How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Tide Is High

Christian had arranged the trip, I provided the soundtrack. We were on our way to Brighton, and in honour of our destination’s reputation as the gay capital of Britain, I had compiled a CD of some of the gayest Number Ones. It wasn’t difficult to fill the disc.

After a short crawl along a particularly static part of the M25, we made a detour to Leatherhead to pick up Mike and headed off to the coast. We entered Brighton accompanied by the Communards and Don’t Leave Me This Way, followed by Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

I had foolishly accepted Christian’s suggestion that a tent would provide suitable accommodation. He claimed to have reached this decision due to the apparent impossibility of booking into a hotel in Brighton for a single night, but I suspected he was simply looking for an excuse to spend money on ridiculous camping equipment. He was particularly proud of a device that claimed to be a toaster, but it looked like no toaster I had ever seen, and I had some doubt about its abilities. I was similarly dubious about the full English breakfast in a tin, but I had to admire his efforts and accept that he was well prepared.

This level of preparation had not, however, extended to booking a pitch at our chosen campsite, so when we discovered on our arrival that the site was fully booked, we were forced into a rapid change of plan. Fortunately it turned out to be extremely easy to book into a hotel in Brighton for a single night, and I was secretly relieved to have a bed under a genuine, non-canvas roof.

Having secured accommodation, our next task was to locate Dave, the reason for our visit. Dave was about to move from Brighton to Prague, for no particular reason as far as I could tell, and so we were in town to bid him farewell. Naturally this involved the traditional British sport of binge-drinking, which began almost immediately, and so the day passed into evening and then into a vague blur.

I recall dancing to 99 Red Balloons, and I believe there were nuns. I remain convinced that my leap over the metal road barrier was athletic and graceful, but I have to admit that my landing was not. None of us noticed the blood streaming down my face until a helpful taxi driver pointed it out. I quickly decided that my injury was not sufficiently serious to merit a trip to hospital – I have never been to Casualty in Brighton at two o’clock on a Sunday morning at the height of summer, but I don’t imagine it would have been a pleasant experience – and elected to return to the hotel.

Fortunately I survived the night, and the following morning brought a little fuzziness but surprisingly good health. We drove into town playing YMCA and I Will Survive at high volume with the windows down. This attracted a few curious glances, but for the most part the people of Brighton must be used to this kind of behaviour. We had breakfast (fresh rather than tinned) in a pleasant café and considered our strategy for the rest of the morning.

Inevitably I suggested that we should scour Brighton in search of Number One singles. I had, of course, planned such a move as soon as our trip had been announced, but this was the first time I had mentioned it to my companions. Gratifyingly, they agreed to my suggestion, though I generously allowed them to visit some additional shops of their own choosing.

Having little knowledge of Brighton’s retail industry, we wandered the streets without focus. I was annoyed to discover three closed charity shops. Who knows what treasure may have been locked behind those doors? After half an hour without a sniff of a suitable shop I was becoming restless. Surely there must be, somewhere among these twisting thoroughfares, a charity shop or second-hand record store which didn’t refuse to open on a Sunday morning? Had I come all this way just to leave empty-handed?

It was Mike who made the breakthrough. I must have walked right past the TRAID store. Being unaware of the existence of this charity, the name meant nothing to me, and I paid it no attention. Seconds later I heard Mike shouting excitedly across a crowded street: "Joe! Records!"

He was right, and I was glad he was with me, as the shop held valuable gems. I was especially satisfied in picking up my first 78 rpm 10” single. This was the 34th Number One, Jimmy Young’s version of Unchained Melody. While Jimmy Young is an accomplished radio DJ, his singing talents are less impressive, and there are a couple of particularly painful high notes on this record that make it the worst of the chart-topping versions of this song.

I was also pleased to find the original 1960 7” release of Elvis Presley’s It’s Now Or Never (O Sole Mio) and another copy of December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) by the Four Seasons, which I hoped would be an improvement on the virtually unplayable copy I had bought previously. There is clearly some kind of curse on this record, as I later discovered a large crack running across the vinyl from label to edge (or possibly the other way round, I couldn’t tell). Amazingly I was still able to play the record, but I hope to find an intact version.

