How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Checking in

Wow, it's been nearly a year since I even posted here.

Really hoping to get back to this soon...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Note

Just a quick post to apologise for the lack of updates recently. Various personal circumstances have prevented me from keeping up the Number One activity over the last few months. Rest assured, however, that the quest continues, and I'm hoping to make some further progress at some point before Christmas.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Crashed The Wedding

Seb from the Resplendents had given me Afroman’s Because I Got High as a birthday present, and I had picked up a copy of Sailor by Petula Clark at the world’s smallest car boot sale, but my quest was progressing slowly because of other commitments.

My cousin Carolyn’s wedding provided an opportunity to put things right. I was in Elgin with a couple of hours to kill between breakfast and the ceremony, so I took to the streets in order to explore the town and dig out any chart-toppers I could lay my hands on. My Dad accompanied me, and having visited the town before he led the way to the town’s shopping area.

The trip proved to be a disappointment. We found a number of charity shops but the music selection was poor and by the time we had finished I had only two CD singles, Gabrielle’s Rise and Bag It Up by Geri Halliwell.

A couple of weeks later I was at another wedding, that of my friends Clare and Richard who were married in Maidenhead. The following day I found myself in Reading with an hour and a half to wait before I could get a train home. It was another perfect opportunity to do some shopping. I headed in an appropriate-looking direction and soon came to a busy shopping area, where most of the retailers were kind enough to open on a Sunday.

The Cancer Research shop had a chaotic music section, with records, tapes and CDs scattered around the place. I added to the mess by dropping a handful of CDs onto the floor, but after tidying up after myself I found a number of singles that were needed for the collection.

There were a pair of Donny Osmond 7” singles, Young Love and The Twelfth Of Never, which gave me a complete collection of chart-toppers by the family and its members. Young Love came with a picture sleeve which hinted that it was a double-A with ‘A Million To One’, and the label on the record corroborated this, but strangely I have never seen it listed as such elsewhere.

I was pleased to find the 90th Number One, Here Comes Summer by Jerry Keller, despite it playing rather noisily and having a spot of paint on the B-side. Distant Drums* by Jim Reeves was another fine acquisition. Among the CD singles I found David Sneddon’s Stop Living The Lie and both of the two CDs making up A Little Bit More by 911. Freak Me by Another Level came with a postcard which may not have been included with the CD, given that there was no mention of it on the sleeve.

Freak Me was knocked from the top spot by Jamiroquai’s Deeper Underground, which I located in the British Heart Foundation shop, though it had a piece cut out of the inside sleeve for a reason I could not determine. The shop was offering CD singles at four for £1, so I dug in enthusiastically, finding the first Oasis Number One, Some Might Say, Uptown Girl by Westlife and Fly Away by Lenny Kravitz.

Take That’s Babe features an awful vocal from Mark Owen, and DJ Casper’s Cha Cha Slide is just awful all round, perhaps even worse than Teletubbies Say “Eh-Oh!”, which does at least include some sage advice within its sleeve notes – ‘Enjoy yourselves…and don’t forget the Big Hugs’. Oddly there is also a ‘thanks to the Teletubbies’, perhaps the only example of a Number One artist thanking themselves.

I had spent a fair while in each shop and time was getting on. I didn’t want to stray too far away from the station so I headed back in good time for my train. On the way back to Leeds I admired my new possessions and resolved to apply myself more thoroughly to my task.

* One of only four Number Ones with a musical instrument in the title, believe it or not.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blame It On The Weatherman

Jo from the Resplendents had raided her Mum’s record collection for potential additions to the collection and come up with a 7” of In The Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus) by Zager & Evans. This kind gift inspired me to take a walk to Headingley on a sunny day to see what the old favourites had to offer.

Before the old, however, came the new. My first stop was the recently-opened RSPCA shop. I hoped this newcomer would prove to be good for the cause, but was disappointed to find only a small selection of CD singles. The one ray of light was the 800th Number One, Bootie Call by All Saints, complete with four postcards with a picture of each All Saint, which I rearranged to preference.

Next door was the familiar British Heart Foundation, where I was able to replace my scratchy copy of The Roussos Phenomenon EP by Demis Roussos with one in much better nick. I also found Tears On My Pillow by Johnny Nash and a CD of Fatman Scoop’s Be Faithful, which oddly did not include the cleaned-up radio version, only the full-on sweary mix.

