60 years old: happy birthday to the single

What was the first record you ever bought? As the 7-inch disc celebrates six decades, Jonathan Owen asks 60 celebrities for their musical memories
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The Independent Culture

Mick Box, Uriah Heep

Nola: Les Paul (1950)

"I spent weeks trying to get the guitar part off and it was very difficult because it was so fast. I ended up with sore fingers and a headache."

Pete Waterman, Producer

Deadwood Stage: Doris Day (1953)

"It's a fantastic song, a great song. I wouldn't mind them playing it at my funeral – everybody would laugh."

Jane Asher, Actress

Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen by the Sea: Max Bygraves (1954)

"I'd had a small part in a film with Max Bygraves and had fallen desperately in love with him."

Jess Conrad, Actor and singer

Rock Around the Clock: Bill Haley (1954)

"I remember buying this in 1955 from Brixton Market, aged 19. I still have it in my record collection, and am certainly not embarrassed about it!"

John Gribbin, Author

Peggy Sue: Buddy Holly (1957)

"It was my 13th birthday and I have treasured it ever since. It is the greatest single ever made. I still have it, but rarely play it for fear of damaging it."

Bob Harris, Radio DJ

Diana: Paul Anka (1957)

"I was on holiday and passed an amusement arcade where it was playing on the jukebox. There was a magic to it that made me want to be a part of the world it came from."

Jon Snow, Journalist

China Tea: Russ Conway (1959)

"I'm as embarrassed as hell about it. I purged myself of my shame by buying the Beatles "All You Need Is Love", one of the most evocative singles of all time!"

James Whale, Radio DJ

Little White Bull: Tommy Steele (1959)

"It's a bit embarrassing. It doesn't mean anything at all to me now. In fact I don't think I have ever mentioned that to anyone. I wish I hadn't told you."

Steve Howe, Yes

Apache: The Shadows (1960)

"I loved the energy and rushed out to buy the single, but if anything, I was disappointed with the single, which did not capture the energy I'd seen live."

Max Clifford, Publicist

Runaway: Del Shannon (1961)

"I just liked it. I just really liked it, the whole feel to it. I'm not embarrassed by it. I've always been a romantic, despite what some people may think."

Fern Britton, TV presenter

My Boomerang Won't Come Back: Charlie Drake (1961)

"I thought it was hilarious and can still remember the words when I sing it back. I have a CD recording of it now and my daughters love it, too."

Mick Brown, Writer

Walking Back to Happiness: Helen Shapiro (1961)

"I played it endlessly. It was like the first kiss – the beginning of a love affair with pop music that continues to the present day."

Geoff Downes, Asia

The Young Ones: Cliff Richard and the Shadows (1962)

"I first heard it on Radio Luxembourg: the Horace Bachelor show, I think. I would have been around six or seven. I am very embarrassed now."

Lynsey de Paul, Singer/songwriter

Love Came to Me: Dion (1962)

"It was a really good pop record of its time. Certain songs have emotional associations in one's life. This was almost a coming of age."

Chris Barber, Band leader

Release Me: Esther Phillips (1962)

"It was quite a while before Engelbert Humperdinck recorded his rather pale version. I am not embarrassed at having bought it – only sad that Esther Phillips didn't get much credit!"

Ozzy Osbourne, Singer

She Loves You: The Beatles (1963)

"I was 14 years old. I bought this because it was the Beatles. They were like a religion to me."

Andy MacKay, Roxy Music

Phoenix City: The Skatalites (1965)

"Ska was very cool in Reading. Also, the first band I was in played that tune and I had to learn it. I still think the Skatalites are great."

Adrian Utley, Portishead

Thunderbirds March: theme tune (1965)

"It was a really intense tune, very powerful and the whole imagery of Gerry Anderson who made all that stuff was really, really real to me – and those tunes were really well done – brilliant orchestration."

Carl Palmer, Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Sha-La-La-La-Lee: Small Faces (1966)

"I bought it because of Steve Marriott's voice. I didn't realise until recently it was written by Kenny Lynch. I'm not at all embarrassed – great song, great band."

Danny O'Donoghue, The Script

Paperback Writer: The Beatles (1966)

"This was the first one I played because the riff in the verse really got me going. I must have been about eight years old at the time."

