L to R: Lulu, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard and David Bowie at the Valentine Awards, 1970.
Lulu: "Cilla, I wouldn't mind a session with that David Bowie... wonderful thighs!"
Cilla: "You do mean a recording session, Lulu? I'll try and set something up for 1974."
Cliff: "Hey, new boy, let's see who can sell the most singles over the next 34 years."
David: "No thanks Cliff. You've got God on your side... that's an unfair advantage!"
Every single move's uncertain...
The Ultimate Pop Star, a three and a half hour TV programme on Channel 4 last night, made for interesting viewing. Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield were reunited as old duffer DJs, Smashy and Nicey, to run down the definitive list of the 50 biggest-selling artists of all time, based purely on actual sales in the UK Singles Chart from the last 50 years.
I sat with my wife, and we managed to guess correctly those that would make the top ten, (once we had reached somewhere around #12 that is!) even if not in the right order. There were a few shocks, not least of all the fact that Sir Cliff Richard topped the list, a realisation that surprised even Cliff himself: "You mean I beat Elvis?"
Anyway, DB managed a very respectful tenth place, with a staggering 9,392,410 UK singles sales. I like to think it was me that bought the 410 on the end there. He also managed to outsell contemporaries such as The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Marc Bolan, (didn't even notice Bolan in the top 50 at all, unless I was making a cuppa at the time.)
But, I guess that fact was tempered somewhat by the news of those that have sold more than David. Here's the breakdown with total UK Singles sales in brackets:
10 David Bowie 9,392,410
09 Paul McCartney 9,781,603
08 Abba 10,004,039
07 Queen 10,334,713
06 Michael Jackson 11,310,958
05 Elton John 13,475,063
04 Madonna 14,562,856
03 Elvis 19,293,118
02 Beatles 20,779,632
01 Cliff Richard 20,969,006
The five-minute slot dedicated to David was made up of archive footage and interviews with both DB and Tony Visconti, but with some nice recent contributions from the following, too:
Marco Pirroni (Adam & The Ants plus guitar on many other artist's sessions)
I think Bowie will probably go down in history as the second greatest rock star of all time after Elvis.
Bernard Butler (McAlmont & Butler, Ex Suede guitarist, etc.)
Every emotional phase he (Bowie) went through, started to affect the way he came across as well.
Really extraordinary the way he moved through so many different genres in such a short period of time and was successful at nearly every one. It's sickening really. I mean I can't bear it sometimes when I listen to his records!
Paul Morley (Journalist, TV presenter and oh, so much more)
Even though he's tried to fuck it up a few times, with the Tin Machine malarkey and some dreadful solo albums and a bit of drum 'n' bass that he's tried here and there.
Whereas, now, I think we can look at David Bowie and look at everything he's done, right from the sixties to now, put it all together and just say: "Wow! He's a great artist." And we should now respect him as a great artist.
Even Rod Stewart, (who came in at #11) when asked who he thought would be The Ultimate Pop Star, (even if he didn't quite understand the question) answered: "A cross between me, Bowie and Elton." Not pleasant to imagine David diluted in that way, but nice of Rod to say it all the same.