How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Are Friends Electric?

My old and dear friends Anthony and Lindsay have cemented their reputation by bolstering my collection to the tune of 13 Number Ones. Ant, who is himself an anal record boy (specialist subject: jangly indie pop) and probably secretly wishes he’d had this idea before I did, discovered in his record collection an old compilation album entitled ’20 Number 1’s’ (their misplaced apostrophe, not mine), and kindly donated it to the cause.

It contains a selection of chart-toppers predominantly from the 1960s, including 11 which I had yet to locate. On playing the record I was disheartened to discover that the vinyl seemed to be in rather poor condition, and wouldn’t play for more than a couple of minutes without skipping, but with a little care and attention (vigorous rubbing, for the most part) I was able to correct the problem areas.

The most stubborn blemish, which appeared for some time to be irreparable, was especially frustrating as it was in the middle of the best track, the marvellous In The Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus) by Zager & Evans, the 275th Number One from 1969. I am ashamed to have never previously owned this record, as it is surely one of the best ever chart-toppers. I had not heard it for many years, but it remained fresh in my mind, perhaps due to the unforgettable opening lines: "In the year 2525, if man is still alive". As well as being one of the greatest Number Ones, it is also one of the strangest and perhaps the most sinister, being a tale of a dystopic future and ultimate armageddon.

Another unforgettable opening belongs to the 116th Number One, Blue Moon by the Marcels, which begins, brilliantly, "Bom momma bom, ma bom ba bom bom, ba ba bom ba ba bom, ba dang a dang dang, ba ding a dong ding blue moon". The Elvis version of this song is good, but I can’t help but consider that it would have been improved if only he’d thought of that.

The 99th Number One was Lonnie Donegan’s My Old Man’s A Dustman (Ballad Of A Refuse Disposal Officer), which contains some of the worst jokes ever committed to vinyl. As evidence I will submit just one example:

"My dustbin’s full of lilies".
"Well, throw ‘em away then".
"I can’t, Lily’s wearing ‘em!".

Judging by the audience reaction in this live recording, this was the height of hilarity in 1960, but in 2005 it inspires in me only bemusement and a blank stare.

While the LP focuses on the 60s, it also includes Eddie Fisher’s Outside Of Heaven, which dates back to 1953. When it reached the top of the UK charts in January of that year, it became only the 4th record ever to do so. Sadly there is little else of note in this song.

Anthony’s wife Lindsay made a contribution of her own, digging out a couple of old 7”s. The Joker by the Steve Miller Band is unfortunately the original 1973 single rather than the 1990 re-release which reached Number One on the back of an appearance in a Levi’s advert, having outsold its nearest rival by just 8 copies*, but is nevertheless a useful addition.

George Michael’s A Different Corner, on the other hand, is the real deal, complete with picture sleeve. Before playing the record, I was struggling to recall it, and having listened I became convinced that this is in fact yet another Number One which has always eluded my ears. But this record spent 3 weeks at the top in 1986, when I was 10 years old and a regular viewer of 'Top Of The Pops' and other music programmes, so how can it be possible that I have never heard it? It was preceded by Living Doll by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones, and deposed by Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus, both of which are as familiar to me as any among the thousand, but it seems that George’s effort passed me by.

This confuses and surprises me. It’s not a particularly memorable record, admittedly, and perhaps it has simply been forgotten, but even so, this seems strange. Ironically, the back sleeve proclaims that "This record is dedicated to a memory". Obviously not mine.

* The record it beat was one of the great Number 2s – know what it was?


  • A vague memory and some sleuthing suggests to me that the answer is: "Groove Is In The Heart" by Dee Lite

    By Anonymous Steven, at 7/11/2005 4:13 am  

  • Good sleuthing sir. Don't think you can be accused of cheating on that one.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 7/11/2005 3:59 pm  

  • I have a suggestion for your blog. Each week you could take suggestions for the title of the next post and try to plan your life accordingly. With that in mind, I nominate: "The Tide Is High". If you like I can recommend some good second hand record shops in Blackpool or Bognor Regis.

    Perhaps as a grand finale you ought to save "The Final Countdown" and "Suicide is Painless" for the final two posts.

    By Anonymous Steven, at 7/12/2005 1:08 am  

  • ... although I suppose "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" could be employed as a reprise.

    By Anonymous Steven, at 7/12/2005 1:11 am  

  • I wasn't really planning on ending it all when I'd finished the collection, but I suppose it would be a suitable way to go out. If I could arrange some sort of resurrection I could always return with 'Back To Life', or indeed 'Bring Me To Life'. Or 'Rise'. Which had a sample from Bob Dylan's version of 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door', so that works nicely.

    But what would I do if someone suggested 'The Ketchup Song'? It would never work. I like 'The Tide Is High' though, and I'm supposed to be going to Brighton in a couple of weeks so I might use it then ;-)

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 7/12/2005 3:27 am  

  • you'd just have to spend a week in Bryan's.

    By Blogger Baz, at 7/12/2005 9:04 am  

  • I have some contacts in French mental health institutes who can be mobilised given a few days' notice if you're interested in employing the "Crazy Frog" headline anytime soon.

    By Anonymous Steven, at 7/13/2005 4:25 am  

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