Annie Lennox, Singer/songwriter

A Whiter Shade of Pale: Procol Harum (1967)

It was the first single I bought when I was 14. It was outrageously brilliant. That's why I recorded it on my new album. I love creating my versions of other people's songs."

Billy Ocean, Singer

Say a Little Prayer: Aretha Franklin (1967)

"I bought singles until I started working properly and then I started buying albums, so this brings back a lot of teenage memories from being in London before I got work."

Jools Holland, Musician

For Once in My Life: Stevie Wonder (1968)

"I used to play it on our 78rpm record player by slowing down the turntable. I listened to it so often that it was ruined by the oversized needle."

Jill Furmanovsky, Rock photographer

Je t'aime ... moi non plus: Serge Gainsbourh/Jane Birkin (1969)

"There were 'must have' records like this that were essential for snogging to at the end of a dance. I still love seven-inch singles and search them out in second-hand shops."

Ian Broudie, Lightning Seeds

Space Oddity: David Bowie (1969)

"I'd saved up some money and went out and bought it. I'd play it continuously, over and over again. I loved it and still do now."

Peter Hook, New Order

Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town: Kenny Rogers (1969)

"I nicked it from a record shop on Langworthy Road in Salford when I was 14. I had no money, you see. Sorry, shop owner. I used it to romance my first girlfriend Christine. Whenever I hear it, it always takes me back to that wonderful summer. There was so much to discover, musically and otherwise, ahhhhhh."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Chef

Son of My Father: Chicory Tip (1972)

"I'd seen it on Top of the Pops. The band were proper platform-heeled, tank-top-sporting, chest-wig-wearing glam rockers, and I'm pretty sure it was top of the charts for several weeks."

Mike Bennett, Writer and record producer

Little Willy: The Sweet (1972)

"I bought it as a pre-pubescent boy of about nine or 10, mainly because it was littered with doubles entrendres. When I got the record home, I loved everything about it."

Paul Roberts, A former lead singer of the Stranglers

Join Together: The Who (1972)

"I loved it. It still sounds great, as do most records by The Who. Pete Townshend's guitar sounds still influence everything I do."

Billy Bragg, Singer/songwriter

You Wear It Well: Rod Stewart (1972)

"I loved everything about it – the melancholy lyrics, the fruity acoustic guitar riff that opens the song, the olive green Mercury Records paper sleeve, the smell of the vinyl."

John Robb, Writer

All the Way from Memphis: Mott the Hoople (1973)

"It was mind blowing – the bruised poetry of Ian Hunter's voice, the song's swaggering wilfulness and killer hook line. It thrilled me then and it thrills me now."

Janice Galloway, Author

Life on Mars: David Bowie (1973)

"I adored David Bowie and still do – not your average celebrity-culture rock supernova. He did something fresh every time – perfect antidote to most 'pop' culture."

Nick Clegg, MP

48 Crash: Suzi Quatro (1973)

"Suzi Quatro seemed immeasurably cool to an eight-year-old. I found her music liberating and exciting as I danced around this tiny, tinny speaker with my brothers."

Martin Darvill, Rock manager

Ballroom Blitz: The Sweet (1973)

"I soon found all those great British progressive and classic 1970s rock bands which have formed the soundtrack to my life."

Father David Delargy, The Priests

Waterloo: Abba (1974)

"It reminds me of the happy childhood I had at home before going off for seven years of boarding school in September 1974. It evokes a sense of childhood innocence and naivety."

Nick Thorpe, Curiosity Killed the Cat

Denis (Denee): Blondie (1977)

"Buying the single on vinyl was a very tangible thing. You weren't only buying a song; you were also buying the artwork and a slice of identity and lifestyle."

Ben Harper, Musician

This Is the Modern World: The Jam (1977)

"The first seven-inch single I bought was the Jam. It had "Back in My Arms Again" on the B side."

Mitch Benn, Comedian

Come Back My Love: Darts (1978)

"Their bass vocalist was a huge weirdo called Den. I used to enjoy singing along with his bits. I still love harmonies and comedy records, so maybe this was the start of all that."

Luke Goss, Actor

Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick: Ian Dury & the Blockheads (1978)

"I bought it because it was an effing great song. It brings back good memories, like all music. The song stands the test of time. I would buy it today."

Dom Joly, Comedian

Rat Trap: The Boomtown Rats (1978)

"Buying this record was my first 'punk life' moment. I literally played it over and over and over again until I couldn't play it any more, and it was very exciting."

