Believe it or not, while the Queen was enjoying her Jubilee, the UK Singles chart turned 60 years old! So Elizabeth wasn’t the only one celebrating. Like the Queen, who’s nation isn’t fair too well right now, the singles chart isn’t exactly having a whale of a time as sales continue to plummet. So we here at Strictly thought we’d give the old chart some love, and remind you that some truly brilliant songs do reach number one.
So how did we choose? Well we gave everyone a free choice and the freedom to select their own criteria. Their choice might say something about the music industry, it might reflect childhood memories, or they might just pick what they believe to be the best no.1 single of all time. There is no right way. It’s all about having fun.
One Quick Note: It’s actually a Top 11 this week. Download made things trickier, and the head count was constantly in flux. So apologies, think of it as a bonus.
The Editor’s Challenge: David Hayter was granted five picks (thanks Download) and he had to pick each no.1 from a different decade in the hope of capturing the changing fashions and giving a bringing a sense of perspective to 60 years of pop history.
Meshing the chorus vocal line from The Delfonics’ “Ready Or Not Here I Come” with (illicitly taken) parts of the music from Enya’s “Boadicea,” Fugees somehow managed to turn two fine songs into one bonafide hip-hop classic. Dark and soulful, intelligent verses from each of the three group members lay over sparse beats and a haunting synth line that has become instantly recognizable. Although the song only spent two weeks at the UK number one spot, this track and the rest of Fugees’ output has undoubtedly influenced much of modern hip-hop, most notably Black Eyed Peas who have in turn had a massive impact on the UK charts over the last decade.
Bonus Fact: According to Wikipedia “Ready Or Not” is Barack Obama’s favourite song.
From The 60s: Due to Download Festival we’re a little short staffed, so to add a twist to this top ten. Each of my picks must come from a different decade. Believe it or not, having five picks doesn’t make this any easier.
The 60s for example were full of great no.1s (17 by The Beatles alone), and by selecting “She Loves You” I had to ditch the brilliant “Apache” by The Shadows and “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, but alas that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
So why “She Loves You”? Well that’s an easier question to answer. When we talk about no.1 singles we have to talk about pinpoint pop gems, they have to be irresistible but also arresting. “She Loves You” is a bullet of pent up, even repressed energy. Lennon and McCartney bark the chorus with demented glee, you can practically picture the spittle flying from their lips. The rhythm shakes and sways a little too quickly, like the awkward white kids tentatively but excitedly taking their first steps onto the dancefloor, and most importantly of all, it’s rawer than a saccharine pop gem has any right to be. It’s still played to warm rock crowds up before gigs in Brixton and Hammersmith, and fittingly enough crowds still roar back those “yeah, yeah, yeahs”. If only pop songs were this wild in 2012.
Jimi Hendrix, arguably the greatest guitarist of all time (although I don’t know many people who’d up the counter argument) never reached a single UK number one during a life that sadly ended early enough to put him in the ’27 Club’, but posthumously got one in 1970. Purple Haze; Hey Joe; The Wind That Cries Mary never managed to achieve the appeal that Voodoo Child accomplished. Focusing mainly on the instrumental over vocals, Hendrix achieved something that would be near on impossible today by getting to number one almost solely on the credits of his guitar solo. However this is a solo that has been constantly voted highly in polls and was described by Joe Satriani not only as his favourite guitar solo of all time, but also as the ‘holy grail of guitar expression and technique’, and ‘a beacon of humanity’.
This is a song that completely deconstructs the standards of a pop hit with no discernible verses or chorus, it is everything that a number one hit shouldn’t be, and almost certainly wouldn’t be today, but perhaps for that exact reason it retains its magnificence.
From The 70s: The 70s were absolutely impossible. While the decade saw the arrival of large swathes of novelty records, twee glam, and manufactured pop (say hello to The Bay City Rollers) it also spawned some of the greatest no.1s ever.
Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” still sounds like it’s from an alternative sensual future, “Space Oddity” remains harrowingly detached and paranoid, while “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Another Brick In The Wall” and “Message In A Bottle” speak for themselves.
However, I’ve gone for a pop single that surpasses them all (well maybe) that came from a truly original, and yet somehow essentially British, bohemian eccentric. Kate Bush is in many ways reassuringly ordinary. Born just hope the road from my house, in interviews she seems faye, but ultimately very down to earth, and even a little shy. On stage she is transformed into Britain’s most dazzling and irreplicable pop sensation. “Wuthering Heights” is a masterpiece. Driven by Bush’s helium vocals, an intense narrative, and a sense of desperate persistence this ghostly fleeting little track proves staggeringly moving. Try and resist those swells.
Released in 2000 and taken from the classic album ‘Marshall Mathers LP’, ‘Stan’ is a hip hop classic.
The song is written about a fictional relationship between Eminem and an obsessive fan of which the first three verses are in the style of letters sent from ‘Stan’. As the song progresses it is clear that Stan is becoming more angry that Eminem has failed to respond and by the fourth verse in which Eminem replies, citing work load as the reason he hasn’t replied sooner, it is too late and Stan has killed himself along with his pregnant girlfriend.
Produced by The 45King the song has a mood setting backing beat which coupled the sound of rain and thunder claps with a sample of British singer Dido’s single ‘Thank You’, which also offered the chorus for Stan as well. The singer would go on to play Stan’s long suffering girlfriend in the accompanying music videos, with both full length and a shortened, censored versions available.
Whilst the subject matter is dark, with direct references to depression, self harm and drug addiction it still proved popular selling over 800,000 units in the UK but was knocked off the top spot after just one week by Bob The Builders ‘Can We fix It’. This followed a campaign protesting that a song with such graphic and violent imagery shouldn’t be Christmas Number One.