elvis’ fifty worldwide number one hits (count ’em!)

IN THE YEAR 2000, instead of Y2K we got THE BEATLES 1, an album that collected Beatles’ number one hits around the world. Despite recycling endlessly recycled sides, it sold more than 10,000,000 copies in its first twelve months of release!

And then it kept on selling: it is certified by the RIAA for sales of 11,000,000 in the US alone.

THE BEATLES 1 was just as big elsewhere: it has been certified at the Platinum level in twenty countries, selling more than a million in five of them!

Estimated global sales exceed 30,000,000 copies, making it one of the biggest selling albums in the world in the 21st century.

This is unprecedented for a compilation album—especially one recycling hits already recycled on several compilations before!

THE BEATLES 1 consists of twenty-seven sides that had reached #1 in the UK or the US during 1963-1970 as 45 rpm singles.

Each of these sides has been recycled several times on various albums through the years before 2000. 1


Number One: cover of BEATLES 1 album.

THE BEATLES 1 is arguably the most visually compelling cover art for one of the Fab Four’s albums since 1968’s THE BEATLES. While the glowing yellow against a hot red borders on garish, the effect is certainly attention-grabbing. Oh, and the music’s kinda cool, too.

Number one records worldwide

Since RCA couldn’t be first, they were bigger: in September 2002, they released ELVIS: 30 #1 HITS, a collection of thirty sides that had reached the top of national surveys in the US and the UK. It was also a phenomenal success, selling 3,000,000 copies in the US within two months of release! It is currently certified by the RIAA with a 5xMulti-Platinum Award.

Like the Beatles album, it was also a huge success worldwide, with total sales outside the US in excess of 10,000,000 copies!

But ELVIS: 30 #1 HITS didn’t collect all of Elvis’ chart-toppers: I don’t know why the compilation ended with thirty tracks, as there were other sides that had topped an important chart that were not included on the album.


Number One: cover of ELVIS 30 #1 HITS.

Like the Beatles set, RCA used a very minimalist design for the artwork. a nice change of pace from some of the tackier covers that longtime Elvis fans have associated with Presley Product.

Best sellers in stores

The most important pop charts in the world are those of the American magazines Billboard and Cash Box. Billboard’s ‘Best Sellers in Stores’ was entirely sales-based, so for the first two years or so of Presley’s pop chart success (1956-1958), it is the most reliable indicator of sales—and should be taken the most seriously by historians and writers.

But is not.

Billboard’s Top 100 pop chart—which became the Hot 100 in 1958—was originally a weird combination of sales, jukebox plays, and radio spins.

The Cash Box Top 100 was reputedly sales-based and therefore had some very different positions for major records through the years. It is the survey that I use whenever possible. Unfortunately, Billboard became the ‘industry bible’ and the only way most readers will see Cash Box positions is in my articles!

During the ’50s and into the ’70s there were two other national pop charts in the US: Variety and Record World, neither of which are referred to today.

The United Kingdom has always been the second biggest market, therefore their chart positions have also been taken seriously. In the UK, there have been a series of weekly publications that have carried their own charts—decades before there was anything remotely ‘official.’ These included but were not limited to (with year of founding):

1926  Melody Maker
1949  New Musical Express
1958  Disc
1959  Record Retailer
1961  Mersey Beat
1972  Music Week (formerly Record Retailer)

The reliability of each survey has been accepted or rejected by fans and historians for decades. I used the listings in John Townsend’s book Elvis UK for the #1 records below.

Reading the chart below

On the chart below, the songs are listed chronologically. There are six columns following each side listing six possible sources where the record could have reached #1 on a respected survey.

The first column is Billboard’s Best ‘Sellers in Stores’ chart (1956-1958).

The second column is Billboard’s Top 100 (1956-1958) and Hot 100 (1958-1977).

The third column is Cash Box’s Top 100.

The fourth column is one of several possible UK surveys.

The fifth column is Billboard’s C&W chart.

The sixth column is Billboard’s R&B chart.

Titles followed by an asterisk (*) are those chart-toppers that were not included in the 30 #1 HITS album.

 

Number One: picture sleeve for HOUND DOG (1956).

Number One: picture sleeve for DON'T BE CRUEL (1956).

In the US, first printings of this picture sleeve promoted Hound Dog as the A-side; second printings promoted Don’t Be Cruel as the featured side. As both sleeves were manufactured on uncoated paper, they are very hard to find in near mint condition. Most legitimate copies are worn and aged (top image), unless they are unauthorized reproductions (bottom image).

