How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This Is My Song

I had a guest in the shape of my friend Steve, visiting from London. He is rarely seen in Leeds, and as a result we woke on Saturday morning feeling less than healthy. Steve picked up my guitar and attempted to cure our hangovers with music, choosing to play House Of The Rising Sun. Sadly neither of us could remember the lyrics past the first verse, so we sang this repeatedly until we felt able to move without assistance.

The second stage of our rehabilitation process involved a hearty, greasy breakfast, so we paid a visit to the West Park Café, along with my neighbour Matt. Over a full English with extra black pudding we made a plan for the day. Steve had become intrigued by my quest and agreed to accompany me on a shopping trip to Headingley, with a promise that on our return we would learn to play whichever Number One we bought first.

We set off and came first to the PDSA shop. It turned out that the first chart-topper we found was There’s No One Quite Like Grandma by St Winifred’s School Choir, which I bought for the picture sleeve which had previously eluded me. Demonstrating staggering creativity the sleeve artist had plumped for a photograph of an elderly lady surrounded by children, no doubt enchanted by tales of air raids and tuberculosis.

This, then, was the song we would learn. Steve was clearly excited by the prospect and together we grabbed a fistful of records. My companion’s enthusiasm was unfortunately not matched by his knowledge of Number Ones, and I had to endure a series of queries as to whether a particular record had reached the top. In most cases I had to let him down by pointing out that no, in fact this record only made it to Number 32, but through every disappointment he remained unbowed. He continued to leaf through the stack with the eagerness of a large and aggressive child, and proved his worth by noticing that the sleeve of Pump Up The Volume/Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance) by M/A/R/R/S actually concealed a Marillion record.

Between us we unearthed seven Number Ones, including Madonna’s Frozen, Leo Sayer’s When I Need You and Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey by (deep breath) The Christians, Holly Johnson, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden and Stock Aitken Waterman*. Loneliness by Tomcraft is one of my favourite records to make it all the way in recent years, and I was also glad to lay my hands on Blur’s Country House in the first CD of a 2-CD set, to accompany the live version I had bought previously.

Spirit In The Sky by Gareth Gates with special guests The Kumars offered me the opportunity to enter a prize draw, the lucky winner of which would get to meet Gareth. No closing date was given, but the web page I was directed to no longer existed. Apparently the timespan of the contest was less than 3 years, and the meeting had presumably taken place long ago, without me. This, on reflection, is probably a good thing – had I found myself in the enviable position of meeting Mr Gates, I suspect I would have spent the whole of our encounter pretending to have a terrible stutter.

In Oxfam we investigated the racks of 7” singles. I am always pleased to find anything older than I am, even something as bad as Sandie Shaw’s Puppet On A String, which came complete with a mysterious substance that may have been marmalade smeared over the vinyl. Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night and What A Wonderful World/Cabaret by Louis Armstrong were in much better condition and are much better records.

Only marginally older than me is Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man, which was Number One on the day I was born and therefore well worth the asking price of £2.99. We immediately decided to ditch our previous project and learn to play Stand By Your Man instead, but for now we had records to buy. The birthday theme continued with Rod Stewart’s I Don't Want To Talk About It/First Cut Is The Deepest (Number One on my 2nd birthday and the record that kept the Sex Pistols from taking ‘God Save The Queen’ to the top) and Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel (top of the hit parade on my 4th birthday).

Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney was covered in dog hairs and unidentifiable goo, but cleaned up surprisingly well. U2’s Desire and Belfast Child by Simple Minds provided a fix of 80s stadium rock, and my bag of goodies was completed with a more tender moment, Don McLean’s Vincent, the 314th Number One.

Steve wanted to go into the city centre so we kept our visit to the Mind shop short, but long enough to find Ebeneezer Goode by the Shamen and a 7” of Heart by the Pet Shop Boys, the record which had so frustrated me at the beginning of my journey. Finally I bought Anyone Of Us (Stupid Mistake) by Gareth Gates and examined the sleeve in search of another contest. All that was on offer was a chance to enter a prize draw to win a signed photograph, simply by providing BMG Records with a good deal of personal information. I decided to forego this opportunity.

We took a bus into town and, unsurprisingly, ended up in a pub. In the Wrens we looked over the records and embarked on another drinking session. After a couple of pints and a music-based conversation with a pair of strangers we headed home to learn Stand By Your Man, and after eventually working out the tricky C#, went back to the pub.

* The Mersey, you will recall, is one of five British rivers to feature in the title of a Number One single.


  • If you recall Joe, in our student days in Leeds (which seem to still be going for you) we knew a girl that was in the St Winifreds School choir.

