How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Go Now

Having exhausted the Number Ones offered by my existing record collection, the time has now come to begin the serious business of record-hunting, in an attempt to track down the 890 chart-toppers that remain so far unclaimed. I have also been forced to start spending money in order to continue my ludicrous quest.

So far I have spent the princely sum of £8.49 and have thus acquired 10 more Number One records. Those of you who are skilled in the art of mathematics will have already noted that this works out at an average of 84.9p for each chart-topper, marginally higher than the 79p figure I originally set myself as an upper limit.

I am, however, satisfied with the current spending level, because the first £4 went towards a pair of original 7” singles, complete with picture sleeves, namely Going Underground/The Dreams of Children and Start, the first two Number One hits by the Jam*.

This purchase was followed by the first of many visits to a charity fund-raising shop, where I was able to lay my hands on a copy of ‘Now That’s What I Call Music Volume 45’. In an ideal world this would have boosted the collection by the tune of 10 Number Ones, but on returning home I was disappointed to discover that only one of the expected two CDs was actually in the case, reducing the total benefit to just 6 chart-toppers. I decided against making a rather uncharitable complaint to the Marie Curie Cancer Care organisation, and so Fragma’s Toca’s Miracle, the 856th Number One, will just have to wait.

I would have been glad to own the Fragma record, as it is an excellent single. On the other hand I would have been perfectly content, notwithstanding my mission, to have spent the rest of my days without a copy of the 852nd Number One, Bag It Up by Geri Halliwell. But I must accept that, having entered into this escapade, I have only myself to blame for being forced into the purchase of terrible records.

That particular single is, at least, just one track on a compilation that also contains a couple of good records, such as Madison Avenue’s Don’t Call Me Baby. The same can not be said for my most recent acquisition, the CD single of Words by Boyzone. Despite the very reasonable asking price of 50p (thanks to another charity shop), I am almost certain that under normal circumstances I would never have considered spending as much as 5p on this item.

There is, of course, much worse to come. The 748th Number One is at least blandly inoffensive enough to listen to without feeling the need to run screaming from the room. In order to retain my sanity, I will remind myself that I can still enjoy the luxury of not owning the 698th. You’ll have to look that one up yourself – I can’t even bring myself to say it.

* You already know, of course, that the Jam hit the top 4 times in their career, and I’m sure you don’t need me tell you the titles of the other two, do you?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

King Of My Castle

When it comes to UK Number Ones, there are two acts that stand above the rest. They are, of course, Elvis Presley and the Beatles, respectively the biggest ever solo artist and the biggest ever group. Cliff Richard isn’t too far behind but really he’s no competition at all. Elvis lays claim to 20 of the first 1000 Number Ones (and a few more afterwards), while the Beatles stand on 17.

In the magic box that contains my Dad’s old records, I have a secret weapon – ‘Elvis Presley’s Greatest Hits’, a 7-LP box set that is a pretty comprehensive collection of all the Elvis songs you’d ever want. Plus a lot that you wouldn’t, which demonstrates the problem with Elvis – while he undoubtedly made some great records, he also made a lot of crap

When you look at the list of his Number Ones it’s the crap that jumps out. There are exceptions, such as Jailhouse Rock or The Wonder Of You (the best ever Number One to perform at karaoke, unless you can pull off Bohemian Rhapsody) but in the main they’re of the distinctly low calibre of Rock-A-Hula Baby and Wooden Heart*, because the height of Elvis mania was the period when he spent a lot of time making movies and far less time knocking out the soundtracks that went along with them.

Nevertheless, I am now just one record short of a complete collection of Elvis Number Ones, although for some reason the set does not include Little Sister, the 129th Number One from 1962 (a double A with His Latest Flame).

The Beatles may have had fewer Number Ones, but they avoided the quality control problems. Every one of their chart-toppers is a great record (even Yellow Submarine, in it’s own way), despite the fact that some of their best work was never even released as a single**. In fact, until the rather lame ‘Let It Be’ album, they rarely released anything that wasn’t top quality, although I do have a personal distaste for some of Paul McCartney’s more sickly moments on the later albums.

Sadly, despite owning an extensive collection of Beatles records, I am not yet able to boast that I have all of their Number Ones, largely due to the fact that most of their singles were never included on an album. I am slightly mystified that I don’t seem to have the ‘Help!’ album, which would have provided a couple of extra chart-toppers. I could have sworn I had that somewhere, but apparently not.

Despite these omissions, the total collection has now risen to 110 Number Ones, and I do feel that crossing the 100 mark has been something of a milestone. At the same time I’m feeling rather disappointed that I’ve now run out of records to trawl through, and I’m a long way short of the 200 I originally guessed might be gathered without buying anything new. It’s only going to get harder from here.

* In its favour, Wooden Heart does at least have Elvis singing a verse in German for no apparent reason.
** Or occasionally stalled at Number Two, like 'Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever', which was beaten to the top spot by...any ideas?