In November 1997, Peel announced that there would be no Festive Fifty chart that year, then changed his mind and allowed Alison Howe to organise a reduced chart of 31 places, compiled from emails, faxes, letter and cards (the phone votes spoken of elsewhere on the Internet were not mentioned). It was broadcast over a specially extended show running from 6.30-10.30 p.m. on Tuesday 23 December.
Quite why the 1997 Festive Fifty was reduced to only 31 is something of a mystery. The official reason given by Peel was that due to the late Christmas scheduling at Radio 1 he was not given enough time to display a proper chart. This seems somewhat specious, given the facts that:
- He had already managed to fit the 1993 chart quite comfortably into a single programme, with a running time half an hour less than he was given on this occasion. Mark Whitby  has pointed out that the programme containing the chart, if the session repeat by Pavement is disregarded, contains 50 tracks anyway.
- The remaining records contain no new releases at all. Instead, JP allowed programme staff, his family and individual listeners to select favourite tracks from the year. It is difficult to believe that no other listeners voted for these tracks.
- Rather tellingly, he makes a verbal slip early on in the programme and refers to a 'Festive 51'.
- A slightly more tangential fact is that it was a full 20 years since the last Festive Fifty chart he selected himself (see 1977 Festive Fifty), and this may have been a way of 'commemorating' it.
In view of all this, it is tempting to wonder whether he was trying to impose some kind of personal criteria on the chart, since he had actively voiced diapproval with the charts in 1987-8, and did not broadcast the 1991 chart at the time. However. since there are opposing arguments (such as the fact that there is no African pop, for example, surely something he would have included given the choice, the fact that he showed a positive attitude to the 1995 Fifty, and the troubled events at home that autumn that he refers to could have influenced his decision), this theory will remain open to conjecture.
The number 20 track is Stereolab's 'Fluorescences', which curiously made the same number and in the same recording the previous year. Mark Whitby, answering a query in October 2008 on the Peel Mailing List on this subject, offered the following explanation: "Fluorescences was indeed number 20 in both years. Neither was a session version. The single was released in December 1996 and charted on the strength of pre-release plays from Peel that year. It was then allowed to qualify for the 1997 Festive Fifty. I'm not sure whether it should have, but bear in mind the voting for the 1997 chart was unusual compared with other years as there was only a late decision to do a Festive Fifty that year, and votes mostly came in fewer than usual....Peel did, on announcing voting for the FF, on at least one occasion state that votes for tracks released the previous December were eligible. Given his slightly detached relationship with the chart, it's unlikely he would have checked the previous year's chart in order to identify anomalies such as this. So, an interesting (to me, anyway) quirk of Festive Fifty history rather than an error."
The "Pretty" Festive Thirty-One Of 1997
- 31: Angelica, "Teenage Girl Crush"
- 30: Prolapse, "Slash/Oblique"
- 29: Hybirds, "Seventeen"
- 28: Propellerheads, "Velvet Pants"
- 27: Delgados, "Pull The Wires From The Wall" (Peel Session)
- 26: Stereolab, "Miss Modular"
- 25: Dream City Film Club, "If I Die I Die"
- 24: Prolapse, "Autocade"
- 23: Secret Goldfish, "Dandelion Milk Summer"
- 22: bis, "Sweet Shop Avengerz"
- 21: Hitchers, "Strachan"
- 20: Stereolab, "Fluorescences"
- 19: AC Acoustics, "I Messiah, Am Jailer"
- 18: Spiritualized, "Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space"
- 17: Fall, "I'm A Mummy"
- 16: Arab Strap, "Hey! Fever"
- 15: Bette Davis & The Balconettes, "Shergar"
- 14: Stereolab & Nurse With Wound, "Simple Headphone Mind"
- 13: Hydroplane, "We Crossed The Atlantic"
- 12: Belle & Sebastian, "Dog On Wheels"
- 11: Blur, "Song 2"
- 10: David Holmes, "The Holiday Girl (Don't Die Yet-Arab Strap Mix)"
- 09: Clinic, "IPC Sub-Editors Dictate Our Youth"
- 08: Daft Punk, "Rollin' & Scratchin'"
- 07: Fall, "1/2 Inch"
- 06: Novak, "Rapunzel"
- 05: Belle & Sebastian, "Lazy Line Painter Jane"
- 04: Period Pains, "Spice Girls (Who Do You Think You Are?)"
- 03: Helen Love, "Does Your Heart Go Boom?"
- 02: Mogwai, "New Paths To Helicon"
- 01: Cornershop, "Brimful Of Asha"
- The complete show is available in excellent sound: see date page.
- The Festive Fifty, Nevin Publishing, 2005, p. 46. Mark adds, reasonably, "Even if it hadn't been (possible to broadcast a proper Festive Fifty)...could we not at least have been told what records were between numbers 32 and 50?"