Having at last found our way in, the floodgates opened, and before too long we had come across a number of potential sources. The bargain bin of CD Warehouse lived up to its name, yielding 6 chart-topping CD singles at a mere 25p apiece. These included a couple of Spice Girls hits (Too Much and Spice Up Your Life, one of their better attempts) and Dirrty by Christina Aguilera featuring Redman, including the notorious video featuring a half-dressed Xtina indulging in bare-knuckle boxing, with just a little bit of mud-wrestling thrown in for good measure. The record itself has a rather strange ending that is probably best described as an ‘ident’, similar to the production company jingles you usually get at the beginning of films. This one advertises ‘another Rockwilder production’, in case you were wondering.

The Shelter shop provided a particularly good haul, plus an assistant who turned out to be a personal friend of a man who is no stranger to the Number One spot, Sir Cliff Richard. Sadly Sir Cliff didn’t happen to pop in for a chat while I was there, and there were none of his 14 chart-toppers here*. I did find the 1991 release of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Never Ever by All Saints and The Legend Of Xanadu by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. Three great records, as is Feel It by The Tamperer featuring Maya – one of the strangest and most threatening to ever reach the top, particularly notable for the line ‘What’s she gonna look like with a chimney on her?’.

On the other hand the 301st Number One, Middle Of The Road’s Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, is horrible, though I found an even more unpleasant listening experience in C’est La Vie by B*Witched. Not that the A-side itself is all that bad (though the Irish jig section makes me want to burn down theme pubs), but the third track on the CD, ‘B*Witched Quiz Show’, features the Gaelic songstresses screeching their way through a series of pointless questions in a way that proves them to be the most irritating pop stars in the history of the world. I can only hope that they were as irritated themselves by the mis-spelling ‘Linsday’ on the sleeve.

Finally we visited Oxfam, where Christian found a 7” of Englandneworder’s World In Motion, the greatest ever football record. He also looked through a rack of 12” singles and discovered the 891st Number One, It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy. I hadn’t previously paid much attention to 12”s, mainly because in charity shops they are typically mixed in with albums, and I don’t have any desire to waste time flicking through hundreds of easy listening favourites. So I was glad that Christian had taken the trouble on this occasion, or I would probably have missed the Shaggy record, as well as Breathe by Blu Cantrell featuring Sean Paul.

By this stage I was exhausted and carrying as many Number Ones as I could be bothered to take back to Leeds, so we called it a day and arranged, with some difficulty, to meet up again with Dave for a coffee. I admired my new acquisitions while Dave admired my bruised and swollen head. We decided that the time had come to head back North, so we said our goodbyes and returned to the car. With another blast of YMCA and It’s A Sin, we were gone.




* That’s a hard one, isn’t it?

6 Comments:

  • The Tamperer sampled a record called Wanna Drop a House on that Bitch - hence the "what she gonna look like with a chimney on her?". I've never heard it.

    By Blogger Baz, at 9/11/2005 10:26 pm  

  • "Hey diddle diddle, there's a fellow in the middle and I think he's pulling my string, My wife's lactating and I'm spectating ... it's a football thing"

    versus

    "we ain't no hooligans, this ain't a football song, three lions on my chest you know we can't go wrong".

    Shaun Ryder wins.

    By Blogger Baz, at 9/11/2005 10:27 pm  

  • Fair point. It's a close call if you ask me. Surely we can at least agree they're the two best football records. Though the Primal Scream one was very good too.

    I don't think the 'Wanna Drop A House On That Bitch' bit is a sample, they just nicked some lyrics. Maybe even just that line - not sure, as I've never heard that record either. Perhaps a passing expert can shed some light. There is of course a sample from the Jacksons 'Can You Feel It' on there though.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 9/11/2005 11:14 pm  

  • Excellent title by the way.

    By Anonymous Steven, at 9/12/2005 2:48 am  

  • Thanks. It came to me in a dream.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 9/12/2005 12:34 pm  

  • Like Prague?

    By Anonymous Simon, at 9/12/2005 8:09 pm  

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