How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

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?


  • It was Englebert Humperdinck wasn't it?

    By Blogger headphonesex, at 3/14/2005 1:27 pm  

  • Might have been. I couldn't possibly reveal the answer ;-)

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 3/14/2005 3:01 pm  

  • There is of course the Beatles CD "1", released in 2000 (and which I have). This theoretically contains all the number ones, though I think they must have been thinking about US number ones as some of them are wrong. e.g. the first track is 'Love Me Do' which if my memory serves me well got to number 17.

    By Anonymous David, at 3/17/2005 12:11 pm  

  • Since this is the only time anyone has bothered to answer one of my fiendish pop quiz questions, I have decided to confirm that it was indeed Engelbert Humperdinck's Release Me that beat the Beatles.

    But you already knew that.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 5/18/2005 1:11 am  

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