1 YOU NEEDED ME (Boyzone)
It was reported that Polydor records had pointed out to Boyzone that for the release of their latest single they would be going head to head with the first ever solo release from Geri Halliwell and were given the option of delaying for a week. The same reports said that the boys' answer was no and if indeed it was their decision to directly compete with Ginger they have been completely vindicated. Not since the epic duel between Blur and Oasis in the summer of 1995 has the race for the top of the charts received as much scrutiny with newspapers giving daily updates on the progress of the two singles. As it turned out, Boyzone took a narrow lead after the first day and maintained it throughout the week, emerging at the other end as the proud owners of yet another Number One single. It is a significant achievement in a number of ways. For a start it is the sixth chart-topping single for the band, just two short of the total notched up by their one-time rivals Take That. You will note that all their Number One hits to date have come in braces - Words and A Different Beat in '96, All That I Need and No Matter What in '98 and now When The Going Gets Tough and You Needed Me in '99. They are the first act to have two Number One singles in 1999 and indeed as the above list indicates, this is now the third time in four years that they have placed two singles at the top of the chart. Only two other acts have had more than one Number One hit in three different calendar years in the 1990s and their names aren't hard to guess - Take That in '93, '94 and '95 and the Spice Girls in '96, '97 and '98. One final point worth dwelling on is that yet again Boyzone have taken the 'safe' route of releasing a cover version, You Needed Me having been an American Number One hit for Anne Murray in 1978 (the song fared less well over here, peaking at Number 22 although this is one of the still rare examples of the same song topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic for two different acts). Boyzone are at times accused of being nothing more than a covers band, a charge which actually fails to hold water when you look at their singles releases to date. You Needed Me is their 15th single release in this country (every one a Top 5 hit - another record) of which only five (Love Me For A Reason, Father And Son, Words, When The Going Gets Tough and You Needed Me) had previously been hits for another act whilst a further two (Baby Can I Hold You and I Love The Way You Love Me) were songs that had been recorded by other artists but had never before been hit singles. Have we missed anything? Oh yes, the recent string of hits from Westlife, Backstreet Boys and now Boyzone means that this is the first time that there have been three successive Number One hits from boy bands. Records galore then, and to go looking for something negative to say would be churlish in the extreme. Happily it means I can save my venom for whoever it was that designed the new edition of British Hit Singles.
2 LOOK AT ME (Geri Halliwell)
Let's make a quite list of the amount of promotion this single has received. First there is the one-woman publicity machine that is Geri Halliwell, then there was the TV documentary, the video that MTV keeps cutting off before we've seen her climb naked out of the swimming pool (bastards!), the dotmusic mini-site, the nationwide first play of the record - not to mention the interviews in just about every publication going (except maybe Mother And Baby but she is probably working on that one as well). The only way to avoid the hype has been to live on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic for the last month and you can bet your life that Miss Halliwell would probably have even visited you there in her role as a United Nations ambassador. The reward for all this hard work? A Number 2 single. Technically this is the first ever solo single from a Spice Girl, whether current or former. The two Mels have also released singles outside the group but both were duets - Mel C with Bryan Adams and Melanie Brown/Gulzar making a guest appearance but getting the primary credit on a Missy Elliott track last summer. As such the single was bound to attract a great deal of attention and to be fair deserves most of it. Analysis of the track has been done to death in many places, yes she does do a pretty impressive Shirley Bassey impression (and lets face it Geri isn't the world's greatest singer and to try and be Elaine Paige would have been pushing it slightly) and yes, the track is, depending on your point of view either a close relative of the Propellerheads' History Repeating or the music from the IBM "Solutions For A Small Planet" TV ad. At the end of the day it hardly matters, this track was going to be a smash hit no matter what and the only point of significance is that both she and EMI have been denied a Number One hit by a band who existence predates even the Spice Girls themselves.
3 THAT DON'T IMPRESS ME MUCH (Shania Twain)
So Shania Twain has almost totally abandoned her country roots to become an MOR balladeer has she? Not a bit of it apparently as the fourth single from Come On Over is her most uptempo UK release to date. With rockabilly guitars and Nashville throwbacks to the fore the single is easily her most appealing yet and so the chart placings prove as it becomes the third new entry in the Top 3 this week, sailing past the Number 9 peak of From This Moment On to become her biggest hit single to date. Gratuitous reader contribution of the week comes from Pat Kelly who points out that with Shania Twain and Bryan Adams both holding down Top 10 places this week and with Boyzone topping the charts with a single first recorded by a Canadian this is something of a triumphant week for the Northern Territories.
7 TURN AROUND (Phats And Small)
The Top 10 this week is graced with the presence not only of TLCs No Scrubs but also Phats And Small's Turn Around as examples of singles that have bucked all current trends and are experiencing extended runs at the top end of the chart. Turn Around has spent the last month occupying the same two chart positions as since its release it has travelled 3-4-2-8-7-8-7 and is showing little sign of burning out yet.
11 NORTHERN LITES (Super Furry Animals)
We now travel thousands of miles from Canada to Wales for out next international connection and welcome back the Super Furry Animals for their first chart single of 1999. Their last hit was Ice Hockey Hair which reached Number 12 in June last year and this new release goes one better, their fourth Top 20 single and their biggest hit to date, hardly surprising when you consider the quality of this track, complete with some rather wonderful Latin trumpets and a calypso rhythm. For the moment that Top 10 breakthrough eludes them.