I have tended to avoid the Arc shop, due to being overly frustrated with the inflated price of some of the items I desired. This time I decided to take a peek, however, and was pleased to find a selection of CD singles at only £1 apiece. These included Emma Bunton’s What Took You So Long?, a personal favourite, and Take That’s Back For Good, which came as two separate CDs, one of which included a live Beatles medley.

Craig David’s 7 Days and Yeah! by Usher featuring Lil’ Jon are barely worthy of comment, but Madonna’s version of American Pie* is notable for being perhaps the worst ever cover version to reach the top. To add insult to injury this monstrosity was being sold at a premium price of £1.99, but I grudgingly bought it, along with another Madonna hit, the 7” of Into The Groove which I needed only for the picture sleeve which I had been unable to locate until now.

By now I was too hot and I had work to do, so I brought my trip to an end. A few days later I returned to Headingley to start where I left off, braving the weather – rain, on this occasion – once again.

As I went on the rain got progressively worse and I began to wish I hadn’t bothered, but by now it was easier to go forward than back, so I pressed on to Help The Aged. Here I picked up McFly’s Obviously. This was the first part of a 2-CD set and included only two tracks, but was nonetheless an essential purchase. Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) was another only needed for the sleeve, but Cliff Richard’s awful Christmas hit Saviour’s Day was all new and fully intact. The B-side ‘Oh Boy Medley’ is something special, with Cliff destroying a series of rock and roll classics. It sounded better before I realised that it ought to be played at 33rpm.

The till assistant had no idea how much to charge for the 7” singles. I used my expertise and experience to suggest a price of 50p each, but he deferred to his boss who over-ruled me and imposed a £1 tariff. The assistant apologetically checked that I still wanted to them, and naturally I agreed the deal.

In the PDSA shop I found two 7”s from the 1950s, Buddy Holly’s fantastic It Doesn’t Matter Anymore and When by the Kalin Twins. Both were in poor condition but were nevertheless welcome additions. I found a remix CD of Culture Beat’s Mr Vain, which I bought despite doubting that it was exactly what I needed. My suspicion was later confirmed – this was a separate release and didn't contain the single mix.

The CD single of Please Don’t Go/Game Boy is something of a curiosity. ‘Please Don’t Go’ appears as an extended version, while ‘Game Boy’ is a shorter edit than the 7”. This gave me a quandary regarding the construction of my iTunes playlist, which ended with my decision to stick to the 7” versions.

Take That’s Everything Changes included another Beatles medley, and there was yet another on A1’s Take On Me. One of the great travesties of my mission is that I must now own A1’s limp cover version (another candidate for the worst ever) but won’t get the pleasure of adding A-Ha’s classic original to the collection, it having stalled at Number Two. The fact that a free A1 poster was included is no consolation.

My final destination was Oxfam. I dipped into the 7” singles and found two possible quality improvements. The new copy of Leo Sayer’s When I Need You was a great deal better than the one I already had, but When Will I See You Again by the Three Degrees was worse. I passed on a copy of Sandie Shaw’s There’s Always Something There To Remind Me priced at an outrageous £4.99.

In the CD singles I found Blur’s Beetlebum, No Doubt’s Don’t Speak, Dilemma by Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland and Stay Another Day by East 17, often thought of as a Christmas record despite the fact that it doesn’t mention Christmas or anything to do with it. I bought a promotional version of Five’s Let’s Dance as a curio.

When I had paid for my goods the assistant made a brave attempt to squeeze my purchases into a carrier bag that was blatantly too small for the job. Eventually he abandoned the mission and chose to place the small bag inside a larger one along with the remaining items.

The rain continued to fall but it was time to go, so I bought a box of lager and a newspaper and waited for a bus to take me home.

* One of only five occasions that a Number One title has included a nationality or country.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My Camera Never Lies

For a couple of days I was in the midst of a media frenzy. My quest had attracted the attention of BBC Radio Leeds, where I was interviewed by Bob Walmsley for the afternoon show. The following day it was the turn of the Yorkshire Evening Post, who ran an article alongside a typically posed photograph, depicting me surrounded by a number of 7” and CD singles.

