As the coronavirus lockdown continues, the Guardian’s music desk thought you is likely to be in want of a distraction – one thing to ship you down reminiscence lane, or to divert the annoyance at your housemates or kids on to us. We current to you a rating of the 100 best UK No 1 singles for the reason that charts started in 1952.
We’ll be counting this down over six weeks – for the primary two weeks, we’ll spend Monday to Thursday counting down 10 at a time. That takes us as much as the Prime 20, and from Monday to Friday for 4 weeks we’ll have standalone celebrations of every remaining track by our crew of critics.
This checklist, and the songs’ order, was compiled by way of a politely raging video name between me, chief rock and pop critic Alexis Petridis and deputy music editor Laura Snapes. The rating isn’t based mostly on gross sales or longevity, it’s the fruit of that dialogue: what we as critics, followers and lifelong listeners suppose are probably the most good songs to high the UK charts, and, of these, that are extra good than others. The one rule was that an artist might solely function as soon as.
As such, it is extremely a lot open to dialogue, which we heartily encourage within the feedback part. We’d love to listen to what you consider our selections – whether or not in settlement or outrage – and listen to your fond or not-so-fond recollections of those singles. After we’ve reached No 1, we’ll ask what you suppose we unforgivably missed out from the general checklist, after which publish highlights out of your picks. Additionally, notice that dates listed are the dates the songs reached No 1.
Take pleasure in!
Ben Beaumont-Thomas, music editor
You can spend years arguing about what constitutes the primary rock’n’roll file. Rock Across the Clock patently isn’t it, nevertheless it was, incontrovertibly, the file that introduced rock’n’roll to mainstream consideration within the UK: two minutes of music that sounded infinitely extra feral than its avuncular artist seemed and that modified pop music for ever. AP
Lorde – Royals (2013)
By disavowing the hole opulence and bloated scale of pop’s reigning class, Lorde by accident ushered in a model new one: there can be no Billie Eilish if not for her conspiratorial incantations. Whereas she weathered accusations of appropriation for disavowing hip-hop cliches in her clearly rap-influenced supply, she finally echoed the style’s personal transfer in the direction of unvarnished portrayals of teenage disaffection instigated by a parallel wave of SoundCloud upstarts. As a lot a generational bellwether as a pop traditional. LS
Recorded in a Coventry entrance room, Mouldy Outdated Dough feels like pop music made by individuals who have by no means really heard pop music, however have had it described to them by somebody who didn’t actually know what they have been speaking about: pub piano, growled vocals, a beat that remembers a drunk doggedly staggering house. The weirdness of 70s Britain in musical kind. AP
Dave and Ansell Collins – Double Barrel (1971)
When you wished proof of how far out, how unbound by the same old guidelines reggae was, you might discover it on the high of the charts in early 1971: a piano line taken – sampled for those who like – from Ramsey Lewis; a vocalist who largely grunted and bellowed incomprehensibly within the type of a Jamaican deejay: “I’m the magnificent W-O-O-O!” It nonetheless sounds improbable. AP
Roy Orbison – It’s Over (1964)
The head of Roy Orbison’s profession as rock’s nice tragedian: three astonishing, inconsolable minutes throughout which stars cry, rainbows weep, golden days are sorrowfully recalled and drums beat a leaden funeral march, earlier than all of it reaches a horrible climax, Orbison desperately repeating the title as if distress is a sort of catharsis. AP
It received’t be an excessive amount of of a spoiler to disclose that that is the one No 1 single on this checklist that issues how the brutally uncaring nature of recent know-how can paradoxically deepen nostalgia whereas rendering the previous irrelevant. Trevor Horn and co turned this materials into postmodern gold, constructing jingles, prog, orchestral pop and extra right into a screwball fantasy. That chilly regular kick drum, in the meantime, is like techno kicking the door right down to take over popular culture. BBT
Dua Lipa – New Guidelines (2017)
After a fitfully profitable begin, this was the track to show the Kosovan-British pop singer into a worldwide star. You possibly can nearly really feel her clamp a hand in your shoulder as she adopts a stern, schoolmarmish tone to dispense these guidelines for breakup survival: don’t reply your ex’s calls, allow them to pop spherical and even be their pal. She’s not telling us or her mates, although, however relatively herself, making for a strong pop psychodrama. BBT
Del Shannon – Runaway (1961)
Behind the straightforward, perky rock’n’roll facade – “the last word fairground anthem”, as author Bob Stanley put it – there’s one thing disturbing about Del Shannon’s greatest hit: an eeriness concerning the rumble of the opening guitar chords and the echoing keyboard solo, a way the vocal is barely too impassioned and pained. The result’s as compelling a single as 1961 produced. AP
Had These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ been sung by a person, as its writer, Lee Hazlewood, had meant, it could simply have been nasty. Sung with insouciant cool by the just lately divorced Nancy Sinatra, nevertheless, it grew to become one thing else solely: camp however robust, humorous however fierce, fully irresistible. AP
