How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Friday, March 31, 2006

Putting On The Style

The Resplendents needed six matching suits on a tight budget, so I met Alex and Paul in town in order to investigate potential stage-wear. We visited every shop we could think of that might be able to cater for us and came away with a few suggestions to put to the rest of the band.

After completing our research I persuaded the others to join me on the charity shop trail. We began with the British Heart Foundation, where I bought the CD single version of Snap’s Rhythm Is A Dancer. I already had this on 7” but decided I might as well, at only 50p, have the CD too. I also found Gary Barlow’s Love Won’t Wait and Boom Boom Boom by the Outhere Brothers, which contained, according to the Parental Advisory notice on the cover, strong language which some people may find offensive. This might have been for the protection of the hard-of-hearing, who could easily mistake the lyrics for ‘Bum Bum Bum’.

We moved on to the RSPCA, where I turned up the CD of Young At Heart by the Bluebells, meaning that I would have no use for the empty 7” sleeve that had been lying around at home for some time. I also came away with a small stack of vinyl, including the 81st Number One, from 1959, Shirley Bassey’s As I Love You, which was in remarkably good condition given its age. The same could not be said for The Power Of Love by Jennifer Rush which turned out to be incredibly noisy, meaning that I now had two poor quality copies of this record. The Jam’s A Town Called Malice/Precious was at least an improvement on the one I already owned, though I was still missing its picture sleeve.

Alex declared Doop by Doop* to be the worst record ever made, but I bought it anyway, along with a trio of classic 80s chart-toppers: Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Always On My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys.

In Oxfam I had to be content with a solitary CD, the Five Live EP, credited to George Michael & Queen with Lisa Stansfield, though Lisa Stansfield only appears on one of the four tracks and Queen, as far as I can tell, on two.

The Shelter shop was short on vinyl but the stock they did have included another copy of Always On My Mind, this time with a picture sleeve, so I bought this record for the second time in a day. I also found Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant in a strange sleeve-cum-poster combination. The cover credit of Adam & The Ants revealed this to be an early pressing.

The selection of CD singles was better, including three of the 36 Number Ones from 1999: Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…) (The European Hit Of The Summer, according to the cover) and King Of My Castle by Wamdue Project, which holds the obscure distinction of being the chart-topper with the most letters in its title without repetition – 14 of them and every one different.

Also present were the comparatively recent Toxic by Britney Spears, from 2004, and a pair from 2002: the 933rd Number One, Round Round by the Sugababes, and its successor, Blazin’ Squad’s Crossroads. This contained a card to sign up for Blazin’ Squad updates, which had been completed but unsent by its previous owner. I studied the details and noted that I now had the name, address and phone number of a nearby 20-year-old lady. I considered giving her a call, perhaps with a view to becoming her stalker, but decided against this course of action when I remembered how this information had come into my hands.

By now we had been walking around town for hours and I was laden with as many Number Ones as I could cope with, so we decided to retire to the pub, where we played darts and hatched a plan to shave my head.

* I have a feeling this will be another controversial topic, but I believe this is one of eleven Number Ones with a nonsense or made-up word in the title.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wayward Wind

I had arranged a meeting at Leeds University and decided to follow it with some shopping. I boarded a bus to find myself surrounded by teenagers, and realised that it was the week of the half-term break, which somewhat put me off. The weather didn’t help matters. I emerged from my meeting into the cold wind and rain, and engaged in an internal dialogue about whether I should abandon my plans and simply go home.

I resolved to go ahead with my trip, and in this spirit of adventure I went to the train station, with the intention of taking the first available train that stopped somewhere that was reasonably close and where there might conceivably be a few suitable retail establishments.

After studying the departure boards I plumped for Cross Gates, having been tipped off by Jane, at our recent pub lunch, that there were a number of charity shops there. I went to buy a ticket but the automated machine insisted on rejecting my advances. After two unsuccessful attempts I realised that the time I had wasted here meant I would miss the train I had intended to catch. I was forced into my second choice, Morley. Cross Gates would have to wait.

This time my ticket purchase was executed flawlessly. A glance at my watch revealed, however, that I had overestimated my window of opportunity and would have to run for the train, which was about to depart from a distant platform. I hurried through the crowded station and made it onto the train with seconds to spare.

Morley is a town which now stands outside of Leeds, having declared independence in April 2000 (Westlife’s Fool Again was at Number One). I can not claim to know my way around, but I took a train there in around 1996 and remembered that the station was located reasonably near to the town centre, where there were bound to be a few of the usual charities and perhaps even a record shop.

The train stopped first at Cottingley. I had a look around, as well as I could through the train windows, and wrote this off as a future destination. The station appeared to be situated in the middle of a vast housing area and despite a good view from the elevated railway there were no shops in sight.

After a few minutes we arrived in Morley. The station turned out to be located nowhere near the town centre. I reasoned that if I picked a road and kept walking I would eventually reach civilisation. Luckily the weather had improved, and sure enough after ten minutes or so I spotted a pub and a garage, signs that I must be heading in the right direction. Shortly afterwards I discovered a scattering of shops and even a signpost directing me to the town centre.

