1 BELIEVE (Cher)
Still seemingly immovable at the top of the chart, Cher clocks up a fourth week as the nation's bestseller and once more holds firm in the face of some competition from a single that was being tipped in many quarters as a potential Number One. At four weeks Believe is now undisputedly the second-longest running Number One single of the year with only It's Like That ahead in the running with its six-week run back in April. In the current climate of rapid turnover at the top end of the chart, a four-week run is in itself quite exceptional but even in the past is has always been a mark of quite exceptional extended popularity for a single. Believe is in fact only the fifth single in the last two years to have managed more than three consecutive weeks at Number One. As for Cher's chances over the next few weeks, your guess is really as good as mine. We are in the middle of something of a lull as far as major new single releases are concerned (this week there are 'only' 10 new entries to the Top 40 and only five are in the top half), the big guns are concentrating their efforts on the start of December to try to grab a slice of the lucrative Christmas market. Looking at the releases for this forthcoming week, I wouldn't be surprised to see Cher still at Number One in seven days time.
2 HEARTBEAT/TRAGEDY (Steps)
Exactly a year since they first landed on the chart with their debut hit 5,6,7,8 the well-groomed five piece notch up their fourth. I suspect the original marketing plan was for this single up the ante as far as their sales were concerned and become their first ever Number One but in the event it is forced (for the moment anyway) to miss out as Cher (who was having Number One hits before any of the members of Steps were born) sweeps all before her. Instead the single matches the Number 2 peak of their last hit One For Sorrow but like all their previous hits is probably set for a longer chart career than many of this week's other new hits. It is what in the old days we used to call a double-a side with both tracks being given equal weight in terms of promotion - Jive records have even produced a video for both. Heartbeat is lifted from their album Step One and takes the tempo down a notch, a well-produced pop ballad that is clearly meant as a nod towards the forthcoming festive season even if it does sound drained of emotion outside the school disco. Tragedy is an interesting concept - a band whose entire musical style is based on being Abba soundalikes covering a Bee Gees hit. It is yet another track taken from the current Bee Gees tribute album Gotta Get A Message To You, a faithful if fun cover of their classic 1979 Number One and follows hot on the heels of 911s cover of More Than A Woman which is also from the same album. It is always possible that the current flood of Bee Gees remakes will be added to with more single releases from said album, a production which for once makes the concept of a multi-artist tribute album seem like a good idea.
3 THE BARTENDER AND THE THIEF (Stereophonics)
Suddenly the Stereophonics are big news. After steadily building up a following with a succession of singles from their 1997 debut album they are ready to move into the big time. The consolidation was completed in February when Local Boy In The Photograph reached Number 14 and now the first release from their second long player launches them into the Top 10 for the very first time. The new single is more of what we have come to expect from the band, raspy vocals, big guitars and a chorus which may not have the killer hook that some of their contemporaries go for but which is enough to make the single distinctive. This may be the biggest hit single they get from the new album but it will make its release in January the first big musical event of 1999.
7 SIT DOWN (James)
The story of Sit Down can be traced back to 1989 when James, after many long years of being the best unknown band in Manchester were just about to break into the big time. Sit Down was by far the best single they had made up until that point, and it was something of a disappointment when it narrowly missed charting officially in the Top 75. Later that year they signed to Fontana records and recorded the album Gold Mother in what turned out to be their commercial breakthrough. A series of Top 40 singles followed in 1990 but they were still something of a well-kept secret. In all this time Sit Down remained a live favourite and picking up on this in early 1991 the band re-recorded the track with a far beefier production and hit paydirt. Instantly the track became an anthem, a massive crossover smash, hitting Number 2 in April 1991 and becoming far and away the biggest hit they would ever have. It even prompted the album to be recut with Sit Down included and the record company taking the unprecedented step of allowing people to trade in copies of the original pressing in return for the new version. Now at the end of a year when the band have successfully promoted a Greatest Hits collection it is appropriate that their greatest hit of all should make a reappearance. Sadly it has done so in a rather inappropriate form, you guessed it: the Great Remix Of Crap. It all makes perfect sense of course, take one of the best records of the decade, one of the few early 90s indie hits you can actually dance to anyway and shove a processed Gary Glitter-esque thump underneath it in a desperate attempt to ruin it for everyone. Even the fact that the normally inspired talents of Apollo 440 are behind the single doesn't come as any comfort. It hasn't stopped the single crashing into the Top 10 to give the band their fourth such hit single and indeed their biggest hit since the original Sit Down but I can only hope those that have bought it have done so in order to play the original mix which can also be found on the CD single. Am I being harsh? Possibly, but then again I am just warming up ready for the arrival of the Levellers' single...
