294. ‘I Hear You Knocking’, by Dave Edmunds

And so we arrive at a song I know very well – a song I’ve loved for a long time. It’s one of my earliest memories of popular music, this song – so early that I have no idea how it got to be there, buried in my consciousness.

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I Hear You Knocking, by Dave Edmunds (his 1st and only #1)

6 weeks, from 22nd November 1970 – 3rd January 1971

I love the choppy guitar, and the fried vocals. The trippy effects in the background, too, that sound like weird sea-creatures calling to one another across the deep. And I love the fact that at heart it’s just a straight-up, chugging, no frills rock ‘n’ roll number. You went away and left me, Long time ago, And now you’re knockin’, On my door…

It’s a sassy song – the singer telling his ex to get the hell out with their sweet words. I hear you knockin’, But you can’t come in… Go back where you been! She left him, though he begged her not to, and Edmunds still isn’t over it. Though he later reveals that this all happened in ’52, when he told her that I would never go with you… Which is both contradictory to what he sang two verses earlier, and a hell of a long time to hold a grudge…

Who cares. Careless lyrics aside, this is a rocking record. Our second whiff of glam at the top of the charts – after ‘Spirit in the Sky’ – and a bit of a throwback. (Over the chorus, Edmunds starts shouting out the names of some fifties rock ‘n’ roll stars – Chuck Berry! Fats Domino! – to leave us in no doubt about to whom this song owes a debt.) Something that sounds like a steam train gets added to the insistent rhythm, and then we get the piece de resistance of the whole record: the single, clanging note from a honky-tonk piano. Dung! Next verse!

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Despite ‘I Hear You Knocking’ sounding like it just crawled out of a Louisiana swamp, Dave Edmunds is actually Welsh. He had had one UK Top 10 with his blues band Love Sculpture, and this was his first, and by far his biggest, solo hit. It’s a staple of 70s Compilations, which is probably where first I heard it as a kid. ‘I Hear You Knocking’ was first recorded in the mid-fifties, by Smiley Lewis (Edmunds also shouts his name out during the solo) and then Fats Domino. Edmunds himself just recently retired from touring in his mid-seventies.

I do love this song, but am struggling to write much more about it. Really though – it’s not the sort of song that needs much writing about. If this record were a person, it’d be a doer, not a thinker. It gets you tapping your feet, and shaking your shoulders, rather than working your brain. I’d simply suggest that you click on the link below and get doing the same…

Actually, one thing that’s worth noting here is how long this, and so many other records, have spent at the top this year. ‘I Hear You Knocking’ got six, as did Elvis and Freda Payne. Mungo Jerry got seven, Edison Lighthouse five. If you look a little further, to the tail end of 1969, Rolf Harris also got six, while The Archies spent eight weeks up there! Not sure what this signifies, other than the fact that we are in the company of some monster hits at the moment – and that they’re going to keep on coming (and staying).

Listen to every number one so far on my Spotify playlist.

276. ‘Bad Moon Rising’, by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Yee-hah! Break out the moonshine, we’re off down the Bayou for a rowdy rock ‘n’ roll shindig with CCR!

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Bad Moon Rising, by Creedence Clearwater Revival (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 14th September – 5th October 1969

I love me some Creedence. And I love that they are the unlikely owners of a UK #1 single. Perhaps the most American band ever; that didn’t hold them back from hitting it big on the other side of the Atlantic. And while it does feel a bit odd that CCR was able to top the charts here; it does make sense that they’d do so with what’s probably their catchiest single.

Catchy, but also terrifying. Zager and Evans kicked us off down an apocalyptic path with our last #1, ‘In the Year 2525’, and John Fogerty and co. keep it up here. I see a bad moon rising, I see trouble on the way, I see earthquakes and lightning, I see bad time today… Something terrible is on its way… Rivers are overflowing, hurricanes are a-blowing. This song has possibly the biggest contrast between melody and lyrics of any chart-topping single. The tune: rough and ready rockabilly. The lyrics: Don’t go round tonight, It’s bound to take your life… There’s a bad moon on the rise…

It’s a short and sweet record, one that breezes in and out in just over two minutes. Apparently it was inspired by a scene involving a hurricane in an old movie, but Fogerty also claims to have written it on the day that Richard Nixon was elected president. For a decade that has been so swinging, so iconic, we’re heading for a sour and cynical finish. Maybe we have to look beyond the charts for the answer here –this is a product of a world where a whole generation of Americans were dying in Vietnam, men were landing on the moon, and Kennedys were getting shot…

