Here’s a photo of my vinyl copy of the current UK #1, and the picture sleeve that it came in.
As you can see, it’s “Running up That Hill” by Kate Bush, an old-fashioned 7” single. The picture shows her using a bow and arrow. The song first entered the UK charts in August 1985 and made it to #3. Now, nearly 37 years later, it has set all sorts of chart records by reaching #1.
This page on the Official Chart Company website tells us that “Kate boasts the longest-ever gap between Number 1 singles in Official Chart history” (it’s 44 years since her previous #1, “Wuthering Heights”). The 37 years, more or less, that it took the song to reach #1 is also a record, beating the 36 years and one month taken by “Last Christmas” in 2021. Kate Bush has also become the oldest female artist to reach #1, over 10 years older than Cher was when “Believe” hit the top in 1998.
The weekend before last, when the song was at #2, I dug out my old vinyl copy of the single and played it on our portable turntable. It’s a long time since we had a space dedicated to a record player. My ION Duo Deck USB turntable is usually boxed up. I took it out and set it up just before dinner on Saturday night, to remind my children of how vinyl records work. In addition to the Kate Bush single I showed them two 12” LPs: my wife’s copy of “Parallel Lines” by Blondie (an album I never owned) and my copy of “Heroes” by David Bowie.
And then I did something that I had never shown them before. I played the 45rpm single at 33rpm, and a 33rpm album track at 45rpm. “Running up That Hill” still sounds good slowed down, moody and deliberate, and Kate Bush’s voice sounds fine in that lower register. By contrast the speeded-up version of “Heroes” sounds like a disco track sung by the Chipmunks: amusing, but not good.
At the start of last year, in this piece, I wrote about our collection of 7” singles, and how I had spent time rearranging them: all of the songs that reached #1 or #2 have been gathered together. We have nearly 100 chart-toppers on vinyl, around 7% of the total of nearly 1400. I have just looked through that box of singles and can see that before now the most recently purchased #1 in our vinyl collection is from 1988: “Perfect” by Fairground Attraction. There is also a copy of “It’s Now or Never (O Sole Mio)” by Elvis Presley from 1960. It reached #1 on re-release in 2005.
The last time that I bought a 7” single that reached #1 was in August 1990. My brother’s daughter turned four that month. I was unable to get to Spain for her birthday, but other members of my family went, and, symbolically, I sent four 7” singles with them. These included the UK #1 on the date that they travelled: “Turtle Power” by Partners in Kryme. It could have been worse. On her actual birthday it had been replaced by “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” by Bombalurina.
It’s Friday afternoon. The new chart will be announced in a few hours’ time. I own a vinyl copy of the current UK #1. This might never happen again.