How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Let The Heartaches Begin

As I begin to write, I am just a couple of minutes from discovering the identity of 1002nd Number One. Actually I already know what it’s going to be. It’s Elvis again. This week it’s the turn of It’s Now Or Never, which was also the 109th Number One back in 1960.

I was a little disappointed to discover last week that A Fool Such As I had failed to increase Elvis’s record as the most prolific Number One artist (currently standing at 21 Number One records, if you count JXL’s remix of A Little Less Conversation), as it turns out that of the 40 chart-toppers I have gathered so far, A Fool Such As I is the earliest – the 85th Number One in 1959.

So far I’ve avoided any hard work. These 40 are the ones I’ve tracked down in my current iTunes library, which means anything I’ve got on a CD album. It’s brought up some interesting questions.

The most recent of the 40 is Dry Your Eyes by The Streets, Number One just a few months ago (I’ve only just remembered about that one, so it’s a bit of a bonus). The problem is, I’ve got it on the album, A Grand Don’t Come For Free. I think, in this case, that it’s the same as the single version, so I’m on safe ground. However there are others I’m not so confident about.

Take Heart by the Pet Shop Boys. I know for a fact that the version I have, from the Actually album, is not the same as the one released as a single in 1988. I know this because within arm’s reach I have a copy of the single version, and it’s quite clearly a different mix. Frustratingly, it’s on a CD-R which I happen to have because I’m producing a cover version of it*. So, technically speaking, it’s not mine, and I can’t count it.

I also have a problem with double A-sides. A Fool Such As I was a double A with I Need Your Love Tonight – which I don’t have. So really that’s only half a Number One I’ve got there. There might be a similar problem with the four EPs that made it to the top**.

So I am forced to concede that the only way to do this properly is to collect all of the Number Ones in their original form – as 7” singles if possible, but it’ll have to be 78s for some of the older ones and CD singles for the most recent. And of course, they’re no good without a picture sleeve (assuming they had one in the first place).

This is clearly an even more gargantuan task than that I had first imagined, but I am going to cope with this by using a two-stage approach. Let’s see if I can get all 1000 in some form or other, and I’ll worry about getting the originals afterwards.

I’ve got an awful feeling that this could become a lifetime’s effort.

* Since I am sure he will appreciate the plug, I will tell you that I am doing this for the singer Alan Connor, and that you can visit his website at

** I have mentioned this to a few people over the last couple of days, noting by way of example the Beatles 'Magical Mystery Tour EP'. I have now discovered that 'Magical Mystery Tour' was one of the few Beatles releases to stall at Number Two. I apologise for this error, and will attempt to redeem myself by telling you that on this occasion the Beatles were beaten by themselves. I'm not going to tell you which record it was though, as I've been told I should always leave my audience wanting more.


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