How To Have 1000 Number Ones - The Easy Way

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My Camera Never Lies

For a couple of days I was in the midst of a media frenzy. My quest had attracted the attention of BBC Radio Leeds, where I was interviewed by Bob Walmsley for the afternoon show. The following day it was the turn of the Yorkshire Evening Post, who ran an article alongside a typically posed photograph, depicting me surrounded by a number of 7” and CD singles.

The picture was taken in my flat by a YEP photographer, Mark Bickerdike. My exposure turned out to be very worthwhile when Mark told me that he had a collection of 7” singles which he was looking to get rid of, and that he was certain there would be a few Number Ones in there – perhaps I would be interested in taking them off his hands? I would, of course. After he left I e-mailed him a list of the missing chart-toppers and awaited his response.

Two weeks later he got back in touch, having been through his collection and identified the appropriate records. I had to remove a handful which I’d found elsewhere since having my picture taken, but there remained 34 7” singles which Mark offered in return for £20. I accepted gladly.

A few days later Mark e-mailed again to tell me that he’d also found a CD single of Mambo No. 5 by Bob The Builder, which he’d throw in as well. Now all we needed was to arrange a handover. This proved more difficult than it should have been, but after another couple of weeks Mark rang to say that he was in the neighbourhood and would bring the records over. Shortly afterwards he arrived with a supermarket carrier bag full of precious vinyl. I handed over his reward and wished him well.

The records were mainly from the 60s and 70s and the quality was variable but good on the whole. Many had the large centre holes marking them out as ex-jukebox records, and none of the 7”s had picture sleeves. Some had makeshift sleeves created by reversing one from another record. I checked these to see if any had come from Number Ones, but none had.

Johnny Preston’s Running Bear was the first of this batch, chronologically speaking, from 1960. The 123rd Number One, 1961’s You Don’t Know by Helen Shapiro, was next, followed by four from 1964 – Roy Orbison’s It’s Over, Can’t Buy Me Love and A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles and You Really Got Me by the Kinks.

In fact all three Kinks chart-toppers were here, the others being Tired Of Waiting For You and Sunny Afternoon. The Rolling Stones were represented by The Last Time, featuring a particularly great B-side in ‘Play With Fire’. I also now owned the Beach Boys epic Good Vibrations and I’m A Believer by the Monkees.

1970’s Yellow River by Christie is an early indication of the jaunty middle-of-the-road pop that was so prevalent in the coming decade. There were further examples here in Billy Don’t Be A Hero by Paper Lace, Mississippi by Pussycat and Pilot’s January, which has a double calendar connection thanks to being the 365th Number One.

Much better are Freda Payne’s classic Band Of Gold* and Telegram Sam by T-Rex. There were a pair of fantastic reggae tracks, Double Barrel by Dave & Ansil Collins and Uptown Top Ranking by Althia & Donna, as well as a pretend one, 10cc’s Dreadlock Holiday. These last two, plus Summer Nights by John Travolta & Olivia Newton John, all reached the top in 1978 and left me needing just one more Number One from that year.

Arguably the best-known of the entire selection is Slade’s perennial Merry Xmas Everybody, which contains none of their trademark spelling errors but makes up for it by reversing some of the letters in the title on the label. At the other end of the spectrum, from my point of view, was Float On by the Floaters, which I am sure I have never heard before. Sadly this copy skipped just a couple of seconds into the track, and I could not repair the damage.

There were a handful of records from the 1980s too. Ghost Town by the Specials is one of my favourite ever singles, and Mark had mentioned that he felt the same way about Charlene’s I’ve Never Been To Me and wouldn’t have sold it had he not recently purchased it as a downloaded track.

Too Shy by Kajagoogoo sounds remarkably slow and dreary. Madonna’s Into The Groove and especially Who’s That Girl are not her finest moments, but Eternal Flame by the Bangles is great and very representative of late 80s pop.

Eternal Flame was a particularly welcome inclusion here, as it meant I now had a continuous run from the 616th to the 643rd, covering the whole of 1989. I also now had 602 of the original Number One releases I need, so I was grateful to Mark for helping me to these two milestones.

* One of five Number Ones with a metal in the title.