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By the final verse, things are getting very intense. Hope you’ve got your things together, Hope you are quite prepared to die… It’s all a bit much, and then we crash to an end. We open our eyes and breathe a sigh of relief that we’re all still here. The end hasn’t arrived, yet… Over and out from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Sadly this is their only #1 single, though we should just be glad that they managed even one. In their home country, they had far more hit singles – ‘Proud Mary, ‘Green River’, ‘Travellin’ Band’, ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ and this record all hit #2 in 1969 / 70. Yet a Billboard #1 eluded them…

I love this track, in all its swamp rocking, apocalyptic glory. But, if you do find it all a bit much, a bit depressing, you can just do what John Fogerty does occasionally in concert: change the words of the chorus to There’s a bathroom on the right…

If the world were ending, you could do a lot worse than soundtracking it with this playlist:

274. ‘Honky Tonk Women’, by The Rolling Stones

A few weeks after bidding The Beatles farewell, we’ve now reached the end of The Rolling Stones’ chart-topping career.

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Honky Tonk Women, by The Rolling Stones (their 8th and final #1)

5 weeks, from 23rd July – 24th August 1969

But, while The Fab Four bowed out with a not-very-Beatles-sounding #1, The Stones wrap things up by doing what they do best – some low-down, dirty rhythm and blues. It starts with a cow-bell, Charlie’s drums, some filthy guitar licks, and Mick’s drawl: I met a gin-soaked bar-room queen in Memphis… (was there ever a more Stonesy opening line than that?) She tried to take me upstairs for a ride…

In my post on their last #1, I wrote that ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ was a new leaf for The Stones, in that they gave up on their attempts at flower-power and psychedelica, and returned to straight-up rock ‘n’ roll. ‘Honky Tonk Women’, then, is a consolidation of that. It sets the template for the next fifty years of the band, through the twin glories of ‘Sticky Fingers’ and ‘Exile on Main St’, through to them becoming the biggest stadium fillers the world has ever seen.

It’s also, basically, Mick Jagger listing women that he’s shagged. The bar-room queen is followed by a divorcee in New York City, and the outrageous She blew my nose and then she blew my mind… line. Goodness. It’s the ho-o-o-onky tonk women, Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues… It’s always easy to forget that Mick and Keith were from Dartford, Kent and not Tennessee or Alabama, such is the Americana that fills some of their biggest hits.

There is an elephant in the room, though. This is the first Stones’ single not to feature founding member Brian Jones, whose slow and acrimonious departure from the band had been confirmed earlier in the year. He was found dead in his swimming pool just three weeks before ‘Honky Tonk Women’ hit #1. A blues purist; we can but wonder if this song would have sounded different with him playing on it.

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Who knows? As it stands we get a sax solo, and a punch the air Woooo! at the very end. It must have been a fun song to write, to record, and to perform every night for the past half-century. I love it. A pure, unadulterated blast of rock ‘n’ roll. You can hear the seventies hits-to-come buried in it – the likes of ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Tumbling Dice’, ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and the like, right through to ‘Start Me Up’. Unfortunately, none of those records will reach top spot in the UK. The Rolling Stones bow out on eight.

Impressively, their final chart-topper gave them their longest run at number one. Quite unusual, that. Though the particularly eagle-eyed among you will notice that 23rd July to 24th August isn’t quite the five-weeks advertised. This is due to the chart publication dates, and collation methods, changing in the midst of ‘Honky Tonk Women’s’ run.

Farewell to The Rolling Stones, then. Without them and The Beatles around to hit #1 every few weeks it leaves a lot of room for some new guys to come along and dominate. The Stones would slowly fade into obscurity as their chart-topping days receded into the distance… Only joking! They remain a going concern – give or take a few changes in line-up – well into their seventies, while Keith Richards’ continued existence remains one of life’s great mysteries… Their most recent album ‘Blue and Lonesome’, even hit #1 in the UK in 2016.

I’ll maybe do a Stones Top 10 soon, covering all their UK singles, but just for fun here’s my ranking of their eight British chart-toppers – based completely on personal preference – from ‘worst’ to best. *Clears throat*:

‘Little Red Rooster’ > ‘It’s All Over Now’ > ‘The Last Time’ > ‘Paint It, Black’ > ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’‘Honky Tonk Women’ > ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ > ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’

Let me know if you agree, or not.

