Now, after a week of carrot-dangling, we’re finally at the summit – celebrating the greatest UK Number One singles of all time. Each one is brilliant for a reason. The Kinks make the list for introducing the world to an early incarnation of rock music with “You Really Got Me“. Sinead O’Connor’s heartfelt rendition of a song written by Prince remains one of the most angry and emotional love songs of all time. The Rolling Stones had many decent smash hits, but “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” kicks all of them right in the underpants. “Billie Jean” makes the cut for not only being one of Jackson’s finest, but also because it’s one of his WEIRDEST – that people still dance enthusiastically to a song about an insane delusional fan is completely brilliant. The Beach Boys managed two UK Number One’s, the first of which, “Good Vibrations”, is a masterpiece of musical arrangement, and possibly the electro-theremin‘s finest hour. Paul Hardcastle managed to mix the dialogue from a documentary about post-traumatic stress disorder,“Vietnam Requiem”, with serious synthesizers to make a dance record with an ideology. “Ghost Town” by The Specials also veered into the pop charts waving a political flag, this time spookily condemning Thatcher’s Britain, and creating a truly eerie pop/reggae fusion. The Jam kept “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers off the top spot with Weller’s ode to Woking, which is also a great rock record to dance to – just watch “Billy Elliot” if you don’t believe us. Althea and Donna were a shock one week/one hit wonder back in 1978, thanks to some sterling work by the late, great John Peel – if there is such thing as a cult number one, then this is it. And The Beatles were always going to be sitting somewhere near the top, and, as it is, they snatched the crown with probably the greatest A/B side combination of them all – “Paperback Writer” and (the EVEN BETTER) “Rain”. Only two other A/B combos came into contention throughout the 40 – “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields”, until we realised that it didn’t make it to the top of the charts, it peaked at Number 2. And “Start”/”Liza Radley” by The Jam. But, in the end, this one prevailed, whilst the other two didn’t. Hence, this is our best Top Ten ever. Enjoy…
1A. The Beatles, Paperback Writer (1966)
1B. The Beatles, Rain (1966)
2. Althea and Donna, Uptown Top Ranking (1978)
3. The Jam, A Town Called Malice (1982)
4. The Specials, Ghost Town (1981)
5. Paul Hardcastle, 19 (1985)
6. The Beach Boys, Good Vibrations (1966)
7. Michael Jackson, Billie Jean (1983)
8. The Rolling Stones, Satisfaction (1965)
9. Sinead O’Connor, Nothing Compares 2 U (1990)
10. The Kinks, You Really Got Me (1964)
Absolutely including this lot…
The big news is that John Lydon is reforming his old group Public Image Ltd to go on some kind of tour. And that got us to thinking. PiL was Lydon’s second successful stab at the big time with a band, but what other artists have been lucky enough to enjoy two days or more in the sunshine? We decided to come up with ten of the best, with the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets, The Raconteurs, Gorillaz and The Foo Fighters all falling at the final hurdle…
1. The Style Council
The Jam split up in 1982 and Weller formed The Style Council in 1983. Much to a lot of Jam fan’s disgust. Where were the spikey guitar riffs? Fuck me, is that a PIANO? The Style Council were much silkier and soulful. They wore lovely cardigans. It was picnic-pop, but totally brilliant. Weller’s finest hour?
2. The JB’s
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, James Brown ploughed through backing band line ups – mainly because he was a massive soul bastard, and paid everyone in either punches or peanuts. The JB’s provided the sound for his golden period in the early 1970s, succeeding The Famous Flames, The James Brown Band, and The James Brown Orchestra. Bootsy Collins on bass, “Jabo” Starks on drums, Fred Wesley at the back tromboning. So to speak.
3. Public Image Ltd
Formed in 1978, almost directly after the Sex Pistols had imploded, PiL featured John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten), Keith Levene – once of The Clash – and Jah Wobble. Or, at least, the first line up did. Over the years, almost twenty thousand people could claim to have once been a member of PiL. You were probably in the band without realising it. Lydon’s best band.
4. Humble Pie
Small Faces were bloody excellent, Humble Pie weren’t too bad either – much rockier, intent on wooing audiences in America. They initially got together after Steve Marriott had failed to convince his Small Faces bandmates to allow Peter Frampton to join the group, so he flounced off and made Humble Pie instead. For the first half of the 1970s, they were a fantastic band, then Marriott went a little bit loco.
