How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mr Tambourine Man

I was working on some Christmas music and needed to go into town to buy a set of sleigh bells, so decided to fit in some Number One hunting at the same time. I had my eye on a couple of charity shops I hadn’t yet visited, but on the way I thought about the Merrion Market and decided to go there first.

The Merrion Market is a strange place, but if you ever find yourself in Leeds and needing, as most of us do at one time or another, to buy collectible stamps, military memorabilia and a fancy dress costume, this is the place to go. While you are there you might like to try to identify the lingering smell of the place, something I have never managed to do.

The market also houses a second hand record shop which, as far as I can tell, has no name, though if it does have one it may be simply CD & Vinyl Exchange. It was disappointingly short on singles, but I did find a box of 12”s. This box turned out to be highly significant. Although it held only two Number Ones, these were enough to ease me past two major landmarks – I now had half of the 1000 Number Ones, 300 of which were the original releases.

The records in question were Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney with Stevie Wonder and That’s What I Like by Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers. The young lady at the cash desk was obviously impressed by my choices and let it slip that she had once owned the Jive Bunny record herself, though she immediately denied this and blamed the crime on her mother, who was not present to defend herself.

I left the market and headed to Boar Lane and the Shelter shop, where I found another strange and unidentifiable smell, along with a healthy selection of CD singles. Band Aid 20’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? was the last version of the song I needed, and I found both discs of the double CD release Believe by Cher. The assistant was highly amused at my purchase of The Way To Your Love by Hear'Say, but I couldn’t summon the energy to explain my actions. I left her to it and wondered what she would have made of Jive Bunny.

The Oxfam shop had a useful stock of old 7”s and a bizarre pricing system. Rather than the usual blanket price, each record was individually labelled, apparently at random. Was Spitting Image’s The Chicken Song* really worth £1.49? It did have a picture sleeve, but could this explain the difference between its cost and that of Amazing Grace by the Pipes And Drums And The Military Band of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, which I laid my hands on for just 39p? Marmalade’s Ob-la-di Ob-la-da also came in at £1.49, without a picture sleeve. Perhaps this was due to its vintage, but then why did Diane by the Bachelors, five years older, set me back just 99p? I couldn’t make any sense of it, but bought the lot anyway.

The selection also included Woman In Love by Barbara Streisand, which I didn’t remember but knew immediately on playing it, and the 236th chart-topper, Scott McKenzie’s fantastic San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair). I also picked up one CD single, Billie’s Girlfriend, complete with a poster of the singer baring her terrifyingly large teeth.

I moved on to the RSPCA shop, which had been a happy hunting ground on a previous occasion. Once again I came away with a good number of chart-toppers, after negotiating another Gary Glitter moment, having found his third Number One, Always Yours. Fern Kinney’s Together We Are Beautiful is another record I didn’t realise I was familiar with. I recognised it at once, and very good it is too.

There had been some confusion in my mind over Ride On Time by Black Box, which I had found previously as a remix 7” which sounded suspiciously close to the version I knew. I had reasoned that it must have been the remix which had become a hit. But now I found another 7”, without the remix tag, so perhaps this was the correct version. So it seemed, until about 3 minutes into the record, when a few bars of guitar reared their head, which I swear were not there before. I remain confused, but surely one of the versions I now have must be the right one.

There is only one version, thankfully, of St Winifred School Choir’s No One Quite Like Grandma, and I now owned it, along with the 204th Number One, Tears by Ken Dodd. Russ Conway’s Roulette was naggingly familiar, though this may be because of its jaunty charm rather than a genuine memory. Either way, I was surprised to find myself enjoying it. The same was true of Welcome Home by Peters & Lee, one of those records that I have heard countless times but never paid any attention.

Time was marching on and I had yet to buy sleigh bells, so I called it a day and headed to the music shop Knock On Wood. As well as the sleigh bells I made a spontaneous decision to buy a tambourine**. Only now do I realise that this was probably subconsciously inspired by Scott McKenzie.

* One of five birds to appear in the title of a Number One. I know you’re enjoying this zoological thread.
** This turned out to be a good move, as otherwise I would have been struggling for a relevant title.


  • I seem to recall the Spitting Image "Chicken Song" spending about nine months at number one. A quick check also confirms that "Pretty Flamingo" was also a chart topper.

    By Anonymous Steven, at 10/27/2005 1:20 am  

  • It was only Number One for 3 weeks, and in the charts for 10, so I'm not sure what you're thinking about. Maybe it's just a particularly painful memory for you.

    Pretty Flamingo is one of the bird songs, yes.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 10/27/2005 6:32 pm  

  • The South African song on the b side of Spitting Image was the much better track.

