How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Starry Eyed

The realisation was sudden, unexpected and unprovoked. I was absently reading through a few e-mails, unrelated to Number Ones, when I recalled the fact that I owned Aaliyah’s self-titled album, which includes More Than A Woman, the 917th record to reach the top, but had not yet transferred this track into the collection.

It was the second small boost I had received in the space of a week, as a few days earlier my friend and colleague Frazer had given me a copy of Olive’s You’re Not Alone on CD single, having read about the version I had found on a compilation album. I had been correct, it turned out, in thinking that the compilation track was an alternative mix, and now I had the real thing. Sadly I was still missing the CD sleeve, which, Frazer explained, had been stolen by a bungling burglar. This criminal mastermind had purloined Frazer’s entire collection of CD cases, unaware that the discs themselves were stored elsewhere. In this case at least, crime does not pay.

I hoped to add more to the collection when I had a brief search in a couple of Headingley charity shops which I hadn’t checked for a while. In the British Heart Foundation shop I found Spiller’s Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) and a pair of Aqua singles, their fantastic debut Barbie Girl and Turn Back Time*. This selection may have been small, but at least the quality was high. This was not the case in the Arc shop, where I found the dreadful Hey Baby (Uhh, Ahh) by DJ Ötzi and B*Witched’s To You I Belong, which would be bad enough even if the CD didn’t contain ‘B*Witched’s Message To Santa’, a barrage of shrieking even more irritating than their ‘Quiz Show’.

Reading the local paper I was intrigued to hear about the Hope Pastures Barn Sale which was to be held the following Sunday and which appeared to be somewhere nearby. A little research pinpointed the location and revealed Hope Pastures to be a horse sanctuary. This didn’t sound like the kind of place where I’d be likely to find a dusty box of 78s, but I decided to take a look.

I can say with certainty that this was the smelliest place I had visited in my quest so far, as well as having the most straw, but I was at least able to find a copy of Goodbye by the Spice Girls. It is possible that I may have done better had I turned up earlier, not because the place was attracting a rush of enthusiastic record collectors, but because when I arrived there was a pony attempting to eat as much of the merchandise as possible. I was only just quick enough to rescue the Spice Girls CD from its slobbering lips, and I can only wonder how many Number Ones it may already have consumed.

I decided to head home via Headingley and try some more charity shops, but was disappointed to find all but the British Heart Foundation closed. This was especially annoying in the case of All Aboard, which displayed a notice proclaiming proudly, and wrongly, “We are open on Sundays!”. Instead I walked down the road to Hyde Park, but was let down by a poor selection in Trader Dick’s Flea Market and another locked door at Desperate Dan’s second-hand record shop. I made a mental note to visit Dan on an alternative day of the week and, frustrated, went home.

I was cheered within days when I discovered a man named Spencer Bayles selling a few records, one of which was Do The Bartman by the Simpsons. Spencer was glad to get rid of it and I was glad to take it off his hands. At the weekend I gained another novelty hit in the guise of the Firm’s Star Trekkin’, another donation from Anthony, who had been enthusiastically searching through his own collection. He had been keen to give me ‘The Birdie Song’ by the Tweets in addition, and was downcast when I informed him that this had only reached Number Two.

The following day I made it back to Headingley at a time when the shops were open. In the Martin House shop I found Can’t Fight The Moonlight by LeAnn Rimes, and thought I had also managed to get Puff Daddy’s Notorious B.I.G. tribute I’ll Be Missing You. It was not to be. It seems that in a fit of paranoia someone at this shop once decided that only CD cases should be put on display, with the discs themselves kept securely behind the counter – clearly they haven’t come across Frazer’s burglar. The assistant conducted an extensive and detailed search, during which opportunistic shoplifters could have made off with any number of more expensive items, but I’ll Be Missing You was, indeed, missing.

My luck improved at the PDSA shop. Here I found my second 78, which was, like the first, a Jimmy Young record. The Man From Laramie was new to my ears, and truly awful. I made up for this by buying a classic chart-topper in Aneka’s Japanese Boy and a personal favourite, Return Of The Mack by Mark Morrison. This, the 737th Number One, has a special place in my heart, being the song I was going to perform on ‘Stars In Their Eyes’.

This was in 1996, when Return Of The Mack was in the charts. I got as far as filling in the entry form. I hadn’t expected to be asked to select a reserve choice of artist to impersonate, and I struggled with this question for some time before plumping for Tina Turner. Other than this, the form was easy to complete. The other entry requirement was to provide a demo recording, which was a bit trickier and sounded like an awful lot of hard work.

I considered simply sending a copy of the Mark Morrison version, but I thought that was probably cheating, and I didn’t want to win the Stars In Their Eyes title only to have it annulled when my deception was discovered. I imagined the disgrace, the tabloid furore, my name forever synonymous with shame, and thought it best not to go down this route.

In the end, I never got round to making a demo, and so the viewing public missed out on the sight of a short white man impersonating Leicester’s premier R&B artist (or Tina Turner). Perhaps some day Mark will make another spectacular comeback and I will have another opportunity.

* Featured on the soundtrack of the film ‘Sliding Doors’, which indirectly provided another Number One, which was of course…oh, you know that, don’t you?


  • If you're talking about Dido -- it's sort of freaky that 'Thank You' turned up there about three years before 'No Angel' actually became a hit album. It's a different mix too.

    By Blogger Stuart Ian Burns, at 9/18/2005 11:04 pm  

  • Yeah, I'm talking about Dido, sort of, but not quite, since Dido hasn't had any Number One singles, thankfully. Still, I think between us we've now said enough to give away the answer ;-)

    'Sliding Doors' came out in 1998 and 'No Angel' in 1999 so it wasn't that long a gap before release, but it didn't get in the album charts at all until 2000, thanks to... that other thing.

    Are you sure about it being a different mix? I don't remember noticing any difference but it's been a while since I saw the film.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 9/19/2005 12:55 am  

  • You must then be referring to Eminem 'Stan' which of course sampled Dido.

    By Anonymous Dan Webb, at 9/19/2005 4:04 pm  

  • That's the fella ;-)

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 9/19/2005 4:24 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home