How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Too Much

Since there is a branch of Oxfam specialising in records just 20 minutes walk from my home, it may have been sensible to make this my first port of call. Until recently, however, I have shied away from this potential mecca.

The reason for this was fear. My mind was filled with images of the shop’s chaotic interior, littered with boxes of records all over the floor and, occasionally, shelves, in no apparent order, spreading out as far as the eye could see. While this disorder made the shop a heavenly place for aimless browsing, it was virtually impossible to find anything specific in less than eight hours, so the thought of attempting to locate Number One singles was intimidating.

Eventually I plucked up the courage to enter, even without the aid of a stiff drink and a shot of valium, and was surprised to come across a scene far removed from that which I remembered. It transpired that since my last visit, someone had taken it upon themselves to introduce some kind of order, possibly because of health and safety regulations, and it was now possible to cross the shop floor without tripping over a stack of Mantovani LPs. There were even some concessions to standard retail practice, such as filing CDs and 12”s in separate sections. In fact the interior now almost resembled a record shop rather than a museum display depicting the destruction of Hiroshima.

The unknown maverick responsible for this new regime had apparently resisted the temptations of alphabetical ordering, and while there were now shelves dedicated solely to 7” singles, there were several of these scattered randomly throughout the store. Nonetheless I judged that it would now be possible to take a methodical approach to hunting through the treasure, though I anticipated that several visits would be required before being satisfied that I had explored every appropriate corner.

For my first foray I decided on a cautious approach, and restricted myself to one of the two selections of CD singles, and left with what appeared to be 14 Number One singles. It was later revealed that the case advertising Craig David’s Fill Me In was actually a cunning disguise for a compilation entitled ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, but as this turned out to contain a healthy selection of Number Ones, I was not disappointed.

The best of these was You’re The First, The Last, My Everything, the only Number One by the recently deceased Walrus of Love, Barry White, a great record which always reminds me of my friend Ed, as it is one of his favourites. Another classic is the 537th chart-topper, George Michael’s Careless Whisper, but I can find little to say in the favour of Without You by Nilsson, except that it’s not that bad until he starts shouting at the top of his voice, and that it’s not quite as awful as the cover version that reached the top in 1994*.

Of the undisguised CDs, the best is the fantastic Sound Of The Underground by Girls Aloud, one of the few decent records to spring from the recent spate of TV talent contests. Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio featuring LV is also well worth owning, which is why I bought it when it was released. Sadly this was another burglary victim, but it is now restored to its rightful place in my collection.

Prince made life difficult for anyone writing about Number Ones when he had his only chart-topper, the 705th, in 1994. This was during the period when he had disowned his name and insisted on being credited as a rather peculiar symbol, making it impossible for me to accurately tell you the name of the artist behind The Most Beautiful Girl In The World via the medium of text. This also presented a problem for the music press, so at the time he was variously known as Symbol, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince and That Purple Dwarf Twat. Perhaps the most appropriate description now would be The Artist Formerly And Subsequently Known As Prince, since he has now reclaimed the title. Whatever the credit, this is one of his finest records and merits its place in the role of honour.

The same cannot be said of R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly. When it became the 764th Number One in 1997 most of us with functioning ears hoped that he would be testing his theory from the top of a very tall building**. In retrospect it is perhaps a good thing that he didn’t – since untimely deaths in the world of pop generally lead to increased record sales, his demise would certainly have resulted in this horrible record holding the top spot for more than the 3 weeks it managed. I am assuming, of course, that he was wrong about being able to fly, which I think is a safe bet.

All things considered I was very satisfied with my trip to Oxfam Music, which brought the total to 395 Number Ones. There may not be the hidden nooks and crannies that there once were, but most of the shop is still to be explored and when I get my hands on those 7” singles I’m sure it will be very profitable.

* And of course you know who was responsible for that.
** Thank you to whoever it was that reminded me of this joke earlier today, and apologies for forgetting who you were. You’ll have to namecheck yourself.


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