How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Monday, January 30, 2006

What's Another Year

A year had passed since I embarked on my quest, and in that time I had almost made it to the halfway point, owning 435 Number One singles, 603 when including albums or re-releases. Meanwhile 26 more records had made it to the top of the charts.

I was working on a song of my own and searching for lyrical inspiration, so I decided to take a stroll down to Headingley and take in the usual charity shop tour. It had only been a few weeks since I had last taken this route, but past experience told me it was always worth having a quick look.

By the time I got to the British Heart Foundation shop I had written a middle eight, and by the time I left I was in possession of the 971st Number One, With A Little Help From My Friends/Measure Of A Man by Sam & Mark, the latest in a grand tradition of terrible Beatles covers. Measure Of A Man is one of those invisible double A-sides, ignored by radio and TV, though the CD sleeve assured me that it had been performed in the Pop Idol final, which could explain why neither Sam nor Mark won.

The PDSA shelves were still looking bare following my previous raid, but I did find £1 worth of chart-topping hits, namely Boom! Shake The Room by Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is A Place On Earth, as well as another, unscratched copy of Jim Diamond’s I Should Have Known Better.

The All Aboard shop was, incredibly, open. I overcame my shock at this strange state of affairs and headed inside, where I found a stack of CD singles. It was a relief to find Rock DJ by Robbie Williams having previously bought its empty case. There were two other Number Ones from 2000, Black Legend’s You See The Trouble With Me and Black Coffee by All Saints. The Outhere Brothers sported a Parental Advisory sticker on the cover of Don’t Stop (Wiggle Wiggle), as well as a totally superfluous shout of “Bee-yatch” at the end. I was most pleased to find the one-hit wonder White Town’s Your Woman (alternatively known as ‘Abort, Retry, Fail’), the first Number One by one of the new breed of bedroom musicians who emerged in the late 90s thanks to the wonders of technology.

In the Martin House shop I bought a selection of 7” singles, largely thanks to a certain Gwen Wray, whose name was written on most of my purchases. These were mainly hits from the 1970s, the only exception being the 1969 Number One Sugar Sugar by the Archies (a cartoon band long before Gorillaz). I already had Alvin Stardust’s Jealous Mind and I had bought Dawn's Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree* just a few weeks earlier, but both had been scratched and noisy so I was happy to find replacements. Sadly the Alvin Stardust record was not much of an improvement, and I began to wonder if in fact it was simply a poor recording.

The 353rd and 354th Number Ones, George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby and When Will I See You Again by the Three Degrees, were also a little noisy, but not disastrously so, and thankfully the fantastic You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing was unafflicted. The sound quality of David Cassidy’s Daydreamer/The Puppy Song was just fine, but both sides of the record, neither of which I had heard before, are awful. Apparently Gwen would disagree to the extent that she had cut out the lyrics of Daydreamer from an unknown source and inserted them inside the sleeve.

My Jive Bunny collection was perfected when I bought replacement copies of Swing The Mood (my other copy skipped) and That’s What I Like (as I had suspected, the 12” version I already had was an extended mix). In addition to all of this I bought a solitary CD, Where Is The Love? by Black Eyed Peas, a great record ruined at the time by constant radio play but now sounding fresh again.

My record hunting had distracted me from my original purpose, and the song remained unfinished, though I had a few half ideas in mind. I declared my shopping trip over and went home to complete what I hoped would be a future Number One.

* Nine Number Ones have a species of tree in their title, so that should give you plenty to choose from.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone

I was back in Hexham for Christmas, and was doing some last minute shopping when I discovered the Relate shop, hidden away off the main drag where I had never noticed it before. I postponed my search for presents in order to investigate.

This was a good choice, as in a dusty corner I found two dusty boxes full of dusty 7” singles, at a mere 20p apiece. They were, in the main, in poor shape, many with visible scratches and few with any kind of sleeve, never mind one with a picture. Given the price it would have been churlish to complain, so I dug in gladly and unearthed a good-sized stash of Number Ones.

Among the singles that did have their original picture sleeves were Enya’s Orinoco Flow, one of the more surprising records ever to make it to the top, and the brilliant Stand By Me by Ben E. King, which was given a double boost in 1987 by featuring in both the film of the same name and a Levi’s ad. I was delighted too by the 507th Number One, Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger, until I later discovered it was yet another example of the wrong record creeping into a sleeve. In this case at least the impostor was a chart-topping disc, but I already had Duran Duran’s Is There Something I Should Know. On the plus side I now had a photograph of Mr T to go with it.

For Elvis Presley’s Way Down I seemingly had to thank the unfortunately named Linda Beavers, who had declared her ownership in biro on the sleeve. Her name appeared again on Crying by Don McLean. Linda must have been a big fan of Elvis and Don, and in both cases had taped a black and white picture of her respective idol, clipped from a newspaper, to the generic record company cover. No doubt the memories will come flooding back for Ms Beavers the next time she Googles her own name.

I wondered if Linda was in any way connected to Carole Cowen, who had similarly marked her territory on Dawn’s Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree, or the mysteriously surname-free Melanie, whose signature appeared on Brotherhood Of Man’s Figaro. Sadly neither of these records featured any additional decoration, Carole and Melanie apparently lacking in either dedication or creativity.