1956

Mystery Train * /
I Forgot To Remember To Forget
                               __      __      __      __      # 1      __
(The B-side was the bigger hit on the country charts: it spent one week alone at #1 and then shared the #1 spot with its A-side for one week.) 2

Heartbreak Hotel                                                               # 1     # 1     # 1      __      # 1      __

Blue Suede Shoes *                                                              __      __      __      __      __      __ 
(Blue Suede Shoes reached #1 in Italy.)

I Want You, I Need You, I Love You *                            # 1     __      __      __      # 1      __

Hound Dog /                                                                        # 1      __      __      __     # 1      # 1
Don’t Be Cruel                                                                      # 1     # 1     # 1     # 1     # 1      # 1
(Hound Dog was the big hit in most countries, but Don’t Be Cruel was the bigger hit in the US, where it mattered most.)

Love Me Tender                                                                  # 1     # 1      __      __     __      __ 

 

Number One: picture sleeve for PLAYING FOR KEEPS / TOO MUCH (1957).

Elvis Presley, singer of serious songs. This is only one of a few picture sleeves that used a white background. This is not an easy sleeve to find in near mint condition!

1957

Too Much                                                                             # 1      __      __      __      __      __

All Shook Up                                                                        # 1     # 1      __      # 1      __      # 1

(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear                                          # 1     # 1     __      __       # 1      # 1

Party *                                                                                     __      __     __     # 1      __      __
(RCA issued several unique singles in the UK. Both sides of Party / Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do were hits, with the A-side being Elvis’ third British chart-topper.)

Jailhouse Rock                                                                    # 1      # 1      __     # 1      # 1      # 1

 

Number One: picture sleeve for ONE NIGHT (1958).

RCA used a photo of Elvis Presley from Jailhouse Rock for this 1958 release. One side of the sleeve promoted one side of the single as the featured side, while the other side of the sleeve promoted the other side.

1958

Don’t                                                                                      # 1     # 1      __      __      __      __

Wear My Ring Around Your Neck *                                __      __      __      __      __     # 1

Hard Headed Woman                                                        # 1      __      __      __      __      __

King Creole                                                                          __      __      __      __      __      __ 
(King Creole reached #1 in Sweden.)

One Night /
I Got Stung *                                                                                      __      __      # 1      __      __
(In the UK, this was promoted as a double-A-sided single with One Night favored over I Got Stung. On some British surveys, both sides reached #1.)

 

Number One: picture sleeve for I NEED YOUR LOVE TONIGHT (1959).

RCA used a photo of Elvis Presley from Jailhouse Rock for this 1958 release. One side of the sleeve promoted one side of the single as the featured side, while the other side of the sleeve promoted the other side.

1959

A Fool Such As I /
I Need Your Love Tonight *                                                         __      __      # 1      __      __
(In the UK, this was promoted as a double-A-sided single; on some surveys, both sides reached #1.)

A Big Hunk O’ Love                                                                       # 1      __      __      __      __

 

Number One: picture sleeve for IT'S NOW OR NEVER (1960).

When Elvis returned from active military service, his hair was its natural light brown color. he wouldn’t start dying it black until Hollywood beckoned him back to the sound stage.

1960

Stuck On You /
Fame And Fortune *                                                                      # 1     # 1     # 1      __      __
(In the UK, this was promoted as a double-A-sided single; on the Melody Maker survey, both sides reached #1.)

It’s Now Or Never                                                                          # 1     # 1     # 1      __      __

Are You Lonesome Tonight                                                          # 1     # 1     # 1      __      __

 

Number One: picture sleeve for CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (1961).

The transition of Elvis the Pelvis to Elvis the movie matinee idol was complete with Blue Hawaii. The man pictured here barely resembles the man in the Hound Dog picture sleeve from 1956 (above).

1961

Wooden Heart                                                                                  __      __      # 1     __      __

Surrender                                                                                          # 1      # 1     # 1      __      __

Wild In The Country * /
I Feel So Bad
 *                                                                                   __      __      # 1      __      __
(In the UK, this was promoted as a double-A-sided single with Wild In The Country favored over I Feel So Bad. On the New Musical Express survey, both sides reached #1.)

(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame /
Little Sister
 *                                                                                      __      __      # 1      __      __
(In the UK, this was promoted as a double-A-sided single with His Latest Flame favored over Little Sister. On some surveys, both sides reached #1.)

