One Hit Wonders: Althea & Donna – Uptown Top Ranking
There are one-hit wonders, and then there are No. 1-hit wonders – and Althea & Donna are in that very rarefied latter category.
Jamaican singers Althea Forrest and Donna Reid were just 17 and 18 when they cut the track in 1977. Conceived as a mere light-hearted “answer song” to Trinity’s Three Piece Suit, it was an inauspicious beginning. Despite that, Uptown Top Ranking still sounds superb 40 years later.
The track, produced by Joe Gibbs, was essentially based on the 1967 Alton Ellis tune I’m Still In Love, which had already been repopularised by Marcia Aitken as I’m Still In Love With YouBoy. However, it was the Three Piece Suit version – itself a Joe Gibbs production – which sparked the new, improvised lyrics from Althea & Donna.
In another odd twist, Uptown Top Ranking was originally played by John Peel completely by accident (at the right speed for once from Peelie, though), and the legendary taste-making DJ was soon inundated with listener requests to give the record more spins on his show.
The song eventually hit No. 1 in the UK charts in February 1978 after a notable Top Of The Pops appearance. Despite spending 11 weeks on the charts, it enjoyed only a single week at the summit.