Saturday Night time simply pipped Gina G’s Ooh Aah … Only a Little Bit to our 90s Eurobanger slot. First off, it’s an precise Eurobanger (not an Aussie impersonator), and just like the Village Individuals’s YMCA, it has a dance routine invented by followers that got here to outline the track. It’s bought an instantly iconic tag (“dee dee da da da!”), plus it was the victor in one in every of pop’s funniest plagiarism instances: I would like a few of no matter the one that thinks this feels like Lindisfarne’s Fog on the Tyne was having. LS
There will likely be howls of protestation at Bieber being on this checklist, a person routinely cited as all the things that’s facile about pop and celeb. Effectively, he’s had his moments, however that is one in every of his equally frequent triumphs. Taking the Insta-filtered aesthetic of the then-popular tropical home sound and marrying it to a melody that flits like a fowl of paradise at all times coming again to its perch, it has the melancholically fleeting fantastic thing about a package deal vacation sundown. BBT
Producer Richard X will get quite a lot of credit score for the shuddering magnitude of invention behind the Sugababes’ debut UK No 1 – the primary legit single of the 2000s bootleg wave, bringing collectively Adina Howard and Tubeway Military – however not all of it. The newly minted trio of Mutya, Keisha and Heidi pull off a extra convincing “I’m grown now” transition than any of their American pop friends, due to the terrifying nonchalance innate to British teenage women. It’s bought a traditional belting “may-ee!” (that’s “me” in millennial pop phrases) and with out it, you wouldn’t have Sound of the Underground – or, even, probably, whisper it, Poisonous. LS
Craig David – 7 Days (2000)
Just like the Outdated Testomony God, Craig chills on a Sunday, however not like the Outdated Testomony God, he spends Monday and Tuesday engineering intercourse and spends the remainder of the times till the sabbath having it. We seemed upon his creation and noticed that it was good: his vocals, drilled within the dexterity of the storage rave, twine round delicate acoustic guitar strains like two lovers in Eden. BBT
Each a part of Adamski’s manufacturing is completely designed: the unhappy chords, the funkily interrupted alien transmission of the synths, the prodding bassline with its edges nearly imperceptibly corroded by acid. Most stunning of all is Seal: half activist, half oracle. BBT
The Tornados – Telstar (1962)
The product of producer Joe Meek’s twin obsessions – house journey and the recording studio as an instrument in itself – Telstar is otherworldly and breathlessly thrilling, piling on layer after layer of sounds so dense with results it’s not possible to work out what instrument is making them. It’s like nothing else, earlier than or since. AP
This may get you pondering, “I miss the outdated Kanye” – the rapper’s touristic whirl by Ribena, wags and the epithet “garbage” is stuffed with wit with only a contact of his incoming megalomania. Estelle is even higher, completely capturing the temper of unsure pleasure at a possible American lover: “Like the way in which he talking, his confidence is peaking / Don’t like his dishevelled denims however I’d like what’s beneath them.” The bump of will.i.am’s cosmic funk manufacturing launches it into the transatlantic skies. BBT
A long time of ubiquity have dulled the affect of I Will Survive, however the track solely grew to become ubiquitous within the first place as a result of it linked with so many individuals so instantly. The strings soar, the lyrics undertaking defiance within the face of a controlling ex-partner, who’s tried chancing his arm once more: “I’m not that chained up little individual nonetheless in love with you.” AP
Cher – Imagine (1998)
I Will Survive recast in hi-tech 90s dance-pop, full with that infamous Auto-Tune wiggle to Cher’s voice. The impact is definitely used sparingly, and the track’s wild success – 11m copies bought worldwide – is just not right down to something gimmicky. Relatively, it’s all very old style stuff that ensures Imagine will likely be hollered in cheese nights for evermore: a powerhouse melody Cher makes use of to dispense a sort of den-mother knowledge. BBT
“However I don’t look again,” Robyn insists time and again on her solely UK chart-topper, although the racing arpeggiated synths, by no means resolving to the house key, inform a special story: one in every of somebody doomed to the purgatory of heartbreak, or worse, revelling in it (a Greek refrain of strings charged with Kate Bush’s DNA outlines the tragedy). “And – it – hurts – with – ev – er – y – coronary heart – beat,” Robyn pants, and you are feeling it, every syllable touchdown like a tombstone. LS
For somebody who admits how hopeless he was at romance, Elton John couldn’t half-sell a love track. Are You Prepared for Love? runs the gamut of feelings as he tries to win somebody over: he’s casually cool about devotion but awed by it; grandiose in his overtures, then nearly manically overcome by concern that this individual won’t, the truth is, be prepared for love. The Thom Bell-assisted Philly soul manufacturing festoons John with strings, hand percussion, wah-wah guitar, key adjustments – in a way completely echoing the maximalist, hasty strategy to seduction that John has mentioned he practised on the peak of his profession. It’s extraordinary that it took 24 years and a soccer advert to make it a success. LS
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