1 DON'T SPEAK (No Doubt)
In perhaps the least surprising move of the week the Number One position is yet again claimed by a new single, this time by what has to be one of the singles of the year so far. There can be few people in the western world who have not yet heard of this single, the most played song on American radio so far this year and set to be one of 1997's biggest smashes. The debut Top 40 single for No Doubt has all the hallmarks of a pop classic stamped all over it and an instant Number One was almost inevitable. So too it seems is this unstoppable trend at the top end of the British charts. To the dismay of most commentators and those with an interest in marketing these things, for the seventh week in succession a different track appears at Number One, a turnover which is without precedent in chart history. Considering that in an average year you can expect around 20 singles to reach Number One, barely two months of 1997 have gone and we are almost halfway to that total. Still, if any single is going to buck the trend and maintain a presence at the top then it is Don't Speak but a careful eye over this week's release schedule for new singles is perhaps a prudent one to cast.
2 I SHOT THE SHERIFF (Warren G)
A second successive classic cover for Warren G and the second to miss out on the top of the charts by the narrowest of margins. Just before Christmas his version of What's Love Got To Do With It peaked at Number 2 and that entry is matched by his assault on the legend of Bob Marley. Marley's original was never a single in this country and so Eric Clapton's 1974 Top10 version is the most famous reference point. The track was also covered in 1981 by Light Of The World who reached Number 40. The single is yet another stage in the growing trend for rap singles to be little more than new lyrics tacked on the end of a proven commercial chorus, the recent appearance of LL Cool J at Number One bearing further witness to this. Warren G has made the point that this should not detract from the creativity involved in the rapper putting across his own message in the lyrics that the classic chorus supports, thus these rap covers possibly have more artistic merit that a straightforward re-recording of somebody else's song. He has a point and from the very start rap has always been about the twisting of existing ideas to take them to different levels. The first ever commercial rap single and still a reference point for today was the Sugarhill Gang's Rappers Delight... based entirely around the bassline from Good Times from Chic.
4 THE DAY WE FIND LOVE (911)
The career of boy band 911 suddenly moves up a year. They had their first Top 10 hit at the end of last year when Don't Make Me Wait shot to Number 10. Now with their fourth single they breach the Top 5 for the first time ever and do so in considerable style. My constant criticism of boy bands such as this is that the music is often in danger of sounding samey and predictable, being either covers of proven standards or a formulaic verse/chorus pop song based around retro-sounding Motown harmonies. The Day We Find Love is a little different and a little bit special being as it is one of the more melodious ballads released by a pop band in a long time. The Valentines week release was a perfect moment for this single and if this turns out to be their biggest ever hit single there will be a certain air of justice about it.
6 DISCOTHEQUE (U2)
As was perhaps to be expected, U2 fail to maintain the first week sales of their latest comeback single and fall from the top of the charts. Few, on the othe hand, would have expected the fall to be quite so spectacular. Indeed, in a trend that echoes the turnover at the top for significance, Discotheque is the third single this year to fall straight out of the Top 5 from being Number One. Never before has a succession of singles made the tumbes witnessed over the last month from the Spice Girls, Blur and now U2. Before this year only Iron Maiden had made such a fall in the 1990s and in the 1980s only seven discs made such a fall. Incidentally, Blur's Beetlebum fails to register a Top 40 placing this week, confirming its three week Top 40 residency as the shortest ever for a Number One single. Prior to that the record was held by Queen's Innuendo and Iron Maiden's Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter which both spent just four weeks in the upper reaches at the start of 1991. The Queen single now shares the honour with Beetlebum of spending just two weeks in the Top 10 with at least one of those at Number One and if as expected the sales of Discotheque slip even further next week, the record could well be a three way one.
7 DA FUNK (Daft Punk)
The first ever official chart appearance for this somewhat legendary dance track, created and first released by two French DJs back in 1995. After having been an underground hit ever since the track finally rockets to a Top 10 chart placing, much to the bemusement of everyone else. [A superstar debut, but this could not have been more lacking in detail if it tried. Naturally, the "two French DJs" would end up with a slightly higher profile as time wore on].
8 LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT (DJ Kool)
If you were at a party in America last summer the chances are that you either danced to the Macarena or to this track. The US club hit finally gets a belated release over here and quickly finds itself lodged in the British Top 10. DJ Kool's track is one of the few live dance singles ever to chart. There are few enough dance acts able to perform live and when they do the results are rarely worth releasing. The exceptions are N-Joi whose Live In Manchester EP reached Number 12 in February 1992 and more recently Orbital who made Number 3 with a live take of Satan last month. Let Me Clear My Throat is further distinguished by the presence of dance legends Doug E Fresh and Biz Markie on vocals. Doug E Fresh was one of the leading exponents of the dying art of beatboxing and scored his biggest commercial hit with The Show which made Number 7 in 1985. Biz Markie has never before tasted such commercial success, his only previous chart placing came in 1990 when Just A Friend reached Number 55.
