Record Breakers and Trivia : Quirks Of The Number One Position
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The 'Secret' Number One
John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir - "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)"
There was a time when no new chart was compiled over the Christmas period; it was a labour-intensive process requiring couriers racing around the country, collecting sales diaries which were then delivered to a data-entry team who would manually key the catalogue numbers into an early computer system. These staff needed a week off for Christmas. Furthermore, the media didn't seem to require a chart update due to lack of publications and special festive programming. Today, the data is downloaded from stores in a flash and chart-compilation is much less labour-intensive so even over Christmas a new chart can easily be compiled - and Radio One is happy to air it. But, between these two extremes, there were a few years in which a new chart was compiled but never aired or published. Usually, this resulted in no change at the top in any case. But the notable exception was Christmas 1980. On 8th December of that year John Lennon was assassinated. On the week ending 27 Dec, St Winifred's School Choir hit the top spot with "There's No-one Quite Like Grandma." But, directly over Christmas week, large numbers of shoppers bought Lennon's classic "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)." The chart compiled (though not published) for w/e 3rd Jan 1981 had John Lennon at number one. This fact is not widely known, thus it is omitted from lists of Number Ones. Instead, St Winifred's School Choir are shown as holding the position for two weeks. By the time normal service had been resumed (w/e 10th Jan 1981), John Lennon's "Imagine" had climbed to the top in any case.
The 'Erroneous' Number One
Manuel and his Music Of The Mountains - "Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto De Aranjez"
When the chart dated w/e 28th Feb 1976 was first unveiled, it was announced that Manuel and his Music Of The Mountains had dethroned The Four Seasons' "December '63 (Oh What A Night)" from the top spot. But moments after the chart had been made public, a catastrophic 'computer error' was discovered. Manuel (actually conductor Geoff Love) was relegated to number 3 behind The Four Seasons and Tina Charles! He never did make number one.
In a similar incident for the week ending 10th Nov 1979, a compilation error led to an announcement that Dr Hook's "When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman" had toppled Lena Martell's "One Day At A Time." The error did not immediately come to light and some newspaper listings carried the incorrect number one. Happily (for Dr Hook at least) "When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman" did make, and keep, the number one the following week.
The 'Urban Myth' Number One
The Sex Pistols - "God Save The Queen"
1977 marked The Queen's Silver Jubilee - 25 years on the throne. The occasion was marked with celebrations at every level throughout the UK. During the summer months The Queen embarked on a large scale tour, the climax of the national celebrations being on the evening of Monday 6th June when she lit a bonfire beacon at Windsor which started a chain of beacons across the country.
1977 also marked the year when Punk Rock took a real grip on the chart. Leading the way were The Sex Pistols. They made no secret of their contempt for royalty, releasing a highly irreverent punk version of "God Save The Queen" during the Summer. As the chart for w/e 11th June was about to be made public (on Tue 7th June - the day after the climax of the jubilee celebrations), the newspapers were rife with speculation that The Sex Pistols were going to be number one for the historic week. In the event, Rod Stewart's rather more placid double-A side "I Don't Want To Talk About It" / "First Cut Is The Deepest" retained its number one position for a fourth week. Rumours then circulated wildly that the chart-compilers had caved in to pressure and 'fixed' the chart to avoid controversy. So convincing were some of the stories that the NME actually listed The Sex Pistols as number one!
Anecdotes which have come to light since support the theory that many people held at the time; that the whole media frenzy was whipped up by The Pistols expert manager/publicist Malcolm McLaren! "God Save The Queen" was never a number one.
The Number One 'That Got Away With It'
Steve 'Silk' Hurley - "Jack Your Body"
Strict chart rules govern which releases are eligible for the chart. One such rule stipulated the maximum playing time allowed on a 12" single (to avoid it being classed as an album). Unfortunately, nobody spotted that the 12" version of Steve 'Silk' Hurley's 1987 track "Jack Your Body" exceeded the maximum playing time. Its sales were incorporated into the overall total for the title. It, thus, enjoyed two weeks at number one in January of that year. In fact, it should never have been there! The effect was that Jackie Wilson's re-issue of "Reet Petite" (which it 'knocked off the top') should have enjoyed a fifth week at the summit and Aretha Franklin & George Michael's "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (which eventually replaced it at the top) was deprived of its first week (of what should have been three) atop the chart.
The 'Didn't Make It On A Technicality' Number One
Deee-Lite - "Groove Is In The Heart"
As computers began to play a greater part in the chart compilation / listing process it became more difficult to cope with records tieing for a position (there are technical reasons why it is much better to have distinct positions rather than shared ones.) For the week ending 15 Sep 1990, two records tied for number one - "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band and Dee-lite's "Groove Is In The Heart". Based on sales in the shops which contributed to the chart there was absolutely no difference between the two; it was a dead heat. But a rule introduced in the '80s was invoked; "The Joker" was given the number one as its sales had increased more from the previous week. Though they had sold sufficient copies to be a joint number one, Deee-lite were relegated to number two. Eager to deflect the flack which flew when this came to light, the chart compilers subsequently announced that "The Joker" had, in fact, on review of the figures, sold eight more copies than "Groove Is In The Heart."
The 'Unjust' Number One
Joe Dolce Music Theatre - "Shaddap You Face"
Of course, the merit of music is in the ears of the beholder. There have been many curious number ones over the years. But the one which is often (somewhat unfairly) picked upon (and much loved by quiz masters!) is Joe Dolce Music Theatre's - "Shaddap You Face." The reason? Well, it wasn't exactly a musical masterpiece - but then nor are many other number ones! But its real 'sin' was to keep what is regarded by many as one of the finest singles of the 1980s from the top spot. On its fourth week on the chart, Ultravox's "Vienna" had gracefully climbed to the no.2 position. It seemed poised to replace John Lennon's much-loved (posthumous) hit "Woman" at the top in w/e 21st Feb 1981. But, when the chart was announced, it transpired that "Shaddup You Face" had shown the audacity to leap-frog Ultravox's beautifully crafted song, blocking its ascendancy to no.1. To make matters worse, both singles maintained their positions for two further weeks before "Vienna" fell to no. 4!
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