Turntable Revolution

How did that get to no.1?

In the official UK chart ( that's the one where the Buzzcocks don't have half a dozen no.1's, i.e. not mine ) there have been some strange no.1's. A surfeit of appalling chart toppers definitely and even a few very good ones but here are some that were just too good to push their way through the chaff to the vertiginous peak that is the top spot, and yet they did, somehow.

Recently I was asked how I composed my chart. There's little thought behind it. I don't call in votes from distant outposts of the world or listen interminably to the top 20 considering who should be leapfrogging whom. Those records featured are usually things I've purchased in the last month or two or occasionally records I've rediscovered or returned to with a new passion. The only criteria that has to be met is that the track had to be available as a single.

Meanwhile in the "other" chart, the one that used to matter so much to me when I was growing up in the seventies, all manner of dullness abounds. Peppered with urban nonsense, infantile pop and misogynistic rap there is little for a forty something, who once featured on TOTP when Glenn Medeiros was no.1, to get excited about. In other words music is no better or worse than it was twenty years ago; and when I say featured I mean I was in the crowd dancing in a way that suggests I had no other desire but to rupture my dignity. In recent years we've had an abysmal crop of no.1's from the utterly talentless Eric Prydz to the shrunken twig-in-a-leotard Madonna with bloodless versions of American Pie and some lazy rewrite of an Abba song. Ah but thirty years ago........compare the chart in the first week of the eighties to now and I assure you the quality gap will astound you. You'll be out scouring ebay for a functioning Tardis. Alas those days are long lost.

So giving nostalgia a firm nudge let's crawl cautiously into the present. Last year as we donned our sequinned dresses and manned our phones to vote for some Strictly Pole Dancer with the X Factor a mighty wind blew in from protest corner on Facebook. The monster Cowell and his charisma-vacuum X Factor winner had to be stopped from assuming poll position in the chart in xmas week. Oh how we manned the barricades and painted placards. The song picked to obviate the great crime of stealing the xmas no.1 was Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine. The timid little swizzle-stick Joe McElderberry or whatever his name was had no chance against a song with the refrain, "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me." Never mind that both songs were risible the fact that Rage encouraged rebellion was a crowd pleaser. One could picture all the meek little workers raising their voices to a murmur masquerading as a whisper as their bosses walked by, their hearts powered by that insurrectionist refrain as they hurriedly went about their mundane tasks. Oh liberty, we shall grasp thy nettle! Like fuck, they did!

And where was smiling Joe McNickberry? Cowering behind Cowell? No, patiently waiting to snap up the first no.1 of the new decade. Make a statement by all means but do it well. Pick Hitsville UK by the Clash, the irony would be lost on those outraged by a swear word or nine but those in the know would smile and those who weren't would like the nice tune. Better still desert the charts, don't save the xmas no.1, save instead the health service or the hippo. Be useful.

But let us not forget that all the money spent on propelling Rage to no.1 went to a charity. So it's hard to hate them, nearly as hard as it is to like Joe McBeriberi. I'm not sure which charity benefitted from Killing In The Name Of's triumph but I hope it's one that helps with sufferers from Tourettes.

So the cry of the self-righteous has been heard, if only temporarily. Let's go further I say. Let's ensure that every no.1 this year is in direct opposition to the banal bilge that spurts forth from the behemoth-like record companies; those giants that are manned by earless accountants. We can do it. A download costs about 79p. In a year that's little more than £40. All we have to do is pick a song. I nominate Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've). The Buzzcocks never had a top ten hit, this musical felony can now be rectified. Suggest some yourselves.

Anyway my xmas no.1 will be posted very soon. Those who wish to influence the chart positions be aware that I'm very susceptible to bribery. A Wee Cherubs single will ensure a single of your choice will vault up the chart at a supersonic rate. A Candy Ranch single will buy you a no.2. And Feline Groovy by Keen will see you reign upon the summit of the Turntable Revolution chart indefinitely, emperor of all you observe, dismissive of the petulant jostlings below.


It was 1981. Britain was ablaze. Uprisings were afoot. The country was in the grip of a twisted Cromwellian vortex. Disaffected black youth took to the streets. Certain newspapers declared Enoch Powell a modern prophet and demanded his vindication. Thuggish police bullied communities. This of course didn't happen in East Sheen where I was reaching out from puberty to embrace the sophisticated adult world. I was itching to man the barricades, a Molotov cocktail in one hand and a copy of this single in the other. I remember the video, a car racing through dark streets, the Specials inside, cosying up to one another in a defensive paranoiac huddle. Jerry Dammers and co. zoomed into the zeitgeist and became, for a few weeks in July, the spokesmen for an eruptive generation.I was working in a record shop in Clapham at the time and I remember this well dressed business woman walking in and asking for Ghost Town. She looked like she spent her evenings musing on the merits of Mahler whilst sipping wine and flicking through old opera programmes. She seemed a little affronted to have to purchase a record that span at a dizzying 45 rpm. Brazenly, in defiance of all her middle class reserve, she declared how remarkable Ghost Town was. I, a lowly scallywag who had recently touched a Dire Straits LP and forgot to wash my hands, nodded in agreement. I like to think that she lived in Brixton and was struck down by a flying bin.
This amazing record, this beautiful lament for a dying Britain, remained atop the chart rubble for a revolutionary three weeks. Why for those three glorious weeks was the British public suddenly struck down with such good taste? Hazardous audacity it may be but I think this is, and always will be, the greatest no.1 ever. World order was restored when MI5 installed Green Door by Shakin' Stevens at no.1 at Ghost Town's expense.


Inexplicably a no.1. How did this bluesy number beguile the British public, most of whom would never have heard of Muddy Waters or Son House. Jagger takes the name Partially Sighted Yelping Hyena and the lily white kids of suburbia can't control an urge to get down and mucky, if not in the farmyard at least in their own back gardens. Nowadays when R & B stands for raunch and boobs this sounds like an authentic slice of Mississippi blues with a rhythm as drowsy as a lazy dog but with a mean snarl if provoked. My theory is that its resting on the chart summit was due to perfect timing. A year earlier, 1963, the charts were in the grip of the frivolous uptempo sounds of Merseybeat; in 1965 the music scene went meaty and beaty. But in December 1964 there was a void that Cilla Black and Herman's Hermits were too insubstantial to fill. The signs were there in July when the Animals took House Of The Rising Sun to the top. It was lewd and spotty but that swirling organ softened its seediness and was pleasing to the ear. Little Red Rooster had a threatening indeterminate filth that seemed to sully the listener. No surprise then that it was no.1 for only a week, knocked off the top my those pretty boys in suits, the Beatles.