How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Saturday, January 22, 2005


I have a new mission. Or at least a new hobby.

This week Elvis Presley’s re-released single One Night became the 1000th UK Number One Single, a little over 52 years after Here In My Heart by Al Martino made history as the first. They and 998 others plot the history of popular music in Britain since 1952*. I’m going to get them all.

It’s not going to be easy. 1000 singles is a lot of music. Guessing at an average of 3½ minutes per single, it would take over 58 hours just to listen to them all. And some of these records are 50 years old. If you’ve ever tried to complete a World Cup sticker album, you’ll understand why I’m already wondering if I’ll ever find Whole Lotta Woman by Marvin Rainwater, Number One from three weeks in 1958.

If I manage to average 20 each week (which sounds optimistic to me at this stage), it will still take me almost a year. Of course I have a head start – when I’ve trawled through my CDs and vinyl, I estimate I’ll have about 200. A quick glance at 1980 tells me I already own 6 of that year’s 24 chart-toppers (sadly not including Kelly Marie’s Feels Like I’m In Love).

Of course there’s more to it than just finding the records. My sense of order and pride demands that the finished product is a complete, chronologically-ordered iTunes playlist entitled ‘Number Ones’. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you know what iTunes is. It will be a friend and companion on this journey. What better way to assemble such a collection?

Then there’s the iTunes Music Store. How many of those Number One singles are just a couple of clicks and 79p away? Only time will tell, but a swift piece of initial research tells me that they don’t have The Masses Against The Classes by Manic Street Preachers (Number One five years ago), Cotton Eye Joe by Rednex (ten years ago), or any Beatles tracks. Oh, and it seems they haven’t yet secured exclusive online disribution rights for Whole Lotta Woman by Marvin Rainwater.

That’s not a route I want to take anyway. Even if I could find everything I needed, I’d rather have a physical object I can hold in my hand, if that's possible. And anyway, 1000 × 79p = £790.00, which is way too much for my liking. I need to do this on the cheap. I’m going to resist the temptation of illegal free downloads and file-sharing though. It just wouldn’t feel right. It would be cheating. Plus I don’t really want to fill my computer with viruses and spyware just so I can get sued by the BPI.

No, I’m going strictly legit. I’m not even going to borrow anything. Only Number One singles that I genuinely and inarguably own are going to count. Otherwise, what sort of collection would it be?

Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it goes.

* On the other hand it could be argued that there have only been 996 Number Ones, since four have hit the top spot twice, including One Night. The other three are, of course… I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to guess.


  • Howdy Joe... this seems like a suitably ridiculous idea. If £790 for the downloads is too much, how much do you anticipate spending on the actual vinyl.

    I would suggest you get people to donate their unwanted number ones. If it helps I have a copy of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' on 7 inch I would be willing to let go. It doesn't have a picture sleeve though. Is that important?

    Take a look at my blog by the way...

    By Blogger headphonesex, at 1/27/2005 7:47 pm  

  • Well JW (excellent initials), you're partly anticipating my next post which I am yet to write but will include some thoughts about this idea. If I was to get all original singles I think it would be harder and more expensive, but definitely better. Kind donations would definitely come in handy though, and I don't believe I have 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight'. If you're serious about giving it to me, e-mail me (address on profile page) and we'll sort something out.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 1/27/2005 8:41 pm  

  • As long as it's the Tight Fit version from 1982, that is ;-)


    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 1/27/2005 8:43 pm  

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