Quirkiest world records held by British musicians

This year’s BBC Music Day (Thursday 15 June) is about the power of music, and included among the many events taking place are attempts to break music records. In Bradford, 800 children will gather in the City Park to try and beat the current world record for Bamboo Tamboo (a form of music created by hitting a bamboo stick on the ground, which originates from the carnival traditions of the Caribbean). And in Portsmouth, over a thousand children will join together at the city’s Guildhall Square, with the aim of breaking the world record for the world’s largest djembe drumming ensemble.

To provide some inspiration for those taking part, here’s a list of some of the UK’s quirkiest musical record-holders, from artists playing underwater or in freezing temperatures, to being broadcast in space or coming up with the longest album title ever. A record-breaking drum roll, please…

Katie Melua – deepest underwater concert

Singer-songwriter Katie Melua had to undergo survival training and extensive medical tests before she was given the go-ahead to play the world’s deepest underwater concert back in 2006. Melua then flew from Norway to the Statoil Troll A gas rig in the North Sea, where she and her band performed a show 303 metres below sea level. “This was definitely the most surreal gig I have ever done,” said Melua at the time, who played in front of 20 rig workers as well as an official Guinness World Records adjudicator. “It took nine minutes to go from the main part of the gas platform down to the bottom of the shaft in a lift. Giving a concert to the workers there was something really extraordinary and an occasion that I will remember all my life.”

Paul McCartney – first live concert broadcast to space

As you’d expect, The Beatles’ record-breaking exploits are impressive. The Fab Four have had more UK No.1 albums than anyone else (15), and more UK No.1 singles than any other British artist (their 17 chart-toppers are only surpassed by Elvis Presley’s 21); in 2001, the Guinness Book of Records declared them the best-selling group of all time (by that point, they’d reportedly sold over one billion discs and tapes worldwide). But they’ve got some more unusual records under their belts, too. In 2005, Paul McCartney became the first musician to broadcast a concert to outer space after his show in Anaheim, California was transmitted to two astronauts at the International Space Station, floating some 220 miles above Earth. NASA astronaut Bill McArthur and Russia’s Valery Tokarev were treated to a performance of The Beatles’ Good Day Sunshine, as well as McCartney’s solo track English Tea. “That was simply magnificent,” McArthur told the singer. “We consider you an explorer just as we are.”

Billie Piper – youngest artist to debut with a No. 1 single

Billie Piper launched her career by popping a bubble of gum in an advert for teen pop bible Smash Hits but by 1998, she was more likely to be appearing in the pages of the magazine itself. Her debut single Because We Want To, a rallying call for like-minded teenage rebels in the face of stuffy, conservative parents, sold over 300,000 copies and went straight to No.1, making the 15-year-old Billie (who, like Madonna and Princebefore her, had decided surnames were too clunky for pop stardom) the youngest artist to claim the top spot with their debut release. She had a further two No.1 singles (1998’s Girlfriend and 2000’s Day & Night) before swapping singing for acting, hopping into the TARDIS to star in the rebooted Doctor Who in 2005. The youngest ever artist to score a No. 1 single, meanwhile, is ‘Little’ Jimmy Osmond, who reached the top with his 1972 smash Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.