The picture was taken in my flat by a YEP photographer, Mark Bickerdike. My exposure turned out to be very worthwhile when Mark told me that he had a collection of 7” singles which he was looking to get rid of, and that he was certain there would be a few Number Ones in there – perhaps I would be interested in taking them off his hands? I would, of course. After he left I e-mailed him a list of the missing chart-toppers and awaited his response.

Two weeks later he got back in touch, having been through his collection and identified the appropriate records. I had to remove a handful which I’d found elsewhere since having my picture taken, but there remained 34 7” singles which Mark offered in return for £20. I accepted gladly.

A few days later Mark e-mailed again to tell me that he’d also found a CD single of Mambo No. 5 by Bob The Builder, which he’d throw in as well. Now all we needed was to arrange a handover. This proved more difficult than it should have been, but after another couple of weeks Mark rang to say that he was in the neighbourhood and would bring the records over. Shortly afterwards he arrived with a supermarket carrier bag full of precious vinyl. I handed over his reward and wished him well.

The records were mainly from the 60s and 70s and the quality was variable but good on the whole. Many had the large centre holes marking them out as ex-jukebox records, and none of the 7”s had picture sleeves. Some had makeshift sleeves created by reversing one from another record. I checked these to see if any had come from Number Ones, but none had.

Johnny Preston’s Running Bear was the first of this batch, chronologically speaking, from 1960. The 123rd Number One, 1961’s You Don’t Know by Helen Shapiro, was next, followed by four from 1964 – Roy Orbison’s It’s Over, Can’t Buy Me Love and A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles and You Really Got Me by the Kinks.

In fact all three Kinks chart-toppers were here, the others being Tired Of Waiting For You and Sunny Afternoon. The Rolling Stones were represented by The Last Time, featuring a particularly great B-side in ‘Play With Fire’. I also now owned the Beach Boys epic Good Vibrations and I’m A Believer by the Monkees.

1970’s Yellow River by Christie is an early indication of the jaunty middle-of-the-road pop that was so prevalent in the coming decade. There were further examples here in Billy Don’t Be A Hero by Paper Lace, Mississippi by Pussycat and Pilot’s January, which has a double calendar connection thanks to being the 365th Number One.

Much better are Freda Payne’s classic Band Of Gold* and Telegram Sam by T-Rex. There were a pair of fantastic reggae tracks, Double Barrel by Dave & Ansil Collins and Uptown Top Ranking by Althia & Donna, as well as a pretend one, 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday. These last two, plus Summer Nights by John Travolta & Olivia Newton John, all reached the top in 1978 and left me needing just one more Number One from that year.

Arguably the best-known of the entire selection is Slade’s perennial Merry Xmas Everybody, which contains none of their trademark spelling errors but makes up for it by reversing some of the letters in the title on the label. At the other end of the spectrum, from my point of view, was Float On by the Floaters, which I am sure I have never heard before. Sadly this copy skipped just a couple of seconds into the track, and I could not repair the damage.

There were a handful of records from the 1980s too. Ghost Town by the Specials is one of my favourite ever singles, and Mark had mentioned that he felt the same way about Charlene’s I’ve Never Been To Me and wouldn’t have sold it had he not recently purchased it as a downloaded track.

Too Shy by Kajagoogoo sounds remarkably slow and dreary. Madonna’s Into The Groove and especially Who’s That Girl are not her finest moments, but Eternal Flame by the Bangles is great and very representative of late 80s pop.

Eternal Flame was a particularly welcome inclusion here, as it meant I now had a continuous run from the 616th to the 643rd, covering the whole of 1989. I also now had 602 of the original Number One releases I need, so I was grateful to Mark for helping me to these two milestones.

* One of five Number Ones with a metal in the title.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Goody Two Shoes

I needed a pair of shoes to complete my stage outfit, so another trip into town was on the cards. After accomplishing my primary mission I decided to try a couple of shops whose chart-topper potential I had not yet tested.

My first stop was Soul Alley. I had always thought this was a specialist dance shop, but I had been tipped off about the bargain bin by the cash desk, which would, I was told, be worth investigating. I found the appropriate section and started to look through the records.

