Also in my garage: classic bubble cars and number-one singles

| 26 Jan 2024
Classic & Sports Car – Also in my garage: bubble cars and number-one singles

An unsuspecting set of shelves houses Dave Watson’s record-breaking music collection.

Your head tells you that a complete set of UK number-one singles should warrant a dedicated room, or at least an entire wall, but a fairly small unit in the corner of Dave’s living room is actually enough for the c1500 chart-topping tracks from 1952 to today.

A framed certificate from Guinness World Records ensures you don’t miss it.

Classic & Sports Car – Also in my garage: bubble cars and number-one singles

Dave Watson’s physical collection ranges from a 1952 Al Martino hit record to a 2018 chart-topping CD

Starting with the first-recorded UK number-one single, Al Martino’s Here in My Heart, and spanning more than 70 years of music history, it’s possibly the only complete set in the world.

A top-12 chart was pioneered in 1952, by the New Musical Express newspaper, and based on sales from a pool of record shops, then later usurped by rivals such as Record Retailer’s top 50 in 1960, before being compiled by the Official Charts Company from 1969.

“It’s almost a social history,” says Dave, who started the collection after he was given a copy of the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles for Christmas in 1987, a few years before he bought his BMW Isetta, which now sits alongside a Messerschmitt KR200 in his modest garage.

Classic & Sports Car – Also in my garage: bubble cars and number-one singles

The garage is also home to Dave’s BMW Isetta (closest) and Messerschmitt KR200

“I started working out how on earth I was going to collect them all,” he recalls.

“We didn’t have the internet in 1988. I bought the 20 March number one, which was Aswad’s Don’t Turn Around, and that was it: I was hooked.”

Local record fairs were good places to start: “I talked with the dealers, explaining what I was trying to do.

“Some of them had shops and I’d go with a handwritten list that I’d copied from the book. It was quite long to start with.”

Classic & Sports Car – Also in my garage: bubble cars and number-one singles

The collection of number-one singles was awarded a Guinness World Record in 2022

“After a while, I decided to concentrate on a few years at a time,” explains Dave.

“I’d get as many as possible and then move on, avoiding looking for needles in haystacks.

“Eventually it came together and people even started helping me look.”

When Dave managed to track down the elusive (How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window? by Lita Roza on eBay, in 2001, his collection was finally up to date: “I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to keep it going now.’”

Classic & Sports Car – Also in my garage: bubble cars and number-one singles

From the c1500-strong collection, Dave picks The Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star (left) as his favourite single

As physical singles became more difficult to get hold of, Dave turned to iTunes digital downloads. “I would then create a compilation disc of each year’s music,” he explains.

These ‘Now That’s What Dave Calls Music’ albums have helped keep track of the latest releases in his still-growing vinyl and CD collection.

After an appearance in The Guardian to celebrate 70 years of the UK’s Singles Chart in November 2022, Guinness World Records invited Dave to claim the biggest collection of UK number ones: “I had to photograph every single in the collection to prove it.

“Laying them all out on the floor took a whole weekend.”

Classic & Sports Car – Also in my garage: bubble cars and number-one singles

The earliest records are made from shellac, before vinyl took over

Although the collection comprises roughly 1500 singles, the record stands at 1242 because Guinness World Records could not accept Dave’s homemade tapes.

“The record could be broken,” he admits. “It only needs an artist to release a physical single.”

Perhaps Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God), which didn’t reach number one in 1985, but hit the top spot in 2022 after it featured in Netflix series Stranger Things, could help beat the record.

Flicking through the collection, Dave points out his favourite single, The Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star, and one he’s less fond of, St Winifred’s School Choir with There’s No One Quite Like Grandma.

“I hate the bloody thing, but it’s part of the chart’s history,” he smiles.

Images: John Bradshaw

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