Britons Wander Through Their Playing Cards Almost Anywhere They Go

Apr 14th, 2009 // 44 Comments

or a while, I could not go anywhere without hearing Three Doors Down‘s atrocious “Kryptonite”… and that was three years after it was a hit. That song is up there with Stroke 9‘s “Little Black Backpack” and anything by Puddle Of Mudd as my least favorite Modern Rock song ever, so it felt like I was being punished for sins I haven’t even committed. This cosmic joke went on for few months, each time sending me into the spastic fit of the Hate Shakes™. To figure out how this phenomenon plays out across the pond, BBC Radio 2 and the British licensing organism PPL have attempted to quantify the most inescapable songs of the last 75 years. The results are rather surprising:

1. Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (UK No. 1 on June 8, 1967)
2. Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (UK No. 1 on Nov. 29, 1975)
3. Everly Brothers, “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (UK No. 1 on July 4, 1958)
4. Wet Wet Wet, “Love is All Around” (UK No. 1 on June 4, 1994)
5. Bryan Adams, “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (UK No. 1 on July 13, 1991)
6. Robbie Williams, “Angels” (UK No. 1 on Dec. 1, 1997)
7. Elvis Presley, “All Shook Up” (UK No. 1 on July 12, 1957)
8. Abba, “Dancing Queen” (UK No. 1 on Sept. 4, 1976)
9. Perry Como, “Magic Moments” (UK No. 1 on Feb. 28, 1958)
10. Bing Crosby, “White Christmas” (UK No. 1 on Jan. 1, 1942)

Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” at No. 1 isn’t too bad, though I’m not a Brit. I profess an affinity for the song (perhaps because of Martin Scorsese’s “Life Lessons” short in New York Stories), but I know plenty of folks who hate it. As for “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I can get behind all things Queen; here in the States, I’d suspect that “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” is much more ubiquitous. The Everly Brothers’ placement is delightful.

And then there are Nos. 4-6. Think about this: this list spans 75 years. That means that Wet Wet Wet, Bryan Adams, and Robbie Williams had to be played a hell of a lot more per year in the last two decades to catch up with Procol Harum, Elvis, and Bing Crosby. That Wet Wet Wet version of “Love Is All Around” is a disaster, the kind of gooey nonsense that I use as ammunition against my friends who insist that British people have better music taste than Americans. (Cliff Richard gets thrown out a lot as well.) Exhibit B for the UK having crappy taste is Bryan Adams’ vile piece of cheese from a vile, cheesy movie. Robbie Williams is OK, I guess, but “Angels”?

All in all, it’s strange and interesting. I’d love to see Nos. 11-50! What do you think are the most inescapable American songs? I nominate “Center Field.”

Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale tops most-played list [Guardian]


  1. Audif Jackson Winters III

    Jesus, “Angels” came out 12 years ago?

  2. The Illiterate

    The Everly Brothers placing doesn’t surprise me at all. Just like Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, they were bigger stars in the UK than they were in the US. But no Beatles in the top ten? Hmm.

  3. brasstax

    Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get it On”
    Booker T & The MG’s, “Green Onions”
    Steppenwolf, “Born to Be Wild”

  4. Marth

    I somehow just keep coming back to “Unchained Melody.” Good call on “Green Onions” too.

  5. BigRicks

    Pink Floyd, “Everything”
    Led Zeppelin, “Everything”

  6. Lucas Jensen

    @brasstax: Wow. Good calls on those, especially on “Green Onions”. What about “Spirit in the Sky”?

  7. Audif Jackson Winters III

    “Green Onions” is particularly unavoidable because it’s used as a instrumental bed in virtually every kind of media, and has been ever since I’ve been alive.

  8. brasstax

    @Lucas Jensen: “Spirit in the Sky” is completely ubiquitous, agreed.

    I’d also offer Willie’s “On the Road Again.”

  9. iantenna

    i got you (i feel good)

  10. brasstax

    Oh yes, totally!

  11. Anonymous

    It’s pretty recent, but I still hear John Mellencamp’s “Our Country” in my nightmares.

  12. La Mareada

    I read before that “Angels” is the top wedding AND funeral song in the UK.

  13. Lucas Jensen

    @La Mareada: Aha. If that’s the case then I bet “My Heart Will Go On” might be up there for us.

  14. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    @The Illiterate: But no Beatles in the top ten? Hmm.

    What about Oasis? I thought every UK music-related top 10 list had to include at least one Oasis reference, regardless of what was actually being listed.

  15. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    I nominate “Center Field.”

    Blasphemy! And so close to Opening Day. Maura, are you gonna allow this…

    But yeah, that “Kryptonite” is as ubiquitous as it is crappy.

  16. The Illiterate

    Stand By Me

  17. Lucas Jensen

    @How do I say this … THROWDINI!: I wasn’t saying it was bad, just ubiquitous. Also, man, where is the Oasis in the Brit list? And no Stone Roses or Suede or Menswe@r? Ha. I love making Menswe@r jokes. Take that, Britons! And, yes, I know we have Limp Bizkit.