    I suggest that you mp3 those ride on times and e-mail to me. I shall be able to identify the correct version with ruthless efficiency

    By Anonymous Nik, at 10/28/2005 11:19 am  

  • "I've never met a nice South African
    And that ain't bloody surprising man
    Cos they're a bunch of ignorant bastards
    Who smell like baboons"

    Is how it goes, if I remember rightly.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 10/28/2005 2:23 pm  

  • Well you should remember given that you own the record anyway. Now - you sending me those mp3's or not?

    By Anonymous Nik, at 10/29/2005 4:41 pm  

  • Leave it with me.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 10/29/2005 6:21 pm  

  • Well that is an oddity – I would have to say that none of the three is the original. The first you sent wasn’t quite right somehow. The Massive Remix I stopped listening after 10 seconds cos it was just all wrong. The Massive Mix was sounding like it all the way through, but then had those crazy 5 seconds of guitar for no apparent reason.

    My advice – buy Deconstruction – A History of Dance Music compilation – it has the original on and is also an excellent album – plus has N-Joy’s Anthem on it. Someone nicked my copy and I am still upset about it.

    By Anonymous Nik, at 10/30/2005 1:28 am  

  • In fact it has:

    Bassheads - Is There Anybody Out There?
    Way Out West - Ajare
    The Grid - Swamp Thing
    Black Box - Ride On Time
    K-Klass - Rhythm Is A Mystery (which was famously bastardised by Snap as Rhythm is A Dancer)
    N-Joi - Anthem
    Kylie - Confide In Me (complete with wobbly voice just at the end that was later cleaned up)
    Felix - Don't You Want Me
    Usura - Open Your Mind
    The Grid - Texas Cowboys (unfortunatley not the Justin Robertson remix)
    Hyper Go Go - High
    Guru Josh - Infinity

    All together an excellent album - I'm going to buy another copy

    By Anonymous Nik, at 10/30/2005 1:35 am  

  • See, told you it was confusing. Maybe what I really need is a 12", but you'd think that would be the same but longer.

    That album, judging by tracklisting alone, is awesome, other than the ridiculous inclusion of the Grid tracks. And no Lionrock, who I think were on Deconstruction weren't they?

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 10/30/2005 3:19 am  

  • Well it does have a Lionrock choon on - but its Packet of Peace, which is certainly not their best moment and therefore did not a rate mention. Wont have a word said against Texas Cowboys, even if it is by the Grid. Album available on Amazon.

    Recently saw Way Out West supporting Faithless and as ever the support was better than the main act - a ploy most effectively done by N-Joi supporting 808 State - although the acid may have have altered my judgement - having said that it wasn't the acid that made 808 State put MC Twat and Bjork on stage.

    Got to go - Texas Cowboys just about to end (this time is the excellent Robertson remix) and even though its not the 1990's, its still time for the Guru - plus the neighbour is knocking on the wall which must mean that they can't hear it properly.

    You're from Texas - that's beautiful

    By Anonymous Nik, at 10/30/2005 12:29 pm  

  • Ride On Time is to my knowledge available on 2 7". The first contained a sample that was used without permission and became illegal following the court case so they released a 'remix' with a soundalike doing the 'sample'. GBBHS gives the original cat no but it was the court case publicity that helped the single's sales, as far as I know.

    By Anonymous Dan Webb, at 10/31/2005 11:12 am  

  • Thanks for that info Dan, sounds like a likely explanation. I hadn't realised that they actually pulled the sample, I always thought they just forked out a load of cash/points for it.

    And this still doesn't explain why Nik and I both think it's the wrong version. What is the deal with that guitar bit?

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 10/31/2005 12:56 pm  

  • Did the "Birdie Song" go to number one? I think that this record is significant as it posts a benchmark for crapness. For example, my friend Sandeep commented that "Do you like it" by MC whoeveritwas was like "a Birdie song for the noughties". There must have been a song featuring eagles or something which went to number one.

    By Blogger Rish, at 11/01/2005 12:47 pm  

  • No, if you were paying attention you would know that the Birdie Song (by the Tweets) didn't get to Number One (I should probably put a link in here to point you to the bit where I said that, but I can't be arsed).

    "For example, my friend Sandeep commented that" is possibly the most Indian phrase I've ever heard, nice work.

    You're thinking of Do You Really Like It by DJ Pied Piper and the Master of Ceremonies, the 898th Number One. I was once told, by a studio engineer, that the guitar riff on that had come straight from the preset 'audition' setting on the Proteus 2000 synth module, and I've just done an extremely lazy Google search that confirms that he's probably right.

    I can't see the Birdie Song connection though. I would say that your mate Sandeep doesn't know what the fuck he's on about. For example, my friend Mick commented that there was no arm-flapping in the Pied Piper tune.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 11/02/2005 12:54 am  

  • Well, I think the Birdie Song connection is due to the fact that it was a novelty record which set new standards of crapness.

