How Liverpool has dominated the music charts

Liverpool may be most closely associated with the music of the 1960s, but bands and singers from the city have had number one hits in every decade since the UK music charts were launched. Let's take a look back at the long list of number one records by Liverpool musicians, whose stories are told in the Wondrous Place gallery at Museum of Liverpool.

Article Featured Image


The weekly UK singles chart started in 1952 and naturally it didn't take long for a Liverpool singer to get to number one.

Lita Roza was Liverpool's first singing star, her jazz-tinged cabaret act was globally successful and she regularly topped 'best singer' polls throughout the 1950s. She became the first British woman to have a number one hit record with the novelty pop song '(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window' in 1953. Despite it being her most famous hit, she disliked the song so much she never sang it again after making the recording.

You can get a sense of the elegant sophistication Lita brought to her performances from the stage dress that she wore in 1958, which definitely adds a touch of glamour to the museum. This chartreuse evening dress was designed by Douglas Darnell, who also made stage-wear for Shirley Bassey.

Yellow evening dress with beads in museum display next to photo and poster featuring Rita Loza
Lita Roza's dress on display © Pete Carr

Four years after Lita, Frankie Vaughan became the second Liverpool singer to top the charts with his song 'The Garden of Eden'.


Liverpool and the 1960s are forever intertwined, with 32 songs by musicians from the city making it to number one that decade. Michael Holliday topped ther charts twice in 1960, followed by another hit by Frankie Vaughan the next year, then a roll call of household names including Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Cilla Black, The Scaffold and even Ken Dodd.

1960s guitars and posters in museum display, featuring The Beatles, Cilla Black and Gerry and the Pacemakers
Some of the 1960s music memorabilia in the Museum of Liverpool © Pete Carr


The decade was however dominated by a certain Fab Four, with an incredible 17 number one singles by The Beatles. You may have heard of them.


While the 1960s and The Beatles were a huge and iconic part of Liverpool's music legacy, the story doesn't end there, far from it. George Harrison was the first former Beatle to have a solo number one with 'My Sweet Lord' in 1971 and Paul McCartney's band Wings topped the chart in 1977 with Mull of Kintyre.

However, surely no song evokes the feel good vibes of the 1970s better than The Real Thing's 1976 hit 'You To Me Are Everything'.


The 1980s started with more hits for the former Beatles, with three iconic songs by John Lennon reaching number one in the last year of his life. Paul McCartney duetted with Stevie Wonder on 'Ebony and Ivory' in 1982 and finally had his first solo number one in 1984 with 'Pipes of Peace'.

Any fears that Liverpool was relyng on its sixties stars for hits were laid to rest that year when Frankie Goes To Hollywood roared to the top of the charts with three consecutive number one singles. Their second single 'Two Tribes' possibly features the most 80s face-off ever committed to video with a thumping dance beat.

They were not the only Liverpool group bringing people to the dancefloor that decade as Dead or Alive's 'You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)' made Pete Burns an icon, one who is fittingly depicted in sequins, glitter, faux gems and leatherette in Ben Youdan's arresting artwork.

Museum display titles 'Creative city' with bright sparkling collage portrait of Pete Burns
Pete Burns portrait greeting visitors © Pete Carr

In response to the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool artists Gerry Marsden, Paul McCartney, The Christians and Holly Johnson came together to record a charity version of ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’, the line "Hearts torn in every way" feeling more apt and emotional than ever before.

Finally Eurovision icon Sonia rose to fame in 1989 with 'You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You'.

Sonia singing passionately into a microphone with one arm reaching out
Sonia rehearsing for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1993 © Alamy


Liverpool's passion for football and music once again combined in The Lightning Seeds' anthemic 'Three Lions'. Football came home, to the number one position in the charts, in both 1996 and 1998 when the single was reprised with David Baddiel and Frank Skinner for Euro '98.


While Lita Roza was the first Liverpool singer to top the charts, Cilla Black and Sonia were the only other women from the city to achieve a number one single in the 20th century. All that was about to change though with Liverpool women dominating the charts at the start of the new millennium.

blue sequin costume on mannequin on display next to guitars and other musical memorabilia in museum
Melanie C's costume on display © Pete Carr

Former Spice Girl Melanie C had solo success with 'Never Be The Same Again' and 'I Turn To You' in 2000. She rejoined her bandmates for the Spice World tour in 2019, wearing the electric turquoise costume designed by Gabriella Slade which you can now see in our Wondrous Place gallery at the Museum of Liverpool. 

The baton was then handed to a new supergroup, Atomic Kitten, who had three number one hits in 2001 and 2002.

Two months after George Harrison's death his single 'My Sweet Lord' was re-released and reached number one a second time.


Liverpool legends once again came together in 2012 as part of the Justice Collective, to raise money and awareness of the fight for justice for those killed or injured at Hillsborough. Their chart-topping single 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' featured a varied wealth of Liverpool talent on vocals, including Peter Hooton, Gerry Marsden, John Power, Melancie C, Rebecca Ferguson, Holly Johnson, Dave McCabe, Paul McCartney, comedian John Bishop, actor Neil Fitzmaurice, footballer Peter Reid and the LIPA gospel choir, alongside stars from across the world.


In November 2023 The Beatles released their final single 'Now and Then', which became their 18th number one in the UK charts. The band made history with the longest gap between reaching the top of the charts, setting the record at 54 years since their last number one - 'The Ballad of John and Yoko' in 1969.

If you have enjoyed this look back at the number ones by Liverpool artists over the decades and would like to find out more about the city's musical history then immerse yourself in our Wondrous Place gallery. It tells the story of the singers, the clubs and the festivals which have made Liverpool such a creative hub. You could test your knowledge on our pop music quiz, or stretch your vocal chords in our karaoke booth, if the city has inspired your own musical talents.

music memorabilia including classic Beatles suits and a pop quiz, in museum displays
Wondrous Place gallery at Museum of Liverpool © Pete Carr