Two Takes on Number Ones

Remember singles? I remember them as 7-inch vinyl discs, with a song on each side, usually bought for the “a-side”. Since then, they have taken many other forms: 12-inchers, cassingles, downloads, streams,…

A Number One was the single that sold the most copies in a particular week. Why this history lesson now? Because of two takes on number ones, and the intersection between the two.

Take one: on Stereogum, Tom Breihan is reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. As of today (June 5, 2020), he’s just got to mid-1982, when The Human League were #1. Tom is an excellent writer and researcher. Today, as often, I admire his column more than the single it describes.

Take two: in the Guardian, the in-house music critics have just finished ranking The 100 greatest UK No 1s. Yes, this is rabble-rousing clickbait. I am roused to point out that there is at least UK1 that is better than about a hundred of the singles on the Guardian’s list. Sing it, Smokey, and know that very few of the artists on the list are worthy to be mentioned in the same post as you.

I don’t know how the Guardian music writers managed to exclude this wonderful song (and pretty good video, by the way) from their top 100. Perhaps they decided that so ridiculous an exclusion would generate clicks and links. If so, it worked, at least one me.

Enjoy the music and the discussion, and feel free to continue the discussion here.

Entertainment Quarter-Century: New Classic Albums

Entertainment Weekly is celebrating its 1000th issue with a bunch of lists of “new classics” from 1983 to the present. Such lists are, of course, just asking for flames, and Stereogum and its readers rise to the juicy bait of the 100 best albums list.

You can head over to EW to find more lists to chortle over, and even some to be interested by. Or you could stay here for my top 10 albums since 1983. Here’s the list, starting with that very year.

  • Speaking in Tongues, Talking Heads, 1983.
  • High Land Hard Rain, Aztec Camera, 1983.
  • King of America, Elvis Costello, 1986 (53 on EW list).
  • Acadie, Daniel Lanois, 1989.
  • Workbook, Bob Mould, 1989.
  • Electr-O-Pura, Yo La Tengo, 1995.
  • You? me? us? Richard Thompson, 1996.
  • OK Computer, Radiohead, 1997 (62 on EW list).
  • One free slot because I’m bound to have forgotten something, perhaps from this 11-year gap.
  • The Midnight Organ Fight, Frightened Rabbit, 2008.

Yes, I do think that the last of these really is that good, as far as I can tell about such a recent album. Here’s my favorite track from it.

There is a strong bias toward the first half of the quarter-century. And the tenth album might turn out to be something (perhaps by R.E.M.) from those dozen years. In some ways, that’s fine, because it shows that almost all the albums have stood a ten-year-plus test of time.