9 SHE'S A STAR (James)
A welcome return, both to the charts and to hitmaking form for James, the legendary Manchester band who were formed as long ago as the early 1980s but who only found stardom at the start of this decade. It has been a long layoff for the band as a whole, their last hit coming in April 1994 with Say Something, the third and final single from the Laid album. Since then there has been a mini-album of experimental grooves helmed by Brian Eno and the Booth and the Bad Angel project which saw lead singer Booth team up with Angelo Badelamenti for I Believe which made Number 25 in June last year. She's A Star finds the band refreshingly unchanged, back to what they do best in the shape of a soaring pop song with an anthemic chorus that stays just on the right side of naff stadium rock. Quite deservedly it becomes their third Top 10 hit and the first since the classic Sit Down and Sound made the upper reaches in 1991. Those who pay close attention to these matters will note that for the second successive week a record-breaking six singles make their debuts inside the Top 10. Indeed the Top 40 as a whole this week demonstrates just how polarised the market has become with 12 singles entering the chart, over half inside the Top 20 with four of the remaining six coming between Numbers 34 and 40.
14 DARK CLOUDS (Space)
A fourth hit single for the off the wall Liverpudlians who just seem to get better and better. Dark Clouds maintains their consistent run of chart form, matching the peak of their Top 40 debut The Female Of The Species.
19 2 BECOME 1 (Spice Girls)
Still hanging around the Top 20, the Christmas Number One this week outsells three of the six singles that have followed it at the top of the charts. Small change perhaps compared to their achievements this week with Wannabe topping the US charts, the first all-female British band to do so since Bananarama. With Virgin records making extravagant claims that thanks to its success in virtually every major territory the world over, their first hit is far and away the best selling single the world has ever known.
22 THAT THING YOU DO (The Wonders)
From the somewhat underrated Tom Hanks film of the same name, the cutest movie tie-in of the year lands inside the Top 30. For those who have missed out on a wonderfully entertaining evening, That Thing You Do charts the rise and fall of The Wonders, a fictitious sixties pop band whose destiny is clearly to have just one hit song. The song in question certainly gets an airing, featured no less than eight times almost in its entirety during the course of the film. Inevitably it had to be released as a single for real and so here it is, a rather well made pastiche of just about every mid 1960s pop hit ever made. Exactly who it is modelled on is open to debate, my money would be on The Hollies, but even they probably never made a single as catchy as this. [One of those curiosities where a film features a fictional smash hit single but the attempt to translate that to real life doesn't quite pay off. See also Actually, Love].
34 MUM'S GONE TO ICELAND (Bennett)
As marketing gimmicks go, they don't come better than this. After three near misses, Bennett finally reach the Top 40 for the first time ever thanks to an advertising jingle. In searching for songwriting inspiration they recalled an old TV commercial of their youth and wrote this song whose chorus is the actual jingle used by frozen food store Iceland many years ago. As well as bringing a nostalgic tear to many a persons eye, the company themselves reacted extremely favourably and tried to licence the song for use in a new TV campaign. Perverse to the last, Bennett turned them down with the chain now finding themselves in the unusual position of being unable to advertise with a jingle that they paid to have written in the first place.
36 MEGAMIX (Corona)
Who invented the Megamix? And why? It is a device beloved of DJs on the continent. Why bother to do all the hard work of sequencing all the hits of a popular artist when you can have such a mix ready made for you. Unlike the rest of Europe the British charts used to immune to this phenomenon until the start of the decade when acts such as Snap, Technotronic and Black Box found their past glories effortlessly recycled into neat packages. This, in turn, led to sublime megamix hits from Boney M and Gloria Estefan with the ridiculous surely coming in the shape of the Bare Neccessities megamix in 1991 which spliced together elements of the soundtrack to "The Jungle Book." Recently the fad appeared to have passed but this could all change with this package of former hits from Corona that is as banal as it is unnecessary.
40 NO CHEAP THRILL (Suzanne Vega)
She may never again have a massive hit single but Suzanne Vega is always a welcome sight in the British Top 40. A heavy promotional campaign which has seen her appear on virtually ever TV show going it seems has just about paid off with her first Top 40 hit for seven years. None of the singles from her last album 99.9F made the Top 40 so her last hit single was, in fact, the DNA remix of Tom's Diner which transformed her career in 1990 when it reached Number 2. Of her singles that have been produced the way she originally intended, only two have previously made the Top 40, Marlene On The Wall hitting Number 21 in 1986 and the radio standard Luka climbing to Number 23 a year later.