How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Heaven Is A Place On Earth

I read in the Yorkshire Evening Post that a jumble sale (plus cake stall) was to be held at the Headingley St Columba United Reformed Church the following Saturday. I am not, you will be surprised to hear, a religious man, and usually restrict my appearances in church to the occasional wedding, but this sale provided a compelling reason to visit a house of God.

I knew little about the nature of the United Reformed Church, but I did know that it was housed in a modern building. This was enough to turn my uneducated mind to wild speculation. It became obvious to me that I was walking into a trap set by a mysterious and evil cult. Within two hours I would be brainwashed to such an extent that I would forget all about collecting Number One singles, and would instead be content to have mind-altering chemicals injected into my bloodstream with unfeasibly large needles in some kind of secret underground laboratory.

This, I reasoned, would be a bad thing, but if this was what I had to go through in order to lay my hands on a copy of Billy Don’t Be A Hero by Paper Lace, then so be it. I approached with caution.

On entering the church I was greeted by the advertised cake stall, staffed by an elderly lady who glared at me as if I had murdered her children. I certainly wasn’t going to risk buying a rock bun from this woman, so I proceeded into the main sale area, after paying a 20p admission fee. The room was small and the goods appeared to consist almost entirely of piles of ancient and foul-smelling clothing. I spied a selection of books in one corner and decided to investigate in the hope of discovering a nearby stash of records, but it was not to be. Within three minutes I had circumnavigated the hall and concluded that there was not a gram of vinyl or a hint of polycarbonate plastic in the place. I retraced my steps past the sinister cake lady and made my way out.

I was naturally disappointed to have come away empty-handed, but I did at least appear to have retained my free will. I rued the ill-spent 20p, which would most likely go towards funding the construction of a giant death ray, and made my way to the nearby Mind shop, which I had not visited for some time.

My previous visit here had been largely unfruitful (though I had picked up a couple of CD singles), so I was delighted to discover that the shop had been refurbished and restocked, with an expanded selection of old 7” singles. I eagerly dived in.

If I ever decide to collect as many copies of Do The Bartman by the Simpsons as I possibly can, I will start here. There were four, but I was satisfied with the one I already had and passed them by. I was more interested in a pair of Abba Number Ones, Knowing Me, Knowing You and one of their finest moments, The Winner Takes It All.

Angelo by Brotherhood of Man, which I had never heard before, is a blatant (if ham-fisted) attempt at an Abba soundalike, all chiming piano chords and boy/girl harmonies. I also bought their more familiar Eurovision winner, Save Your Kisses For Me, which is a marginally better record, at least until it gets to the cringeworthy pay-off revealing that the subject of the song is three years old.

There was another Eurovision champion here, Nicole’s A Little Peace, which was the 500th Number One and so represents the chronological half-way point of my quest. Its B-side ‘Thank You, Merci’ (there’s a Danke thrown in there too) illustrates how desperate Nicole must have been for Eurovision success. Speaking of Europe, I also found a copy of their The Final Countdown. This is quite possibly the least subtle Number One ever*, and the sleeve almost certainly holds some kind of world record for the amount of hair on display.

The 649th chart-topper was Bombalurina’s Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, which is even more irritating than I had remembered (ah yeah!). It was stuck in my head for about three days after listening to it (ah yeah!), which brought me close to suicide, but I was saved by the fantastic Fame by Irene Cara. On the same subject, Gonna Make You A Star by David Essex hit the top in 1974 and is therefore the oldest record I found here.

I might, one day, try to work out how many Number Ones feature an accordion. There can’t be very many, but I have found one in Shakin’ Stevens’ Oh Julie (“Don’t kick me in the goolies”, as we used to enjoy singing). I can’t tell for sure, but there may also be one in the background of The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Tight Fit**.

Perhaps my most satisfying acquisition was the 629th chart-topper, Sealed With A Kiss by Jason Donovan. Not because it’s a good record (it isn’t), or because on the back sleeve Jason appears to be on fire (which might explain why he didn’t made it back to the top for another two years). The real cause for celebration is that I now have a complete collection of Jason’s Number Ones on 7” single, all with picture sleeves. Not only can I take pride in this achievement, but I can also rest assured that I need never suffer the indignity of buying one of his records again.

* Even less subtle than my Europe segue, amazingly.
** One of five Number Ones with a big cat in the title, quiz fans.


  • Eye of the Tiger, Tiger Feet and The Lion sleeps tonight. But the other 2 have bamboozled me!
    Are you counting both artist and song for this? eg PussyCAT dolls?

    By Anonymous Dan Webb, at 9/29/2005 12:27 pm  

  • Song titles only. Pussycat Dolls wouldn't have counted anyway, because I'm only interested in the first 1000 Number Ones, and a pussycat is a small cat, not a big one ;-)

    The other two are one, or maybe three or even six.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 9/29/2005 7:03 pm  

  • "Three Lions" by Baddiel and Skinner was released twice in two different flavours. From your clue, I'm guessing it got to number one both times?

    By Anonymous Steven, at 9/30/2005 1:53 am  

  • Correctamundo. Three Lions for Euro '96 and then Three Lions '98 for the World Cup in France, both by Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 9/30/2005 4:58 am  

  • When you say you restrict your appearances in church to the occasional wedding, are you referring to your occasional (alleged) polygamy, or other people's nuptials?

    With reference to an earlier post, I believe Aaliyah's eponymous album features two number ones ("Try again" as well as the superb "More than a woman").

    By Anonymous rish, at 10/05/2005 9:19 am  

  • I was talking about other people's weddings. When I get married myself I always do it in a Vegas casino.

    'Try Again' only got to Number 5. Great record though, better than More Than A Woman if you ask me.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 10/05/2005 5:52 pm  

  • Advertising can be a big problem otherwise. A lot of companies reserve a big chunk of their budgets to cover marketing expenditures.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/04/2005 6:50 am  

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