How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Doctorin' The Tardis

It had taken me three and a half years to get round to registering with my local doctor, but the half hour I had to spend in the waiting room before my three minute appointment with the practice nurse was nevertheless irritating. There are few more depressing places to spend one’s time, even if, as in this case, there are no other patients sharing the experience.

In order to cheer myself up I decided to take a quick look in St Vincent’s Community Shop, where I noticed, for once, that the record claiming to be Sweet Sensation’s Sad Sweet Dreamer was in fact a recording of Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary*. Cathy’s Clown by the Everly Brothers, the 101st Number One, was the genuine article, so I bought that along with a second copy of When A Child Is Born by Johnny Mathis, much better quality than the scratchy copy I already owned.

Baccara’s Yes Sir, I Can Boogie is a decent record but outstays its welcome, with a repeating chorus taking up the entire second half. Similarly longwinded are the credits on the sleeve of Ready Or Not by the Fugees, with a particularly gushing thank you to Enya for allowing the use of the sample that forms the heart of the record.

Later that week, on a cold afternoon, I found myself in town and decided to investigate a couple of charity shops which I had yet to try. The Scope shop was disappointing but I did find a 7” copy of Snap’s The Power, complete with its picture sleeve featuring an incomprehensible cartoon strip.

I bought a chicken pasty to warm myself up and moved on to the RSPCA shop. There I found only a small selection of CDs, none of which were Number One singles. My time here was not wasted, however, as I overheard the manager briefing a prospective new employee on the two rules of the shop.

“Rule one,” he explained, “is if you go for a fag, you take me with you. Rule two is if you make tea, you make it for everyone.”

I was impressed at this relaxed approach to staff regulations and considered asking him whether there were any further vacancies. As I no longer smoke and never drink tea, as an employee here I would find myself bound by no rules whatsoever, free to do exactly as I pleased. I could raid the till and abuse customers with impunity – surely the perfect job.

My hopes were dashed when he introduced a third rule about “having a laugh”. I sensed that this might be less formally upheld than the two primary rules – it was probably more of a guideline than an obligation – but the way he had initially withheld this piece of information struck me as devious and I realised I could not work with this man.

I thought about doing some more shopping, but it was cold and close to rush hour, so I elected to head home, where I inspected a list of records sent to me by Stuart Fraser. Stuart was selling his collection of 7” singles and, having read about my quest, had very kindly e-mailed to offer me first refusal on any Number Ones. There turned out to be 168 records on his list which I still needed.

This was gratifying but overwhelming. There were far too many to get in one go, but Stuart offered to hold on to the ones I needed so that I could buy them in smaller batches, while recognising that I might also pick up some of them elsewhere in the meantime. In a further act of generosity he declared two of the records – I Owe You Nothing by Bros and Back Home by the England World Cup Squad ’70** – so terrible that he would hand them over for free.

I picked, at random, 20 of the records from the list, added the two freebies, and asked that Stuart send these as the first instalment. I could have timed my request better, because the goods arrived on a Saturday morning, meaning that my lazy lie-in was disturbed by the postman frantically ringing my doorbell.

I was keen to inspect my new toys, but sleep was a priority so I went back to bed for a couple of hours instead. When I woke I made a coffee and sat down to open the parcel, which was not an easy task. Stuart had packed the records very securely and it took me some time to get inside. Had I simply used scissors from the start it would have taken only seconds, rather than wasting minutes struggling at the packaging with fingers and teeth.

One reason why I was especially pleased to see Stuart’s list is that many of the records are from the ‘50s or ‘60s and therefore more difficult to find in charity shops than the later releases. This first parcel contained Bobby Darin’s version of Mack The Knife from 1959, plus ten from the 1960s. The best of these were House Of The Rising Sun by the Animals and Ticket To Ride, one of my favourite Beatles singles.

There were two Elvis Presley hits in She’s Not You and Rock-A-Hula Baby/Can’t Help Falling In Love and one of the worst efforts by Cliff Richard & The Shadows, Please Don’t Tease.

Moon River by Danny Williams and Cilla Black’s Anyone Who Had A Heart both had a lot of surface noise but were still much appreciated, and the records were, in the main, in very good condition for their age. The only real problem was with Art Garfunkel’s I Only Have Eyes For You which was unplayable due to the vinyl being split, but I didn’t begrudge Stuart the 50p I had paid for it.

Baby Jump by Mungo Jerry confused me at first by sounding like the Chipmunks, but playing it at 33rpm solved the problem, though didn’t necessarily improve the record. Abba’s Waterloo replaced a reissued 7” release and is one of the better chart-toppers of the 1970s, as are Ken Boothe’s Everything I Own and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall Part II, the last record to make it to Number One in that decade.

All in all I was very pleased with my delivery. For one thing, I hadn’t had to venture out in the cold.

* A piece of music particularly notable for the fact that it was neither written by Purcell nor entitled ‘Trumpet Voluntary’. Its correct title is ‘The Prince of Denmark’s March’ and it was composed by Jeremiah Clarke. It does, however, have a trumpet in it.
** The first of seven football records to top the charts.


  • 7 football songs to go to number 1 - this should be uncontroversial and easy:

    1) Back Home - England 70
    2) World in Motion - England New Order
    3) Three lions - Baddiel and Skinner - Euro 96
    4) Three lions - Baddiel and Skinner - France 98
    5) Come on you reds - scum FC

    So thats 5 - are we counting the 2 charity records post Hillsborough and Bradford as football records?

    By Anonymous Nik, at 3/01/2006 1:26 am  

  • I was counting the charity ones, yes. So you got them all - good work!

    By Blogger Joe Williams, at 3/01/2006 10:23 am  

  • Where is my 100 pounds, Nik?

    Jo x

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/01/2006 10:33 am  

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