5. New Order
After Ian Curtis decided to dance weirdly into the eternal night in 1980, the Joy Division morphed into New Order – a far more oily band, replacing their office temp outfits for short shorts, and highlights in their hair. All three surviving members– Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris – stayed on board, with the addition of Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on keyboard guitar. As anyone who reads massive textbooks about war well knows, the Joy Division was a reference to the prostitution wing of concentration camps during the Second World War, New Order was incorrectly seen to be taken from a quote in Mein Kampf. The band are not fascists.
Wings, though rather unfashionable to like, were actually a pretty decent band. Not, obviously, as good as The Beatles, but tracks like Maybe I’m Amazed and Live and Let Die would have been great additions to any Beatles back catalogue. In fact, the latter was produced by George Martin. They were also the only permanent band formed by any of The Beatles after the split, with McCartney leading the merry troupe for around ten years. He might even have been a Wing for longer than he was a Beatle. They enjoyed much chart success with Linda on backing vocals.
7. Crosby, Stills and Nash
Crosby was once of The Byrds, Stills was once of Buffalo Springfield, and Nash was once of The Hollies. All very successful, sometimes brilliant, pop groups. Hence, this was seen as something of a supergroup project when the three formed in 1968. And yet, they’re still going. Or, at least, on and off. They were so-named to prevent any of the bandmates stealing the name of the group should any of them decided to leave – a result of bitter experience in the cases of Crosby and Nash – and Neil Young would occasionally join in, making it Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Rather cleverly.
8. Lucy Pearl
Like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lucy Pearl was made up of three big names from successful R&B and hip hop groups. There was Raphael Saadiq from Tony! Toni! Tone!, Dawn Robinson from En Vogue, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest. Originally D’Angelo was supposed to join in too, but some kind of commitment clash meant that he couldn’t. In the original formation, they only managed to squeeze out one album – in 2000 – but the good news is that it was a corker.
9. Big Audio Dynamite
After getting royally booted out of The Clash, Mick Jones shuffled around for a bit, then eventually formed Big Audio Dynamite with reggae/punk legend Don Letts in 1984. With Jones on lead vocals for once, they became known for mixing punk rock with reggae, hip hop, and whatever kind of genre they fancied with an impressive degree of success and innovation. Their biggest hit came with E=MC2 in 1986. Which isn’t featured below.
10. Gnarls Barkley
Both members of Gnarls Barkley have enjoyed musical success with other groups. Danger Mouse with the Damon Albarn cartoon vanity project Gorillaz, and Cee-Lo Green with the popular US rap group Goodie Mob – who were particularly popular in the 1990s thanks to their affiliation with Outkast, and the rise in popularity of raps from the Deep South. As Gnarls Barkley, everyone knows them for that great song about going bananas.
The Jam, When You’re Young
Look at you, sitting there in an office with an ironed shirt/blouse on. What happened to you, man/sister? Here’s Paul Weller and his well dressed friends to remind you what it was like being little. Great times.
Young Disciples, Apparently Nothin’
Despite the American vocalist, Carleen Anderson, Young Disciples were very much a British band. They were signed to Talkin’ Loud, the rest of the group was British, they recorded with Paul Weller and Mick Talbot of the Style Council. Above is their moment in the sunshine.
No room for the Fresh Prince…
Something about the sunshine and the outdoors can make certain records sound magnificent. Only a few years ago there was that Macarena song – a repetitive number, with a vocal delivery from two grown men who wouldn’t make 10p busking in the middle of Covent Garden on Australia Day. And yet, the combination of heat, cold beers, heavy drugs, and an semi-erotic dance made it the hit of the Summer. Hence, this list is not about summertime hits, but songs about the Summer itself. After much debate, the top four ended up looking like this…
1. MFSB, Summertime
An up-tempo instrumental take on the sultry jazz classic, we love this. MFSB stands for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, which lends this track a wholesome family appeal, and it’s great for dancing around to in a field full of borderline trustafarians. At, say, The Big Chill.
2. Roy Ayers, Everyone Loves The Sunshine
When Roy Ayers was wondering what people might love, he eventually hit the nail on the head. Everyone really does love the sunshine. Except perhaps for Stephen Hawking that time his girlfriend took the batteries from his wheelchair and left him to crackle and burn in the sweltering heat (true story). But robotronic genius aside, this is one magnificent ode to the weather.
