This week's Official UK Singles Chart

[Oops I did it again, appearing live in the middle of the night on TV (post-haircut this time) to talk charts. These two invitations were extended with the vague notion of featuring me regularly on the forthcoming prime time entertainment show on BBC3 (the programme that became Liquid News). This never materialised, perhaps partially because they swiftly released they could attract actual stars to the studio rather than nobody journalists or perhaps just as equally because I wasn't really all that good in my two brief spots. There's an art to talking about charts onscreen in a manner which makes them interesting].


1 OOPS! I DID IT AGAIN (Britney Spears) 

Just when the seemingly endless parade of US female teen clones is threatening to get boring, along comes the undisputed Queen of them all to show how it really should be done. Complain all you want about how in reality she is as manufactured as the rest of them, even that manufacturing is seemingly flawless. Maybe it is her image, a hybrid of the girl next door and the school bike or the way she pulls off the trick of "look but never, ever touch" sexuality. Maybe it is the songs she is given to sing, many of them creations of the Swedish hit factory of Cheiron studios under the watchful eye of Max Martin. Either way, nobody can come close to what she has managed to achieve worldwide.

So it is that with the first single from her second album she crashes straight into the top of the charts for the third time in her career. OK so really it is the same damn song she has released at least twice before but at the very least you have to acknowledge what a fantastic song it is. A third Number One hit is enough to write her into the record books in yet another way as Britney now leads a small pack of the youngest ever artists to put such a string of Number One hits together. Contrary to what you may have read at the start of the year, she is by no means the youngest female to have two Number One hits. Her second back in January came shortly after her 18th birthday which makes her older than her British counterpart Billie Piper who had a second chart-topper in 1998 just after her 16th birthday. The record is still held by Helen Shapiro who topped the chart twice in 1961 at the tender age of 15.

Having said that neither of these two women had a third Number One hit. Britney has, making her one of a select band of female artists to have done so. Here at least she is far and away the youngest to notch up a trio, beating Kylie Minogue who was just a few days shy of her 21st birthday when Hand On Your Heart became her third Number One hit in July 1989. Oops I Did I Again also draws her level in chart terms with Geri Halliwell as both women have now had three singles enter at the top of the chart. Even Madonna has only done that twice.


2 BOUND 4 DA RELOAD (CASUALTY) (Oxide & Neutrino) 

In the wake of the all-conquering Britney Spears there was, to be fair, little chance of Bound 4 Da Reload spending a second week at the top. Still, fair play to Oxide & Neutrino they have at least created one of the most talked about dance singles for many months. Honourable mention really should go to composer Ken Freeman, the man who originally wrote the theme to the BBC series Casualty and who as a result of this single has just had a Number One single without anyone noticing. Incidentally it was touch and go as to what form the single was going to take when it was released two weeks ago as clearance to use the original TV music was only granted at the last moment, hence the existence of a number of promo copies that use a studio recreation of the music. Finally it is certainly possible that Bound 4 Da Reload can count as one of a small band of TV themes to have topped the UK charts over the years. The first of these was the Simon Park Orchestra's Eye Level (from Van Der Valk) from 1973. In 1980 came the Theme From M*A*S*H whilst the Teletubbies hit the top for Christmas 1997. The one other TV theme that everyone seems to overlook when compiling these lists is S Club 7's Bring It All Back which although it was promoted as a pop single in its own right was also the theme to their series Miami 7 which was still airing when the single topped the chart in June last year.


3 HEART OF ASIA (Watergate) 

Behind every good dance record lies a rather brilliant idea, as Oxide & Neutrino have demonstrated nicely. Joining them in the Top 3 this week is another track that is just as inspired. This track is really little more than a tranced-up version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's famous theme to the film Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence which became something of a wordwide sensation in 1983. Although the track originates in Germany the brains behind it are none other than Tommaso De Donatis and Orhan Terzi, who produced singles under the guise of DJ Quicksilver (hits including Free and Bellissima) in 1997. The original instrumental version of the theme from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence was never a hit single in its own right in this country but instead became a hit in a vocal version by David Sylvian entitled Forbidden Colours which became a Top 20 hit in the summer of that year. Now the theme is introduced to a whole new generation thanks to Watergate and strange though it may seem is one of the few dance treatments of a famous song that actually manages to make the original seem almost dull by comparison.


