Forget the marathon songs we all know and love. Some of the shortest songs ever made still managed to hit number one on the charts. Let’s talk short songs!
Every wondered what the average song length was? Maybe it doesn’t matte. Because while your typical single might not stray too far from the radio-friendly three minute mark, not every song adheres to the rules of the slick cliché.
Napalm Death’s You Suffer (1.316 seconds in all) may hold the mantle for the shortest commercially releases single, but it unsurprisingly failed to hit number one.
Everyone has their favourite 20-minute psych-rock jam or biblical electronic marathon, but what about the other end of the spectrum? Here are the seven songs that not only managed to clock in under two minutes each, but also hit #1 on the singles’ charts of their time.
1. The Box Tops’ The Letter (1967)
There are more than a few shorter tracks in pop canon, The Letter is perhaps the most iconic. Originally penned by country musician Wayne Carson its husky delivery comes courtesy of a 16 year-old Alex Chilton. The frontman would later go on to become the godfather of alternative rock in ill-fated 70s outfit Big Star.
2. Spiderbait’s Buy Me A Pony (1996)
As far as most Aussies are concerned Triple j’s annual Hottest 100 is the only ranking that really counts. Sticking to their established credo of short, fast and loud, Spiderbait took out the number one slot in 1996 with Buy Me A Pony.
The group’s success also marks the first year that an Australian act was voted in first.
3. The Beatles’ From Me to You (1963)
Initially failing to make the cut for the fab four’s debut LP, the track was recorded as a single after George Martin requested a follow-up to the chart-topping Please Please Me. It went on to become The Beatles’ first official number one in the UK Singles Chart.
A true testament to the quartet’s dominance, follow-ups She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand would also hit number one the same year.
4. Johnny O’Keefe’s Own True Self (1959)
After bluffing his way into a deal with Festival Records in 1957, Bondi’s Johnny O’Keefe went on to be one of Australian music’s most successful acts. After honing his limited talents supporting Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley on their Australian tours, O’Keefe landed a string of singles in the Australian charts.
Even a near-fatal car accident in 1960 couldn’t quell Johnny’s lust for fame. Undergoing drastic facial reconstruction the singer resurfaced with Own True Self later that year. To date, it remains the shortest song to hit number one in Australia.
5. Adam Faith‘s What Do You Want (1959)
Length 1:38 seconds
Over the pond in England Adam Faith was tearing up the charts. Taking the record for second shortest number one single of all time is the insistent crooning of Faith’s 1959 single What Do You Want.
In hindsight, it may have been for the best.
6. Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs’ Stay (1959)
While you may be more familiar with this number from Dirty Dancing or Carlton Mid commercials, Stay was steadily climbing the US charts at the close of the ‘50s. The doo-wop hit was initially penned by a lovelorn 15-year-old Williams after his date abandoned him, ostensibly due to a 10pm curfew.
The track landed the number one slot on November 21, 1960, only to be brutally dislodged by Elvis Presley’s Are You Lonesome Tonight a week later. While erroneously catalogued at 1:50, its actual runtime of 1:37 secures the place as the shortest number one of all time.
7. Elvis Presley’s (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (1957)
Speaking of the King, Elvis didn’t mind cranking out some short tunes when it suited him. Featured in Elvis’ second acting outing Loving You, the track draws inspiration from antecedent blues staple Boll Weevil. It was the third of four hits Presley would secure that year.
Quite naturally the mind does bend to the shortest song ever after reading a piece like this. And while this was not intended to be a competition, some research will reveal a 1987 track by Napalm Death called You Suffer which comes in at 1.316 seconds long.