How the Sultans of Ping shot up the charts by photocopying Michael Jackson barcodes
Band piggybacked off Michael Jackson to score their chart hit
Cult Cork band the Sultans of Ping have finally revealed how they got one of their hit singles to zoom up the charts — thanks to Michael Jackson.
The band’s then manager, Colm Walsh, said for the release of their track Stupid Kid the band photocopied the bar code of Jacko’s single In The Closet and stuck it on to their own record so its sales would register as the Sultans’ single.
At the time there were eight chart return stores in Ireland which were meant to be representative of what was being sold here to form the top 40 charts.
The Sultans scored their first major hit in early 1992 with Where’s Me Jumper? which became a favourite among college students and is now a classic Irish single.
“Where’s Me Jumper? peaked at No 8 in Ireland but it stayed in the charts forever,” explains Colm.
“Bryan Adams has the record for the most weeks at No 1 ever when he released that year Everything I Do I Do It For You, but we believe Where’s Me Jumper? actually outsold it over the whole year.”
The Sultans were forced to resort to extreme measures to score a follow-up hit with Stupid Kid.
“Because Where’s Me Jumper? wouldn’t go away, we couldn’t get Stupid Kid played,” recalls Colm.
“Larry Gogan used to play it every day, and so did Zig and Zag. So then we had to pull a little trick. We stickered photocopies of Michael Jackson’s bar code on to our own single and targeted four out of the then known eight chart return shops.
“It was supposed to be a secret, what shops did chart returns, but it was well known in the music industry which ones they were. One of them I remember was Virgin in Tallaght.
“That’s why the record companies would usually have sales, such as half price specials, in only these stores to encourage fans to buy the records there rather than the shop down the road so they would get good chart positions. There was wholesale crookery.”
Colm believes sales staff turned a blind eye to their ploy.
“I’m sure the guys in the shops knew exactly what was going on but they just went along with it,” he smiles.
“It was only Stupid Kid we did it with, we should have done it for more!”
Stupid Kid’s highest chart placing was No 11 in Ireland and No 67 in the UK.
The Sultans’ biggest hit came in January 1993 when they went to No 4 in Ireland and No 26 in the UK with You Talk Too Much.
The video for You Talk Too Much was shown on Top of the Pops on BBC1 when it charted, with the same programme also featuring a live performance by fellow Cork band the Frank and Walters with their banger After All.
The Sultans of Ping FC were initially formed in Cork in 1988 by vocalist Niall O’Flaherty and band members Pat O’Connell, Paul Fennelly and Ger Lyons, with Morty McCarthy later joining on drums.
They split up in 1996, but reformed in 2005 as the Sultans of Ping and toured for a couple of years again before halting.
They still though play one or two gigs every year on special occasions.
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