It wasn’t the treasure trove I had hoped for, being mainly composed of disco and 80s soul, but it included I Love To Love (But My Baby Loves To Dance) by Tina Charles, and Michael Jackson’s One Day In Your Life, recorded in 1975 but Number One in 1981 thanks to a cash-in Motown Gold re-release. Incongruously I also picked up the 300th Number One, Knock Three Times by Dawn, bearing a label identifying the previous owner as Carl Kingston, presumably the same Carl Kingston who presents a show on the Leeds radio station Magic 828.

I walked the short distance to Replay, a record shop I had never visited before despite its being there for several years. The shop was small and cramped and it was difficult to negotiate the racks of CDs. I couldn’t see any singles but I decided to ask, just in case. The man behind the desk made no response to my query and instead turned away and began to scribble on a piece of paper. I stood there awkwardly for a short time, unsure whether I was about to get a written response to my question. Eventually he passed me a note: “I don’t know about CDs, I’m just doing the till. My boss will be back in 5 minutes”.

The reasons for his preferred method of communication remained a mystery. Was he a mute? Had he lost his tongue in a KGB torture chamber? If he had, I didn’t particularly want to find out. I briefly checked again for singles, and convinced myself that there were none, and that it was futile to await the boss’ return.

Time was short if I wanted to beat the rush hour, so I ended my shopping there. I was disappointed to be returning home with just 3 records, so later that evening I picked out another batch of records to buy from Stuart Fraser, and a few days later the postman brought another package full of 7” singles.

I had, in the main, picked records at random from Stuart’s list, but there were four I had chosen deliberately. The first was The Power Of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, in the knowledge that this record gave me a complete set of the 14 Number Ones from 1984. At some point I hope to lay my hands on the 12” version as well, having heard it a few years ago played at the wrong speed, and thinking that the slowed down intro sounded amazing. I may have been drunk, so I need to test my theory.

Similarly I had selected Please Don’t Go/Game Boy by KWS, the last gap to be filled in 1992, and I could forget about 1986 after purchasing West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys and the Comic Relief version of Living Doll by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones featuring Hank Marvin. Strangely Hank is missing from the list of performers and musicians on the back sleeve, though his name appears on the front cover.

The original version of Living Doll was also here, the only Number One by Cliff Richard & The Drifters before the backing group changed their name to the Shadows. This was toppled in 1959 by Craig Douglas with Only Sixteen (a pale shadow of the Sam Cooke version) which was also included here.

The only other record from the 1950s was All I Have To Do Is Dream/Claudette by the Everly Brothers, but there three from 1960 – Adam Faith’s Poor Me, Lonnie Donegan’s My Old Man's A Dustman (Ballad Of A Refuse Disposal Officer) and the fantastic Good Timin’ by Jimmy Jones, a record I hadn’t heard for years and had totally forgotten about. I was glad to reacquaint myself with it.

Further 60s classics came in the shape of Paint It, Black by the Rolling Stones and Chris Farlowe’s Out Of Time. Hey Jude by the Beatles is great too, though not worthy of the Top 5 place it usually gets in polls of the greatest records ever (I much prefer the B-side, ‘Revolution’). This copy was apparently once owned by a G. King, who had over-enthusiastically staked their claim by writing their name on the label no less than six times. Hey Jude is particularly notable for being the first Number One to include swearing (John Lennon’s cry of “f**king hell” is faint, but unmistakable) and the third longest, lasting for 7 minutes and 11 seconds*.

Another mainstay of the lists and nostalgia shows is the relatively brief (5 minutes and 55 seconds by my calculations) Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, which was here along with the record it succeeded at the top, Billy Connolly’s comic version of D.I.V.O.R.C.E., a juxtaposition which says a lot about the nature of the Number One slot. JJ Barrie’s No Charge adds to the evidence, a sentimental spoken word track which I am pleased to say I had never heard before. Fittingly Stuart threw this one in for free, though I think this was because of the quality of the song rather than its title.

The Roussos Phenomenon, unsurprisingly by Demis Roussos, is the third of the four EPs to be struck off my list. This, in particular the first track ‘Forever And Ever’, will always make me think of Mike Leigh’s TV play ‘Abigail’s Party’. Listening to it now I had a vision of Alison Steadman as the terminally irritating Beverley, a big Roussos fan.