Can’t Help Falling In Love /
Rock-A Hula Baby *                                                                        __      __      # 1      __      __
(In the UK, this was promoted as a double-A-sided single with Rock-A-Hula Baby favored over Can’t Help Falling In Love. On some surveys, both sides reached #1.)

 

Number One: German picture sleeve for KING OF THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (1962).

In some countries, RCA had the good sense to pull King Of The Whole Wide World from the KID GALAHAD soundtrack and issue it as a single. Fans in those countries were treated to one of Elvis’s best rockers of the early ’60s. The picture sleeve above is from West Germany.

1962

No More                                                                                         __      __      __      __      __ 
(No More reached #1 in Italy and Spain.)

Good Luck Charm                                                                           # 1     # 1     # 1      __      __

She’s Not You                                                                                     __      __     # 1     __     __

King Of The Whole Wide World *                                                 __      __      __      __      __ 
(King Of The Whole Wide World reached #1 in Norway.)

Return To Sender                                                                             __      # 1     # 1      __      __

 

Number One: Japanese picture sleeve for (YOU'RE) THE DEVIL IN DISGUISE (1963).

The now generic-looking picture sleeve with an ever-smiling Presley made Devil In Disguise look like yet another innocuous movie song. It was not. This is the original Japanese sleeve.

1963

(You’re The) Devil In Disguise                                                        __      __    # 1       __      __

Bossa Nova Baby *                                                                            __      __      __      __      __ 
(Bossa Nova Baby reached #1 in Belgium.)

 

Number One: Brazilian picture sleeve for Compact-33 VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964).

Can you imagine having Ann-Margret in 1964 and not wanting to exploit her image and her voice on every record imaginable? I can’t, but Colonel Parker and RCA Victor could and did. This great sleeve is for a rare Compact-33 single issued in Brazil.

1964

Viva Las Vegas *                                                                             __      __      __      __      __ 
(Viva Las Vegas reached #1 in Victoria, Australia.)

Ain’t That Loving You Baby *                                                       __      __      __      __      __ 
(Ain’t That Loving You Baby reached #1 in New South Wales, Australia.)

 

Number One: Italian picture sleeve for CRYING IN THE CHAPEL (1965).

The blurb on this Italian picture sleeve “1 nelle classifiche discografiche di tutto il mondo” translates to “1 in the record charts worldwide.” This would seem to indicate that this record’s release in Italy was delayed by several months. Alas, Crying In The Chapel was not a #1 record in Italy.

1965

Crying In The Chapel                                                                      __      __      # 1      __      __

1966–1968

While Elvis Presley spent most of his time making movies best forgotten by all but his least discerning fans, he was making some excellent music. But it was not the kind of music that made large numbers of people run to the stores and buy his records. It is possible that Elvis didn’t have a single #1 record anywhere in the world during this time . . .


Number One: French picture sleeve for EDGE OF REALITY (1968).

Why anyone would promote Edge Of Reality over If I Can Dream at the time of the NBC TV Special seems mind-boggling in hindsight. But RCA did in Australia and they topped at least on survey down under!

1969

Edge Of Reality *                                                                           __      __      __      __      __ 
(Edge Of Reality reached #1 in Victoria, Australia.)

In The Ghetto                                                                                    __     # 1      __      __      __

Suspicious Minds                                                                             # 1     # 1     # 1       __      __

 

Number One: picture sleeve for YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME (1970)

Elvis Presley, singer of serious songs. This is only one of a few picture sleeves that used a white background. This is not an easy sleeve to find in near mint condition!

1970

The Wonder Of You                                                                          __      __      # 1       __      __

You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me *                                        __      __      __      __      __ 
(You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me reached #1 in France.)

 

Number One: picture sleeve for BURNING LOVE (1972).

Elvis Presley, singer of serious songs. This is only one of a few picture sleeves that used a white background. This is not an easy sleeve to find in near mint condition!

1972

Burning Love                                                                                     __     # 1      __      __      __

1973–1975

While Elvis Presley spent most of his time on stages across the country singing the same songs over and over and over, he was not making the kind of music that made large numbers of people run to the stores and buy his records. It is possible that Elvis didn’t have a single #1 record anywhere in the world during this time . . .

 

Number One: German picture sleeve for MOODY BLUE (1976).

This German sleeve is dramatically superior to the lame sleeve RCA gave American record buyers in 1976!

