1 SPACEMAN (Babylon Zoo)
Four weeks at the top and seriously looking to top the magical million with well over 800,000 copies sold to date. Ever since the phenomenal first week sale of the record its sales have been in decline and despite the commanding lead Babylon Zoo still hold over challengers 3T, their control of the charts could well be coming to an end, not least with new releases by Blur, Oasis, Take That and Boyzone on the horizon over the next few weeks.
3 I GOT 5 ON IT (Luniz)
Just when you think the charts are getting predictable, up pops something completely out of the blue. In from nowhere come Luniz with this fun piece of rap which even manages to namecheck Cypress Hill who debut further down the chart this week. The exploits of people like Whigfield and Babylon Zoo mean that high new entries by completely unknown acts are nothing of note any more, but that should not detract from the achievement of the group for hitting the Top 3 on their very first week of chart action.
4 OPEN ARMS (Mariah Carey)
Hmmm... a new Mariah Carey single. A bit slushy it is as well. *checks calendar*. Well goodness me, Valentines day already. With impeccable timing Mariah Carey lands the biggest new hit of the week with this track, clearly pitched at the romance market that also leads to shops being flooded with love compilations. Leaving my personal cynicism aside, the tactic appears to have worked and gives her another Top 10 hit, hard on the heels of Fantasy and One Sweet Day at the tail end of last year. Never forget that it was two years ago this week that she shot straight to Number One with her cover of Without You - another track perfect for Valentines Day.
7 ONE OF US (Joan Osborne)
A number of last week's new Top 10 hits fall back a few places despite a surge in sales this week, not least of which is Joan Osborne's hit. It's success over here has come on the back of its American success more than anything else and is all the more curious given the religious nature of the lyrics. Although Christian rock exists in this country the market for it is extremely limited and so it is very unusual for a record wearing its bible-bashing on its sleeve to chart so high. Even pop's most legendary Christian Cliff Richard rarely releases any of his religious recordings as singles. Tracking these things down with any accuracy is always fraught with danger but Christmas hits aside, the last religious song to chart so high was Lena Martell's One Day At A Time which made Number One in 1979. More recently Jesus Loves You's Hare Krishna mantra Bow Down Mister made Number 27 in February 1991. [Stretching things a little to view this as an inspirational track, and indeed Joan Osbourne raised hackles in the more conservative parts of America with her suggestion that God was "just a slob like one of us".]
11 AEROPLANE (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Curious things like this do happen. The latest album from the Chilis has already spawned two hit singles, Warped and My Friends, both of which stalled around the edge of the Top 30. For some reason Aeroplane has attracted more radio interest and as a result the single becomes a far bigger hit, just missing out on a Top 10 placing to become their second biggest hit ever, just behind the Number 9 peak of Give It Away in February 1994.
12 GIV ME LUV (Alcatraz)
A dance record. A curiously good one at that, being by and large instrumental and sounding not so much like a club classic as something Kraftwerk might turn out when they were in a progressive frame of mind.
13 SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES (John Alford)
In one of the Top 40's strange coincidences a nightmare cover version is marginally outsold by a rather brilliant one. John Alford began his career as a child actor, his face being known to millions in the mid 1980s as a star of the children's TV series 'Grange Hill'. By his own admission he went off the rails slightly when he left the series, sinking into alcoholic decline from which he was finally rescued by landing another starring role in the ITV series London's Burning. The final scene of the last series featured the entire cast singing an ensemble version of the classic Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and record company legend has it that Alford performed the song again on a Karaoke machine at the end of series party - a performance that led to this record deal. If all of that sounds suspiciously familiar to the rise of Robson and Jerome from actors to singing stars then you could be right as John Alford is helmed also by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken. The song itself is of course one of those all-time standards, most famously taken to Number One by the Platters in 1959. This new version is actually surprisingly good, borrowing the lovers rock arrangement of Blue Haze's Top 40 version from 1972. The result is to turn the song into a very nice pop record, staying true to the emotion of the original with John Alford turning out to be a very competent singer. Quite how long this concept will last remains to be seen, for now he has a debut hit single and has got one of my favourite songs played all over the radio. Full credit to him. [Yes, this is way better than the concept might sound on paper. He'd manage a second hit too before life was derailed by an unfortunate encouter with a certain Fake Sheik].
14 I WILL SURVIVE (Diana Ross)
Now let me think about this carefully. Diana Ross, as must surely be acknowledged, is one of pop's greatest superstars with a hitmaking career that spans several decades. It must surely follow, therefore, that she is entitled every once in a while to make a really shit record right? Let's face it, everyone knows I Will Survive and Gloria Gaynor's definitive 1979 Number One version. So why cover it? Whatever the motivation behind the concept for the single, the delivery of it is even more half-baked. Diana Ross may be one of the all-time great soul singers but she has always had a rather thin, weedy voice and it is certainly not one that is suited to a song forever associated with one of the greatest disco belters of all time. What it all boils down to is that this travesty of a single did not need or deserve to be made. Miss Ross has massacred classic songs in the past (witness 1982's Why Do Fools Fall In Love) but this anodyne cover really does leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Despite all the rudeness I can muster is lands straight in the Top 20, her biggest hit since Your Love also made Number 14 in December 1993.