Green Door by Shakin’ Stevens is a record I owned many years ago. The copy I bought in 1981 is probably still sitting somewhere in a dusty box in the loft of my parents’ house, but buying it again now was certainly easier than finding it would have been. The last of the records in Stuart’s parcel was perhaps the worst of the bunch, Hangin’ Tough by New Kids On The Block, the 639th Number One from 1990.

Quality, of course, is not an issue for me, so I was pleased to have all of these, no matter how terrible.

* Any ideas what the two longer ones might be?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Computer Love

I had never used Ebay before, though I had browsed the myriad goods on offer. It seemed like a good time to sign up and hunt for some of the older records on my list. I explored the appropriate section, pulled up a long list of 78s and began to investigate.

It wasn’t long before I had identified a number of targets. I spent a little time trying to work out the complexities of the bidding system before I realised that the only way forward was to take the plunge and hope for the best. I started by placing a £1 bid on Tab Hunter’s Young Love and soon I was confidently clicking and bidding like a veteran Ebayer.

A couple of hours later I checked how much I had committed to spending, and when I found out I decided that it was time to call it a night. I retired to bed, looking forward to the following day when I would see how the auctions were progressing.

I got off to a bright start when I won the Tab Hunter record and three others from the same seller. I worked out that I needed to ask for an invoice in the hope of reducing my postage costs due to bulk buying and moved on to check my other auctions. I realised that I was about to win Guy Mitchell’s Rock-A-Billy and noticed at the last minute that the vendor was also selling Tommy Steele’s Singing The Blues. I quickly made a bid and within a few minutes the pair were mine.

There was no further action until the following day, when I was disappointed to find myself outbid on a 7” of A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles. I decided I was not prepared to go higher than £2 and so reluctantly let this one go. There was worse to come when I received an e-mail from the seller of Rock-A-Billy, who refused to reduce the postage costs. I grudgingly paid £5.20 for the two, and was even more annoyed a few minutes later when I realised that I already owned the Tommy Steele record.

This was not going well, but I was looking forward to finding out the result of the next batch, four 78s on which I had offered the highest bid. I realised that I was still an Ebay novice when I was suddenly outbid on Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe, Who’s Sorry Now by Connie Francis and Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis, with no time left to remedy the situation. Only one record remained, Paul Anka’s Diana, and so once again I was forced to pay over the odds for postage. I had now spent over £10 for three records, one of which I didn’t even want. I decided that Ebay was not my friend.

I noted that there were several auctions coming to an end that evening and promised myself that I would keep a close eye on these in order to avoid being gazumped again. My strategy paid off. I won Frank Sinatra’s Three Coins In The Fountain along with a number of 7” singles – Lady Madonna by the Beatles, Gary Numan’s Cars, Three Times A Lady by the Commodores and a copy of I’m Still Waiting by Diana Ross which I hoped would be less noisy than the one I already had.

As I was celebrating my victory the results of another auction came through – I would soon be the proud owner of Kay Starr’s Rock And Roll Waltz and Lay Down Your Arms by Anne Shelton. I was much happier now.

Nothing happened for a couple of days as I waited for the results of a final batch of 7” singles. I was outbid on Little Red Rooster by the Rolling Stones, but this time I was on the ball and managed to recover the initiative by bidding again just before the auction ended. This tactical masterstroke made me feel like an Ebay expert, and sure enough I won the record along with Have I The Right by the Honeycombs and She Loves You by the Beatles.

All of my auctions were now resolved, and I just needed to sort out the final details regarding payment and wait for delivery. John Reeves, the current owner of the Stones record, offered a discount on the postage costs and earned my respect and gratitude, while David Hart, from whom I had bought the Tab Hunter 78, informed me that he had another 70 records which he had yet to put on Ebay and asked if I might be interested in them. I explained my quest and asked for a list. This took several days to arrive but when it did I was pleased to find a further 8 Number Ones, which I snapped up without hesitation.

At this point none of the records were yet in my hands, but two parcels arrived the following day, including Diana from Dot and John, who had gone to extreme lengths in packaging the record. I had to fight through two layers of thick polysterene, two of cardboard, a piece of bubblewrap and a little sponge before I could find any sign of the record. This was hard work but all things considered I was happy to receive the record in one piece.

