1,404 UK number one singles: key stats and trends

PA news agency analyzed 10 characteristics of each of the 1,404 UK number-one singles from 1952 to the present.

Here are the main findings:

– Key

Number one hits in the small keys were rare in the early years of the chart, the first being Rosemary Clooney’s Mambo Italiano in January 1955.

From 1952 to 1977, only 25 people topped the main rankings, representing 6% of the total, and in those 14 years there were none.

A shift occurred in 1978 (21% in minor keys) and 1979 (39%), coinciding with the emergence of major genres such as reggae, disco and electronic music.

Since then, songs in the minor keys have topped every year, although only three times have they outnumbered songs in the major keys, all recent: 2019 (58%), 2020 (55% ) and 2022 so far (55%).


Rosemary Clooney, who performed the first UK number one with the extra key, Mambo Italiano in January 1955.

– Fade-outs

Until the late 1950s, almost every number one stopped abruptly. Then a trend began for songs using fades, appearing on more than half (52%) of all first numbers in 1965 and reaching a whopping 93% in 1971.

This level remained high for the next several years, reaching 100% in 1983. After that, the trend declined, falling below 50% in 1991 and hitting zero in 2011.

Since then, only 23 numbers have ended with a blur and none to date.

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– Time signature

Songs with four tight beats in a bar are not always common: in 1953, 36% of songs followed waltz, along with 21% in 1967, such as Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Last Waltz .

But anything other than 4/4 time is now rare: there have only been 13 examples in the UK so far this century. The most recent is Michael Ball and Captain Tom Moore’s version of You’re Never Walk Alone in April 2020.

The final number one in 3/4 of the strict time was Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne’s Change in December 2003.


Engelbert Humperdinck greets fans at Heathrow Airport in 1970 (PA)

– Speed, velocity

The average speed, or tempo, of number ones increased from 99 beats per minute (BPM) in 1953 to 137 in 1957 with the advent of rock and roll. There was another spike in 1963, at 133 BPM, fueled by the success of The Beatles, Gerry And The Pacemakers and other British guitar groups.

The average then started to decline, reaching 98 BPM in 1975 thanks to slow ballads like Rod Stewart’s Sailing and 10cc’s I’m Not In Love.

There were signs of a revival in the early 1980s, with BPM reaching 122 in 1982, but this was short-lived. Since then, the average has mostly remained in the low 100s, although there was a drop to 92 BPM in 2017, mainly due to songs by Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran.

– Period

The average length of a chart top surpassed three minutes for the first time in 1967 and four minutes in 1984.

It peaked at an average of four minutes and 16 seconds in 1997, thanks to songs like The Verve’s The Drugs Don’t Work (five minutes and two seconds) and D’You Know What I Mean? of the Oasis (big seven minutes and 21 seconds), but has since dropped again, dropping to three minutes and seven seconds in 2019.


Oasis fans wait for the ticket office to open at Olympia in London in July 1997 for tickets to the band’s latest tour (David Giles/PA)

– Solo player vs group

Soloists dominated the top spot for much of the 1950s, but by 1963 that had dropped to just 11% of the top performers with the rise of British guitar groups.

Since then, solo tracks have rarely reached more than 50%, with groups, duets or other collaborations taking up the majority of the number one spots.

There’s been a slight resurgence in recent years, including 2015, when solo artists made up 61 percent of the chart tops, thanks to the likes of Justin Bieber, Adele and Jess Glynne.


Jess Glynne performing on stage during the Capital FM Jingle Bell Ball in December 2015 (Yui Mok/PA)

– Change key

Almost half (43%) of the inputs in 1953 had a significant change, but by 1959 it had dropped to a third (33%) and fell further as the years passed.

The first full year without major changes was 1993. There was a brief rally in the early part of the decade, led by Westlife, who used it on 10 of their 14 number one hits. .

But only one chart-topper in the past nine years has implemented one important change: a cover version of You’re Never Walk Alone in April 2020.

– Gender

There hasn’t been a year where exclusive girl groups have taken the majority of the number one spots, and only one year when they hit 50%: 1998, thanks to names like All Saints, B*witched, Cher, and the Spice Girls.

For 14 years, the total number of female and mixed activities exceeded the activities of all men. Eight of these 14 numbers are from 2008, including a peak of 71% in 2009.

– Ethnic

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, whites were responsible for nearly all of the UK’s chart-toppers, and in some years (1953, 1963 and 1965) they accounted for 100%.

It wasn’t until 1992 that white artists made up less than half of the chart tops for the first time (46% versus 54% according to mixed/non-white artists), thanks to like Tamin Archer, Boyz II Men and Whitney Houston.

There were only 5 other years when mixed/non-white artists had more white artists: 2009 (61%), 2010 (74%), 2011 (57%), 2012 (53%) and 2020 (65%) .

– Nationality

In 1955 and 1960, UK-only artists won just over half of the chart tops (57% and 63% respectively), but it wasn’t until the late 1960s that tree talent Homegrown houses really dominate the top spot, reaching 83%. among the top in both 1963 and 1964.

Since then, the numbers have tended to be approximate, although there were peaks for UK-only actions in 1981 (74%, spurred on by the likes of Shakin’ Stevens and Adam & The Ants); 1996 (75%, with chart toppers from George Michael, The Spice Girls and others) and 2021 (77%, thanks to Adele and Ed Sheeran).

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/the-uks-1404-number-one-singles-key-statistics-and-trends-42141825.html 1,404 UK number one singles: key stats and trends

Fry Electronics Team

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