1 PERFECT DAY (Various Artists)
The first Number One single of a new year is always a curiosity. Most of the time it comes from one of two sources. Either it is a single that had been floating around the Top 10 over the Christmas period that rises above the melee to claim a brief period of glory, or more often in recent years it has been a well-timed new release from an act with enough of a following to ensure it can capitalise on the traditionally slack sales of early January to sneak in at the top. Now it appears we can add a new category... the shock return to the top of a pre-Christmas chart-topper. The return of Perfect Day to the top of the charts is something almost without precedent. Consider the facts: first released at the end of November, the single spent two weeks at Number One and has not been out of the Top 3 since. It has sold well over a million copies, raising thousands for charity as it goes, and wound up the fourth biggest seller of 1997. After spending a fortnight at Number 3 over Christmas the single sustains its sales enough to capitalise on the sudden fall from grace of both the Spice Girls and the Teletubbies to return to the top five weeks since it was last at the summit. Although the phenomenon of records having two runs at Number One is by no means unique (this is the fifth single to do so in the 1990s) for there to be a five-week gap in between is bordering on the phenomenal. Only two records in the modern era can emulate this feat. Three Lions did exactly the same in the summer of 1996, returning to Number One after the Fugees Killing Me Softly had spent four weeks at the top but the modern-day record has to go to the Beatles' She Loves You which had an 8 week gap between its two spells at Number One in late 1963. Of course both Three Lions and She Loves You were on the chart during periods of normal sales, rather than the strange fallow period of early January when the normal order of things is prone to upsets but this should take nothing away from the phenomenal achievement of Perfect Day, the only Various Artists single ever to reach Number One.
2 NEVER EVER (All Saints)
It may not have made Number One but the continuing rise of All Saints' single is still worthy of comment. Despite selling enough before the year end to become one of the Top 20 biggest sellers of the year Never Ever rises up the chart once more to settle at its highest chart position to date, this after having already spent 8 weeks in the Top 10. Their new single is a rather curious cover of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers song Under The Bridge but I suspect its release may end up delayed a few weeks whilst Never Ever is given time to burn itself out.
3 TOO MUCH (Spice Girls)
Deposed after just a fortnight, the Christmas Number One starts to begin its progress down the chart (assuming that Perfect Day is a one-off!). At least it has the consolation of taking only a small tumble. Last year's 2 Become 1 became the first of many singles last year to make spectacular falls from grace, falling to Number 6 immediately after the holiday.
4 TOGETHER AGAIN (Janet Jackson)
Another track to benefit from the post-Christmas shakeout is Janet Jackson's hit which makes a small climb to return to the Number 4 peak it scaled upon release five weeks ago. Admittedly the Christmas rush may have a great deal to do with it but it is already one of the most enduring chart hits of her recent career, her biggest solo hit since That's The Way Love Goes in May 1993 and is one of her biggest-selling UK hits ever.
5 HIGH (Lighthouse Family)
The biggest new hit of the week is from a rather more predictable source. Originally due for release shortly before Christmas but sensibly held back until now, High soars into the Top 10, past the Number 6 peak of its predecessor Raincloud and becomes their second biggest hit to date. Despite following the usual Lighthouse Family formula it is easy to see why, atmospheric strings, a wonderful melody and a magical atmosphere helps High to give Lifted a run for its money as their best single ever.
6 AVENGING ANGELS (Space)
Speaking of best singles ever, what better time to release it than to herald the release of your second album. Despite numerous personnel struggles in 1997, Space have survived to release what is set to be one of the biggest albums of the first half of the year. Already classic singles such as Neighbourhood and Female Of The Species are beaten at a stroke by the performance of this brand new single. Maybe less quirky and more accessible than previous work, despite the cod-1920s interlude in the middle, Avenging Angels capitalises on its extensive airplay over the holiday to become one of the first smash hits of 1998 and in the process becomes their biggest hit to date. [The story of this hit is immortalised in Simon Garfield's "The Nation's Favourite" book when he documents the Radio One playlist meeting which decides to tell the label they won't play the single unless the megaphone-sung middle 8 is chopped in half. Which it was, and the rest is history].
