(Yes, I know the festive season is to all intents and purposes over, but why change a winning formula?)
Nobody knows for sure why there was only a Festive 31 in 1997. It was compiled from telephone votes and was squeezed into one four-hour show on the 23 December, in addition to a repeat of the Pavement live Maida Vale session. Although Radio One had graciously moved John’s shows back from their murderous Friday night/Saturday afternoon slots to three shows at weekdays, he was still only on air for a maximum of six hours a week. This lack of airtime, comparing unfavourably with the golden days when he seemed to be on air all the time, may have been a factor.
Certainly, it wasn’t the music. Cornershop made the number one slot with a glorious song that in a remixed version later made the UK chart top spot too. The Delgados recorded one of JP’s favourite sessions ever, and a track from that was at number 27 (and the official release made pole position the following year too). Those one-session schoolgirl wonders the Period Pains were in the top five, but the stars of the show were those electro pop marvels Stereolab, with three entries in the truncated chart (one a collaboration).
Bill Clinton began his second term as American President, 18 years of suffering and misery came to an end in the UK as Labour rode a landslide to victory under Tony Blair (if we knew then what we know now…), and Mary McAleese was elected the eighth President of Ireland. Scotland voted for its own Parliament, shortly followed by Wales, and Hong Kong was handed back to China at the end of Britain’s 100-year lease. It was the year of Diana Princess of Wales’ death in a car crash and subsequently much-watched funeral, and we also lost Gianni Versace, Mother Teresa, Robert Mitchum, Sviatoslav Richter, Sir Georg Solti, William S. Burroughs, John Denver and Burgess Meredith. Dario Fo won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Titanic became the first film ever to gross $1,000,000,000 at the box office, and Channel 4 in the UK began 24 hour broadcasting. And the UK gained its last new terrestrial channel.