Geoff Lloyd, DJ

Video Killed the Radio Star: Buggles (1979)

"I played it endlessly. One day I came home from school to find my mum had run over it with the Hoover, and it was broken. I cried until my tummy hurt."

Oona King, Head of diversity, Channel 4

Dance Yourself Dizzy: Liquid Gold (1980)

"It was the first song to really make me go 'I'm going to save up my pocket money and buy that because it is fantastic single and makes me want to dance'."

Mica Paris, Singer and TV presenter

Funkin' for Jamaica: Tom Browne (1980)

"A great, great track, with an amazing bass line, which was the first single I bought when I was about 15."

Cathy Dennis, Songwriter

Vienna: Ultravox (1981)

"I still love the record today. I was captivated by the synths, the futuristic feel and also how passionately Midge Ure sings."

Matthew Rhys, Actor

Prince Charming: Adam & the Ants (1981)

"It was the first single I bought. Although I never dressed up or wore make-up like he did, I did try to replicate his 'chandelier swing' from my settee."

Gary Go, Musician

Under Pressure: David Bowie/Queen (1981)

"I played it until I wore the vinyl and needle out. I have always loved lowering the stylus, the crackles and the overall sound ... nothing compares."

Miranda Hart, Comedian

Mirror Mirror: Dollar (1981)

"I remember thinking I had got it right and I was very cool. All my friends were singing 'Prince Charming' by Adam & the Ants and I thought they'd got it wrong. How embarrassing."

Andy Parsons, Comedian

A Town Called Malice: The Jam (1982)

"It had just come out and had a shiny purple and black striped cover. It doesn't mean that much to me at the moment as my turntable is bust."

Christian O'Connell, Radio DJ

Goody Two Shoes: Adam Ant (1982)

"A belting track that still sounds great today. Vinyl was and will for ever be the greatest format for music. I loved hearing the warm crackles on some of my mum's old vinyl records."

Kelly Jones, Stereophonics

Nervous Shakedown: AC/DC (1984)

"I remember seeing the countdown on Top of the Pops and was very excited to see it was number 40, so much so that I did some ridiculous summersault and landed on my back!"

Margherita Taylor, TV and radio presenter

Do They Know It's Christmas?: Band Aid (1984)

"It was for a great cause and was a brilliant record. Hearing the single brings back memories of Christmas and the iconic concert at Wembley in 1985."

Jamie Oliver, Chef

I Can't Wait: Nu Shooz (1986)

"It was a big hit that summer and I loved it. I've still got it somewhere and I wouldn't be embarrassed to dig it out and play it."

Ed Byrne, Comedian

Let's Go All the Way: Sly Fox (1986)

"It was a bit of an impulse buy. I'd heard it on the radio a couple of times and just said to myself, 'I'm going to buy that right now'."

James Morrison, Singer

Bad: Michael Jackson (1987)

"I must have been quite young, about five. At the time it was the coolest thing I had. I played it all the time and couldn't stop listening to it."

Just Jack, Musician

I Know You Got Soul: Eric B and Rakim (1987)

"I loved it because it sounded so fresh, cutting and pasting parts from loads of classic tracks. I learnt all the verses religiously, playing it until the grooves started to wear down."

Charlotte Dutton, Model

You Got It (The Right Stuff): New Kids on the Block (1988)

"I remember doing dance routines in the playground. I still like it – that's the problem. If it came on I'd probably sing along and do my same routine to it."

Adam Ficek, Babyshambles

Step On: Happy Mondays (1990)

"When you're young, music gets intrinsically linked to emotions and circumstance, so that record brings back many a memory of intoxication and naughtiness."

Mark Ronson, Musician

They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y): Pete Rock and CL Smooth (1992)

"It's probably the only hip-hop record that's ever actually made me cry: the rap is dedicated to this guy Troy, who died. It's still one of my favourite hip-hop tracks ever."

Jonathan Ansell, Singer

Tubthumping: Chumbawamba (1997)

"I heard it on the radio and absolutely loved it. The song holds some great memories and it's definitely a track that will get me on the dance floor."

Karima Francis, Singer

Chasing the Morning Light: Karima Francis (2008)

"The first seven-inch single I ever bought was my own when it was released on vinyl last year. It made me feel overwhelmed, excited and very, very special."