Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Secrets of Getting to Number 1

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Secrets of Getting to Number 1

Article excerpt


IN tune with the accelerated times in which we live, the only position that now matters in today's pop chart is the one at the very top. In the Sixties, it was perfectly respectable to register a position in the Top 40.

Over the ensuing decades, this focus of achievement became progressively narrower, until we arrive at a position where everyone but the winner is a total loser. This week, Gareth Gates is setting about selling more records than Will Young did last week, which will be more and faster than anyone has ever managed.

These two young hopefuls have taken advantage of the latest developments in marketing, which is to have saturation coverage guaranteed by massive TV exposure, to the extent that we know Gareth and Will better than we do some members of our immediate family.

Meanwhile, a great name from the latter part of yesteryear, George Michael, has a new record out which is fast disappearing into the slipstream.

Bye-bye, George. Hello, the new order of pop.

This is depressing news for all of us, but most of all for other pop stars, both established and aspiring. It is not given to many to fight out the final round of Pop Idol, the ultimate karaoke spectacle which has sent Will and Gareth into orbit. Those who are not so lucky may find to their cost that merely being in possession of a great song is no guarantee of success.

However, if we look to the past and learn some of its lessons, all may not be lost. Over the past 50 years of the charts, there have been many Number Ones, some of which utilised exciting and imaginative ways of getting there. What follows is a guide to reaching the top based on the invaluable experiences of a number of adventurers who have been there before.

Get Yourself Banned

In 1969, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin got together to record Je T'Aime (Moi Non Plus). It was clever of them to record the song in French because no one knew what it meant, but everyone needed a copy for casual chic. The masterstroke, though, was the sexual moaning which announced something rude was afoot. The record was promptly banned and instantly went to the top.

Get Into a Fight

We remember the occasion as if it were only yesterday, when it was, in fact, the day before. Blur and Oasis were squaring up in the playground of pop, hurling taunts and abuse at each other, with the distant promise of a right duffing-over.

The two groups released singles on the same day, something which even the Beatles and Rolling Stones avoided. One of them had to win. The downside is that one of them came second.

Behave Outrageously

Bill Drummond and Billy Cauty went under many names, most famously KLF.

Their records were among the cutest examples of the postmodernist tendency - borrow heavily, wink furiously - but their calling card was a tendency towards outrage. …

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