I was even more grateful for this later that day, when I received an apologetic e-mail from the seller Jon Cornes, who explained that he would not be able to send the Anne Shelton record. This was all thanks to his dog, who had foolishly stood on the fragile record while Jon was putting together the package, dealing it a fatal blow. I had to make do with only one record from Jon, Kay Starr’s Rock And Roll Waltz. This arrived a few days later, with a note attached warning me to “watch out for the shredded paper, it gets everywhere!”. Fortunately I was careful, so it didn’t. I wondered if the paper had been shredded to preserve confidentiality, but was unable to work out what it had previously been – proof, I suppose, that shredding works.

I received Cars and the other 7”s the next day, but not Three Coins In The Fountain, which the seller Allan had posted in a separate package. This never did arrive, and Allan eventually offered me a refund, but I would of course have much preferred the record.

I had to wait almost a month before I received my package from David, but it was worth the wait. The records, 12 in all, came well packed in a large box stuffed with bits of padded envelope and paper, and it took me 20 minutes to extract them. Thanks to the various difficulties and the fact that I had spent a small fortune, I had been largely disappointed by the whole Ebay experience, but this package seemed to make it all worthwhile.

It included Lonnie Donegan’s Cumberland Gap (the only Number One named after a type of sausage) and Slim Whitman’s Rose Marie*, which spent 11 consecutive weeks at Number One in 1955, a feat not matched until 1991. Its paper sleeve also had a faint pencil scribble commemorating the scoreline ‘Hamilton 5, Falkirk 0’.

Vera Lynn’s My Son, My Son was the oldest record in my collection so far, the 24th Number One. Vera’s rhyming slang partner** Ruby Murray was also present with Softly, Softly. I had also acquired the Guy Mitchell version of Singing The Blues and the awful Hernando’s Hideaway by the Johnston Brothers, which sounds like something performed by oompa-loompas.

I was in no rush to return to Ebay for the moment, but I was pleased to note that I now had every Number One from Rose Marie, the 36th, to the 42nd, Dean Martin’s Memories Are Made Of This, covering a period of more than six months. Ebay could well be of considerable help as I near the end of my quest, and I was sure to go back.

* One of 8 Number Ones with a flower in the title.
** Another Number One connection here, of course.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Putting On The Style

The Resplendents needed six matching suits on a tight budget, so I met Alex and Paul in town in order to investigate potential stage-wear. We visited every shop we could think of that might be able to cater for us and came away with a few suggestions to put to the rest of the band.

After completing our research I persuaded the others to join me on the charity shop trail. We began with the British Heart Foundation, where I bought the CD single version of Snap’s Rhythm Is A Dancer. I already had this on 7” but decided I might as well, at only 50p, have the CD too. I also found Gary Barlow’s Love Won’t Wait and Boom Boom Boom by the Outhere Brothers, which contained, according to the Parental Advisory notice on the cover, strong language which some people may find offensive. This might have been for the protection of the hard-of-hearing, who could easily mistake the lyrics for ‘Bum Bum Bum’.

We moved on to the RSPCA, where I turned up the CD of Young At Heart by the Bluebells, meaning that I would have no use for the empty 7” sleeve that had been lying around at home for some time. I also came away with a small stack of vinyl, including the 81st Number One, from 1959, Shirley Bassey’s As I Love You, which was in remarkably good condition given its age. The same could not be said for The Power Of Love by Jennifer Rush which turned out to be incredibly noisy, meaning that I now had two poor quality copies of this record. The Jam’s A Town Called Malice/Precious was at least an improvement on the one I already owned, though I was still missing its picture sleeve.

Alex declared Doop by Doop* to be the worst record ever made, but I bought it anyway, along with a trio of classic 80s chart-toppers: Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Always On My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys.

In Oxfam I had to be content with a solitary CD, the Five Live EP, credited to George Michael & Queen with Lisa Stansfield, though Lisa Stansfield only appears on one of the four tracks and Queen, as far as I can tell, on two.

The Shelter shop was short on vinyl but the stock they did have included another copy of Always On My Mind, this time with a picture sleeve, so I bought this record for the second time in a day. I also found Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant in a strange sleeve-cum-poster combination. The cover credit of Adam & The Ants revealed this to be an early pressing.

