How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, April 24, 2005

With A Little Help From My Friends

A couple of weeks ago I got chatting, via e-mail, to a man named Jon Kutner, who has proved to be extremely helpful. In fact he’d already helped before I spoke to him by writing, with Spencer Leigh, a book entitled ‘1000 UK Number One Hits’, which tells the story of every one of the records I am meant to be gathering*.

Jon is himself an obsessive record collector, and not only owns all of the Number Ones but is very close to having a complete collection of every UK hit single, which makes my own quest seem rather pathetic in comparison. As a result he has managed to accrue a number of duplicates, and was thus able to sell me 29 7” singles – all Number Ones, naturally.

They are an eclectic selection, ranging from the 65th chart-topper, Harry Belafonte’s version of Mary’s Boy Child, to the 630th, Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) by Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler. Some are good, some are bad. On the down side, I now own a copy of the 520th Number One True by Spandau Ballet, which is something I could have done without, even if it is the original 7” with picture sleeve. Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now or I’ll Never Find Another You by the Seekers aren’t much better.

But there are also some classic chart-toppers here, notably the first two Frankie Goes To Hollywood singles, Relax and Two Tribes, and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury & The Blockheads**.

Somewhere in between is the much-maligned 475th Number One, Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce Music Theatre. If you ever see a list of the worst records ever, you can guarantee Joe will be in there. I’d like to take this opportunity to stand up for Mr Dolce on this one. Itsa not so bad, as the song says, and I’ve deemed it worthy of three stars in the iTunes playlist, which is more than I’d give the dreary Ultravox song ‘Vienna’, which Joe famously kept off the top spot back in 1981.

This batch also added to the collection, for the first time, a handful of Number Ones which I can’t remember hearing before. In some cases this is not surprising – for example Russ Conway’s 1959 instrumental Side Saddle or Frankie Vaughan’s Tower Of Strength from 1961 are both well before my time.

However I was somewhat caught out by the 462nd chart-topper, Odyssey’s Use It Up And Wear It Out, not just because it’s a very odd record, but also because I swear I have never heard it before in my life, despite the fact that it was released in 1980. Admittedly I was only five years old at the time, but there are many other records from the same period which I can vividly recall being performed on ‘Top of the Pops’, as well as hearing them dozens of times on the radio since.

I wonder how many other records will surprise me in this way. I know there are a number of titles which I don’t recognise, but I had assumed that in most cases I would remember them when I heard them again. Perhaps I was mistaken.

* I’d thoroughly recommend this book – see Jon’s website at or Spencer’s at for more details.

** One of two Number Ones to include the word ‘Arapaho’. I’m sure there must be a question in there somewhere.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

It's Only Make Believe

This week has been the most profitable yet, as I have added 58 Number Ones to the collection, bringing the total to 178. This is thanks to two compilations which I discovered on Amazon with the cleverly constructed search term “Number Ones”.

The first to arrive was ‘Number Ones of Dance’, a selection of chart-toppers from the late 80s and early 90s. It’s questionable whether I Wanna Sex You Up by Color Me Badd deserves the ‘dance’ tag, but they all count, and although I already had a few of these tracks already, the album has provided a useful boost.

The pick of the bunch is the Black Box hit Ride On Time, probably most famous for its use of Loleatta Holloway’s sampled vocal. This caused much controversy at the time, but whatever the morals behind it this is a great record which sums up the period when commercial dance music started to rise to the upper reaches of the charts.

The second purchase is the double CD ‘Sixty Number Ones of the Sixties’, another giveaway title. It is slightly misleading, since some of these tracks were in fact only Number One hits in the US, but in the main they are bona fide UK chart-toppers, and I can now boast ownership of 89 of the 186 records that made it to the head of the list in the Sixties.

There are, as you will have experienced, many people who will tell you that the 1960s were the golden age of pop music. Most of them will claim that the hits of today can’t possibly compare with those of the past, probably adding something about having a good tune and how there wasn’t any of that rap rubbish, which is just talking anyway and doesn’t require any talent*.

This, of course, is nonsense. Yes, the 60s produced many great records, and was an incredibly important decade in terms of musical development (mainly due to technological advancements such as synthesis and multi-track recording), but I can assure you that even 40 years ago there was an incredible amount of drivel clogging up the charts, and you only need to look at the list of Sixties Number Ones to demonstrate this.

So while this particular compilation does include classic chart-toppers like the Walker Brothers’ The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Baby Now That I’ve Found You by the Foundations, we could probably do without Amen Corner’s (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice (a controversial choice, you may think, but have another listen to it – it’s rubbish) or Come Outside by Mike Sarne with Wendy Richard (which is mostly just talking anyway and didn’t require any talent).

Perhaps the worst offender, and certainly the worst on this album, is the 232nd Number One, Sandie Shaw’s Eurovision winner Puppet On A String. Next time someone tells about how much better the music of the Sixties was, ask them about Puppet On A String. They’ll probably come out with something about it at least having a proper tune, but it’s a simple matter to counter this argument by pointing out that this record is, in fact, total crap.

Thankfully Sandie has a couple of great Number Ones in Long Live Love and (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me, but since I have yet to acquire either of these, she must remain a disgrace to the collection for the time being.

And don’t get me started on the Seventies.

* By the way, do you know what the first Number One with rapping was?