Listen to every number one, including all eight from The Stones, here:

272. ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, by The Beatles

Well then. For one last time, for the 17th time in just over six years, for the 67th, 68th and 69th weeks in total… The Beatles top the UK singles chart.

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The Ballad of John and Yoko, by The Beatles (their 17th and final #1)

3 weeks, from 11th June – 2nd July 1969

Coming so hot on the heels of ‘Get Back’ – only 1 week of Tommy Roe splits them – ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ sounds like an off-cut from the same recording session. It’s a bit rough and ready, there are the same squiggly guitars that we heard on ‘Get Back’, the same country-rock feel… Famously it features only John and Paul, no George or Ringo. I know it didn’t happen like this, but I do like to imagine the pair – the most famous song writing partners in British rock history – waiting behind after all the others had gone home for the day, putting their ever-growing differences aside and recording one last smash hit in a semi-lit studio.

As the title suggests, this is the story of John and his new wife Yoko, and the story of their marriage. They tried to get married in Paris, managed to do it in Gibraltar, and honeymooned in Amsterdam, in the face of some stiff opposition. All told over a simple riff, with Lennon’s vocals growing ever angrier as the verses rattle on.

I get about half the references… Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton, Talkin’ in our beds for a week… = the pair’s ‘Bed-In’ against the Vietnam War. The newspapers said, She’s gone to his head, They look just like two gurus in drag… = Lennon’s feelings of victimisation around his divorce and his new, foreign wife. The way things are goin’, They’re gonna crucify me… A cheeky reference to Lennon’s remarks from a few years earlier, about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus.

Other references are more obscure. The trip to Vienna, eating chocolate cake in a bag is a reference to their ‘bagism’ phase, where they wore bags over their heads in a statement against racial prejudice (everyone looks the same in a bag, right?) The fifty acorns tied in a sack? That took some digging, but is apparently about a pair of acorn trees that John and Yoko planted in the grounds of Coventry Cathedral.

And then there’s the blasphemy. The Christ! that kicks off every chorus – I always enjoyed shouting it out in the car as a kid – with the final one being particularly venomous. Perhaps predictably, this caused a big kerfuffle in the States, with several radio stations at best bleeping the word out or, at worst, refusing to play the record at all. The BBC avoided it, too. 1969 is truly becoming the year in which swearing makes it to the top of the charts, after Peter Sarstedt’s ‘damn’ in ‘Where Do You Go To…’ Meanwhile, in Spain, ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ caused controversy not because of the Christ!s but because of the references to Gibraltar being ‘near’ Spain. As far as Franco was concerned, Gibraltar was very much part of Spain, muchas gracias

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Is it slightly disappointing that this song is the final Beatle’s record we get to hear in this countdown? Before writing, I would have said yes; but the more I listen and the more I find out about this record, I’m not so sure. It’s John at his spikiest, it’s Lennon and McCartney reunited, it’s quite funny in places… Sure it doesn’t sound much like The Beatles, but what Beatles #1 since 1966 has? Plus, the riff that closes out ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, the final notes of their final number one, is lifted from an old rock ‘n’ roll number, ‘Lonesome Tears in My Eyes’, by Johnny Burnette, which The Beatles, or The Quarrymen, used to play way back in the early days. Which is lovely.

I was going to rank all The Beatles 17 #1s in order of preference, but to be honest I can’t face it. I’d need a spare half-day to decide… Of course, this isn’t their final hit single. ‘Come Together’, ‘Something’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘The Long and Winding Road’ are all still to come. Abbey Road hasn’t been released yet. But, the limitations of this blog are clear: if it doesn’t get to #1 then it doesn’t get a look-in.

And, of course, John, Paul and George will pop up many, many more times in this countdown as solo stars, as part of new bands, in re-releases and in amongst charity singles, well into the 2000s. There is only one man we need to bid farewell to here, then. Ringo. He will go on to achieve great things without bothering over the trifling business of topping the pop charts; namely narrating ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, and becoming the most influential voice of my pre-school days… (apologies to my parents.)