The selection of CD singles was better, including three of the 36 Number Ones from 1999: Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…) (The European Hit Of The Summer, according to the cover) and King Of My Castle by Wamdue Project, which holds the obscure distinction of being the chart-topper with the most letters in its title without repetition – 14 of them and every one different.

Also present were the comparatively recent Toxic by Britney Spears, from 2004, and a pair from 2002: the 933rd Number One, Round Round by the Sugababes, and its successor, Blazin’ Squad’s Crossroads. This contained a card to sign up for Blazin’ Squad updates, which had been completed but unsent by its previous owner. I studied the details and noted that I now had the name, address and phone number of a nearby 20-year-old lady. I considered giving her a call, perhaps with a view to becoming her stalker, but decided against this course of action when I remembered how this information had come into my hands.

By now we had been walking around town for hours and I was laden with as many Number Ones as I could cope with, so we decided to retire to the pub, where we played darts and hatched a plan to shave my head.

* I have a feeling this will be another controversial topic, but I believe this is one of eleven Number Ones with a nonsense or made-up word in the title.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wayward Wind

I had arranged a meeting at Leeds University and decided to follow it with some shopping. I boarded a bus to find myself surrounded by teenagers, and realised that it was the week of the half-term break, which somewhat put me off. The weather didn’t help matters. I emerged from my meeting into the cold wind and rain, and engaged in an internal dialogue about whether I should abandon my plans and simply go home.

I resolved to go ahead with my trip, and in this spirit of adventure I went to the train station, with the intention of taking the first available train that stopped somewhere that was reasonably close and where there might conceivably be a few suitable retail establishments.

After studying the departure boards I plumped for Cross Gates, having been tipped off by Jane, at our recent pub lunch, that there were a number of charity shops there. I went to buy a ticket but the automated machine insisted on rejecting my advances. After two unsuccessful attempts I realised that the time I had wasted here meant I would miss the train I had intended to catch. I was forced into my second choice, Morley. Cross Gates would have to wait.

This time my ticket purchase was executed flawlessly. A glance at my watch revealed, however, that I had overestimated my window of opportunity and would have to run for the train, which was about to depart from a distant platform. I hurried through the crowded station and made it onto the train with seconds to spare.

Morley is a town which now stands outside of Leeds, having declared independence in April 2000 (Westlife’s Fool Again was at Number One). I can not claim to know my way around, but I took a train there in around 1996 and remembered that the station was located reasonably near to the town centre, where there were bound to be a few of the usual charities and perhaps even a record shop.

The train stopped first at Cottingley. I had a look around, as well as I could through the train windows, and wrote this off as a future destination. The station appeared to be situated in the middle of a vast housing area and despite a good view from the elevated railway there were no shops in sight.

After a few minutes we arrived in Morley. The station turned out to be located nowhere near the town centre. I reasoned that if I picked a road and kept walking I would eventually reach civilisation. Luckily the weather had improved, and sure enough after ten minutes or so I spotted a pub and a garage, signs that I must be heading in the right direction. Shortly afterwards I discovered a scattering of shops and even a signpost directing me to the town centre.

I cleverly followed the sign, and found myself walking along a parade of shops. These included an acupuncturist’s clinic, a power tool supplier, an angling emporium and, of course, Hockey World (West Yorkshire’s Number One hockey retailer, I should think). Eventually there were banks, an estate agent and a newsagent, and I finally felt I must be close to my goal.

In the distance I spotted the Children’s Society Shop and hurried up to it, only to discover an empty unit. My disappointment was stemmed by the nearby Wakefield Hospice Shop, where at last I found something to tick off my list – Tears Of A Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I found Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now in a picture sleeve which reminded me of its appearance in the terrible film ‘Mannequin’, and a version of Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin’s It’s My Party that looked different to the one I already owned. I later discovered that this was the German release.

On leaving the shop I glanced along the street ahead of me and spotted a number of charity shops. The first was the Help the Aged store, where I bought Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again, their first Number One, bearing a sticker proudly declaring the girls to be the winner of the Smash Hits Best Newcomer of 2000 award.

