[And now the end of an era so to speak].
Funny chart this. The usual extensive string of new entries, but only one actually manages to penetrate the Top 10, the rest lining up in groups apparantly. Elsewhere the story is simple, Jacko slides, Batman glides whilst Unchained Melody drifts on and on and on... 13 new entries, 3 climbers and 2 non-movers.
No. 36: (--) Human League - Filling Up With Heaven
Human League's comeback continues apace with their third hit of the year. Following radio staple Tell Me When back in January they followed it up with the wonderful One Man In My Heart in March. The latest single from Octopus sounds almost as if it could have come from their early 80s heyday, a loosely structured song, playing on the juxtaposition of Phil Oakey's voice with those of Joanne Catherill and Suzanne Sulley. Very new romantic and so somehow a bit dated, hence possibly this rather lowly chart entry.
No. 31: (--) Bluetones - Are You Blue Or Are You Blind
A big welcome to the Top 40 for the Bluetones, another fairly formulaic boys with guitars band leaning heavily on the commercial path carved by bands such as Blur and the Boo Radleys. Not a big hit (although it deserves to be) but something tells me this won't be the last we hear of them this year.
No. 30: (--) Judy Cheeks - As Long As You Are Good To Me
Judy Cheeks adds to her small, but still growing list of Top 40 hits with another Top 30 entry. It's her second hit of the year, following the No.23 peak of Respect back in March.
No. 28: (--) Paula Abdul - My Love Is For Real
Comeback time for the second time for Paula Abdul, suffering more than most from the interminable long time it seems to take semi-superstar Americans to make albums, her new one coming a full four years after the last one. Back in 1991 she had the slight advantage of having been absent from the charts for only a year, making a new Paula Abdul single enough of an event to send Rush Rush to No.6 although subsequent singles struggled to do well. Her new single goes for the dance angle, reminiscent of her first hit Straight Up but this time round unlikely to become too big a hit for her. Her biggest hit was 1990's Opposites Attract which reached No.2
No. 25: (--) Duran Duran - White Lines (Don't Do It)
Heralded for what seems like an age after being the track from Thank You which received most attention on its release, Duran Duran's second cover of the year turns its attention to mid-1980s rap and finally charts. White Lines has a kind of legend all of its own in chart terms. Although rap hits had charted before, none had quite the impact of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and the Furious Five's hit. It was first released at the tail end of 1983 and failed to make much of an impression before resurfacing in the new year. Even then its progress was slow, not making the Top 40 until June whereupon it reached a peak of No.7. All in all its chart run lasted for an incredible 38 weeks - the ninth longest chart run of all time. The single refused to go away even after that and to date has spent 46 weeks in the charts - again the ninth most charted record ever. So then to Duran Duran's new version, recorded with the co-operation of Grandmaster Flash himself, but what a mistake. For a start you cannot take what was a pretty hardcore rap hit to begin with and turn it into a rock song, and the result sounds something like an ageing pub-rock band attempting to prove they are still hip - which I suppose is all the record is. The band did admit in interviews they started playing it in the studio as a joke when serious inspiration waned whilst recording the covers album. Nonetheless it becomes the second hit of the year for Duran Duran and another in their current run of hits following their 1993 renaissance. All in all it is their 27th chart hit of which only one: 'Serious' missed the Top 40. [File this one under "Greatest Bad Ideas Ever"].
No. 24: ( 9) Black Grape - Reverend Black Grape
The hype possibly exposed here by the spectacular fall out of the top ten by Black Grape and Shaun Ryder. They'll be back but subsequent singles are unlikely to be as big as this.
No. 23: (--) Bitty McLean - We've Only Just Begun
Another hit for Bitty McLean as he returns to the formula that has given him some of his biggest hits over the last two years and reggaefieing a classic, albeit with perhaps greater aplomb than people like CJ Lewis. His latest attack is on the classic Carpenters song (complete with misheard lyrics) which reached No.28 in January 1971. It follows on from other covers by him such as It Keeps Raining and Dedicated To The One I Love. In their day the Carpenters were something of a covers machine themselves but that did not stop them producing a string of classic original songs, songs which few artists have ever seen fit to cover themselves. If my limited research serves, this is in fact only the second cover of a Carpenters original to make the Top 40 - the first being Gwen Guthrie's No.25 cover of Close To You from 1986. Earlier this year Nicki French missed out on a Top 40 placing with her version of For All We Know.
