How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Monday, May 15, 2006

Goody Two Shoes

I needed a pair of shoes to complete my stage outfit, so another trip into town was on the cards. After accomplishing my primary mission I decided to try a couple of shops whose chart-topper potential I had not yet tested.

My first stop was Soul Alley. I had always thought this was a specialist dance shop, but I had been tipped off about the bargain bin by the cash desk, which would, I was told, be worth investigating. I found the appropriate section and started to look through the records.

It wasn’t the treasure trove I had hoped for, being mainly composed of disco and 80s soul, but it included I Love To Love (But My Baby Loves To Dance) by Tina Charles, and Michael Jackson’s One Day In Your Life, recorded in 1975 but Number One in 1981 thanks to a cash-in Motown Gold re-release. Incongruously I also picked up the 300th Number One, Knock Three Times by Dawn, bearing a label identifying the previous owner as Carl Kingston, presumably the same Carl Kingston who presents a show on the Leeds radio station Magic 828.

I walked the short distance to Replay, a record shop I had never visited before despite its being there for several years. The shop was small and cramped and it was difficult to negotiate the racks of CDs. I couldn’t see any singles but I decided to ask, just in case. The man behind the desk made no response to my query and instead turned away and began to scribble on a piece of paper. I stood there awkwardly for a short time, unsure whether I was about to get a written response to my question. Eventually he passed me a note: “I don’t know about CDs, I’m just doing the till. My boss will be back in 5 minutes”.

The reasons for his preferred method of communication remained a mystery. Was he a mute? Had he lost his tongue in a KGB torture chamber? If he had, I didn’t particularly want to find out. I briefly checked again for singles, and convinced myself that there were none, and that it was futile to await the boss’ return.

Time was short if I wanted to beat the rush hour, so I ended my shopping there. I was disappointed to be returning home with just 3 records, so later that evening I picked out another batch of records to buy from Stuart Fraser, and a few days later the postman brought another package full of 7” singles.

I had, in the main, picked records at random from Stuart’s list, but there were four I had chosen deliberately. The first was The Power Of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, in the knowledge that this record gave me a complete set of the 14 Number Ones from 1984. At some point I hope to lay my hands on the 12” version as well, having heard it a few years ago played at the wrong speed, and thinking that the slowed down intro sounded amazing. I may have been drunk, so I need to test my theory.

Similarly I had selected Please Don’t Go/Game Boy by KWS, the last gap to be filled in 1992, and I could forget about 1986 after purchasing West End Girls by the Pet Shop Boys and the Comic Relief version of Living Doll by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones featuring Hank Marvin. Strangely Hank is missing from the list of performers and musicians on the back sleeve, though his name appears on the front cover.

The original version of Living Doll was also here, the only Number One by Cliff Richard & The Drifters before the backing group changed their name to the Shadows. This was toppled in 1959 by Craig Douglas with Only Sixteen (a pale shadow of the Sam Cooke version) which was also included here.

The only other record from the 1950s was All I Have To Do Is Dream/Claudette by the Everly Brothers, but there three from 1960 – Adam Faith’s Poor Me, Lonnie Donegan’s My Old Man's A Dustman (Ballad Of A Refuse Disposal Officer) and the fantastic Good Timin’ by Jimmy Jones, a record I hadn’t heard for years and had totally forgotten about. I was glad to reacquaint myself with it.

Further 60s classics came in the shape of Paint It, Black by the Rolling Stones and Chris Farlowe’s Out Of Time. Hey Jude by the Beatles is great too, though not worthy of the Top 5 place it usually gets in polls of the greatest records ever (I much prefer the B-side, ‘Revolution’). This copy was apparently once owned by a G. King, who had over-enthusiastically staked their claim by writing their name on the label no less than six times. Hey Jude is particularly notable for being the first Number One to include swearing (John Lennon’s cry of “f**king hell” is faint, but unmistakable) and the third longest, lasting for 7 minutes and 11 seconds*.

Another mainstay of the lists and nostalgia shows is the relatively brief (5 minutes and 55 seconds by my calculations) Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, which was here along with the record it succeeded at the top, Billy Connolly’s comic version of D.I.V.O.R.C.E., a juxtaposition which says a lot about the nature of the Number One slot. JJ Barrie’s No Charge adds to the evidence, a sentimental spoken word track which I am pleased to say I had never heard before. Fittingly Stuart threw this one in for free, though I think this was because of the quality of the song rather than its title.

The Roussos Phenomenon, unsurprisingly by Demis Roussos, is the third of the four EPs to be struck off my list. This, in particular the first track ‘Forever And Ever’, will always make me think of Mike Leigh’s TV play ‘Abigail’s Party’. Listening to it now I had a vision of Alison Steadman as the terminally irritating Beverley, a big Roussos fan.

Green Door by Shakin’ Stevens is a record I owned many years ago. The copy I bought in 1981 is probably still sitting somewhere in a dusty box in the loft of my parents’ house, but buying it again now was certainly easier than finding it would have been. The last of the records in Stuart’s parcel was perhaps the worst of the bunch, Hangin’ Tough by New Kids On The Block, the 639th Number One from 1990.

Quality, of course, is not an issue for me, so I was pleased to have all of these, no matter how terrible.

* Any ideas what the two longer ones might be?