  18. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    @Lucas Jensen: My bad. I just assumed your reference to Center Field meant crappy, given the other examples above. But on re-reading it, I see that you weren’t saying it was bad. I guess I can turn off the Maura-signal now.

    I should nominate a song. How about “Wild Thing?” It even elbowed its way into Prince’s “Crimson and Clover.”

  19. bcapirigi

    A Whiter Shade Of Pale is, probably, one of my top 5 favorite videos ever.

    The version by Alton Ellis is, for sure, one of my top 5 rocksteady versions of pop hits ever and, possibly, one of my top 5 favorite covers ever.

  20. bcapirigi

    @Lucas Jensen: The overenthusiastic girls in my high school senior class made us vote on a prom theme in like October (of ’98) and My Heart Will Go On won by a landslide. Then by March or so they got nervous and made us vote again. I’m pretty sure Lately by Divine won the second time.

  21. moomintroll

    Sigur Ros’ “Hoppipolla”.
    It’s on every movie trailer, every Earth Day montage, every season finale of every T.V. show…Basically any time someone wants to manufacture an artificial sense of gravitas, emotion, sadness, or importance.
    It was at the end of that stupid Penelope movie for God’s sake! I watched the whole thing thinking how atrocious it was, then out comes the Hoppipolla and I feel a tear trickling down my cheek!
    We will never get away from it. It’s the 2000′s version of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s cover of “Over The Rainbow”.

  22. saturn

    If you attend sporting events, or watch them on TV, Rock N Roll Part 2 is as ubiquitous as it gets.

  23. Lucas Jensen

    @saturn: Oh yeah. I think you are right there. I think that sporting events have a lot to do with inescapability in the US.

  24. Thierry

    @moomintroll: I think it’d have to compete with Jeff Buckley’s (or, if they can’t find that cd, Rufus Wainwright’s) version of “Hallelujah” as the most likely song to be found in a montage of some sort of this decade.

  25. Marth

    @Lucas Jensen: Funny enough, I believe my high school marching band once performed “A Whiter Shade of Pale” at halftime of a game. Perhaps it truly is inescapable.

  26. cassidy2099

    “Jack and Diane”
    “Sweet Caroline”

    Those songs seem to stalk me. And I hate them so so much.

  27. Lucas Jensen

    @cassidy2099: “Sweet Caroline” is definitely out and about.

    When I was a kid, I remember “Heart of Glass” being everywhere.

  28. brasstax

    One glaring oversight so far:

    Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the USA”

  29. Anonymous

    It’s got to be “Bad to the Bone”

  30. brasstax

    Definitely that too.

  31. Lucas Jensen

    @capandbells: Oh yeah. That thing is crazy everywhere.

    “Who Let The Dogs Out?” is sadly ubiquitous.

  32. Anonymous

    I Want Candy by BowWowwow. Occasionally the original by Strangeloves shows up.

    This thing pops up in an ad (candy, duh) or a chick flick or remade by some tween every few years.

    And if you live in NYC: are you like me and STILL! hear that Santana Smooth song every time you are in a Duane Reade? Or Avril Lavigne? I think Duane Reade created AL.

  33. socialdancing

    The whole chart is at:


  34. saturn

    Also “The Boys are Back in Town”

  35. moomintroll

    @menyc: ha! We have that same problem in Walgreens here in Chicago. Except it’s with Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”. It’s actually O.K though, I sort of enjoy it.

    Weirdly, the Jewel near me plays totally random songs that I think no-one else gets excited by. They played Shakespeare’s Sister’s “Stay” last time I was there…it was awesome.

  36. Varina

    I nominate “One Way or Another” and “Can’t Hurry Love.”

  37. bcapirigi

    @brasstax: Where are you from? I never heard that song until junior high, when every time there was an assembly our mayor would come out with some girl from the high school to sing it. And I’ve only heard it a couple of times since then, mostly after 9/11. But maybe it’s a heartland thing?

  38. Lucas Jensen

    @Thierry: I wish that was everywhere! I love TR until he got all TR-I.

  39. Lucas Jensen

    @D.R. Mosby: My dad loves the Margaritaville station on satellite radio.

  40. Thierry

    No vote for Todd Rundgren’s “Bang on the Drum”?

  41. D.R. Mosby

    A few days ago I had the unpleasant experience of waking up to the sound of “Margaritaville” courtesy of a hotel alarm clock. Needless to say, I set the clock on “buzzer” for the rest of my stay so that I wouldn’t suffer the same misfortune again.

  42. brasstax

    @bcapirigi: I’ve lived in the Southeast all my 35 years. Are you saying there are parts of the country I could go to if I wanted to escape that song’s rampant overuse?!!

  43. Lucas Jensen

    @brasstax: Where do you live? I grew up in Alabama, moved to Mississippi, and now live in Georgia. That song is everywhere.

    Also, being from Alabama I forgot a BIGGIE…something about a Sweet Home…

  44. Yayyy…Al Martino is #28!!! He is 82 this year, and, still performing.

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