REDUX: A Thousand Number One Albums In The UK

November 25, 2013

Today on the BBC was a feature examining the thousand albums that have topped the British charts since their point of origin in July 1956. I wondered how many of those best sellers would fall  under the purview of this blog? So for the sake of argument, I picked through 1975-1987 and this is what managed to rise to the top.

sex pistols - nevermindthebollocksUKLP!blondie-parellel linesLPAtubeway army - replicasgary numan - the pleasure principleblondie-eattothebeatUSLPApolice-regattadeblancthe pretenderspeter gabriel - 3roxy music - flesh+bloodgary numan - telekondavid bowie- scary monsyerspolice-zenyattamondattaUKLPAadamant-kingspfthewildpolice - ghost in the machinehuman league darethe jam the giftroxy music - avalonabc - lexicon of loveu2-wartears for fears - the hurtingdavid bowie - lets dancespandau ballet - truepolice synchronicityyazoo - you an dme bothcomplete madnessculture club - colour by nubersduran duran - seven and the ragged tigerwurythmics - touchsimple minds - sparkle in the rainthompson twins - into the gaphoward jones - human's libdavid bowie tonight UKLPAU2 unforgettable fireOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfgth - welcome to the pleasuredomethe smiths - meat is murder UKLPAthe style council - our favourite shopbryan ferry - boys + girlssimple minds -once upon a timebryan ferry roxy music street life 20 hitsthe police - the singlesu2 the joshua treesimple minds - live in the city of light

That’s only 43 albums in a 12 year period. We often think of the UK as being the epicenter of the Post-Punk Explosion; and it was: but that and five dollars will get you a latte. Against the cosmic scheme of things, our little musical revolution was a small blip in the musical radar. A look at the complete list here will cause your eyes to glaze over with the crushing banality of it all. That’s even taking into account the largely middle-of-the-road offerings above! I own 31 of those and have once owned a scant pair of those titles in the vinyl days. I’ve not heard nine of those albums.

The one album that seemed to have come from nowhere to top the charts in a shockingway would have to be the second Yazoo album, “You And Me Both!” The news that it reached the top is fairly flabbergasting to me. It’s an album that was exceptionally low on my radar, and I had previously bought [and enjoyed] the first Yazoo album! Another shocker was the Big Country album. I would have thought that if any of their waxings had been chart-toppers, it would have been their debut, “The Crossing.” I can’t even name a track off of “Steeltown.”

A sobering thought is that the first six albums on the top row encompass three years of chart-time! In 1977 acts like Leo Sayer and Boney M had a lock on the charts that wouldn’t quit. The breakthrough of the Sex Pistols therefore is even more exceptional than what it seems on the face of it. Compared to granny-friendly pop like Leo Sayer, even past-its-sell-by-date-prog like Yes’ “Going For The One” was practically synthpop nirvana!

It’s surprising to gauge just how popular The Police were. Every album but their first topped the charts. Including their greatest hits comp. Even Blondie had only two chart toppers! It’s hard to believe that at least “Autoamerican” didn’t hit number one as well! On the other hand, Gary Numan was perhaps bigger than I dared guess. Only the brilliant [but left field] “Dance” album of 1981 stopped his continuous run at the top.

Another thought. Except for Deborah Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Alison Moyet, and Annie Lennox, this looks like it was a boy’s club. It’s surprising that only a single Eurythmics album was a number one hit as well. I would have picked “Sweet Dreams” at least as another champion.

The Smiths managed only a single number one in this light, but that they did it from a vantage point on Rough Trade was a dramatic accomplishment. Especially considering what bands are missing from this list. Like for instance The Clash. I would have expected to at least see “London Calling” on this grid. That they couldn’t scale the chart even with CBS behind them as compared to The Smiths is very surprising.

This is a provocative list that reveals many patterns that bear comment, so let’s get to it!

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to REDUX: A Thousand Number One Albums In The UK

  1. diskojoe says:

    No Kate Bush among your picks?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      diskojoe – Nope. I’m seriously down on Kate Bush these days… and by these days I mean the last 29 years. The only album of hers I still like is “The Dreaming,” which did not trouble the top spot, sadly. If it had, I would have included it. Right now I am even trying to sell off my “This Woman’s Work” Japanese boxed set from 1990. I might have listened to it 3-4 times since spending a fortune on it back then.

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  2. Richard McKinney says:

    Oh mighty Steeltown. Soundtrack of my youth.

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  3. Brian says:

    I expected to see more titles. Then again, imagine how small that graphic would be with Billboard No. 1 albums! There are some truly important albums to me above, and Steeltown would be right up there. I think it’s at least as good as the Crossing. Unfortunately, I lost interest pretty quickly after 1984.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Brian – There’s not too many really great number one UK albums in that decade long period. I used to read Billboard and the UK scene was covered as well, and they had their own brands of dreck that rose to the top of the charts. Of all of those albums, my pick as favorite was overwhelmingly “Peter Gabriel III.” 1980 was a watershed year for my listening and while “Scary Monsters and Supercreeps” and “Flesh + Blood” were both top five albums of the year for me, there’s only room for a single number one.

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  4. Echorich says:

    3 for Gazza! That’s very satisfying for me. Lexicon Of Love would have been the first #1 that came to mind and I am a bit gobsmacked to see Bowie’s Tonight there! That Sparkle In The Rain made it to the top of the heap, shows how much momentum they created with each album to that point.

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