ZANG TUMMM TUMB ARTICLES “the first draft of history”


There are two schools of thought about when the Eighties end. Some argue that since there was no year zero, the first decade ran from one to 10 and, therefore, the Eighties run from 1981 to 1990. Chartologists magazine Chartwatch, which is written by two logically thinking scientists, adhere to this theory.

Others, myself included, think that this notwithstanding, it is ludicrous to consider 1980 as part of the Seventies or 1990 as the last year of the Eighties. I think theres every chance that most people will celebrate the first of January 2000 as the first day of the 21st Century. Those who delay their celebrations for a further year will be technically correct, but in a minority. That most conservative of institutions, the BBC, is of the opinion that the decade is just nine months from completion, and will thus be prepanng its review of the Eighties for broadcast at the end of the year.

So, with so little of the decade to go, its interesting to see who are the forerunners in the battle for the honour of being the most successful singles artists of the Eighties. But how can we decide? On the basis of sales? Number ones? Most chart entries? Most weeks on chart? Or most consistent performance in the area of the chart where most of the attention and sales are focused — the top 20?

Whichever of the five methods you choose, only two artists are in the running — Madonna and Shakin Stevens.

On sales alone, Madonna would appear to be clear leader, though its hard to ascertain who is second. The problem here is that no work has been done on tabulating the best selling artists of the decade. I hope to put together some sort of rankings myself, but am making no promises.

Madonna has also had more number one hits this decade than any other act — five, or six if ‘Like A Prayer makes it. Tied in second place with four number ones are Jam, Wham! and Shakin Stevens. George Michael deserves a mention for his grand haul of eight number ones, only two of which, however, were solo. He scored a further four number ones with Wham!, as mentioned above, duetting with Aretha Franklin and participating in Band Aid.

Shakin Stevens made his chart debut in the seventh chart of the decade, and has been making hits with monotonous regularity ever since.

His total of 28 hits is more than any other act, being sufficiently far ahead of runners-up Gary Numan and Madness total of 23 to ensure that even if he draws a complete blank chartwise over the next nine months, hes still practically certain to be the chart champ in this category.

Its worth pointing out that Shaky has also charted in a duet with Bonnie Tyler. Numan scored two has with Shakatak man Bill Sharpe and a further two fronting Radio Heart. Both Shaky and Gary would trail Midge Ure and Phil Collins if total number of hits in all combinations and guises were the consideration here.

Unless he brings out a single pretty soon, Gary Numan, real name Gary Webb, will have to settle for a share of second place with Cliff Richard — real name Harry Webb. Cliff, who has finally recorded his new single with Stock Aitken Waterman, has had 22 hits in his own right, and a further six in partnership with others. The group with most hits are Madness, with 23 (including two as the Madness), followed by Kool & The Gang and UB40, with 22 apiece. UB40s total climbs to 25 if we include their two duets with Chrissie Hynde and a collaboration with Afrika Bambaataa & Family.

Shakys commanding lead in the foregoing category is more than rivalled by Madonnas cushion as far as top 20 performance is concerned. Allocating 20 points for a number one, 19 points for a number two, and so on all the may down to one point for a number 20 position for every chart of the Eighties, we find Maddy with a lead of 472 points over Shaky. In the highly improbable event that ‘Like A Prayer dips out of the top 20 this week, and Madonna fails to reach the upper echelon again in the remainder of the year. Shaky would still need to spend the equivalent of 24 weeks at number one between now and Hogmanay to overtake her.

The top 10 on this basis is as follows. 1 Madonna — 1703 points, 2 Shakin Stevens — 1231 points, 3 Madness — 1220 points, 4 Michael Jackson — 1095 points, 5 Wham! — 1038 points, 6 Adam And The Ants — 989 points, 7 Duran duran — 890 points, 8 UB40 — 882 points, 9 Frankie Goes To Hollywood — 860 points, 10 Culture Club — 776 points.

This table is remarkable for the fact that Frankie Goes To Hollywood are ninth on the strength of just six hits, whilst in the table for weeks on chart they rank a much more lowly 37th.

And its to that table — compiled from the entire top 75, not just the top 20 — that we turn for our final attempt to ascertain the Eighties top act. This one looks like it might go right to the wire because although Shaky is currently ahead of Madonna by 21 weeks, its worth remembering that he is becoming a progressively less bankable proposition — his last single, ‘Jezebel, spent only two weeks in the chart, peaking at number 58. She, on the other hand, has a whole new albums worth of songs to plunder and is still very hot. She could, however, come unstuck if her duet with Prince comes out in place of a solo single later in the year — but Shaky can point to his duet with Bonnie Tyler which was on the charts for nine weeks, and does not count his tally of 241 weeks.

Its interesting to note that though Kool & The Gang are the fifth hottest act in terms of number of weeks on the chart, they are rated only 24th amongst top 20 performers, this being due to the fact that very few of their hits have been highly-charted and long-lasting. Heres the top 10: 1 Shakin Stevens (241 weeks), 2 Madonna (220 weeks), 3 Madness (218 weeks), 4 UB40 (203 weeks), 5 Kool & The Gang (196 weeks), 6 Michael Jackson (193 weeks), 7 Adam And The Ants (179 weeks), 8 Duranduran (171 weeks), 9 Status Quo (169 weeks) and 10 Eurythmics (159 weeks).

Michael Jackson would top the list if his collaborations with Siedah Garrett, the Jacksons, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and USA For Africa were to be included. Just outside the top 10, and likely to draw level with Eurythmics next week are Depeche Mode (158 weeks), Level 42 are a further week behind, while Prince and Cliff Richard share 13th place with 156 weeks on the chart.

So, who is the top singles artist of the Eighties? Each of the methods weve used to determine the rankings are valid in their own right, but Madonna triumphs in three compared to Shakys two, so I reckon shes the tops. But it really is a case of “you pay your money and you take your choice.”

Culture Club fare well in the top 20 of the Eighties based on inverse points (see above) but since going solo with his chart-topping version of ‘Everything I Own, Boy George has found success increasingly hard to come by.

His latest single, ‘Dont Take My Mind On A Trip, is a musical change of direction for the old karma chameleon, but it brings to four Georges bleak run of releases which have fallen short of the top 50.

Dont Take My Mind On A Trip peaked at number 68 a fortnight ago, and was preceded by ‘Dont Cry (number 60 last October), ‘No Clause 28' (number 57 last June) and ‘Live My Life, a number 62 “hit” a year ago.