How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Little Things Mean A Lot

Following my failure to update you on my progress last weekend, you probably imagined I had been too busy scouring second-hand record shops and car boot sales to fit you in. Sadly this was not the case, and while I spent a relaxing and enjoyable weekend visiting family, I made little headway in my single-collecting mission.

I did, however, do a small favour for my brother-in-law* which resulted in my acquiring a copy of She’s The One by Robbie Williams, which became the 841st Number One in November 1999. Unfortunately I do not yet own It’s Only Us, the flipside of this double A, but this small piece of accidental progress has lifted my spirits and given a small boost to my flagging optimism.

I received a similar boost when I realised this week that, in the initial examination of my iTunes library, I had skipped over several Number Ones in error (forgetting, for example, that Eleanor Rigby and Yellow Submarine were both included on the Beatles’ Revolver album). I hope there will be similar discoveries in the future.

This all made up somewhat for the disappointment of finding only ten Number Ones in my box of 12” singles and albums, which I investigated this week. Five of these were by the Rolling Stones, thanks to the Hot Rocks compilation album. Another was Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine, the 269th Number One, which I have been known to nominate as my favourite single of all time. I am less convinced by the only version I appear to have, a pointlessly extended 12” version which was released in the 80s after the track appeared in a Levi’s ad**.

Also in this latest batch I have the 641st Number One, Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U. For me this record demonstrates what a classic Number One is all about. It’s the only chart-topper by an artist who’s been around for years without making much impact on the singles chart, but who managed to catch the public’s imagination with one particular single which held the Number One spot for 4 weeks. And, of course, it’s an astonishing and brilliant record.

It’s gems like this which make the title of UK Number One Single what it is – an elusive pinnacle that marks a place in music history, and ranks a record alongside this and many other true classic singles, in between the novelty hits and lowest-common-denominator rubbish. That’s why having a Number One is an ambition for so many musicians, and I suppose it’s why I got myself into this ridiculous quest in the first place.

Thanks, Sinead.

* I won’t bore you with the details, but I will tell you that it involves a stolen car and leave you to imagine your own fanciful scenario, which will undoubtedly be much more interesting than the truth.

** Although this wasn’t one of them, by my reckoning there have been four Number Ones which have hit the top as a direct result of appearing in a Levi TV commercial. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not going to tell you what they are.


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