12 ALL CRIED OUT (Allure)
Nothing to do with Alison Moyet, the debut hit from Allure is actually a cover of a Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam song which was an American Top 10 hit in 1986 but is virtually unknown over here. Allure's pedigree is considerable, they were Mariah Carey's backing band at one stage and indeed the lady herself produced this single, already Top 5 in America and now a Top 20 hit this side of the Atlantic.
15 PRINCE IGOR (Warren G featuring Sissel)
The prize for the most curious, and at the same time most innovative single of the week but surely go to Prince Igor. Coolio first did the rap/classical fusion bit with C U When U Get There and now Warren G takes things a stage further with the first ever rap/opera crossover. A unique new spin is put on the formula of rapper and singer with the presence on the single of Norwegian soprano Sissel who sings the melody from Borodin's Prince Igor and from which the single takes its name. Although not the most famous aria in the world it is by no means the first time it has been turned into a pop hit. In 1955 English lyrics were put to the melody and Stranger In Paradise was a Number One hit for Tony Bennett whilst Don Cornell, Tony Martin, Bing Crosby, Eddie Calvert and the Four Aces all charted their own versions - possibly the biggest glut of versions of the same song of all time. The single charges into the Top 20 to become Warren G's first hit since Smokin' Me Out made Number 14 in May last year.
21 I WONDER IF HEAVEN GOT A GHETTO (2 Pac)
As the current set to legal wrangles have shown, there is a veritable goldmine of unreleased 2Pac material waiting in the archives which should ensure there will be no shortage of posthumous hits from the prolific rapper over the coming months. First of these is the single with the hideously ironic yet somewhat appropriate title, his first hit single since Wanted Dead Or Alive made Number 16 in June last year.
28 FLAMING JUNE (BT)
Bidding to become this year's Professional Widow, Flaming June wastes no time in becoming the first opportunistic dance reissue of 1998. First released in July last year the single reached Number 19. I suggested at the time that this may well be BT's most uncommercial offering to date but that does not stop it being a rather haunting piece of trance that sounds at its best at 3am. Sadly new mixes and a release at this slack time of year haven't helped it become the smash hit many feel it deserves to be.
29 GOOD GIRLS (Joe)
After two hits in 1997, Joe racks up his first chart hit of the new year with another piece of US soul that does little to elevate him from being more than an R Kelly soundalike.
31 SHELTER (Brand New Heavies)
The fourth single from the current Brand New Heavies album is the title track. Distinct from all their previous hits as it features a male vocal, Siedah Garrett on this occasion taking a back seat and letting Drummer and Keyboardist Jan Kinciad take centre stage on his own song. No less brilliant than any Heavies track, it suffers rather from the law of diminishing returns that you might expect from an album's fourth single, despite the fact that You've Got A Friend peaked at Number 9 last time round.
33 DON'T DIE YET (David Holmes)
The first post-Christmas dance crossovers start to land on the chart, beginning with this atmospheric track from David Holmes who makes his first appearance on the Top 40, a far cry from a couple of years ago when his chart career consisted of a single week at Number 75 with Gone.
34 VOLUME 1 (WHAT YOU WANT WHAT YOU NEED) (Industry Standard)
For reasons that are slightly too complicated to go into here, there are currently two versions of this track doing the rounds. First off the mark with an official release is the version by Industry Standard and it is rewarded with a minor Top 40 entry suggesting that this isn't so much a battle of the cover versions but a battle of who could care less.
39 SATAN REJECTED MY SOUL (Morrissey)
Strange indeed to relate that it is now almost ten years since Morrissey stopped being part of the Smiths and became a solo star. Sadly these days he is a prime example of how the mighty can fall, his fanbase diminishing to such an extent that he spent most of 1997 having the unusual experience of seeing singles miss the Top 40. Indeed I suspect it is only due to the post-Christmas lull than Satan... sneaks in at the bottom end, his first Top 40 hit since 'Alma Matters' made Number 16 last August. The follow-up Roy's Keane missed out altogether. Needless to say that Satan Rejected My Soul is probably one of his best singles for many a long while but in an industry where the most important thing is to be 'in', Morrissey is mostdefinitelyy 'out'.