1976

Moody Blue *                                                                                     __      __      __      # 1     __

 

Number One: German picture sleeve for WAY DOWN (1977).

Most of the world used the same arrangement for the picture sleeve to Way Down / Pledging My Love. Germany kept the same picture but used a different layout with the white borders at top and bottom and the title in the blue banners.

1977

Way Down                                                                                         __      __      # 1       # 1     __


Number One: photo of Elvis in his gold lame suit (1957).

POSTSCRIPTUALLY, in the wake of Presley’s death in August 1977, stories made the rounds that every Elvis 45, LP, and tape had sold from every store in the country within a day or two. Demand continued for several years, especially for albums. Oddly the titles that sold barely showed on the charts. Sales tapered off until the ’90s, when CD sales were given a booster shot by THE KING OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL boxed set.

Due to a variety of circumstances, several singles topped charts outside the US, mainly in the UK.

In 2002, trance-dance producer/engineer Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) remixed A Little Less Conversation for a Nike World Cup television commercial titled Secret Tournament(below). 3


The commercial was popular all over the world and the track was released as a single credited to Elvis Vs JXL. A Little Less Conversation reached #1 on at least twenty charts around the world. It may be one of the biggest selling singles of the 21st Century!

In 2005, three more topped the British charts in the new century during a popular reissue program: Jailhouse RockOne Night / I Got Stung, and It’s Now Or Never.

It’s unlikely that we will ever see another Elvis recording reach #1 on a major survey anywhere in the world. But, unlikelier things have happened . . .


FEATURED IMAGE: The photo of the hip swingers dancing at the top of the page is the party scene that serves as the setting for the original A Little Less Conversation in the 1968 movie Live A Little, Love A Little. Released as as single in 1968, it tanked. In hindsight, it wasn’t as lame a record for Elvis as it seemed—but the competition in ’68 was heady indeed, and Elvis seemed waaaaaay out of touch with most of his music at the time.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   For reasons that I don’t want to waste time having explained to me, two important chart-toppers were left off the album:

Please Please Me was #1 on several British surveys. As their first chart-topper, this is one of the most important events in their career.
Twist And Shout was #1 for one week on Cash Box, slipping in between She Loves You and Can’t Buy Me Love.

And if the decision-makers for Beatles product used the same reasoning that I do in this article below, then there would be several more numero uno hits to add to the list.

2   Technically, Mystery Train / I Forgot To Remember To Forget was released in late 1955 on Sun Records, but it didn’t reach the top of the country charts until early 1956—after RCA Victor took over manufacturing and distribution. They promoted the country side, I Forgot To Remember To Forget, as the A-side.

3   It was the first time Presley’s estate had granted permission for any of the artist’s material to be remixed.



 
 

4 Replies to “elvis’ fifty worldwide number one hits (count ’em!)”

  1. It’s really too bad RCA didn’t go with the broader context you’ve assembled….Would have made a much more complete overview of both E’s music and his worldwide popularity. (And added something like 15 great records to an already strong set.) If this album existed it would probably be the Elvis I listened to most.

    1. JOHN

      About every 15 years, RCA should give the entire Presley catalog to someone new and let them do whatever they want to bring new life to the product line. It’s way past time they hired me …

      NEAL

      PS: Of course, my first release would be THE WORST OF ELVIS IN HOLLYWOOD 1960-1969, a double-CD of alternative takes of crappy songs with Elvis laughing and/or cursing the material as often as possible.

      PPS: That would be followed by a boxed set: GRAB YOUR BACKWOODS BABY BY THE HAND: ELVIS IN HOLLYWOOD — THE COMPLETE MASTERS 1960-1969.

    1. PHILIP

      Thanks for the input!

      I hadn’t heard of “Do the Clam” topping the Japanese charts. It would be fun to add it to the list above.

      Just went to Google and typed in a few variations on “elvis do the clam number one japan.” I found a few sites where that is mentioned, but I didn’t find anything to verify that it actually had happened.

      Do you know of any sites that do verify this?

      Best,

      NEAL

      PS1: I use references to “Do the Clam” throughout this site, notably on the popup subscription form that you’re supposed to see once every time you visit here.

      PS2: I was 13 when “Do The Clam” came out and it was a bit of an embarrassment trying to defend Elvis to Beatles fans while the Fab Four’s fabgear “Eight Days A Week” was #1.

      PS3: http://elvissongpedia.greggers.net/index.php?page=dotheclam

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