Someone may have said that being second is the first to lose, but after two record-smashing weeks, countless nail-biting events and a gold-rush of monumental proportions, Britain’s best ever away games has come to a close – and we’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. With USA way out in front in the medals table, it was second place that held the real action, and team GB surpassed our expectations, winning 27 golds to China’s 26 to take the overall er… silver? To celebrate our very own underdog triumph at these glorious games, we took a look into chart history. Although these legendary songs all missed out on the top spot in the end, we think they’re the very best number two singles the UK has ever seen.
Coldplay – ‘In My Place’
Sometimes second best is actually better – something Coldplay learnt in 2002. Fresh from the release of their multi-platinum sophomore album A Rush of Blood to The Head, ‘In My Place’ was the track chosen to take the band to the top spot. Taking almost everyone by surprise, however, was Darius Danesh. The Popstars graduate (famed for his imaginative butchering of Britney Spears’ ‘…Baby One More Time’) beat them to it with ‘ColourBlind’. While Darius only reigned supreme for a mere fortnight, Coldplay have become a multi-platinum selling outfit, filling stadiums all over the world. All’s well that ends well for Chris Martin and chums, eh?
Cyndi Lauper – ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’
‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ is a rebellious sing-song from the pleasingly wacky Cyndi Lauper, and one of the catchiest anthems of the 1980s. Less catchy though was Paul McCartney’s stirring ‘Pipes of Peace’, which describes the First World War truce of Christmas 1914, but the song topped the charts in January 1984 ahead of Lauper’s effort. (We should state here that we’ve got mad respect for Macca – he did save the Beatles by coming up with fictional Edwardian marching troupe Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on a plane journey after all – but in our eyes this wasn’t a high point of his career.) ‘Pipes of Peace’ has since gone on to become a staple of festive playlists, but it’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ that we still play at parties.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘By The Way’
After the momentous success of 1999 LP Californication, there was huge hype for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2002 comeback single ‘By The Way’ and the album of the same name. However, they faced surprise opposition for chart success in Elvis Presley – Dutch trance producer Junkie XL sampled ‘A Little Less Conversation’ to prove that sometimes you really can teach an old dog new tricks. Thanks to a helpful inclusion in Nike’s Secret Tournament football ad, JXL’s remix of the unforgettable track stayed at numero uno for four consecutive weeks – and ‘By The Way’ just couldn’t compete. RHCP may have gone on to sell over 80 million records, but they learned a valuable lesson here. As Omar famously stated in HBO’s The Wire: “Come at the king, you best not miss.”
Oasis – ‘Wonderwall’
‘Wonderwall’ has sold over a million singles since its 1995 release, and has become the go-to tune for the amateur campfire guitar player for festival bellow-a-longs. But when one of Oasis’ best known tracks came up against Robson & Jerome’s ‘I Believe’, the Manchester quintet became unstuck. Pipped to the post by the Geordie duo, Noel and Liam might have had more luck if they’d also donned sparkly gold jackets. Still, ‘Wonderwall’ became the first Oasis single to break the US, reaching number eight on the Billboard Top 100 – and that’s at least something the Soldier, Soldier actors couldn’t do. Anyway, despite persistent rumours of a reunion, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds are your only chance of seeing either brother in action anytime soon.
Pulp – ‘Common People’
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker wanted to take aim at the growing popularity of slumming, labelling it a “patronising social voyeurism” of the working class. But how to get this message across? Cocker simply wrote the magnificent ‘Common People’, a wittily acerbic takedown of the trend in the form of a 1995 pop anthem. Beginning with a wry mockery of the girl who “studied sculpture at St Martin’s College'”, the song crescendos and increases in tempo as its lyrics become increasingly agitated up until its climax. “You’ll never live like common people,” Cocker yelps, and we wonder if he’s happier having never seen the glory of a number one single. It’s a bit of a stretch, but you might compare it to the time Elliott Smith was invited to perform ‘Miss Misery’ at the 1998 Oscars, after the track featured in Good Will Hunting. “I wouldn’t want to live in that world, but it was fun to walk around on the moon for a day,” said Smith afterwards. If you’re wondering, Robson & Jerome – yep, them again – beat ‘Common People’ to number one with ‘Unchained Melody’, a cover of a 1955 hit put together by Simon Cowell. We ain’t bitter.
Image courtesy of Paco Mexico on Flickr