247. ‘Lady Madonna’, by The Beatles

Ah, the Beatles. Bringing some sense and stability to the top of the UK singles charts, after a few months of wackiness. But actually, even this, a famous hit record from the most famous band in the world, stands out. It’s nowhere as weird as we’ve heard this year, but it’s still different…

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Lady Madonna, by The Beatles (their 14th of seventeen #1s)

2 weeks, from 27th March – 10th April 1968

For a start, ‘Lady Madonna’ is a piano driven song, which is pretty rare for a Beatles’ single. It’s well-known as a tribute to Fats Domino, which means it’s already the second 1968 #1 to reference the famous pianist, after Georgie Fame’s ‘Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’. Fats scored his biggest hit for a while by releasing his own version later in the year. Incidentally, I just discovered that he only ever had one (!) UK Top 10, which for a founding pillar of rock ‘n’ roll seems scandalous…

Anyway, as good as the piano riff is here, I love it when McCartney’s bass kicks, and even better when the main guitar kicks in for the second verse, growling like a pit-bull. And then comes the saxophone, another instrument that The Fab Four didn’t often use. It’s a song with a swagger and a swing to it. Anyone attempting it at karaoke would have to finish their performance with a mic toss.

In the back of my mind, I know what the song’s about. I’ve read, somewhere and sometime, just who Lady Madonna was. But before I Google and confirm, here’s my interpretation after listening to it for the first time in ages. She’s poor (Wonder how you manage to make ends meet…) with kids (Baby at your breast…), lots of kids (Wonders how you manage to feed the rest…). She’d like to escape (Lady Madonna, Lying on the bed, Listen to the music playing in your head…) but is trapped in a life of drudgery (Thursday night your stockings needed mending…)

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It’s a kind of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ part II, and again Lennon and McCartney – though by this point they were largely writing separately, this being a Paul composition – prove themselves able to go way beyond the regular confines of pop music. ‘Madonna’ gives the woman in the song saintly connotations and – yes, I remembered correctly! – McCartney was inspired to write the song by a picture of a breastfeeding tribeswoman in a copy of National Geographic. The music here might be back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll, but the lyrics are some of The Beatles most cutting. See how they run… What’s ‘running’? The kids? The years? The people that see this poor mother in the street…?

On a far more frivolous note, the use of ‘Madonna’ in the title also opens up a fascinating sub-genre: #1 hits that reference other chart-topping artists! Obviously, they weren’t referencing Madonna Ciccone, who was a good fifteen years away from releasing anything, but still… To be honest, I’m struggling to think of others… ‘Moves Like Jagger’ never quite made it to the top. ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, maybe, as had the charts been around in the 1700s Mozart would have done alright… In ‘Return of the Mack’ Mark Morrison was singing about himself… Let me know if you can think of any other. It’s fascinating, but completely pointless. Anyway.

Anyway, anyway, anyway… All of a sudden, we are approaching the end of The Beatles’ chart-topping careers. This was their fourteenth #1, and there are only three more to go! Luckily, two of them are stone-cold classics. The other is, well… We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

179. ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ by Roy Orbison

In comes an intro that isn’t messing around… Sturdy, confident drums… Then Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun… An intro that builds – a layer added with every repetition – until it morphs into a chain-link of a riff.

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Oh, Pretty Woman, by Roy Orbison (his 3rd and final #1)

2 weeks, from 8th – 22nd October / 1 week, from 12th – 19th November 1964 (3 weeks total)

And then in comes that voice. The Big O. Reigning it in a little compared to his last, full on operetta of a #1 single, ‘It’s Over’Pretty woman, Walkin’ down the street, Pretty woman, The kind I’d like to meet…  Now, let’s pause for just a second. That ‘I’d’ right there, twenty seconds in, makes or breaks this song. ‘I’d like to meet…’ suggests that he’s been a little unlucky in love. Make it ‘I like to meet…’ as some sources do claim, and the singer suddenly becomes a player, a predator, and the song a little icky. I’m going to trust that it’s an ‘I’d’…

Anyway. Roy’s just hanging out, chilling, watching the girls go by. Pretty woman… I don’t believe you, You’re not the truth, No-one could look as good as you… And then a spoken Mercy! that is truly sublime. Pretty woman, Won’t you pardon me, Pretty woman, I couldn’t help but see… That you look lovely as can be, Are you lonely, Just like me…? He may be ogling and approaching passers-by, but he’s a perfect gentleman about it. Plus, he’s lonely. There’s a tenderness to this song that lifts it above other stalker-anthems like ‘I’m Walking Behind You’ and ‘Every Breath You Take.’

