The 100 Greatest UK Number 1 Singles – #97

This is the series where I feature The Guardian’s idea of the best UK #1s ever, and we see what I have to say about them.

If you come here expecting me to disagree with The Guardian pick every time, well prepare to be disappointed, for this is one that I love. Here’s what the Grauniad scribe had to say about it:

“If you wanted evidence of how far out, how unbound by the usual rules reggae was, you could find it at the top of the charts in early 1971: a piano line taken – sampled if you like – from Ramsey Lewis; a vocalist who largely grunted and bellowed incomprehensibly in the style of a Jamaican deejay: “I am the magnificent W-O-O-O!” It still sounds fantastic.”

We’re talking, of course, about this, which for some reason was released in the UK and USA with one of the performer’s name spelt incorrectly:

When I was younger I was concerned about any confusion the title might bring – was it referring to the shotgun, or to the amount of barrels of booze required to lubricate a really good night. Nowadays, I worry less about such things, preferring to just think it’s simply a warning about the perils of double-barrelled surnames, historically the preserve of the pseudo-posh (Rees-Mogg) or the inhumane (Duncan-Smith), but over recent years a trend which seems to have trickled down.

Getting married is a union, and where in the past the done thing has been for the bride to join their husband in the usage of their surname, modern thinking is that parity within the relationship should be displayed at every possible opportunity. And that’s fine, I get it, and I’m cool with it.

Thankfully, the double-barrelled married name was not so prominent when these happy couples I found (after an admittedly very brief search) announced their forthcoming nuptials, or if they were and they had been considering it, they changed their minds after seeing the hyphenated names written down:

I think I can guess what first attracted this chap to his new bride….

As if being called William Bender wasn’t enough of a blight, please say hello to the soon-to-be-friends-with-the-Wang-Holders, the Dick-Benders:

I’m guessing at least one of the next two now works at a fertility clinic:

I mean, can you imagine being the daughter of the next couple, burdened with the surname “Whyde-Hole”…?

I’m fairly confident you can write your own joke for the next couple:

But I digress.

There’s much to be said about Double Barrel. The fact that it was the second reggae tune to hit the UK #1 slot. That it marks the first appearance (on drums) of one Sly Dunbar, later to find fame as one half of Sly & Robbie. Or that the shout of “The Magnificent!” is sampled on One World Orchestra’s track by the same name on the 1995 charity album Help!, which I would post, but it was recently remixed and re-released, so I’d rather you went out and bought it, thanks very much. (One World Orchestra being, of course, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of The KLF.)

But instead, I’ll say this: I’ve mentioned in the past that reggae isn’t really “my thing”; I understand it’s importance and it’s appeal, but it just doesn’t do much for me. I blame growing up in the 1980s, when UB40 were popular and, on the whole, shit.

But just as UB40 very, very occasionally stumbled upon, and released, a great record – One in Ten being an example – so (and I should stress: more than occasionally) over the years I’ve stumbled upon a great reggae tune which I love. And Double Barrel is one of them.

I’ve realised why this might be: I’ve been too preoccupied with the intellectual or emotional merits of a song, but Dave & Ansell are not aiming at the head or the heart. They’re aiming at the feet.

And if you can listen to today’s tune without performing something which is even slightly approaching a skank, then you’re a more restrained person than me.

More soon.