How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Computer Love

I had never used Ebay before, though I had browsed the myriad goods on offer. It seemed like a good time to sign up and hunt for some of the older records on my list. I explored the appropriate section, pulled up a long list of 78s and began to investigate.

It wasn’t long before I had identified a number of targets. I spent a little time trying to work out the complexities of the bidding system before I realised that the only way forward was to take the plunge and hope for the best. I started by placing a £1 bid on Tab Hunter’s Young Love and soon I was confidently clicking and bidding like a veteran Ebayer.

A couple of hours later I checked how much I had committed to spending, and when I found out I decided that it was time to call it a night. I retired to bed, looking forward to the following day when I would see how the auctions were progressing.

I got off to a bright start when I won the Tab Hunter record and three others from the same seller. I worked out that I needed to ask for an invoice in the hope of reducing my postage costs due to bulk buying and moved on to check my other auctions. I realised that I was about to win Guy Mitchell’s Rock-A-Billy and noticed at the last minute that the vendor was also selling Tommy Steele’s Singing The Blues. I quickly made a bid and within a few minutes the pair were mine.

There was no further action until the following day, when I was disappointed to find myself outbid on a 7” of A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles. I decided I was not prepared to go higher than £2 and so reluctantly let this one go. There was worse to come when I received an e-mail from the seller of Rock-A-Billy, who refused to reduce the postage costs. I grudgingly paid £5.20 for the two, and was even more annoyed a few minutes later when I realised that I already owned the Tommy Steele record.

This was not going well, but I was looking forward to finding out the result of the next batch, four 78s on which I had offered the highest bid. I realised that I was still an Ebay novice when I was suddenly outbid on Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe, Who’s Sorry Now by Connie Francis and Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis, with no time left to remedy the situation. Only one record remained, Paul Anka’s Diana, and so once again I was forced to pay over the odds for postage. I had now spent over £10 for three records, one of which I didn’t even want. I decided that Ebay was not my friend.

I noted that there were several auctions coming to an end that evening and promised myself that I would keep a close eye on these in order to avoid being gazumped again. My strategy paid off. I won Frank Sinatra’s Three Coins In The Fountain along with a number of 7” singles – Lady Madonna by the Beatles, Gary Numan’s Cars, Three Times A Lady by the Commodores and a copy of I’m Still Waiting by Diana Ross which I hoped would be less noisy than the one I already had.

As I was celebrating my victory the results of another auction came through – I would soon be the proud owner of Kay Starr’s Rock And Roll Waltz and Lay Down Your Arms by Anne Shelton. I was much happier now.

Nothing happened for a couple of days as I waited for the results of a final batch of 7” singles. I was outbid on Little Red Rooster by the Rolling Stones, but this time I was on the ball and managed to recover the initiative by bidding again just before the auction ended. This tactical masterstroke made me feel like an Ebay expert, and sure enough I won the record along with Have I The Right by the Honeycombs and She Loves You by the Beatles.

All of my auctions were now resolved, and I just needed to sort out the final details regarding payment and wait for delivery. John Reeves, the current owner of the Stones record, offered a discount on the postage costs and earned my respect and gratitude, while David Hart, from whom I had bought the Tab Hunter 78, informed me that he had another 70 records which he had yet to put on Ebay and asked if I might be interested in them. I explained my quest and asked for a list. This took several days to arrive but when it did I was pleased to find a further 8 Number Ones, which I snapped up without hesitation.

At this point none of the records were yet in my hands, but two parcels arrived the following day, including Diana from Dot and John, who had gone to extreme lengths in packaging the record. I had to fight through two layers of thick polysterene, two of cardboard, a piece of bubblewrap and a little sponge before I could find any sign of the record. This was hard work but all things considered I was happy to receive the record in one piece.

I was even more grateful for this later that day, when I received an apologetic e-mail from the seller Jon Cornes, who explained that he would not be able to send the Anne Shelton record. This was all thanks to his dog, who had foolishly stood on the fragile record while Jon was putting together the package, dealing it a fatal blow. I had to make do with only one record from Jon, Kay Starr’s Rock And Roll Waltz. This arrived a few days later, with a note attached warning me to “watch out for the shredded paper, it gets everywhere!”. Fortunately I was careful, so it didn’t. I wondered if the paper had been shredded to preserve confidentiality, but was unable to work out what it had previously been – proof, I suppose, that shredding works.

I received Cars and the other 7”s the next day, but not Three Coins In The Fountain, which the seller Allan had posted in a separate package. This never did arrive, and Allan eventually offered me a refund, but I would of course have much preferred the record.

I had to wait almost a month before I received my package from David, but it was worth the wait. The records, 12 in all, came well packed in a large box stuffed with bits of padded envelope and paper, and it took me 20 minutes to extract them. Thanks to the various difficulties and the fact that I had spent a small fortune, I had been largely disappointed by the whole Ebay experience, but this package seemed to make it all worthwhile.

It included Lonnie Donegan’s Cumberland Gap (the only Number One named after a type of sausage) and Slim Whitman’s Rose Marie*, which spent 11 consecutive weeks at Number One in 1955, a feat not matched until 1991. Its paper sleeve also had a faint pencil scribble commemorating the scoreline ‘Hamilton 5, Falkirk 0’.

Vera Lynn’s My Son, My Son was the oldest record in my collection so far, the 24th Number One. Vera’s rhyming slang partner** Ruby Murray was also present with Softly, Softly. I had also acquired the Guy Mitchell version of Singing The Blues and the awful Hernando’s Hideaway by the Johnston Brothers, which sounds like something performed by oompa-loompas.

I was in no rush to return to Ebay for the moment, but I was pleased to note that I now had every Number One from Rose Marie, the 36th, to the 42nd, Dean Martin’s Memories Are Made Of This, covering a period of more than six months. Ebay could well be of considerable help as I near the end of my quest, and I was sure to go back.

* One of 8 Number Ones with a flower in the title.
** Another Number One connection here, of course.