So. I finish writing that last post, search out the next chart-topping record on Spotify – ‘What Do You Want’ by Adam Faith – and settle down to take some notes. The song begins… And then the song finishes. I take precisely two notes, the second of which is ‘This song is short…’
What Do You Want?, by Adam Faith (his 1st of two #1s)
3 weeks, from 4th – 25th December 1959 (including 1 week joint with Emile Ford & The Checkmates from 18th – 25th December)
It is, in fact, the shortest ever UK #1 single, clocking in at 1 minute and 38 seconds. That is seriously short. We’ve covered plenty of records thus far that have hovered around the two minute mark. This knocks a full twenty seconds off them. Adam Faith gets in and gets out, and gets his first chart-topper. (For the record, we’ll be meeting the longest UK #1 single – a nine-minutes-plus behemoth – in exactly thirty eight years’ and two months’ time. Bonus points for those who can name it.)
The first note I took upon listening to ‘What Do You Want’ was: ‘Strong whiff of ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’. Now, I wouldn’t ever want to use a phrase liked ‘ripped off’… So let’s just say Mr. Faith and his song writing team were heavily influenced by Buddy Holly’s recent, posthumous hit. It’s sung at the same pace, with the same staccato strings, while Faith tries to replicate Holly’s famous hiccup.
What do you want if you don’t want money, What do you want if you don’t want gold… Say what you want and I’ll give it you darlin’, Wish you wanted my love baby… Adam loves a girl, but she isn’t feeling it. So Adam hurls all sorts of rubies and trinkets at her – ermines and pearls, amongst others – but to no avail. It’s not the best message to be sending out in a song… maybe she’s just not that into you Adam, yeah?
He even gets a little petty in the final verse: One of these days when you need my kissin’, One of these days when you want me too, Don’t turn around ‘cos I’ll be missin’, Then you’ll want my love, baby… I get the feeling that this girl just thinks he’s a dick, no matter what he buys her.
I know, I know – I’m perhaps looking a little too hard into what is an extremely light and fluffy #1 single. It’s cute, it’s jaunty, and it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. Adam Faith’s voice is kind of endearing as well. He’s not a great singer; but he lends the song something distinctive (check out his ‘bay-buh’), and he’s a clear successor to the likes of Dickie Valentine and Tommy Steele in the British cheeky-chappy, teen idol stakes. I’ll delve deeper into his life and works when he scores his second chart-topper in a few months.
But for now I’m struggling to think of much more to write… Perhaps such a short song requires a short post. One final thing to note is that the penultimate #1 of the 1950s is also one of the last two songs ever to have tied for the top spot. It’s happened four times now: once each in 1953, 1957, 1958 and now ’59. It seems that the upcoming switch of the ‘official’ chart from the NME to Record Retailer will have something to do with killing off the tied number one (more record shops’ sales figures going towards the charts, perhaps?) I can confidently say that it will never happen again, such is the accuracy with which sales and streams are tracked nowadays. Apparently if it does, the song with the biggest increase in sales for that particular week will be given the #1 position – kind of like goal-difference in football. And part of me is slightly sad about that… Farewell, then, to the shared number one single. Well, after we’ve covered the record with which Adam Faith had to share, that is.