13 WHAT YOU NEED (Powerhouse featuring Duane Harden)
Duane Harden has already had a Number One single this year although it is quite possible that few people noticed. He was of course the singer on Armand Van Helden's You Don't Know Me which had a brief week of glory back in February and now he gets a second chart hit with this track, another rather fine example of disco house, this time British originated thanks to the production talents of Powerhouse. What You Need is the second Powerhouse single to reach the Top 40, the team having made Number 38 in December 1997 with Rhythm Of The Night, a single that was fashioned from the instrumental hook to the classic DeBarge track from the 1980s but which never really got the exposure it deserved.
16 SECRETLY (Skunk Anansie)
To the surprise of many people their third album has performed rather disappointingly so far, despite the Top 20 success of its first single Charlie Big Potato. Something tells me normal service may well be restored with this second release. The cod-metal of Charlie... has been abandoned in favour of the kind of raw emotion that made past Skunk Anansie singles such as Weak and Brazen (Weep) such classic as Skin croons her way through this string-drenched production. Expect another brief in and out chart performance of course but add this at least to the list of classic singles from this most unconventional of bands, this now their seventh Top 20 hit.
23 (NOT THE) GREATEST RAPPER (1000 Clowns)
Sad to say there were great things predicted of this track, a bubbly summery white rap song with some rather fine pop credentials, a clever lyric and an entertaining video to boot. One can overstate the importance of airplay where the UK charts are concerned but there is no doubt that had radio got behind this single it would almost certainly have been a much bigger hit. Some things were quite clearly not meant to be. [Still one of my favourite one hit wonders of the year].
24 THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN (Happy Mondays)
Ask someone to pick the band least likely to go on the nostalgia circuit and the chances are that they will have picked the Happy Mondays. Yet here they are, more or less with the original lineup playing a series of dates so Shaun Ryder can pay off his tax bills. No comeback would be complete without a new single and so a few months ago the band piled back into the studio to record their first new material since the disastrous Yes Please! album in 1992. Shaun Ryder admits the track - a loose interpretation of the classic Thin Lizzy song - was recorded in a bit of a hurry and to be frank it shows, even the presence of the tremendous pipes of backing singer Rowetta (the one saving grace of the Yes Please sessions) and the talents of Oakenfold and Osbourne back in the producers chair cannot prevent the single sounding like a college band having a jamming session before they get down to rehearsals proper. Of course this rough and ready "we're making it up as we go along" feel was part of the charm of early Mondays recordings but crucially this was back in the days before they had hit singles and with the Black Grape album held up in evidence that Shaun Ryder can actually write proper music when he puts his mind to it you cannot pretend that The Boys Are Back In Town is a worthy release. Nonetheless it becomes the first Happy Mondays single to hit the chart since Sunshine And Love made Number 62 in November 1992 and is their biggest hit since Judge Fudge also made Number 24 in November 1991. Onstage they sound just like they always did and a fair few nostalgic tears are being shed in the audience of their current series of gigs but the best thing that can be said about the Mondays revival is that it is living proof we have all grown up a great deal since the turn of the decade.
27 CARROT ROPE (Pavement)
Imagine Lloyd Cole recording in Liverpool in the mid-1960s and you come close to the sound of Pavement. The Californian band have been charting a regular intervals throughout the decade with a series of very small hits. They were cited by Blur as the inspiration for Song 2 and have been making regular appearances at summer festivals for years but their only Top 40 appearance to date came in May 1997 when Shady Lane crept in at Number 40. Two years later and they break into the Top 30 for the first time with this meandering, disjointed track that is possibly a bit too ecletic to become a major hit but its very presence in the listings will please a great many people.
31 OPUS 40 (Mercury Rev)
Still we live in hope for a massive hit single for Mercury Rev and still they manage to disappoint. This is their second chart hit this year, the followup to Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp which made Number 26 back in February. Despite the addition of some wonderful Beach Boys-esque harmonies this single fares slightly worse and misses the Top 30 altogether. Maybe they should go back to gouging each others eyes out on aeroplanes, they got better writeups in the NME in those days.
33 BREAK UPS 2 MAKE UPS (Method Man featuring D'Angelo)
The first solo release for a long while from Method Man this week hits the chart just outside the Top 30. His biggest hit was of course his 1995 duet with Mary J Blige on I'll Be There For You - You're All I Need To Get By which peaked at Number 10. D'Angelo fills the guest starring role on this track but the overall effect is one that fails to catch fire.
34 CLAP YOUR HANDS (Camisra)
The hitmaking alter ego of DJ Tall Paul makes another chart appearance - his third in total following the Number 5 hit Let Me Show You and the Number 32 hit Feel The Beat which both charted last year. Musically there is nothing wrong with Clap Your Hands, another uptempo house track that sounds great on the dancefloor but if there is a magic charm that enables dance singles to become massive crossover hits there is clearly a long queue of people waiting for Fatboy Slim to finish using it.
39 JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH (Harry Romero presents Inaya Day)
A rather minor chart entry for this debut single for Harry Romero which, before anyone asks, isn't a dance remake of the old Depeche Mode song although you suspect it may well have been a bigger hit had this been the case. [Inaya Day the uncredited voice behind the vocals on Mousse T's Horny although few people knew this at the time].
40 PHUTURE 2000 (Carl Cox)
Sneaking in at the bottom end of the listing is Carl Cox who improves on the chart placing of his last single The Latin Theme which could only reach Number 52 just before Christmas. Like Camisra a few places above him, the ace producer has had a number of hit singles to his name over the last few years, none of which have been what you would regard as major commercial smashes however and he has yet to top the Number 23 peak of I Want You (Forever), his first ever single which charted as long ago as September 1991.