track per show during the following year.  This was probably down to Peel being annoyed that the dance music he was promoting that year had proven less popular than Nirvana and other “white boys strumming guitars”.  Normal service was resumed the following year (including the guitar strummers) and continued unabated for the next 12 years, except in 1997 where only a "Festive 31" was broadcast - supposedly due to lack of programme time.  There has been some speculation that the tracks he played at the start of the chart show that year comprised the remainder of the chart; mysteriously there were 19 of them, and they were all 1997 releases.  Make of that what you will.   Below we list all the charts, including those extra tracks from '97. The '76-'82 list is a compilation of the all the individual tracks from the "all-time" years - we believe there are 160 in total.   We are hoping that this is the most complete and accurate set of lists available - most others, including the BBC's, have many typos and mistakes, and we have taken some time to try to make sure these are precise.  If you notice anything that needs correcting, please get in touch.

Back to Top