15 THE RIVERBOAT SONG (Ocean Colour Scene)
[TFI Friday walk-on music klaxon!] Ocean Colour Scene have had a longer gestation than just about anyone else I can think of, having been around since virtually the start of the decade. To date their only chart entry has been Yesterday Today which made Number 49 in March 1991. Thus it is a welcome sight to see them inside the Top 40 at long long last with this track, the release of which has been eagerly anticipated for a number of weeks. A big hit was always assured and so finally another great British rock band are stars at last.
18 BACK IN THE U.K. (Scooter)
There are some records that really just bring a smile to your face for no apparent reason. This is one of them. Scooter make dance records that could never ever be accused of taking themselves too seriously. The trend was set at the end of last year with the Move Your Ass EP which reached Number 23. Now they return with Back In The UK, a fairly frantic dance record complete with ragga toasting and a hook melody that sounds like it has been played on one of the very early electronic keyboards which were all the rage in the mid 1980s. It is silly and it knows it but is crucially a Top 20 hit.
23 ILLUSIONS (Cypress Hill)
Cypress Hill doing a ballad? Well it happens. The uncompromising American rappers have always had a fairly respectable chart career over here, having had no less than four Top 20 hits and one near miss, the last of these being Throw Your Set In The Air which reached a career-equalling best of Number 15 in October last year. Their new single doesn't quite make that grade but is notable simply for being more laid back than anything they have ever released before, so much so that it is almost ambient in tone.
27 ALL I NEED IS A MIRACLE 96 (Mike and the Mechanics)
Mike Rutherford's supergroup have been around in between Genesis projects for over ten years so the time has now come for a career retrospective. A Greatest Hits album is due for release with a tour to support it in prospect. Thus it is logical that one of their classic singles should be re-released. To their credit they have not chosen to lazily recycle a smash such as The Living Years but instead go for this, first released in May 1986 when it could only reach Number 53 despite a Top 5 placing in America. They may never make the hippest singles around and mid-80s synth rock like this is never something you feel very comfortable enjoying but this is a well deserved re-release for a long-lost classic. This is a fairly lowly start for the single but as last years Over My Shoulder proved, their hits sound great on the radio and sometimes take time to grow.
29 RISE AND SHINE (Cardigans)
The Cardigans are ace aren't they? The Swedish jazz-popsters have spent the past few months gradually building up awareness of their ice-cool, subtly, beautiful records. Two Top 40 hits in the shape of Sick And Tired and Carnival aided the cause, reaching Numbers 34 and 35 respectively at the end of last year. Now here comes the third which lifts them into the Top 30 for the first time. It is unlikely they will ever have a major hit but the album is the aural equivalent of being tickled with a feather duster. Delightful.
33 LIKE THIS AND LIKE THAT (Monica)
Monica's American success has yet to rebound properly over here, her only chart success so far coming in July last year when Don't Take It Personal charted at Number 32, a position that single looks unlikely to better. It is not that the more commercial side of US R&B cannot hit over here, it just needs to be worked at that's all.
35 LIKE MARVIN GAYE SAID (WHAT'S GOING ON) (Speech)
A good deal of anticipation surrounded the release of the first solo single from the former Arrested Development frontsman, not least because he had the permission and the audacity to sample one of the most famous soul records of all time. Gaye's famous track was possibly one of Motown's first social protest records of the 1970s and has rightly been regarded as a classic ever since. Speech's track is lifted from a tribute album to the soul giant but like most tribute tracks takes away more than it contributes. A cool record but no classic.
37 FAR (Longpigs)
One of the bands of the moment, Longpigs' debut hit pushes its snout (sorry) into the Top 40. Expect more from them soon.
39 IS THIS A DREAM? (Love Decade)
The first chart entry in a long time for Love Decade with a track that harks back to their big hit singles of the early 1990s. The dance act had a number of chart entries at the start of the decade, the biggest coming in November 1991 when So Real reached Number 14. Their last chart entry came in 1993 when When The Morning Comes reached Number 69.
40 (SOMETHING INSIDE) SO STRONG (Michael Ball)
Michael Ball's main problem is that he cannot decide what kind of artist he is. The man with the boyish grin and curly hair started his career on the stage, a career which took a great leap forwards in 1989 when he took the lead role in Andrew Lloyd-Webber's 'Aspects Of Love' and subsequently turned Love Changes Everything into the show's only big hit when he took it to Number 2 early that year. His next appearance came in 1992 when he sang Great Britain's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. One Step Out Of Time was, in all truth, a fabulous pop record and it lost the contest by the narrowest of margins. It was of course also a hit and peaked at Number 20 at the start of May 1992. Since then he has become a sort of housewives favourite, releasing an album every so often which is packed with unremarkable covers of classic hits and new songs which find their way onto Radio Two's playlists. The albums sell enough to justify making another and he occasionally appears inside the Top 40, his last appearance coming in July 1994 when From Here To Eternity made Number 34. Now he appears again with this, a rather horrendous cover of Labi Siffre's classic anti-apartheid song which reached Number 4 in 1987. The performance on the original was in all honesty one that could not be bettered and that, couple with the fact that apartheid no longer exists makes this cover slightly unnecessary. Don't get me wrong, the boy can sing far far better than just about anyone on the chart this week but if he wants to be a pop star he should really try to do it properly.