The John Peel Festive 50 began on Radio One in 1976, broadcast over the Christmas period of that year. Listeners voted for their three favourite tracks of the year, which could be singles, from albums  or from exclusive sessions recorded for the programme. No chart was compiled in 1977, though Peel did play his 13 favourites of the year
The All-Time Festive 50 was superceded by a current year-only chart in 1982, but was briefly revived for the Millennium. By this time votes could be made by e-mail or online, as well as by the traditional postcard or presumably pigeon post.

1976      1978 1979 1980 1981 1982      
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The Festive 50 of the year has appeared on the John Peel Show almost without exception since 1982, when there were two charts, an event not to be repeated until the pre-millennial year of 1999. Numbers of votes from listeners have varied over the years. In 1991 what became the Phantom 50 was voted for but apparently not compiled at the time, and in 1997 Peel broadcast only a "Pretty Festive 31" due to what he found to be their depressing predictability and conservative nature. Entries below "the all-important number 50" have also been discovered via the internet for some of the years. The website that listed them seems now to have disappeared so I cannot credit the original researchers, but grateful thanks to Bill Spiby for supplying those for some of the years, and for his ongoing error-checks. 
The radio broadcasts were all personally monitored with pen and paper, and checked against playlists and teletext where possible, and if known I have noted which version Peel played, were there was more than one available. I have noted all those played from BBC sessions, and mentioned any that were cover versions, as far as I am aware.
After Peel's sudden and tragic death in October 2004, the future of music itself suddenly seems threatened. The Festive Fifty limped on for one further year on Radio One, however, becoming The One Music Festive Fifty in Christmas 2005.

Born 30 August 1939, around breakfast time, Heswall
Died 25 October 2004, approximately 2130 hr local time, Cuzco, Peru

1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998  
2000 2001
2002 2003 2004
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The One Music Festive 50 replaced the John Peel Festive 50 in the wake of his death, with one new stipulation: records or session tracks had to have been featured on One Music shows during the year


This is a more detailed and researched list of the records contained in the late deejay's wooden crate of his most precious singles and EPs than any other to be found online


Mark Whitby has a book entitled  "The Festive Fifty", which came out in May 2005 via the independent Nevin Publishing. He writes, "The book's been in production for some time but, following the death of John Peel, I wanted desperately to get it out and putting it out in a small way myself seemed the right way to do it - made it feel more like Suspect Device or Atmosphere, I suppose, more Peel."
You can read an extract  from it here (PDF format).

The book can be obtained directly from the publishers at: Nevin Publishing, PO Box 194, Widnes, Cheshire, WA8 7WU; or you can  order "The Festive Fifty" via bookshops quoting the ISBN number, which is 0-9548317-0-5. 

You can print out the form for ordering it, found here (PDF format) or here (in Word).

The book covers: 
     A complete history of the Festive 50, with commentary on each year and entries of particular interest 
    A complete alphabetical list of every band to appear, with details of personnel who took part 
    The top fifty bands to appear in the Festive Fifty, with biography 
    The top fifty albums in terms of tracks placed in the Festive Fifty 
    A comprehensive records and statistics section, with everything from bands with most entries down to most successful session tracks, cover versions, electronic/dance tracks, all-female tracks, long tracks, short tracks, continental European tracks, tracks from outside Europe and North America, record labels, etc.


Last updated 14 December 2006