None of the records were in worse condition than Imagine, the second of three John Lennon records to reach the top following his murder (interrupted only by our old friends the St Winifred’s School Choir). It was virtually unplayable, as were When A Child Is Born by Johnny Mathis and I’m Still Waiting by Diana Ross, though it was still possible in the latter to hear the astonishing lyric “He could see I had no eyes”.

I Don’t Like Mondays* by the Boomtown Rats was less scratched but annoyingly skipped near the beginning. Fortunately their other chart-topper Rat Trap was intact. Rat Trap is sometimes claimed as the first punk Number One, despite the fact that it is no more a punk record than Bye Bye Baby by the Bay City Rollers, or the spoken word If by Telly Salavas, both of which I found in Relate’s box of delights.

The sixties were represented by Frank Ifield’s Lovesick Blues, The Carnival Is Over by the Seekers and Roger Miller’s fantastic King Of The Road. There was also a dreadful cover of a 60s song in It’s My Party by Dave Stewart with Barbara Gaskin, a 1981 record which I don’t remember hearing before. It’s possible that I have simply erased it from my memory, as it is teeth-gratingly bad, sounding like the efforts of a man who has just discovered a studio full of fancy new electronic equipment which he doesn’t know how to use and a woman who could use singing lessons.

Even the Wurzels Number One Combine Harvester (Brand New Key) is preferable to that, and was the last chart-topper I discovered here. I waited to pay at the cash desk for several minutes without success, but I abandoned my position when I noticed a small selection of CD singles, cleverly located as far as physically possible from the vinyl. Here I found Eiffel 65’s Blue (Da Ba Dee), which turned out to be nowhere near as good as I remembered it being, and Bob The Builder’s Can We Fix It? (in case you’re wondering, yes we can).

Eventually I succeeded in attracting attention to myself and paid up. Back outside in the cold December afternoon I wondered what my sister might like for Christmas.

* There are three other records with days of the week in their title, plus one which mentions every day in the lyrics and another which fits in all but Saturday.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Mamma Mia

I was in Hexham to celebrate my niece Rosie’s birthday, and decided it was time to launch another assault on the town’s charity outlets. My mother was driving to the supermarket so I went with her and she accompanied me on my shopping trip.

We started in the Cancer Research shop, where we found a handful of CD singles. The awful Bring It All Back completed my collection of S Club 7 Number Ones, and I found my first Ronan Keating chart-topper in Life Is A Rollercoaster, featuring a fascinating CD-ROM interview in which Ronan reveals that the most interesting person he’s ever met is George Michael. The Steps double A Heartbeat/Tragedy was an improvement on the empty box I had previously bought, and included another set of dance instructions. These were a little clearer than the others I had seen, but I lost the plot somewhere near the point where I had to step to the left and swing my left arm out with my right hand on my hip. Unfortunately this meant that I didn’t get to the part where I would have had to stop the traffic.

In Oxfam I bought the correct version of Baby D’s Let Me Be Your Fantasy and the wonderful 681st Number One, Sleeping Satellite by Tasmin Archer. Astonishingly I also found the only other satellite-related Number One, Telstar by the Tornados and another instrumental 7”, Hugo Montenegro’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. In terms of buying great records, this was perhaps my most successful visit to a shop so far.

In the Age Concern shop I passed a milestone, as Cliff Richard’s The Next Time/Bachelor Boy became the 400th Number One I owned in its original form. The Edge Of Heaven was the last Wham hit I needed, and my Madonna collection was boosted by True Blue and a copy of Papa Don’t Preach with the picture sleeve. The sleeve of Blue’s If You Come Back promised that Lee, Ant, Si and Dunc were waiting for my call at the end of a premium rate phone line, but sadly the number given was no longer in operation. I guess the boys must have grown bored of waiting for me and left to spend their lives more productively.

The Tynedale Community Hospice shop was virgin territory for me, as on my previous tour of Hexham I had been unaware of its existence, but my mother pointed me in the right direction. I was glad she had, as I found Craig David’s Fill Me In and I Turn To You by Melanie C. Modjo’s Lady is a record I have always hated, as is You Make Me Wanna… by Usher, the sleeve of which oddly credits the label’s A&R personnel. The elderly lady at the cash desk seemed unsure about the goods I was attempting to buy, but hazarded a guess that they might be CDs. She was delighted when I confirmed this and impressed me by knowing their correct price.

Melanie C turned up again in the Scope shop, this time as part of the Spice Girls on Say You’ll Be There, probably the worst of their Number Ones. The sleeve photo, fittingly, appeared to be deliberately over-exposed, and the case included an opportunity to send off for a free Spice Girls ID card, which I declined on the grounds that it represented an infringement of my civil liberties.

By this time the hour’s parking we had paid for was about to expire, and we were yet to get to the supermarket, presenting a tactical problem. My mother went to move the car to an alternative (and free) spot while I went to see what Save the Children had to offer.

Sporty Spice was apparently following me. I found Never Be The Same Again by Melanie C featuring Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, and both parts of the 2-CD Spice Girls single Mama/Who Do You Think You Are?, leaving the collection short of just one of the nine Spice Girls chart-toppers. I completed my Robson & Jerome set with Unchained Melody/(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover* and also bought Holly Valance’s Kiss Kiss and Dry Your Eyes by the Streets.

The shop assistant managed to outdo her counterpart in the Hospice shop by confidently identifying my purchases as videos. I decided not to argue and just smiled politely while she went about her business, then went to meet my mother.

* Dover is a town, and therefore not one of the two British cities which are mentioned in Number One titles.