When Number Ones Were a Load of Number Twos!


In 1997, around 35 British radio stations broke format and played some of the worst songs ever recorded. They played them all simultaneously, by accident.

The radio stations belonged to a large group and their format was ‘Gold’ or ‘Oldies’. Stuck for how to fill air time in those odd days between Christmas and New Year, the group Program Director decided they would put on a special networked show that would play every UK number one record in order from 1957 up until the Christmas number one of 1997.

The problem was that the Program Director was not originally from the UK and they didn’t check to see exactly which songs went to number one. Logic would suggest that the songs at the top of the chart sold the most so must be the best, right? Unfortunately the PD didn’t take into account the fact that the British record-buying public has a horrible habit of buying naff music in large quantities.

The 50s records weren’t too bad but the program got off to an unusual start because the first three number ones of 1957 were all the same song, “Singing The Blues”. They had to play the Guy Mitchell version followed by the Tommy Steel version then the Guy Mitchell version AGAIN because he took it back to number one that January, knocking Tommy Steel’s version off the top. The next song was ‘Garden of Eden’ by Frankie Vaughan, then they played the Guy Mitchell version of Singing The Blues a third time because in 1957 it went back to number one again! Yes, four of the first five British number ones in 1957 were all the same song, three of them, the exact same record! The networked show on 35 radio stations that had been promoted heavily in advance had to play them all in order as promised.

The 60s were kinder but then came the 70s and early 80s when almost every novelty song that charted went to number one.

Here are some of the classics that hit the airwaves again in the winter of 1997:

‘Ernie’ (The Fastest Milkman in the West) by Benny Hill,

‘Amazing Grace’ by The Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards,

‘Grandad’ by Clive Dunn,

‘My Ding-a-ling’ by Chuck Berry,

‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’ by Little Jimmy Osmond,

‘Eye Level’ (The Theme from Van Der Valk) by The Simon Park Orchestra,

‘The Streak’ by Ray Stevens,

‘Whispering Grass’ by Windsor Davies and Don Estelle,

‘Combine Harvester’ by The Wurzels,

‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’ by St Winifred’s School Choir and,

‘Shaddap You Face’ by Joe Dolce.

If you work in radio, that last one by Joe Dolce should be all the warning you need if anyone ever suggests doing a similar thing at your radio station.

The title should be the first thing you say to them!

Craic on!

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