    The choir was so big that it couldn't fit in to a BBC studio neatly, so they split the choir in two - one half did Top of the Pops and the other did Pebble Mill. She (her name escapes me) was disappointed to have ended up in the Pepple Mill crowd

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/19/2005 1:18 am  

  • The British rivers are hard. Is there a River Belfast? (Belfast Child - Simple Minds).

    Have we annexed Venezuela whilst I wasn't looking and therefore the Orinoco is now British? (Orinoco Flow - Enya)

    Well if not - we have annexed Iraq and therefore have the Rivers of Bablyon (Boney M)

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/19/2005 1:40 am  

  • The St Winifred's School Choirgirl was Eve, who was married (?) to Tom, and I can't say I know what ever became of them.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 12/19/2005 1:48 am  

  • The rivers question is a very tough one, and probably a controversial one as I can't claim to know the name of every single British river.

    I can't give you anything for that lot though Nik - no River Belfast as far as I can tell (Belfast's river is the Lagan, which isn't one either), Venezuela isn't British (yet) and I am not familiar with the Bablyon.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 12/19/2005 1:53 am  

  • What about River Do Wah Diddy Diddy? I think that it's in Essex

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/19/2005 5:35 am  

  • Baz Luhrman - Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) - River Wear

    Eiffel 65 - Blue (Da Ba Dee) - River Dee

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/19/2005 7:27 am  

  • Wear and Dee are right - also you could have had San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair), You Wear It Well or Use It Up And Wear It Out.

    If you can show me the River Do Wah Diddy Diddy on a map I'll give you an extra point.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 12/19/2005 10:51 am  

  • Burn - Usher - River Burn

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/19/2005 11:59 am  

  • Good one, I didn't have that one - never heard of the River Burn but sure enough there is one.

    So in fact 6 rivers and perhaps more to come.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 12/19/2005 12:11 pm  

  • Gazza and Lindisfarne: "Fog on the Tyne".

    Aled Jones: "Walking in the Air(e)"

    By Blogger Rish, at 12/19/2005 2:07 pm  

  • There is a River Burn in the South that flows in to the English Channel

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/19/2005 10:26 pm  

  • Frankie Vaughan - The Garden of Eden - River Eden

    (I have to admit that on this one I used everyhit - had never heard of this song, but thought that something else with Eden in the title had been a #1)

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/20/2005 12:26 am  

  • One of the remaining river songs surely refers to the delightfully named, "Slaughter Brook" in the pituresque Cotswolds.

    This is, of course, in obvious reference to Steve Brook-stein's recent number one hit: "Against All Odds"

    By Anonymous Steven, at 12/20/2005 2:56 am  

  • OK...

    'Fog On The Tyne' - wrong, not Number One

    For 'Walking In The Air(e)' you can have a bonus point - you could also have had 'Something In The Air(e)'.

    River Burn - 'tis true.

    Garden Of Eden is correct, I thought that was a very hard one as it's one of the more obscure Number Ones and I'd never heard of the River Eden until I was putting together that question - well done.

    Steven, I'm not sure I can give you Slaughter Brook, but your efforts to get Maiden into the answers are commendable. Your web ref does have a clue to another though, one which I didn't get until yesterday.

    And there's at least one more that no-one has got yet.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 12/20/2005 2:54 pm  

  • Thank you for sending the map, Nik, I stand corrected - it clearly displays a River Do Wah Diddy north of London. And couldn't possibly be faked.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 12/20/2005 2:57 pm  

  • Ah - well - Steven's web ref refers to the River Eye (which I had never heard of) but does bring us back to the discussion of Eye Level which was previously mentioned in a blog as being number 1 on my birthday.

    So that's 6 now - Burn, Mersey, Eye, Eden, Dee, Wear - are you saying there is a 7th?

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/20/2005 11:21 pm  

  • Hmmm, River Eye. I checked though, and there doesn't seem to be a single number one with the word "Eye" in the title, which is funny, as you'd expect there to be at least eleven of them.

    By Anonymous Steven, at 12/20/2005 11:42 pm  

  • Aha - there is also a River Idle (flows in to the Trent apparently) - The Importance of Being Idle - Oasis (I actually thought that there was a River Idle near Chorley since there is place called Idle, but it seems I was wrong)

    By Anonymous Nik, at 12/21/2005 4:51 am  

  • On a completely unrelated topic, can I recommend this beautiful riverside setting to your readers:,214500&st=4&ar=Y&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf&dn=532&ax=355500&ay=214500

    My daugher and I are particularly fond of this delightful holiday destination.

    By Anonymous Bruce Dickinson, at 12/21/2005 5:06 am  

  • As well as Eye Level there are Eye Of The Tiger and Cotton Eye Joe.

    'The Importance Of Being Idle' is right but doesn't fall within the remit of this blog, being the 1016th Number One.

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 12/21/2005 2:15 pm  

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