Then, though, Roy does something that even he probably can’t get away with. The grrrrrooooowwwwllllll. Let’s pretend the growl never happens, OK? We get to the bridge – a real fifties rock ‘n’ roll throwback – that seals this record’s place among the greats. Pretty woman, Stop a while, Pretty woman, Talk a while… while the drums roll, and a piano tinkles.

As with ‘It’s Over’, ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ stands out against the musical landscape of 1964. It could have been a hit five years earlier, or ten years later. I’m not sure you could say the same of ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’. The Roy Orbison renaissance (the Roynaissance, if I may) of ’64 is probably the most pleasant surprise in a spectacular year of pop music. Though to be honest, he hadn’t been anywhere, and had been scoring big hits throughout the early sixties. It’s just that none of them had made it to the top of the charts.

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We get to the climax of the song, and an already brilliant song is elevated even further. The rules of pop music never applied to Roy Orbison, and he bends them to great effect here. He serves us a cliff-hanger, similar to the one he dishes up at the end of ‘Running Scared’. The woman doesn’t stop, and he’s left disappointed. He slows it down, in his trademark talking-singing-freestyling style: Don’t walk away, Hey…. OK… If that’s the way it must be, OK… Then another moment of perfection – But, wait… Cut to the same drumbeat that opened the song. What’s that I see…? She’s turned around. She’s coming back! Of course she’s coming back. Was there a woman alive who could resist the Orbison charm?

I, as I’m sure you’ve realised, love this record. It’s a Rolling Stone Top 500, Rock n Roll Hall of Fame kind of record. A song that nobody can say a bad word about. I love Roy Orbison too, and still remember getting his greatest hits as a Christmas present back as a kid. Perhaps with the exception of Elvis, no other star of the fifties and sixties had an identifiable image like Roy Orbison. Dark suit, dark glasses, guitar, quiff. It’s up there with Michael Jackson’s hat and glove, and Madonna’s pointy bra. You may think it’s superficial; but it’s a hallmark of the very best pop stars.

Following this, Orbison suffered some pretty lean years in terms of chart hits, and some unimaginable tragedies: he lost his wife and his two eldest sons in the space of two years. But, as with all the greats he came back – The Travelling Wilburys, ‘You Got It’ and all that. And then, just as his comeback was picking up speed, and in a twist befitting one of his greatest ballads, he had a heart-attack and died, in 1988, aged just fifty-two. He’s a legend – plain and simple. The songs that defied convention, the operatic voice, and the dark glasses. The Big O.

158. ‘Do You Love Me’, by Brian Poole & The Tremeloes

Our next chart-topper is, perhaps, a bit of a come-down after we scaled such euphoric heights with ‘She Loves You’. I suppose that is a hard act to follow. But The Tremeloes’ debut at the top isn’t without its merits.

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Do You Love Me, by Brian Poole (his 1st and only #1) & The Tremeloes (their 1st of two #1s)

3 weeks, from 10th – 31st October 1963

For the second chart-topper in three we get an intro that builds… You broke my heart, ‘Cos I couldn’t dance, You didn’t even want me around… in a way that strongly signals that this is a song about to explode (imagine a huge sign saying ‘Up-tempo Pop Song Ahead – 10 seconds’)… But now I’m back, To let you know, That I can really shake ‘em down… It might, off the top of my head, be the very first ever spoken intro we’ve heard on this countdown.

Anyway, the singer clearly went off and had some dancing lessons, or at least a shot or two of tequila, and he’s returned to let his girl know that he can, indeed, cut some shapes. The rest of the song’s lyrics are pretty nonsensical – standard dance music catchphrases from the fifties and sixties: do the mashed potato, you can do the twist, shake it up, shake it down, a little bit of soul now, do you like it like this… And of course, the big question, over and over: Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Now that I can dance….? (Watch me now!)

I used to work in the bar of a bowling alley (as you do), and every Saturday night we’d have a live DJ (hi, DJ Brian) and this was, without fail, one of the last songs he’d play every week. Because there is no better song for yelling along to at the top of your voice, when it’s just past midnight and you’re drunk in a bowling alley, than ‘Do You Love Me’. Take the ‘Now that I can dance’ line, and the layered, ascending ‘Daaaaannnnn Daaaannnnnn Dannnnnnccceeee!’ I will find it impossible to dislike any song that employs this device. They could shove it in the middle of ‘God Save the Queen’ (the national anthem that is; not the Sex Pistols one) and it would work.

