Great music over the decades – Writer Mark Ford

It’s another day of lockdown and you’ve exhausted every album and playlist in existence, while the radio is preoccupied with ‘the unprecedented times we’re living in’. So where do you turn for musical inspiration to while away the long days and nights?

Look no further – here we have the top 10 selling singles of every decade since the 1950s. See how many you remember (and how many you’d rather forget).

Before we begin the entirely arbitrary exercise, a quick disclaimer – calculating record sales in apparently not an exact science, so the figures used to compile this article are those recognised by the Official Charts Company.


We’ll start with the fifties, the decade that saw the inexorable rise of Rock n Roll, therefore it’s little surprise to see Bill Haley and The Comets’ Rock Around the Clock topping the list of best sellers. Regarded as flop on its original release, it was the inclusion in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle that boosted its popularity, reaching sales of 1.4 million.

Fellow trailblazer Buddy Holly only manages to claim the tenth biggest seller of the decade with It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Elvis Presley of course makes two appearances in the exclusively male and US-dominated top 10 of the decade, at number five with Jailhouse Rock and All Shook Up at number eight.

British pin-ups Adam Faith and Cliff Richard feature at sixth and seventh respectively, the latter charting with Living Doll, performed with The Shadows (then known as The Drifters).

The top 10:

  1. Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley & The Comets
  2. Diana – Paul Anka
  3. Mary’s Boy Child – Harry Belafonte
  4. What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For? – Emile Ford & The Checkmates
  5. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
  6. What Do You Want? – Adam Faith
  7. Living Doll – Cliff Richard & The Drifters
  8. All Shook Up – Elvis Presley
  9. Love Letters in the Sand – Pat Boone
  10. 1It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly


You weren’t expecting to see anyone other than The Beatles taking this one, were you? Five of the top 10 records of the sixties came from the Liverpudlian fourpiece, but their biggest with 1.9 million copies was She Loves You, released in 1963 when Beatlemania was at its height.

The only non-Beatles track to make it into the top five is Ken Dodd (yes, the comedian) with Tears at number three.

Elvis again makes another appearance in a second decade with It’s Now or Never, sandwiched between crooners Engelbert Humperdinck with Release Me and Tom Jones at number 10 with Green, Green Grass of Home, proving mop-haired rock and roll bands didn’t have a monopoly on record sales.

  1. She Loves You – The Beatles
  2. I Want to Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
  3. Tears – Ken Dodd
  4. Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles
  5. I Feel Fine – The Beatles
  6. The Carnival Is Over – The Seekers
  7. We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper – The Beatles
  8. Release Me – Engelbert Humperdinck
  9. It’s Now or Never – Elvis Presley
  10. Green, Green Grass of Home – Tom Jones