It is not just the Queen who celebrates an important 60th anniversary this year – the British singles chart has reached that milestone too. The first chart appeared in November 1952 after Percy Dickins of the New Musical Express rang around 20-odd shops to ask what was selling well for them – and a crooner called Al Martino came out on top.
To mark the anniversary, we asked our writers and regular contributors toguardian.co.uk/music to write about the “best” No 1s of the last 60 years – one per year.
“Best” is of course a problematic term, so what we really mean is favourite … it’s all an incredibly subjective exercise. The hope is simply that what has emerged as a list is in some way true to the history of British pop, in all its peculiar glory.
In the comments thread below, we’d love to know what your favourite is – or you can tweet us using the hashtag #bestnumber1s
(Of course, you can also add your thoughts on any of the 60 separate entries in each comment thread.)
First, here’s what four other well-known pop fans picked when we asked them to nominate their favourite chart topper ever.
David Nicholls, author
Nothing Compares to U by Sinéad O’Connor
What’s is it going to be, Partners in Kryme with Turtle Power or Jive Bunny with Let’s Party? No 1s rarely represent the best in pop music, any more than the Oscars represent the best in film, but they can still snap you back to a time and place. I was in New York when Nothing Compares to U came out, my first time outside of Britain, living in a tiny miserable room on 73rd St that was dark enough to develop photographs.
I was, I think it’s fair to say, a little lonely and home-sick, and this song provided my soundtrack for stomping emotionally around Central Park in a very long overcoat. (Cassette single was my format of choice.) Listening to it now, the synths sound a little synthier than I remember, and the snare-drum sound hasn’t aged well either, but I still like the almost embarrassing emotionalism of it, the way the sentiment is shouted and snarled rather than cooed and warbled.
Stewart Lee, comedian
Sugar Baby Love by the Rubettes
I saw the Rubettes perform Sugar Baby Love on Top Of The Pops when I was 5 in 1974. It was No 1. I liked the man’s high voice. My granddad said he was a nancy boy. My mum bought it me from Woolworths in Shirley high street.
In 1993 I was doing a badly attended stand-up gig in High Wycombe Town Hall. The Rubettes were on in the big hall. I went in their dressing room and ate some of their sandwiches. They were dry.
Today, I have a 1972 Wurlitzer Juke Box. It has Sugar Baby Love on it.
Ian Rankin, author
School’s Out by Alice Cooper
July 1972. School was out. I’d finished my seven years at primary. I was 12 years old and had a seven-week holiday ahead of me, at the end of which lay high school. This was happening in Cardenden, a coal-mining town with no coal left. Things were changing. My peer group was off somewhere getting skinhead haircuts and Doc Marten boots, while I sat in the only cafe around, shovelling small change into the jukebox. At home there was a Dansette record-player.
At 10 I’d bought my first pop single – Double Barrel – and now I was ready to add Alice Cooper’s No 1 hit to my collection. He looked scary and sang about kids in revolt. Good preparation for the coming term and its rites of passage.
Simon Armitage, poet
Going Underground by the Jam
I’d given up caring about the charts by 1980. Or at least that’s what I told other people, but privately I was dying to see one of MY bands scaling the heights, as if a punk or mod or new wave or 2 Tone record getting to No 1 would bring the old order crashing to its knees. I was in the lower sixth at the time. While most of the girls were listening to Judie Tzuke and most of the boys were listening to Black Sabbath there were about three of us trying to register our affiliation to alternative music through our challenging hair cuts and cryptic button badges. As we gathered round the radio in the common room to hear that the Jam’s Going Underground had made it to the top it felt like nothing short of A REVOLUTION and the world would be changed forever.
Three weeks later, it was the Detroit Spinners.
Caspar Llewellyn Smith, The Guardian