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.


  • In terms of number ones that mention 'Arapaho' in the lyrics - would the other one be 'The Chicken Song' by Spitting Image, by any chance?

    By Anonymous Dave Roberts, at 1/15/2006 7:06 pm  

  • Yes it would Dave, nice work!

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 1/16/2006 12:12 am  

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