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This was, as perhaps you know, originally a Motown record, released one year before by The Contours. It had been a US #1, but hadn’t charted in the UK. I’ve put a link in for comparing and contrasting purposes. For what it’s worth – as with ‘Sweets for my Sweet’ a few posts ago – I like the Motown original a shade better as a song (the tempo is slightly slower, and I think it’s a song that works more effectively with a vocal group rather than with an instrument-playing band). But… The Tremeloes’ version does have an irresistible madcap energy to it – the last chorus, where all the band members yelp and yell over and under one another, is possibly the rawest five seconds of any chart-topper thus far.

The Tremeloes, and Brian Poole, were the first Beat chart-toppers not to come from the North-West of England (they were from Dagenham, just outside London). This was their second hit, and they would go on to score hits – with or without their lead singer Brian Poole – throughout the sixties. We’ll be meeting them one more time, with a record that’s the polar opposite of this. Though, I do have to say, ‘Do You Love Me’ is a record that wins you over by the end. It would have won me over quicker, I suspect, if I’d had a few before writing this post. ‘Do You Love Me’, if you’ll allow me a moment of metaphor, is like a sloppy, untrainable puppy that’s just made a mess of a houseplant. You want to hate it, and maybe get rid of it, but one look at its loveable eyes and everything’s forgiven.

157. ‘She Loves You’, by The Beatles

The record with which The Beatles went stratospheric. Woooosh. That’s them. Off they go. This next song takes everything that was good about their debut chart-topper ‘From Me to You’, everything good about this burgeoning Merseybeat movement, puts it in a rocket, sets engines to warp, and…

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She Loves You, by The Beatles (their 2nd of seventeen #1s)

4 weeks, from 12th September – 10th October / 2 weeks, from 28th November – 12th December 1963 (6 weeks total)

Take the opening drum roll for a start. It takes up less than a second of the song – it is literally a drum roll – but it sets the frantic pace that grips this record and propels it right the way through. And then in thumps the chorus. You’ve heard it, you’ve heard it again, you’ve heard it in German – but it bears repeating: She loves you, Yeah yeah yeah, She loves you, Yeah yeah yeah, She loves you, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah… That is it. That is all there is to it. But there’s a manic energy in those ‘Yeahs’ that even today gives you goose-bumps.

Lyrically this is step up from songs like ‘Sweets For My Sweet’ and ‘I Like It’ – a little more complex. It’s about a man convincing his friend that his sweetheart still loves him: She said she loves you! And you know that can’t be bad… She said she loves you! And you know you should be glad… While the second verse shows that the friend has actually been a bit of a dick: She said you hurt her so, She almost lost her mind… And the final verse is a bit of a lecture: You know it’s up to you, I think it’s only fair, Pride can hurt you too, Apologise to her… What all this means, most importantly, is that it’s not a traditional ‘Love Song’. This is a ‘Rock Song’, with all the yelling and thrashing that that entails. There’s a strong hint of The Everly Brothers in the way that the ‘Bads…’ and ‘Glads…’ at the end of the lines in the bridge split into a high note and a low note. And then those ‘Ooohs’. Oh those ‘ooohs’.

One thing I’ve noticed about ‘She Loves You’ after repeated listens (I’m up to six as I write this paragraph, and I’m far from sick of it yet) is how melancholy the chord structures are, especially in the verses. It’s something The Beatles were excellent at early in their careers, combining the majors and the minors, from ‘P.S I Love You’, through ‘All My Loving’ to the pinnacle of sad-pop, ‘Help!’ If you stripped away the frantic drums, and the ‘Yeah Yeah Yeahs’, and the ‘Ooooohs’ from ‘She Loves You’ – you’d have a sad old song on your hands.

