Poll: In 60 years of the music charts, what has been the worst Number One record?

UK chart single sales over the years UK chart single sales over the years

Thursday, November 15, 2012
11:43 AM

Music fans have bought 3.7 billion singles since the first UK chart was launched 60 years ago.

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That is enough seven-inches to stretch around the earth 16 times according to a survey of UK singles sales stretching back to 1952.

The data from the Official Charts Company found sales peaked in the pre-digital era in the 1980s when 640 million singles were sold. The biggest selling single that decade was Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, released in 1984.

Norfolk and Suffolk acts which have made it into the charts over the years

The Darkness

Lil’ Chris

Cathy Dennis

Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers

Ed Sheeran

Beth Orton

The Singing Postman

The Farmer’s Boys

Hear’say (Myleene Klass)

Reverend and the Makers (ex guitarist Tom Jarvis)

Catherine Wheel

Cord

But that was bettered in the decade from 2000, when digital sales really took off, which saw 683 million singles sold.

The company’s managing director Martin Talbot said: “Working on historic statistics from so long ago to create data reflecting sales to consumers has required diligent research and attention to detail.

Here are some of the unpopular Number Ones which didn’t make our poll shortlist:

Can We Fix It? - Bob the Builder

Every Loser Wins - Nick Berry

Perfect Moment - Martine McCutcheon

Barbie Girl - Aqua

Spaceman – Babylon Zoo

If - Telly Savalas

Billy, Don’t Be a Hero - Paper Lace

(Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep - Middle of the Road

There’s No One Quite Like Grandma - St Winifred’s School Choir

Save Your Love - Renee and Renato

Come Outside - Mike Sarne and Wendy Richard

The One and Only - Chesney Hawkes

Ebony and Ivory - Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder

“And, while it is unlikely to ever be possible to arrive at exact totals for those early years due to the nature of the data available, we are confident that these figures give us the clearest picture yet published of the development of singles sales across the six decade history of the Official Singles Chart.”

There have been more than 1,200 number ones since the first chart was published in the NME in 1952.

Take That frontman Gary Barlow, who has topped the chart 14 times in his career, said: “Number Ones are incredible and I don’t care how many you’ve had in the past it still feels amazing to have a Number One, in some cases even better if it’s your 12th or 15th or whatever it is. It’s a brilliant feeling.”

Vote for what you think is the worst Number One record in the poll. If there’s a record we haven’t included then suggest it and add your memories of the charts below.

 

Here some of our writers share their memories of the charts:

 

• Tracey Bagshaw, sub editor

Sunday afternoon, 5pm, the ritual was always the same.

‘Wonderful Radio One’ was tuned in, the cassette recorder was set up and the family were forced into silence until 7.

The Top 40 was on…

Two hours spent crouched over the stop button to cut out as much DJ chatter as I could - and to make sure the tape didn’t run out.

This was a skill I failed to master, so most of my tapes have half a song at the end of one side and about a quarter of the rest of it on the other. And almost every track starts rather abruptly and ends with Dave Lee Travis or Peter Powell saying: ‘And that was….’ or ‘Straight in at num…’

And then there were the ‘domestic extras’ which, in the days before combined radio-cassette players, were an occupational hazard of the amateur cassette pirate.

The radio was in the same room as the budgie - and he loved a good tune.

Anita Ward said Ring My Bell and Peter took it as a personal invitation - singing and tinkling happily throughout anything with a good disco beat which, bearing in mind this was the 70s, was most of the chart.

In fact, I find it hard to hear songs without waiting for the slam of a door (Tragedy by the BeeGees has a fine example); my granddad coughing (Feels Like I’m In Love by Kelly Marie in particular); or me singing along having accidentally pressed the wrong button (I Was Made For Dancin’ by Leif Garrett springs rather embarrassingly to mind).

And to this day I can tell you exactly where in I’m In The Mood For Dancing there’s a lyric that goes ‘Your tea’s ready . . . Ooh sorry. dear, sorry . .. ‘

Spotify will never leave such memories.

 

• David Powles, assistant editor

As a 14-year-old kid in the early 1990’s, starting to get into music, the charts were much more relevant to me then than they probably are to youngsters of the same age now.

Every Sunday the ritual would be the same – get the tape running on record, try to cut out the talking and remember to turn it over after 45 minutes, repeat four times for the three hour length of the show.

