How To Have A Number One

Our so-called columnist explains how you, yes you, can have a Number One hit. We pay him for this. We actually pay him. It’s hard to believe we know

In 1988, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty published ‘The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way)’ outlining a route to chart success. Their advice included riding London Underground’s Circle line until you came up with an idea, which was a bit difficult if you lived in Worksop, Whitby or Winnipeg. Austrian producers Edelweiss followed the book’s guidelines for their yodelling smash hit ‘Bring Me Edelweiss’, notable for its usage of ABBA, Falco and that whoop sound so beloved by Timmy Mallett.

But that was the 80s when stardom only required a splatter of make-up, an elephantine drug habit and a perm. Mainly the perm. The musical landscape of the 80s was a freshly mown lawn in comparison to today’s landscape, which is an overgrown multi-genre jungle of snaking vines, angry nettles and those gummy plants that leave spiky seeds all over your cardigan. So how do you achieve a Number One single in 2020?

Firstly, your video needs to be 20 million hours long. Take Lil Nas X’s smash hit ‘Old Town Road’. The promotional video is mainly the dapper Mr X clopping around on horseback: the song itself is seven seconds long. YouTube success depends on pop promos telling grand narratives, when in fact it’s just a bloke on a horse for a bit. Copy this style on a small budget by taking plenty of atmospheric shots of your aunty Pamela straddling a Labrador.

Secondly, if you have a beard, it needs to be wig. “Wig” is slang for “fabulous”, while “beard” is normal for “beard”. Neat facial hair says, “My pubic garden is pruned and ready for sprinkling”. Look at Canadian popster Drake’s beard. It’s strimmed to within millimetres of its geometric life. If I had a beard like that, my trouser topiary would be on the front page of National Geographic.

Thirdly, no guitars. You’re reading an electronic music magazine, so I assume guitars perturb you as much as, say, rabid dogs or distressed jeans. Every time I see a guitar, I end up screaming, “Where’s the keyboard?” or “Why hasn’t it got a touch ribbon?” or “Why did mummy leave?”. 

Any guitar sound must be a Casio preset that sounds like a wasp being disappointed at its life choices. Don’t put any effort into production because people will be listening to it on £10 Tesco headphones – if it sounds like an oompah band in a shopping centre toilet, don’t worry, no one will actually notice.

Fifthly or it might be seventhly, teapots. It is essential to have your own range of branded teapots. The original lyrics of Kraftwerk’s 1982 Number One song ‘The Model’ went as follows: “She’s a teapot and she’s brewing good / I pour her in my home, that’s understood / She plays hard to get, she leaks from time to time / It only takes a cafetière to change her mind”. You may have missed it, but Spotify is now called Spoutify and Billboard’s Hot 100 is now simply a temperature rating. Be a teapot, not a teap-not.

Behold my new manual, custom-written for the 2020s. Although something’s awry. I investigated the legend of Edelweiss and ‘The Manual’, and it’s possibly a steaming barrel of hogwash. Here’s why. Although it didn’t chart until 1989, ‘Bring Me Edelweiss’ was originally released for the 1988 Christmas chart. Meanwhile records show Drummond and Cauty’s manual was first published on 31 December 1988. Just the kind of chronological confusion I’d expect from a pair of Timelords. 

Perhaps no one followed their advice and it was just a fun book about music. How do you get a Number One single in 2020? I dunno. Anyone want to buy a horse?

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