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But that’s a big ‘If’. The unhinged energy of this song, the madcap beat and tempo, are a huge part of its charm. It’s unsubtle, it’s cheesy, it’s glorious. It’s Sledgehammer Pop! Actually no, we don’t need another sub-category. I am, though, going to add ‘She Loves You’ to my oh-so-select list of ‘Time Capsule Pop’ records – the discs that need buried in the ground for all eternity so that the aliens can see what all the fuss was about, can see exactly why humans went crazy for this thing called ‘popular music.’ I invented the category for The Everly’s ‘Cathy’s Clown’, and then retrospectively added Johnnie Ray’s ‘Such a Night’, The Crickets ‘That’ll Be the Day’ and Jerry Lee’s ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ ‘She Loves You’, then, becomes the fifth disc in the pod. And I’d say that, while they will better this disc with some of their later chart-toppers (fifteen still to come, folks!), they will never sound more like The Beatles than they do here. This is the Beatlest Beatles #1 single.

Some facts and figures, before I go. ‘She Loves You’ is the band’s biggest seller in the UK. It is the 9th biggest selling hit ever. It was also #1 in the US, where it was part of the famous all-Beatles Top 5 on the Billboard 100 in early 1964. This was ‘Beatlemania’ – bigger than Sinatra in the forties and Elvis in the fifties. This was HUGE. Back in the UK, ‘She Loves You’ dipped down from the top-spot for an amazing seven weeks before returning to the top in late-November. Even today, no record has had a longer gap between stays at number one, without being re-released. It knocked ‘Bad to Me’ – another Beatles composition – off the top and was then itself finally knocked off the summit by ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. The charts of autumn ’63 were well and truly owned by The Fab Four. We are in the presence of greatness, here.

I have one personal story to tell involving ‘She Loves You’. Back fifteen years or so ago, I went to see McFly in concert (another of the best bands ever, fight me!) and midway through they announced that they were going to play a song that they’d just written backstage that very night. The twelve-year-old girls screamed. They then launched into a cover of ‘She Loves You’. The twelve-year-old girls still screamed. To this day I still wonder how many of them didn’t work it out…

Follow, and listen to every #1 so far, with this Spotify playlist:

154. ‘(You’re the) Devil in Disguise’, by Elvis Presley

Oh hey, Elvis. You still here? You want one more go at the top, before your glory days are well and truly over? Go on then…

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(You’re the) Devil in Disguise, by Elvis Presley (his 14th of twenty-one #1s)

1 week, from 1st – 8th August 1963

I know this song, I love this song, I’ve been playing air guitar to it since I was a nipper. I know it’s a rocker, and I can’t wait to write a blog post about it. But, to hear it coming after Elvis has bored us into submission with his recent #1s: (‘Good Luck Charm’), (‘She’s Not You’), or scared us off completely: (‘Rock-A-Hula Baby). Well, it’s like a real shot of adrenalin.

It starts off sedately: You look like an angel, Walk like an angel, Talk like an angel… But I got wise… I love the filthy, twangy guitar that sounds like a motorbike revving. And then boom! You’re the devil in disguise, Oh yes you are, Devil in disguise…

It’s a song about a girl that just can’t be trusted… You fooled me with your kisses, You cheated and you schemed, Heaven knows how you lied to me, You’re not the way you seemed…

His band are tight, and Elvis really lets loose. It’s good, nay great, to hear him really go for it after his half-arsed recent efforts. I think the fact that this disc wasn’t from a bloated film soundtrack helped here. And, if this is the end of Elvis as a chart-humping global icon (he will only have 2 (two!) further UK #1s in his lifetime!) then what a way to go!

But, the piece de resistance in this record has nothing to do with Elvis himself. Step forward Grady Martin with his swooping, twanging solo, possibly the rocking-est solo to appear at the top of the charts thus far. Back when I was a lad, and harboured (very) short-lived dreams about playing the guitar, this was the first solo that I wanted to learn. Now I know that there are better, more accomplished guitar solos out there but still… There’s something about the rawness and looseness of this one, especially coming from way back in 1963.

Then it’s a pause – You’re the devil in disguise – Ba dum dum dum – and in comes the low-voiced man, Ray Walker, who Elvis saves only for his very best songs, to echo his Oh yes you are… And there we have it. The King’s 10th chart-topper in just over two and a half years. Off the top of my head, I wouldn’t have guessed that Elvis and The Beatles crossed paths at the top of the charts, but they did. Here. Just the once. (Actually twice, but that’s a story for another day…) I like to think he had heard those young upstarts, and that’s what’s pushed him to really give it his all on this disc. It’s not perfect – it’s a bit Vegasy and Elvis’s voice is still in crooner-mode – but I love it. And, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters…

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Just because – he is Elvis F’ing Presley after – let’s go all Buzzfeed and rank his post-army #1s. In ascending order then, with double ‘A’-sides split apart:

