The Stargazers, Don Cornell, The Johnston Brothers, The Dream Weavers, Jerry Keller…? Nope, me neither. But they’ve all had the honour of topping the UK singles chart.
How well a single performs in the charts can be influenced by various things… promotion, star power, tastes and trends, time of year… pure luck. And that most fickle, unpredictable of factors: the general public. Do enough of them like your song to make it a smash? Or will they ignore it, and let it fall by the wayside?
I’m taking a short break from the regular countdown to feature five discs that really should have topped the charts. Be it for their long-reaching influence, their enduring popularity or for the simple fact that, had they peaked a week earlier or later, they might have made it. (I’ll only be covering songs released before 1964, as that’s where I’m up to on the usual countdown.)
Next up… A record that changed the course of popular music?
Please Please Me, by the Beatles
Reached #2 in February 1963
As with Elvis, I don’t need to go giving The Fab Four any extra number one singles. By the end of their chart careers, they’d had seventeen of them. And as much as I love this single (if it had been one of their #1s it would probably be in my Top 5) , and as much as I wish that this had been their first ever chart-topper, that isn’t why I’m including ‘Please Please Me’ in this mini-countdown.
I touched on it in my last post, on the mega-long running #2 hit ‘Stranger on the Shore’, but the charts of the 1950s and ’60s were a tad confused. There wasn’t just one of them, for a start. You had the ‘Melody Maker’ chart, the ‘NME’ chart, and the ‘Record Retailer’ chart. None of which offered a complete overview of a week’s sales – they all conducted ‘surveys’ of selected record stores over the phone…
‘Please Please Me’ hit #1 in the NME chart (which had the largest circulation) and ‘Melody Maker’ chart, but it only reached #2 in ‘Record Retailer’, which was the one that the UK Singles Chart chose to follow. So, it may well have been the biggest selling single at some point; we’ll just never know for sure… The history books record it as having stalled behind Frank Ifield’s dull-as-dishwater ‘The Wayward Wind’ for two weeks.
It’s far from the only single to have suffered this unfortunate fate – it wasn’t until 1969 that the UK charts were unified into one – but it’s a landmark single from the biggest pop group in history, with one of the very best middle-eights, ever… So enjoy.
5 thoughts on “Songs That Should Have Been #1… ‘Please Please Me’, by The Beatles”
This should have been number 1 no doubt. It’s superior to From Me To You in many ways to me anyway.
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The different charts were indeed a tad confusing, and it was indeed the ‘Record Retailer’ Top 50 that was displayed each week in every self-respecting record shop at the time that was regarded as the ‘official’ one, and the one on which the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles took its data. For some reason, Top of the Pops on BBC TV used a slightly different chart – possibly ‘NME’, ‘MM’ or their own? I’m not sure about the Top 10 on Alan Freeman’s ‘Pick of the Pops’ each Sunday afternoon though. ‘RR’, BBC TV and Radio 1 charts were all standardised in February 1969 when the British Market Research Bureau took over the Top 50. Some of the music papers continued to produce their own, though. If you read ‘NME’ or ‘MM’, in 1970 ‘Reflections of my Life’ (Marmalade), ‘All Right Now’ (Free), ‘Lola’ (The Kinks), ‘Black Night (Deep Purple) and I think also ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’ (McGuinness Flint), all made No. 1 in the inkies, as did some years later ‘Ballroom Blitz’ (Sweet), ‘God Save the Queen’ (Sex Pistols), ”Rockin’ All Over the World’ and ‘Anniversary Waltz’ (Status Quo), and ‘Upside Down’ (Diana Ross) among others.
Yeah, the big ‘discrepancies’ I’ve heard about over the years are ‘Please Please Me’, ‘God Save the Queen’ (obviously) and – if I remember correctly – ‘Do It Again’ by the Beach Boys. I would quite like to live in a world where ‘Lola’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ had been #1 hits!
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