3. The Style Council, Long Hot Summer
For a brief period in the 1980s, Paul Weller – the Modfather – became a little bit camp, and this video catches him riding the crest of a slightly pink wave. And it’s no bad thing at all. In fact, we much prefer his Style Council days. Hence Long Hot Summer can be found rotating at around 45 rpm on the Interestment turntable with startling regularity during the sunshine months. Make no mistake about it, this is a classic record.
4. Alice Cooper, School’s Out
It’s hard to find a decent rock record that encapsulates that Summer feeling, probably because most decent heavy rock bands are made up of people who prefer the night time. This, by a strange woman/man called Alice Cooper, is one of the few exceptions. Sadly, grown men in leather get little chance to celebrate the school holidays in these increasingly suspicious times.
The Style Council, Long Hot Summer
The debate will rage for years – The Jam or The Style Council? Both Paul Weller groups, they genuinely divide people. In our case, we like to take The Jam from October to March, then from April to September we prefer The Style Council. The ultimate summer pop group, above is Weller’s best song.
This young blondie missed the cut…
Soul music is rife in the charts these days, there’s even something of a Brit invasion going on in America. Adele, Estelle, Duffy, Wino, the Stone-mason – they’re all at the forefront of a very ladylike UK soul movement. It’s great. And yet, none of the five would make this list. Neither would Craig David, who might be mocked and vilified post-Bo Selecta, but still remains a decent singer with a smashing beard. Sade, Mick Hucknall (seriously), Paul Weller, Mark Morrison, Caron Wheeler, and Terri Walker are other notable absentees. In the end, we plumped for these sparkling young things…
A hideously underrated international soul voice, he appears to be held in higher esteem over in America, where he has worked with Angie Stone, Erykah Badu, Leon Ware, and Stevie Wonder. There’s Nothing Like This is a classic soul record, whatever the era.
2. Alice Russell
While the likes of Joss Stone and Duffy get all the plaudits, and the Dusty Springfield comparisons, this girl is the real blue eyed soul sensation of the moment. Her voice is startlingly good, she’s worked with the excellent Quantic Soul Orchestra, and below is a fantastic rendition of a White Stripes song that she sang with Nostalgia 77. Amazing.
3. Leona Lewis
Whatever your feelings about Simon Cowell shows, and awful young reality oiks with their silly dreams and stupid aspirations, they really did stumble across a gem with this girl. She’s got tight curly hair, and, even better, she looks set to stand alongside Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, which is really saying something. A genuinely fantastic pop/soul singer.
4. Rod Stewart
This one was a close call, with Joe Cocker and Young Americans era David Bowie pushing him close, but before he morphed into an appallingly bland old man singing from the American songbook, Rod Stewart was a marvelous young mod/soul singer with a brilliant-sounding throat infection. Excellent work, Rod. Now cough.
Humble Pie, Black Coffee
Steve Marriott is one of only a handful of rock and pop stars to feature in two excellent bands – others include Mick Jones (The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite), Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Yazoo), Ronnie Wood (Faces, The Rolling Stones) and Paul Weller (The Jam, The Style Council). Steve’s first was, of course, Small Faces, then he pulled together these guys. They were terrific too.
The Jam, Liza Radley
Before he popped on his espadrilles and slicked back his barnet, Paul Weller was in The Jam, and they were fantastic. As, of course were The Style Council, and some of his solo stuff hasn’t been too bad either. The above track was the B-side to their Start! single, and one of our favourite Weller moments.
No room for Lennon, nor McCartney
At one stage The Brit Awards became ridiculous – okay, yes, more ridiculous – when no one seemed capable of finding a Best Male. Phil Collins won it perhaps fifty times, then Paul Weller took it every year for about sixteen years, then Tom Jones got it, and then Robbie Williams became a national treasure because of his cheeky grin, and that was that. They just seemed either so thin on the ground, or they were Sting. This got us to thinking, who would our four Best British Males be? We came up with this rabble…
1. Joe Cocker
Probably the best blue eyed soul voice ever to come out of Sheffield, his cover of With a Little Help From My Friends made him huge, as did his strange habit of looking like a man in the grip of a breakdown whenever he sang. Completely brilliant.