We look back to see what were the number one songs in 1971 which is fifty years ago from this article was published. These are in chronological order and start from first week in January until the the last week in December 1971. Given the year span is over fifty weeks, it is surprising to note that there were only thirteen different songs that went to number one in 1971. The years number one’s were bookended by two popular figures in UK comedy. Only one band/artist managed to reach number one on more than one occasion in the year of 1971. Here is the list and you will find out , or perhaps you already have a good idea who it might be.
Grandad – Clive Dunn
The first new chart to be formed in 1971, was topped by Clive Dunn. A very popular figure in Uk Comedy and most well known for his part in Dad’s Army. The song was entitled Grandad and is accompanied by a group of children singing in the chorus. The song is sang from two perspectives , the old grandad looking back on his life and how things have changed and how life is for him now. The children sing about their perspective of Grandad and how they find him lovely. It perhaps isn’t the best of songs, but the sentiments are good and Clive Dunn served in WW2 and was very likable. It is clear to see how it arrived at the top of the charts at that time.
My Sweet Lord – George Harrison
The second of our number one songs in 1971 was from former member of The Beatles George Harrison. My Sweet Lord was written as way to praise the Hindu God of Krishna. The song was very popular though amongst other faiths as the song mainly refers to Krishna as just God and this can be transferred to any faith, it is only when backing singing comes in near the end of the song that we can hear the references to Krishna and other Hindu references. This song was simple which was perhaps key to its success, it was controversial though and caught up in a copyright lawsuit which was very high profile. This song also reached number one in January 2002, after the death of Harrison.
Baby Jump – Mungo Jerry
Mungo Jerry had the third of our number one songs of 1971. They were the ones to knock the long run of My Sweet Lord off the top spot. The same Mungo Jerry who are most well known for In The Summertime. This song though, does not have that same lovability and catchiness which is displayed on In The Summertime. The song itself isn’t a bad song, just hard to see how a song like this could remove a song like My Sweet Lord off the top spot. This song only has 739 thousand listens on spotify in comparison to 116 million for In The Summertime. Despite opinions on the quality, this was in fact a number one on 1971 and that can’t be altered. Check it out below if you want to decide for yourself if this is a worth number one.
Hot Love – T-Rex
T-Rex with Hot Love were next up in the year with a number one hit. They were really at a peak of their popularity and music career at this point in time and this song was another solid offering from the band. Maybe not quite as well known as some of their earlier songs, but a worthy number one of the time. Classic T-Rex and essential listening to any fan of their music. Check it out below if you haven’t heard it before.
Double Barrell – Dave and Ansel Collins
Dave and Ansel Collins, are in fact Dave Barker and Ansel Collins and not in fact Dave Collins and Ansel Collins as their name may suggest. The reached number one in 1971 with this reggae offering. Laid back with a catch piano tune to guide it throughout, this became only the second reggae song to reach number one in the UK charts. The first being Desmond Dekker. This was the only number one for Dave and Ansel Collins in the UK Charts. It is not without its charm.
Knock Three Times – Dawn
Knock Three Times by Dawn was the next song to go to number one in 1971. This being a more up tempo number than the offering by Dave and Ansel Collins laid back Double Barrell. Dawn were an American pop band who were famous today for other songs such as “Canada” and “Tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree”. The band were fronted by Tony Orlando and Knock Three Times was recorded under the name of Dawn; because Orlando was already working for a rival record company. Orlando wanting to go under the radar until the release date. It was certainly a great success.
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – Middle Of The Road
Next up was the offering from Middle of the Road; a Scottish pop band who have been very successful across Europe and Latin America since the 1970’s. Originally Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep was recorded by Lally Stott, but it was made critically successful performed by Middle of the Road and this is the version that was number one in the Uk charts.
Second of Two NumberGet It On – T-Rex
The second number one of the year for T-rex. Get it On is possibly the most recognisable T-rex song from their catalogue of hits from the 70’s. The song is iconic of the early 70’s and shows T-rex at their very best. The bassline and the voice of Bolan are fantastic throughout and carry the song along effortlessly and your lost in the music. A massive shame that Marc Bolan only lived to be 29 year old. Bolan would be in his early 70’s now, and it is likely we would have an even more fantastic and extensive catalogue of music to his name and to the name of T-rex.
I’m Still Waiting – Diana Ross
Diana Ross knocked T-rex of the top spot with I’m Still Waiting. This song was only modestly successful in the US but reached number one in UK and in Ireland, therefore it continued the breakthrough Ross had main with Ain’t mountain High Enough.
Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me – The Tams
A vocal group from The US, Atlanta Georgia. They enjoyed their best days in the 1960’s in the US, but they were not finished in the 1960’s as they managed to get success in the UK charts, nothing being more successful than Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me. Interestingly two iterations of the band continue to perform
Maggie May/Reason To Believe – Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart knocked The Tams off top spot. Maggie May is the iconic Rod Stewart song. It was a radio sensation and a Jukebox staple for many years since 1971. The song itself needs to no explaining, we have all heard it and if you haven’t you won’t have any problems finding it. The song has over 205 million listens on Spotify which is almost double of any other Rod Stewart listed on the platform.
Coz I Luv You – Slade
Slade were the band to take the number one spot from Rod Stewart. They did so with the song Coz I Luv you. If you have heard Slade before, you will know that lead singer Noddy Holder’s voice is instantly recognisable, his trademark singing style and delivery are in full show in this Slade hit. This was the first number one for the band.
Our Last Number 1 from 50 years ago Ernie( The Fastest Milkman in the West) – Benny Hill
The final number one of 1971 was in fact performed by non other than Benny Hill. We started the year with Clive Dunn and ended with another lovable character from British comedy in Benny Hiil. The Song Ernie , is comedic tale of a Milkman named Ernie battling it out with a rival for the love of his love interest. If you haven’t heard the song it is well worth a listen, it tells a short story with gags throughout the song, which you may or may not enjoy depending on your comedy tastes and bearing in mind this song was made in the 1970’s ,which comedy was a very different landscape.
Could these songs be a success today if they were released again?
That is the full list of our number one songs in 1971, and is amazing to see how things have changed over 50 years with musical tastes. Some of these songs would not stand a chance of reaching number one in this day and age, however some of the offerings can be considered timeless and would do well regardless if they were brought out today. Proven in 2002 showed when My Sweet Lord was able to reach number one again. Could we imagine T-rex re-releasing a song in 2027 on the 50th anniversary of the death of Marc Bolan and it getting to number one? It isn’t too hard to imagine. Could Mungo Jerry get to number one again with “Baby Jump”? It is very unlikely.