The British Heart Foundation yielded my best haul of the day, eight 7” singles. Lena Martell’s One Day At A Time was one I didn’t remember, though I recognised it when I played it and knew instantly why I’d forgotten it in the first place. The same goes for Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You* by Glenn Medeiros, which I remembered only by name, and which had ‘Plug’ written on its sleeve, leading me to wonder if it had been previously owned by the ugly one from the Beano.

There were much better records here – Kelly Marie’s Feels Like I’m In Love is a Hi-NRG classic and Stand & Deliver by Adam & The Ants is a highlight from my youth. I found a copy of Turtle Power by Partners in Kryme, with a picture sleeve, which confirmed that the single I had found several months beforehand was not the correct version. That previous acquisition hadn’t included the fantastically weird B-side ‘Splinter's Tale’, a spoken word story in two parts about a rat with a ridiculous accent learning ninjitsu.

The One And Only by Chesney Hawkes was the 663rd Number One in 1991 and 15 years later it became the 500th original release to take its place in my collection. This seemed to me a fitting record for such a milestone – not, in the strictest sense, a One Hit Wonder, but nevertheless a product of its time.

By the time I left the shop the weather had suddenly turned for the worse again, this time testing my resolve with a snowstorm. I sprinted across the street to the Scope shop, which proved fruitless, but Arc gave me 2 CD singles, Breathless by the Corrs and Mr Oizo’s Flat Beat, complete with a warning on the sleeve: ‘Do Not Eat This Record’. If only all records carried such a warning, surely my quest would be much easier.

I pressed on through the snow, now falling much more lightly, but when I came to a belt shop and a vendor of theatrical supplies I realised I had reached the end of the beaten track. I returned to the station with appalling timing, having just missed a train by a couple of minutes, and waited for the next half hour in the cold wind.

* One of six Number Ones with ‘nothing’ in the title, four of which hit the top within the space of three years.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Two Little Boys

I had been with my bandmate Seb to Garforth to collect my Roland XP-10 keyboard, which had been in for repair. Having completed our Official Band Business, Seb suggested we visit his friend Clem to take a look at his keyboard.

It is rare that I pass up an opportunity to tinkle on someone’s ivories, so I agreed and we drove to Clem’s flat. We arrived to find the place in utter chaos, as Clem was in the process of re-organising every single one of his possessions, which were therefore strewn wildly on floors, chairs and tables. Fortunately it took little effort for him to clear a space big enough for us to sit down.

The clutter was made up largely of ancient hi-fi and audio equipment, in varying states of repair. Clem, it transpired, was a retro enthusiast and a collector of the gear that so many people are keen to dispose of. His keyboard fitted into this obsession, a bright red monster, an electronic organ which I estimated must have been made in the early eighties. Due to the surrounding chaos we were unfortunately not able to locate its power cable, so I didn’t get to play, but after hearing about its rather temperamental behaviour I was at least able to recommend the services of Paul Theakston, the Garforth engineer who had fixed my own instrument.

Clem also turned out to be a keen record collector and was interested to hear about my mission to locate 1000 Number One singles. He revealed a nascent ambition to run a second-hand record shop, already with plans of expanding into alternative markets. I imagined a life lived as if inspired by ‘High Fidelity’ and realised that I could not compete with this. The man before me was a mega-collector.

The one quality that his collecting lacked and mine had was focus. He seemed to admire my ability to concentrate my efforts on a finite number of records. Thinking upon this led him to consider the possibility of purchasing all of the records that had ever stalled at Number Two. I, of course, encouraged him in this pursuit, if only so that I could in future point out that I wasn’t the only one to undertake such a ridiculous endeavour.

We discussed this plan in some depth, and the more we talked the more serious he appeared to become about taking on the challenge. He was undaunted when I told him that I had considered attempting the task myself, as a follow-up to my current quest, but had dismissed the thought upon realising that spending two years looking for rubbish records was quite enough for anyone.

The conversation felt like it was turning into a pact, with an element of friendly rivalry. Clem stood up to rummage through a nearby box of records and pulled out a copy of Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets. He had only recently acquired the 39th Number One, but nevertheless presented it to me as a gift.

I wasn’t sure that he realised how much joy this gave me, but I knew that if he went ahead with his plan, he would soon find out. I left having gained a record and a friend.