Music · Trivia

The Best Top 3 Ever

Like many people of my generation I followed the charts (“the pop charts”, as we didn’t call them) as a child, as a teenager, and into my 20s. We listened to the Top 20 rundown on a Sunday evening, we watched “Top of the Pops” every Thursday, and over the years, whenever they changed the day on which the new chart was announced, we changed our listening habits too. I remember a few of us gathered round a radio one school lunch-time on a Tuesday in 1980 hearing that The Jam had gone straight in at #1 with “Going Underground”. It was the first time in many years that any act had gone straight in at the top. Until the 1990s people like me would always know what was #1 in the charts but there have been a few gaps since then. As I type these words the current UK #1 is “One Dance” by Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla. I have heard it because it’s a recent US #1, and most weeks we listen to Paul Gambaccini’s “America’s Greatest Hits” on Radio 2 on Saturday night.

Over the years I have regularly tuned into Ken Bruce’s Pop Master quiz on Radio 2 (10.30am weekday mornings, also available on the iPlayer), have watched most of the repeats of “Top of the Pops” that have been broadcast on BBC4 (they started five years ago with 1976 and are up to 1981 now) and often hear “Pick of the Pops” on a Saturday afternoon. The latter programme (also on Radio 2) plays the hits from two different years, anytime between the 1950s and 1990s. Through programmes like these my knowledge of chart history is tested, revised and updated. With “Pick of the Pops” I can usually work out what was #1 before the chart rundown at the end of each hour. We don’t listen to the show quite so enthusiastically these days. Tony Blackburn was replaced by Mark Goodier earlier this year, and we miss him. Paul Gambaccini has just announced, on his show tonight, that he will be taking over on “Pick of the Pops” in July. It’s good news, but what will happen to “America’s Greatest Hits”? We need to know: it’s our favourite radio show.

Earlier today the years featured on “Pick of the Pops” were 1966 and 1975. 1966 was a bit before my time for watching “Top of the Pops” but I recall 1975 clearly, and correctly guessed that “Stand by your man” by Tammy Wynette was #1. I guessed that “Pretty Flamingo” was still #1 in 1966 but was a week out – it was coming down the charts and had just been replaced by “Paint it, Black”. The 1966 rundown brought to mind that around this time (specifically the chart of 7 May 1966) the UK Top 3 was about as good as it’s ever been:

  1. “Pretty Flamingo”, Manfred Mann
  2. “Daydream”, Lovin’ Spoonful
  3. “Bang Bang”, Cher

The only other time when the Top 3 was so strong was September 1972. On 2 September we had this:

  1. “You Wear it Well”, Rod Stewart
  2. “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, Slade
  3. “School’s Out”, Alice Cooper

(That week “Silver Machine” by Hawkwind was at 4 and “All the young dudes” by Mott the Hoople was at 5. Has there ever been a better Top 5?)

And on 9 September the Top 3 consisted of:

  1. “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, Slade
  2. “You Wear it Well”, Rod Stewart
  3. “All the young dudes”, Mott the Hoople

If I find a better Top 3 than any of these I’ll let you know.

Postscript, March 2017

Earlier this month the following Top 5 was featured on Radio 2’s “Pick of the Pops”. The Top 3 is definitely a contender for “Best Top 3 ever” but I’ve noted the Top 5 because, as Paul Gambaccini pointed out on the show, they are all by British artists, and not one of these singles made the Top 40 in the US. As he said, “Come no feel the Britishness”.

5 “Block Buster!”, Sweet
4 “Part Of The Union”, Strawbs
3 “20th Century Boy”, T. Rex
2 “Cindy Incidentally”, Faces,
1 “Cum On Feel The Noize”, Slade

I had forgotten that “Cindy Incidentally” made it to #2 in the UK. That makes it another contender for my favourite song that was Stuck at 2.

 

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