I cleverly followed the sign, and found myself walking along a parade of shops. These included an acupuncturist’s clinic, a power tool supplier, an angling emporium and, of course, Hockey World (West Yorkshire’s Number One hockey retailer, I should think). Eventually there were banks, an estate agent and a newsagent, and I finally felt I must be close to my goal.

In the distance I spotted the Children’s Society Shop and hurried up to it, only to discover an empty unit. My disappointment was stemmed by the nearby Wakefield Hospice Shop, where at last I found something to tick off my list – Tears Of A Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I found Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now in a picture sleeve which reminded me of its appearance in the terrible film ‘Mannequin’, and a version of Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin’s It’s My Party that looked different to the one I already owned. I later discovered that this was the German release.

On leaving the shop I glanced along the street ahead of me and spotted a number of charity shops. The first was the Help the Aged store, where I bought Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again, their first Number One, bearing a sticker proudly declaring the girls to be the winner of the Smash Hits Best Newcomer of 2000 award.

The British Heart Foundation yielded my best haul of the day, eight 7” singles. Lena Martell’s One Day At A Time was one I didn’t remember, though I recognised it when I played it and knew instantly why I’d forgotten it in the first place. The same goes for Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You* by Glenn Medeiros, which I remembered only by name, and which had ‘Plug’ written on its sleeve, leading me to wonder if it had been previously owned by the ugly one from the Beano.

There were much better records here – Kelly Marie’s Feels Like I’m In Love is a Hi-NRG classic and Stand & Deliver by Adam & The Ants is a highlight from my youth. I found a copy of Turtle Power by Partners in Kryme, with a picture sleeve, which confirmed that the single I had found several months beforehand was not the correct version. That previous acquisition hadn’t included the fantastically weird B-side ‘Splinter's Tale’, a spoken word story in two parts about a rat with a ridiculous accent learning ninjitsu.

The One And Only by Chesney Hawkes was the 663rd Number One in 1991 and 15 years later it became the 500th original release to take its place in my collection. This seemed to me a fitting record for such a milestone – not, in the strictest sense, a One Hit Wonder, but nevertheless a product of its time.

By the time I left the shop the weather had suddenly turned for the worse again, this time testing my resolve with a snowstorm. I sprinted across the street to the Scope shop, which proved fruitless, but Arc gave me 2 CD singles, Breathless by the Corrs and Mr Oizo’s Flat Beat, complete with a warning on the sleeve: ‘Do Not Eat This Record’. If only all records carried such a warning, surely my quest would be much easier.

I pressed on through the snow, now falling much more lightly, but when I came to a belt shop and a vendor of theatrical supplies I realised I had reached the end of the beaten track. I returned to the station with appalling timing, having just missed a train by a couple of minutes, and waited for the next half hour in the cold wind.

* One of six Number Ones with ‘nothing’ in the title, four of which hit the top within the space of three years.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Two Little Boys

I had been with my bandmate Seb to Garforth to collect my Roland XP-10 keyboard, which had been in for repair. Having completed our Official Band Business, Seb suggested we visit his friend Clem to take a look at his keyboard.

It is rare that I pass up an opportunity to tinkle on someone’s ivories, so I agreed and we drove to Clem’s flat. We arrived to find the place in utter chaos, as Clem was in the process of re-organising every single one of his possessions, which were therefore strewn wildly on floors, chairs and tables. Fortunately it took little effort for him to clear a space big enough for us to sit down.

The clutter was made up largely of ancient hi-fi and audio equipment, in varying states of repair. Clem, it transpired, was a retro enthusiast and a collector of the gear that so many people are keen to dispose of. His keyboard fitted into this obsession, a bright red monster, an electronic organ which I estimated must have been made in the early eighties. Due to the surrounding chaos we were unfortunately not able to locate its power cable, so I didn’t get to play, but after hearing about its rather temperamental behaviour I was at least able to recommend the services of Paul Theakston, the Garforth engineer who had fixed my own instrument.

Clem also turned out to be a keen record collector and was interested to hear about my mission to locate 1000 Number One singles. He revealed a nascent ambition to run a second-hand record shop, already with plans of expanding into alternative markets. I imagined a life lived as if inspired by ‘High Fidelity’ and realised that I could not compete with this. The man before me was a mega-collector.

The one quality that his collecting lacked and mine had was focus. He seemed to admire my ability to concentrate my efforts on a finite number of records. Thinking upon this led him to consider the possibility of purchasing all of the records that had ever stalled at Number Two. I, of course, encouraged him in this pursuit, if only so that I could in future point out that I wasn’t the only one to undertake such a ridiculous endeavour.

We discussed this plan in some depth, and the more we talked the more serious he appeared to become about taking on the challenge. He was undaunted when I told him that I had considered attempting the task myself, as a follow-up to my current quest, but had dismissed the thought upon realising that spending two years looking for rubbish records was quite enough for anyone.

The conversation felt like it was turning into a pact, with an element of friendly rivalry. Clem stood up to rummage through a nearby box of records and pulled out a copy of Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets. He had only recently acquired the 39th Number One, but nevertheless presented it to me as a gift.

I wasn’t sure that he realised how much joy this gave me, but I knew that if he went ahead with his plan, he would soon find out. I left having gained a record and a friend.