Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Toppermost of the Poppermost

I like what Word Magazine has done this month. The august publication – my favourite journal – always presents a 20 Best… and 20 Worst… list with a new theme each month. Previous ideas have been super heroes, cartoon characters and situation comedies but this month the best and worst number one hits have been discussed. As ever, it’s a very arbitrary list, full of fascinating opinions. There are a few obvious choices in the best list (Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, Ghost Town by The Specials) but also one or two unexpected yet inspired selections (Mouldy Old Dough by Lieutenant Pigeon, Crazy in Love by Beyonce, Ride on Time by Black Box). I don’t agree with their pick for ‘best of the lot’ which is Human League’s Don’t You Want Me, a track I’ve always regarded as only the sixth or seventh finest song off Dare and a fairly ordinary melody and obvious lyric. The choices for the worst list are less interesting but still of huge entertainment value. Two superstar collaborations are justly caned: Bowie and Jagger’s ill-conceived Dancing in the Streets and McCartney/Wonder’s infamous piano keyboard/racial harmony metaphor, Ebony and Ivory. Of course Bryan Adams is knee-capped for Everything I Do; naturally Reg Dwight’s ode to a dull celebrity royal (deceased) is pilloried. The magazine opts for I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker by Sandi Thom when considering the worst chart topper of them all. I think I’ve heard that song once so can’t really argue.

Unable to resist, I present my ten favourite number ones:

Paperback Writer - The Beatles

I know dear S loves this song too. A really unusual subject matter and a most invigorating riff. Hurrah.

All or Nothing – The Small Faces

Steve Marriott at his urgent and soulful best. The most underrated British band ever?

The Name of the Game – Abba

Haunting, melodic and, er, profound.

Uptown Top Ranking – Althia and Donna

A soaring riddim.

Are ‘Friends’ Electric? – Tubeway Army

I was never sure why ‘Friends’ needed the inverted commas but it added to the mystery of an already atmospheric number from the Numanoid. Electronica.

Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie

Major Tom was real, wasn’t he? Unselfconsciously references Space Oddity and includes the line, ‘The shrieking of nothing is killing’ - two excellent reasons for its inclusion.

Ghost Town - The Specials

A chilling political statement. The scariest number one ever?

Tainted Love - Soft Cell

The perfect pop song with undercurrents of pure menace. Such a staple of sixth form discos at Gloucester Leisure Centre’s Cambridge Suite that I can almost taste cider and blackcurrant every time I hear it.

West End Boys - Pet Shop Boys

An original and compelling urban soundscape. Is this what London is like? I must ask D.

Pure Shores - All Saints

A taste of paradise. A fabulous, fabulous record.

It’s a shame that Petula Clark’s Down Town and The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset only made number two as they are assuredly the finest singles ever. It is a controversial choice but my favourite number one of all the above is probably the shimmering beauty of Pure Shores. All comments are welcome. I used this site to help me decide.

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