Picked up a great bargain in my local PDSA shop the other day: the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, 15th Edition, which set me back all of 50p. Although it's been eight years since its publication - it covers the chart years to the end of 2001 - this still represents something of a major update for me as the (by now extremely tatty) 11th Edition I'd previously used for reference only went as far as 1996.
The Guinness Book has always been something of a bible to me and, as a kid, I still remember the thrill of getting the 1982 edition for Christmas, and spending hours and hours poring through it, memorizing chart positions, how long songs had stayed at #1 and generally immersing myself in the facts and figures. I really was a complete nerd when it came to inconsequential stuff like this, and can still remember chart positions of even the most obscure eighties' hits from memory, even now.
I'm crap on the nineties and beyond, mind. These were (are) my indier than thou years, and I really dropped the Top 40 obsession almost like a stone once I'd started getting into bands like Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Teenage Fanclub, Ride, Lush & The Go-Betweens. But still, even now, I can't completely leave that early chart obsession behind and so can't resist buying the Hit Singles book every now and then, even if it will invariably be bought for peanuts and a decade or so late.
Anyway, enough of the boring introductory spiel, let's get to the meat of this so-called post - some memorable stats - or Mildly Interesting Pop Facts, if you will - wot I've gleaned from the 15th Edition so far!
There have been an inordinate amount of people with the name 'G' in popular music, viz. Bobby, Dario, Gina, Kenny & Warren. Which has been your favourite? I like Fred.
In total, including the 1988 remix, New Order's Blue Monday spent a whopping 49 weeks in the UK top 75. As a yardstick, The Smiths only ever spent 105 weeks in the charts in total, spread out over 20 singles.
Bohemian Rhapsody was the predictable #1 in the Readers' Top 100 with Wanabee by the Spice Girls at 8, Heartbeat/Tragedy by Steps at 25, I Turn To You by Melanie C at 29 and Whole Again by Atomic Kitten at 68. I'm sure if the chart were updated now every single one of those songs would be in a similar position. Stil, no Boyzone or Westlife, though, so it's not all bad.
There had been 916 number 1 hits up to the end of 2001, starting with Al Martino's Here In My Heart and ending with Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman's aptly-titled Somethin' Stupid. (Frente's version was much better!) The 500th chart-topper had been Nicole's A Little Peace, which had been a winner for Germany in the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest; and the 708th Come On You Reds by the Manchester United Football Squad in 1994. So, twelve years elapsed for the 208 #1s that those two songs bookended; and just seven years went by for the next 208. (This may be the most spectacularly useless fact I've ever come up with, pop-related or otherwise. Apologies.)
Westlife's version of Billy Joel's Uptown Girl sold 745,000 copies in 2001. For fuck's sake.
Billy Fury remained the act with the longest period in the charts without a #1, racking up an almighty 281 weeks in a fruitless bid for the top spot. I bet he was Billy Furious about that. Ho ho. Still, though, at least he made the top of one chart i.e. biggest non-number-oner. Ironic really.
Janet Jackson comes in at number two (as it were) in the top-spot constipation league, notching up an agonising 274 weeks without a number one. That's an awful long time to keep your legs crossed.
The Whole Of The Moon by The Waterboys peaked at a middling number 26 in 1985; then shot to number 3 when it was re-issued six years later. Can anyone explain the song's much bigger success second time round? As far as I can recall it wasn't featured on any hugely popular film soundtracks or anything, that might propel it so much higher up the charts. Had the 1985 charts simply been that much more competitive than those of 1991? Or had it simply picked up more airplay second time round? Who knows? Who cares?! (D'oh, I do, tragically.)
I've waffled on aimlessly for too long here, but will say one more thing before I stop. I think I can now pinpoint the exact time when I grew disillusioned with the charts once and for all: the second half of 1989, when Jive Bunny had three consecutive number ones. That has to be enough to put even the most ardent of pop fans off for life, surely?
Returning: Stage & Screen - Arts program Stage & Screen returns next month, but with a change to its line-up.
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