No. 21: (15) Ladysmith Black Mambazo/China Black - Swing Low...
The new version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot takes a dip, in marked contrast (with apologies to all Australian readers) to the achievements of the England team at the weekend. The 1991 rendition of the track, complete with contributions from the England Rugby World Cup Squad themselves had a pretty chequered chart run. The single charted briefly inside the Top 40 on its first release before dropping down to just outside. There it remained for a couple of weeks when, in the wake of England's appearance in the final, shot back up to crash into the Top 20 to reach an eventual peak of No.16. The only other hit version of the song was Eric Clapton's version which made No.19 in 1975.
No. 19: (--) Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
Classic revival time yet again. Back in 1980 Joy Division were part of a string of new bands emerging from the ashes of punk to be part of what was to become the British indie music scene of the 1980s. They were also on the verge of becoming one of the first post-punk bands to cross over commercially when on May 18th 1980 lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. The direct chart result was the appearance of their best recording to that date - Love Will Tear Us Apart which made No.13 a month later. Meanwhile the rest of the band - Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris - after a period of mourning regrouped and called themselves New Order. After a couple of singles in the Joy Division mould they acquired a faulty drum machine which one day stuck in the same repeating groove - Blue Monday was born and pop history was made. Fifteen years down the line and it is time for another career retrospective of Joy Division - the album cited by many as the 'feel-bad' album of the year. Its arrival is heralded by the reissue of their most famous single, making the Top 20 for the third time and instantly matching the peak of its 1983 chart return. Despite covers by acts as diverse as Swans, PJ Proby and Paul Young, no other version has ever made the charts. It may be a bloody miserable song but still manages a strange kind of beauty as acknowledged by the string of bands who have cited Joy Division as an influence, among them U2 and ironically enough Nirvana.
No. 17: (--) Chemical Brothers - Leave Home
Amongst all the cover versions and pop hits that make up this week's chart there is still time for a bit of hardcore dance, this time in the shape of the industrial house sound of the Chemical brothers, actually the Dust Brothers deciding to confuse everyone [or in fact changing their name to avoid a lawsuit from the American producers of the same name. And the start of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons' march to stardom].
No. 15: (--) Outhere Brothers - Boom Boom Boom
Outhere Brothers managed the first UK breakthrough for what I termed 'Euro-rude', European dance records which are characterised by explicit or obscene lyrics with even less subtlety than American efforts such as 2 Live Crew of a few years ago. That didn't stop Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle) from snatching a week at No.1 back in March and now the lads return with their second hit, possessing none of the novelty or even slight charm of the first. Top 20 on the name alone, but no further on its merits. [OR one of the biggest club records of the summer and one which would itself lodge at the top of the charts for an extended period. You choose].
No. 13: (--) Edwyn Collins - A Girl Like You
What with the Human League, Duran Duran, Joy Division and this chap in the charts it could almost be the early 1980s again. Amongst the many classic New Romanticists of the early 80s were Orange Juice who were also one of the few to never quite make it big - nine chart hits between 1981 and 1984 of which only one - Rip It Up - made the Top 40, reaching No.8 in February 1983. Their lead singer was deep-voiced Edwyn Collins who has threatened for years to have a solo career but has only just got round to it. The magical A Girl Like You was first released last November but could only make No.42 despite ending up as one of the records of the year on many writers' Christmas lists. Despite this it became a massive hit all over Europe, most especially making No.1 in France. On the back of this it is time for this country to catch up and following extensive radio exposure this time round becomes the massive smash you always felt it should be. Hardcore Northern Soul meets the 1990s to delicious effect.
No. 12: (--) East 17 - Hold My Body Tight
The band who have spent almost the whole of their career playing second fiddle to Take That in the teen stakes at least have the satisfaction of having released a million-selling single before they did and now score their second hit single of the year, and the fifth hit from the current Steam album - for this reason alone No.12 is an impressive entry point. It becomes their ninth Top 20 hit in a row since 1993 and is certainly not going to be the last.
