The Surprise Number 1 Records of the 1970s

The 1970s was a decade when popular music genres changed regularly. The decade saw so many different styles of music that the youth of the country were becoming increasingly self-aware of what music they were listening to and what they were buying.

This was reflected by what people were wearing. At the start of the decade, denims were flared, hair was long, and shoes were high heeled. By the time the 1980s approached, the hair was shorter and spiked, the trousers were tight, and the shoes were pointed. Music shifted not unlike the fashion, and there were certain artists who managed to top the charts with the most un-likeliest of records.

The start of 1971 saw Clive Dunn reach number 1 with his single “Grandad” which remained at the top of the charts for 3 weeks. Dunn was more popularly known for appearing as Lance Corporal Jones in the BBC comedy “Dads Army” and was not known as a singer. The record remained in the charts for 27 weeks and the 51-year-old actor never recorded another single.

The end of the year also saw another rather unusual act top the charts and that was Benny Hill. If Benny Hill was performing today, the “political correctness brigade” would never let him get anywhere near the television screen. His humor was based on innuendo and slapstick and was rather sexist in its nature. In December he released the single “Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west)”. The record told the story of the battle for a woman’s love between a milkman and a baker and was more a funny sketch as opposed to a musical masterpiece. This did not stop the record topping the charts for four weeks over the Christmas and New Year period.

The theme of comedy actors producing a hit record continued in 1975 when Windsor Davies and Don Estelle combined to produce the record “Whispering Grass”. The pair were known for their performances in the comedy series “It aint half hot mum”. This was another show that simply would not be shown today, yet in the 1970s it was very popular. The song lasted at number one for three weeks and the majority of the purchasers would have been fans of the show. Although Don Estelle was pitch perfect throughout the performance, it wouldn’t have appealed to many of the younger music fans that were buying the majority of the records that were being sold each week.

Telly Savalas was a big star in the 1970s as he played the part of Kojak in the American detective series of the same name. He was famous for his bald head, his lollipop that he was always sucking, and his catch phrase “who loves ya baby?”. He had a huge appeal to middle aged audiences and it was this fan base that went out to the record stores in 1975 to purchase his single “If”. This was enough to keep it at the top of the charts for two weeks and during this period, the record outsold other singles from more established artists, such as “The Carpenters” and “Cockney Rebel”. In a way, it was reassuring that during this period the flexibility of the charts meant that all types of records could reach number one.