How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Give A Little Love

I only entered the Relics record shop in Leeds because I happened to be passing by, and didn’t hold out much hope of discovering anything useful in what is essentially a serious collector’s shop, specialising in rarities. But tucked away in a corner I found the holy grail that is the 7” bargain bin, and when I left some time later I was the proud new owner of over 30 Number One singles, and made a mental note to return for more at a later date.

Relics provided a particularly good haul of charity singles, namely the Stock, Aitken & Waterman version of Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid II, Elton John’s double A-side Sacrifice/Healing Hands, the Crowd’s You’ll Never Walk Alone (in aid of the Bradford City Disaster Fund), and the NME/Childline double A featuring Billy Bragg performing She’s Leaving Home and Wet Wet Wet covering With A Little Help From My Friends*.

As well as being in aid of various good causes, the one thing these records have in common is that they are bloody awful, though not quite as bad as a pair of singles by singing actors which I also picked up. These were the 578th Number One, Every Loser Wins by Nick Berry and the 730th, Robson & Jerome’s I Believe/Up On The Roof (not made any more palatable by the fact that this particular piece of vinyl is horrendously warped).

Another of the worst ever Number Ones is the 574th, Chris De Burgh’s Lady In Red. It’s quite likely that this is the only Chris De Burgh record you will know, which is rather unfortunate, since it gave him an undeserved reputation as a schmaltzy dog-faced crooner of dreary ballads. If you know two Chris De Burgh records, the other one will probably be ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’, which doesn’t do much to dispel the myth, but if you think you can deal with the social stigma I would highly recommend taking a listen to his early albums, which are actually pretty good.

Thankfully it’s not all bad in this selection. The highlights include La Bamba by Los Lobos and Shakespears Sister’s Stay, but my particular favourite is the 673rd Number One, Goodnight Girl by Wet Wet Wet, who are becoming something of a regular feature here. I’ve no idea why I like this record so much, but there’s something about it which makes me go all funny inside – as does Lady In Red, but in a different way.

The most unusual chart-topper here must be the 529th, Only You by the Flying Pickets. I haven’t checked, but I am fairly confident that this is the only Number One by a left-wing revolutionary a cappella troupe. It appears that the Pickets are still around, although they don’t seem to have much in common with the 1983 line-up that made their biggest hit.

Just 705 to go.

* The second of the three versions of this song to reach the top, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you who recorded the others.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

It's Now Or Never

The ‘Now That’s What I Call Music!’ series came up trumps when I recently stumbled across a 3-CD set entitled ‘Now Decades’, composed of 60 Number One hits from the first 20 years of the series. From the 513th chart-topper, You Can’t Hurry Love by Phil Collins, to the 952nd, Busted’s You Said No, this compilation provides a snapshot of the way the ‘Now’ albums have documented the pop charts since 1983 (albeit in a major label money-grabbing kind of way).

Inevitably there were several tracks which I already had in one form or another, but out of the 60 I garnered 42 brand new Number Ones, plus the correct version of the Prodigy’s Firestarter, which I previously owned only as the extended album track.

As you would expect, it is a varied collection, taking in 80s pop (Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon), overblown rock ballads (Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)), boy bands (I Want It That Way by Backstreet Boys) and dance hits (Make Luv by Room 5 featuring Oliver Cheatham).

Also present is the second longest running Number One (not counting Frankie Laine’s I Believe, which spent 18 weeks at the top but in three separate runs), Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet, which was the 709th Number One and stayed there for 15 consecutive weeks, only dislodged due to its being deleted by the record label*.

Among the other notable inclusions are the Spice Girls, making their first entry into my collection with the first of their 9 top-sellers, Wannabe, the 743rd Number One. I also now own the record that I may well ultimately decide is the worst ever chart-topper, Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman, which managed 5 weeks at the top in 1996 despite the fact that everyone who bought it subsequently realised that the bit they liked on the Levi’s TV ad was in fact only the intro, and was followed by three minutes of dreary rock dirge with some of the worst lyrics ever heard by man or beast.

The 550th Number One, Paul Hardcastle’s 19 must be one of the strangest to reach the top, and the 532nd, 99 Red Balloons by Nena is one of the best, as well as being one of two chart-toppers to reference Captain Kirk**.

And finally, I should mention Baby Come Back, a cover of the Equals song (which also hit Number One in 1968) by Pato Banton featuring Ali & Robin Campbell of UB40, just because it reminds me of the joke we had at the time that the frontman was not in fact of Caribbean stock but actually an Irishman named Pat O’Banton. This version also features the great lyric "Come back with me colour TV/And me CD collection of Bob Marley", which the Equals sadly never thought to include.

The collection now stands at 273 Number Ones, so another milestone is in sight, and I hope to be hitting 300 very shortly.

* Do you know what record eventually became the 710th chart-topper?
** Clearly there’s another question in there, but it’s so easy I won’t insult your intelligence.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Puppy Love

A recent trip to my local PDSA charity shop proved unexpectedly fruitful. Not only did I do my bit to help save the cute little bunny rabbits, but my contribution of £13.89 bought me 11 CD singles, three 7”s and a couple of old newspaper covermount CDs which included a healthy number of chart-toppers.

The best among these were a trio of classic pop singles from 1999 – …Baby One More Time by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera’s Genie In A Bottle and, best of all, Livin’ La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin, making 1999 a good year for transatlantic teen idols.

Not so good are Peter Andre’s Flava and Gary Barlow’s truly awful solo debut, Forever Love. Another horror is the 828th Number One, Boom Boom Boom Boom by the Vengaboys*, which, as well as being a terrible record, highlighted yet another obstacle in my quest, the phenomenon that is the double CD single.

During the 90s, the major labels hit upon a devious marketing strategy which involved releasing two versions of a CD single, with the A-side usually appearing on both CDs, accompanied by a selection of different B-sides, typically various remixes and live tracks. These would be sold at half-price in the first week of release, in an attempt to get the record-buying public to fork out for both versions, thus doubling the sales and ensuring that the record entered the chart as high as possible.

All of this poses a question about whether the collection can only be truly complete if I manage to get both of the two CDs. I have decided that, since in most cases the lead track is identical, it will be sufficient to own only one. However, the second CD of Boom Boom Boom Boom, which I now have, does not include the original mix, and so in this case I will also need to track down the other disc. Thankfully the Official Charts Company have since made double CDs ineligible for the charts, putting a stop to this record company tactic and making my life a little easier.

As well as the PDSA records, I have gathered a number of chart-toppers thanks to my brother’s 18th birthday, for which I decided to prepare a compilation CD featuring the records that were at Number One on each of his birthdays. Since only three of these tracks were already in the collection, I had to find the others pretty quickly, and so I turned for the first time to the iTunes Music Store, where I was able to buy 13 of the 16 I needed.

I therefore now also own the 978th (and probably the rudest) Number One, Eamon’s F**k It (I Don’t Want You Back), the other Gary Barlow chart-topper, Love Won’t Wait (not quite as bad as Forever Love, but still rubbish) and another great Britney Spears single, Oops!…I Did It Again.

Although I would of course prefer to be buying physical products rather than downloads, it’s heartening to discover that iTunes had such a high success rate, as this may well come in very handy in the future. Though they still don’t have Whole Lotta Woman by Marvin Rainwater.

* A title that squeezes in 4 of the 9 appearances of the word ‘Boom’ in a Number One’s title. The other 5 are spread among just three records. Can you name that boom?