12 THE DOPE SHOW (Marilyn Manson)
Just over a year since his (its?) first brace of chart hits, Marilyn Manson explodes onto the chart once more with what turns out to be his biggest hit to date, soaring past the Number 18 peak of The Beautiful People. The Dope Show, despite the dubious nature of the lyrics, is possibly the most accessible Manson single to date, sung in a Lou Reed growl but with a tune and most particularly a chorus which evokes memories of classic T-Rex singles. Worthy of its Top 20 placing at the very least.
17 TELL ME MA (Sham Rock)
You see, even the direst of predictions can come true. Sham Rock's novelty fusion of Irish reels and line dancing beats proves to be more than a one-week wonder by sustaining a Top 20 placing in its third week on the chart and actually rallies after slumping to Number 19 a week ago. Cast your mind back a year if you will and remember Steps' debut hit which was initially dismissed as an annoying novelty production but which was to ultimately spend the whole of the Christmas and New Year period bouncing around the Top 20. As the Christmas party season approaches Tell Me Ma could well end up the perfect soundtrack to drunken hoofing.
20 PRAY (Tina Cousins)
The voice of Sash's Mysterious Times now strikes out on her own with her first solo hit and for her efforts lands a Top 20 entry with this bubbly piece of Euro dance, produced by the same team of Topham, Twigg and Waterman that are responsible for much of the Steps album. Her publicity machine is keen to emphasise the distance between her own sound and that of the German mastermind who first thrust her into the limelight although this is somewhat at odds with the sound of the single which to the untrained ear doesn't sound too far removed from many of Sash's previous singles.
23 IF WE TRY (Karen Ramirez)
Making, perhaps understandably, less of a splash than her last hit, the Everything But The Girl cover Looking For Love, Karen Ramirez nonetheless notches up her second Top 40 single with this new track. Clearly a name to keep an eye on, she has even had no less a figure than Steve Silk Hurley do one of the remixes of the single.
28 LA (Marc Et Claude)
Friends of mine had a copy of this single earlier this year when it crept into shops on a limited release. After spending the entire summer as a well-kept secret the single that ties the Bluetones' If for the shortest title of the year gets a full commercial release and a Top 30 placing to boot, reflecting its current status near the top end of the club charts.
29 ALL I NEED (Air)
Despite Top 20 hits in the shape of Sexy Boy and Kelly Watch The Stars, Air's album has been one of the best-kept secrets of 1998. Its sales may well be given a slight lift with this third single which takes a more conventional route than its predecessors and with its pleasant female vocal is in danger of becoming a proper pop single. Still more ethereal chill-out music than dance but enough to prove that Air, or Air (French Band) to give them their full title are far from being one-trick ponies.
38 REPEATED LOVE (A.T.G.O.C.)
Italian in origin, clubland in popularity, limited in appeal, short on chart life.
39 ALL I WANT (Puressence)
Puressence at some stage will be one of the biggest bands in the country [yeah, and Donald Trump will one day be President]. Their third single from their current album becomes their second Top 40 hit and scrapes into the Top 40 in the same manner as This Feeling did when it reached Number 33 six months ago. Once again this is an astonishing record, a lavish, soaring production, masterfully played and with singer James Mudriczki sounding like he means every line. I'm inclined to go away and weep, not just at the sound of the music but at the way it is destined to become just a minor chart footnote. Those who feel the same may like to take comfort from the fact that both the Stereophonics and Embrace (to whom the band are often compared) were only having minor Top 40 hits just 18 months ago.