    You can get back in the knife drawer now...

    By Blogger Rish, at 11/03/2005 10:21 am  

  • Was a bit unwittingly angry-sounding at you there Rish, or perhaps at this poor Sandeep fella. I blame late night and booze ;-)

    On reflection I realise that there probably was a bit of arm-flapping in the Pied Piper tune. Probably quite a lot. I don't like to remember it that well. I'll find out soon enough whether it's a forgotten classic Number One, but I think its probably not.

    There were no eagles, by the way, and the Eagles never had a Number One. In fact, surprisingly, no eagle has flown higher than Number 13 - 'Fly Like An Eagle' by Seal, though the Eagles got to 8 with, guess, 'Hotel California'.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 11/03/2005 8:21 pm  

  • There are five bird songs:
    Pretty Flamingo,
    Chicken Song,
    Little Red Rooster and
    Bluebirds Over the White cliffs of dover (Robson and Groan)

    My colleagues (who I set this quiz to) think Thunderbirds should count too!

    Re Ride On Time, what I put above is just my understanding of it but I might be wrong.
    I listened to both copies I own, the original (PB 43055) and the remix whose cat no I forget.
    I see what you mean about the guitar bit but it's quite near the end and it could just be the TV/Radio never played it right to the end.
    I hope you find the answer though!

    By Anonymous Dan Webb, at 11/06/2005 4:10 pm  

  • Brilliant once again Dan. My database lists the title as White Cliffs Of Dover but further research suggests that's probably a mistake and you have indeed found a fifth bird song. I don't have the record yet, do you have it to confirm this? Bonus point for Thunderbirds either way.

    The Black Box catalogue numbers I have are PB43055 (7" original, we think) and PB43241 (7" remix). Jon Kutner and Guinness both list PB43055.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 11/06/2005 4:37 pm  

  • Well gives "Unchained Melody / (There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover".

    Ride on Time was recorded hastily according to 1000 UK Number One Hits by Kutner and Leigh (I book I'd strongly recommend to ones collectors and pop fans) they also note that Loletta actually appeared on Totp to sing the record to prove the vocals were hers!

    By Anonymous Dan Webb, at 11/07/2005 11:04 am  

  • Oops, I should have said 'rerecorded' in the last message.
    I'm bad at typing!

    By Anonymous Dan Webb, at 11/07/2005 11:07 am  

  • I see where the problem is now. does indeed have (There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover, but if you look at their Number Ones section, in the complete list the title is given as 'White Cliffs Of Dover'. It was that list that I used for my database so that's where the error has crept in.

    Kutner & Leigh have bluebirds, so do Guinness, so you must be right I reckon. Might need to do a bit more of that hasty editing...

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 11/07/2005 1:45 pm  

  • Who is Dan Webb by the way? Its a little hard to keep up over here in Aus

    By Anonymous Nik, at 11/08/2005 3:24 am  

  • Nik, you can't expect to know everyone personally. I'd have thought you'd have been using the old Interweb long enough to know that by now.

    Dan is a fellow collector, who has turned up here because of his interest in Number Ones and keeps pointing out that my questions (or rather the answers) are wrong.

    If you really need to know the background, he introduced himself here:

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 11/08/2005 4:11 am  

  • I most certainly can expect to know everyone personally! In fact I demand it.

    By Anonymous Nik, at 11/08/2005 8:37 am  

  • How do these people trying to sell us US flags and fancy dress (Joe removes these random posts if you didn't get to see them and think I am making stuff up) go about spamming your site?

    By Anonymous Nik, at 11/08/2005 8:38 am  

  • Why, are you looking into becoming a blog spammer?

    There has been a lot of spam here recently, especially on this post. I think it is related to the Google Adsense that I added recently, as the spam tends to be related to the ads that appear, which in turn are related to the content of the page. Very loosely, in many cases. Hence spam on this post relating to "collectible stamps, military memorabilia and a fancy dress costume" from the post.

    I probably haven't done myself any favours by typing that again here.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 11/08/2005 2:14 pm  

  • Takamine guitar. Acoustic electric guitar. Beginner guitar. Its all too much - deregister Joe. And time for a new blog - not nearly enough on Roxy Music, 10CC and Shakin Stevens to date.

    By Anonymous Nik, at 11/10/2005 12:28 pm  

  • It's tempting to deregister, but on the other hand I have made 27 cents in just a month, so it's clearly a serious money-spinner.

    I promise to write more soon, I have just switched to a new PC so have had to spend quite a bit of time shouting at the screen and enduring ludicrous installation processes.

    I daresay Roxy Music will get a mention when I turn up Jealous Guy, and I think there's been quite enough 10cc already. More than happy to talk about Shaky though, particularly regarding his appearance in 'Billy The Fish'.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 11/10/2005 6:09 pm  

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