No. 11: (--) Wet Wet Wet - Don't Want To Forgive Me Now
Following Love Is All Around was not a task for the faint-hearted but the Wets did it in style with Julia Says back in March and making No.3 into the bargain. Part of the surprise of that last hit was that it was the kind of sophisticated ballad that never normally stands a chance in the pop market but the reputation of the band is such that success was guaranteed. Their latest single is if anything even better than the last, sounding like a classic before it has even started and for my money ranks alongside Temptation as the best single they have ever released. Another Top 20 hit it is with Top 10 looking a possibility for next week - not bad for a bad who at the end of 1991 were missing the Top 40 every time and looked to be on their way out.
No. 7: (12) Whigfield - Think Of You
Biggest climb of the week goes to Whigfield who thus makes it 3 out of 3 Top 10 hits.
No. 5: ( 3) Michael & Janet Jackson - Scream
Hmm, maybe the cynics were right. Whilst falling to No.5 after a Top 3 debut is no great crime, or ever very unusual, the fact that it is Michael Jackson doing so on a single currently unavailable on an album has caused many eyebrows to be raised. All of this of course has to be seen in context. Michael Jackson is still one of the all-time chart stars with 30 Top 10 hits to his credit - more than anyone else save Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and Madonna; Bad and Thriller are two of the Top 5 biggest selling albums of all time in this country whilst Dangerous became the first album ever to spawn 7 Top 10 hits. Despite all of this the knives are still out. Part of the reason for the single's stall is the delay in the release of the multi-million dollar video which has still to receive a proper airing. It will feature on Top Of The Pops at the insistence of producer Ric Blaxill, thus breaking the age-old rule of the show that no single going down the charts is ever featured. Meanwhile over in America the single has actually broken records of its own by breaking a 25 year old record to become the first single ever to debut inside the Top 5 on the Hot 100, although by the looks of things even that record is not going to last with America set for its first ever instant No.1 hit. [Not yet, although that would come in a couple of months time. And it was a Michael Jackson track too].
No. 2: (--) U2 - Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me
The quiet of an unusually still Top 10 is shattered by the arrival of the biggest new hit of the week. Heralding the new Batman Forever film comes the song from its soundtrack, complete with animated video and using the reputation of U2 to propel it into the charts. It becomes U2s 14th Top 10 hit and their first chart hit since another song from a film soundtrack - Stay (Faraway, So Close) made No.4 in December 1993. Speculation was that it would become yet another instant No.1 hit after a strong showing on the midweek charts but, twas not to be with Robson and Jerome just edging them out. Nonetheless with anticipation rife for the film it is reasonably safe to assume it will become U2's third No.1 next week... but then again nothing is certain in this business. All 3 recent Batman films have had chart hits trailing in their wake. Back in 1989 Prince's Batdance also reached No.2 whilst 1992's Batman Returns saw Siouxsie and the Banshees reach No.21 with Face To Face.
No. 1: ( 1) FIFTH WEEK. Robson Green and Jerome Flynn - Unchained Melody/White Cliffs Of Dover
Their sales are now substantially down from their phenomenal peak but they were still enough to deprive U2 of the top slot. There are wild figures flying around as to just how many copies the single has sold. 1.7 million has been quoted in some places - enough to make it one of the best selling singles of all time. Whilst it may be true that 1.7 million copies have been released to the shops, not all have been sold yet. The single has actually sold around 1.45 million copies, spectacular enough but a figure which only puts it around No.40 in the all-time list.
[Although I had no way of knowing, this was the last ever chart commentary to appear in this form. A few days after it was posted online I received a now notorious cease and desist email from the lady running the Chart Information Network at the time, instructing me to stop reproducing the singles charts on usenet and on the web. Although their main objection was to the actual full Top 40 listing that formed part of the full column rather than my words, I didn't see how one could exist without the other. So I posted a message to the newsgroup saying I'd been told to stop and that they should blame CIN. I was resigned to having to find a new hobby and some other way to contribute online. Behind my back however all hell had broken loose].