Those tapes would then keep me going through a week of early morning paper rounds – until next week’s chart came along.

My favourite chart single is an easy one, because of the connection I had to it. Now defunct Britpop band The Bluetones had released the single Slight Return on February 3, 1996 and it surprised absolutely everybody by getting to the lofty heights of number 2.

As luck would have it they were playing the UEA that night – and it helped turn it into an absolutely fantastic gig – it clearly meant so much to the band – and so much more than it does to bands now.

My least favourite? Mr Blobby – without question.

 

• Kim Briscoe, health correspondent

I remember spending many hours sitting in the corner of the living room on the floor (because that’s where my dad’s tape player was located) in an attempt to get the best of the top 40 recorded.

The next week would be spent listening back to all the songs on my Walkman or the big silver ghetto blaster I shared with my brother.

You couldn’t simply log online and listen to a song in those days - you either had the money to buy the single or album or you had to put in the effort to tape the charts.

It’s so easy to listen to music now, that I think the top 40 charts has lost of lot of the allure it had in those days.

I distinctly remember the last time I actually cared about what made it to number one. It was the ‘Battle of Britpop’ in 1995. I was always preferred Blur, so I was desperately rooting for them to make it to the top spot with Country House ahead of Oasis’s Roll With It, even though it really wasn’t the greatest of Blur’s songs.

In the end Blur did triumph, but Oasis won the battle of the albums, selling more copies of What’s the Story Morning Glory than the London band did for The Great Escape.

Downloads have changed the charts significantly. No longer do you have to actively go out and buy a tape or CD to get your favourite band to the top - just pressing a button on your computer or phone will purchase it in seconds.

 

• Richard Willner, social media manager

Recording Sunday evening’s charts was a ritual for my brother and I.

Not only did it give us the chance to listen to the newest and most popular tracks but it also allowed us to avoid the TV viewing horror of Last of the Summer Wine.

We would take ourselves off into our bedroom (we shared a room), my brother Neil would get out the C60 tape (occasionally we might have to resort to a C45 but that caused more timing issues) and away we’d go.

We didn’t record everything, only the tracks we liked which caused problems when it came to new entries from new artists – do we gamble on liking the track or would it be a waste of three minutes?

Obviously, we also attempted to avoid the talking between tracks – until the pause button broke because of overuse.

Looking back, it really was more about the ritual itself rather than the music because we very rarely played the tapes back although I do remember Vienna by Ultravox getting a lot of bedroom airplay.

It was kept off top spot by Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face. Perhaps we should have bought the single.

 

 

• Dan Grimmer, public affairs correspondent

I used to love the charts. As a teenager, I well remember telling everyone at school how great a single called Feel Every Beat by Electronic was, expecting it to zoom in at number one, only to tune into Simon Mayo doing the chart run down on a Sunday night to discover it had limped in at number 39. I also remember being ridiculously angry that Regret by New Order never made it to number one. I think it went in at number four, with some nonsense by George Michael at number one that week. It was a terrible injustice, I felt. It’s stupid how important the charts are when you’re in your teens...

My vote for worst number one by the way... Bryan Adams (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. Was number one for what felt like an eternity and I couldn’t understand who was still buying it weeks after it first came out.

 

4 comments

  • Why is "Everything I do (Ido it for you)" by Bryan Adams not in your poll list?! It drove me MAD!

    Report this comment

    Walsham Boy

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

  • Unfortunately I couldn't vote given such a short list, but had I been able St Winifreds School Choir would undoubtedly have gotten the vote, more so because it kept Jona Lewies' 'Stop The Cavalry' off the top. Of the nominated 6 titles, Baccara has surprisingly dated quite well, surely Pussycats' Mississippi would have been a better token overseas contender?

    Report this comment

    captaincozmik

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

  • Unfortunately, I couldn;t vote being as St Winifreds School choir is not of the 6 (and it kept Jona Lewie from the top). Of the nominations, Baccara has aged surprisingly well, perhaps Pussycats' 'Mississippi' would have been a better toek noverseas entry?

    Report this comment

    captaincozmik

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

  • Best number one is of course God save the Queen by the sex pistols, stills sounds fresh as daisy now. The worst was donny osmond, puppy love, yuk and puke!!!

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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