‘Wooden Heart’ (ugh) >>>>>>> ‘Rock-A-Hula Baby’ (woah) >>>>>>> ‘Good Luck Charm’ (meh) >>>>>>> ‘It’s Now or Never’ (controversially low?) >>>>>>> ‘She’s Not You’ (so-so) >>>>>>> ‘Surrender’ (silly but decent) >>>>>>> ‘Return to Sender’ (soft-spot) >>>>>>> ‘(You’re the) Devil in Disguise’ (yep) >>>>>>> ‘Little Sister’ >>>>>>> ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ >>>>>>> ‘His Latest Flame’ >>>>>>> ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’

There you have it. Let me know in the comments if you agree or think I’ve lost my faculties. For The King, this is over-and-out for a while. Elvis has not quite left the building, but he’s gone for a long walk. It’ll probably do him some good…

149. ‘Foot Tapper’, by The Shadows

Once again, The Shadows replace themselves at #1, and all I have to say is ‘Thank God!’ Thank God that ‘Summer Holiday’ wasn’t their final UK chart topper. For the group that contributed more to British rock ‘n’ roll than any other act to bow out from the top spot with a record as sickeningly twee and limp as that would have been a travesty.

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Foot Tapper, by The Shadows (their 12th and final #1)

1 week, from 28th March – 4th April 1963

Thank God for ‘Foot Tapper’, then, as it ensures that Hank, Bruce and the other two score their final number one with, in my opinion, the best of the lot. OK, ok, ‘Foot Tapper’ might not be as sweeping as ‘Apache’, as epic as ‘Wonderful Land’ and it might not rock as hard as ‘Kon-Tiki’; but it is an insanely catchy little number.

What does it consist of? A light and limber riff? Check. Natty little drum fills? Check. A bouncy bassline? Check. A super-appropriate title? Check. (Go on – press play on the link below and watch your feet start tappin’.) Unlike their previous #1, ‘Dance On’, this one really does get you moving. This record just has a joie de vivre about it, a certain je ne sais quoi… It’s a song of such special potency that it’s got me speaking French.

It’s a very fitting way to round off three months of unparalleled Shadows dominance in the UK Singles charts. We’ve had The Shadows with Cliff twice (‘The Next Time’ and ‘Summer Holiday’), we’ve had solo-Shadows (‘Dance On!’ and now this) and we’ve had ex-Shadows (‘Diamonds’ from Jet Harris and Tony Meehan). They’ve replaced themselves at the top twice this year already, and now sit right behind Elvis Presley himself as the act with the most #1s in chart history. (Skip forward forty-six years, and The Shadows still remain joint-fifth in the all-time #1s list – level with Take That, and behind only Elvis, The Beatles, Cliff, Westlife and Madonna.)

And while we’re on the theme of Dominance, it is worth noting that ‘Foot Tapper’ is the 3rd chart-topper to be taken from the soundtrack to ‘Summer Holiday’. I’m not sure that there has ever been a more successful soundtrack than that. And… these Cliff ‘n’ Shadows number ones over the past few months have all been produced by the same man: Norrie Paramor. The same Paramor that also produced the only non-Shadows chart-topper of 1963 so far, Frank Ifield’s ‘The Wayward Wind’. So it could be argued that it is he that truly has the charts in a chirpy, string-drenched stranglehold.

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Back to the record in question, though, and I am not alone in holding ‘Foot Tapper’ in high-regard. The tune was, of course, the theme to ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ on Radio 2 – a show that I’ve mentioned before and will happily mention again whenever the opportunity arises. This meant that, no matter what tunes had been played in the preceding two hours – Procol Harum, Velvet Underground, experimental Scott Walker ‘B’-sides… – the last tune you always heard was this. Da-da-da-doo-doo, Doo-doo-dun-dun-da-da…

And so. We arrive at the end of an era. And I don’t just mean in the sense that we’ll never hear from The Shadows again. I mean that this is officially the end of the ‘rock ‘n’ roll age’, which we’ve been wading through ever since Bill Haley shouted ‘One, two, three o’clock…’ back in November 1955. Because of this I’m going to break my own rules slightly and do the next recap one song early (Gasp!) The first number one single after said recap will then be the starting pistol for perhaps the biggest, most influential movement in British popular music history! I’m excited! Are you…?