8 ACHILLES HEEL (Toploader) 

Almost as if everyone had stepped aside for Britney Spears this week there are just three new entries in the Top 10. Bringing up the rear so to speak are Toploader who follow up their breakthrough hit Dancing In The Moonlight (Number 19 back in March) with a re-release of their very first single which crept to Number 64 almost exactly a year ago. Easily one of the current darlings of the trendy music press, the band quite unashamedly stir in as many 70s influences as possible to their music which makes for some fun games amongst reviewers comparing them to past acts. Thus, just as I described Dancing In The Moonlight as combining elements of Joe Jackson and Rod Stewart I'm going to peg Achilles Heel as sounding like Cast singing David Bowie. Interestingly enough my dotmusic colleague Iain Campbell when reviewing the single suggested it was Stevie Wonder as performed by Don McLean. See how fun this is?


15 DIRTY WATER (Made In London) 

If you happen to be the lucky winner of the current Dotmusic competition to be crammed inside a steel capsule with the latest all-female trio to be aiming for pop stardom then I am extremely envious. Just thought it was worth mentioning that's all. Made In London are said act, a tribute once again to the current A&R obsession with threesomes. Made In London are more Madasun than Atomic Kitten with a competent if rather unspectacular debut single that does just about enough to get them noticed by creeping into the Top 20.


22 NOTHING AS IT SEEMS (Pearl Jam) 

Funny to think it is almost ten years since the craze for grunge rock swept America and penetrated here briefly. Of all rock acts that appeared in the early 1990s one has to admire the way Pearl Jam have kept going and just as importantly kept their popularity at a consistent level to such an extent that they can now rank as respected veterans of the industry. Nothing As It Seems is their first Top 40 hit for two years, their last hit Wishlist hitting Number 30 almost two years ago to the week. They have charted one single since, that being Last Kiss in August last year but as this track had already been sent to fan club members as a Christmas freebie the previous year one can excuse the way it only reached Number 42 to rank as their only hit single ever to miss the Top 40. Spin The Black Circle remains their biggest hit, reaching Number 10 in November 1994.


24 YOU PUT ME IN HEAVEN WITH YOUR TOUCH (Rhythm Of Life) 

High energy trance is the order of the day for this single, giving Rhythm Of Life their first chart credit. Of course if it was based on an old tune I would have something more interesting to say about it.


31 I AM THE SUN (Dark Star) 

After making their chart breakthrough in January with the re-released Number 25 hit Graceadelica, Dark Star surprisingly elect not to reactivate their second single About 3AM and instead go for this track, released to coincide nicely with their current UK tour.


32 AMAZED (Lonestar) 

Even with only a few new entries scattered around the Top 40 this week there are very few older hits that make a chart resurgence in the wake of reduced competition from above. Lonestar at least benefit slightly, leaping four places to Number 32 this week. Given the nation's recent love affair with all things Shania Twain and with the year-long chart run of LeAnn Rimes' How Do I Live fresh in the memory there were a fair few eyebrows raised when this US Number One hit only made a rather average Number 23 when released last month. Maybe with a little more attention paid to its promotion it would have been bigger but the chart performance of the single thus far suggests it has slowly but surely been picking up fans outside the usual mainstream of record buyers. To date the single has moved 24-23-30-36-32 and I would not be surprised if it continues to sell in small but consistent quantities for a few more weeks to come. [You ain't seen nothing yet].


Hey, is that it? Seven new entries? I feel like it is 1987 all over again. Plenty of people will deny it of course but the scarceity of major new releases this week is almost certainly a direct consequence of few record companies wanting to go head to head with the almost certain Number One debut of Britney Spears, indeed if you only glanced casually at shelves in some record shops last week you could have been forgiven for thinking Oops I Did I Again was the only new single released. As is often the case in weeks such as this there are a few noteworthy movements outside the main body of the Top 40. Status Quo for example land at Number 48 with their cover of Mony Mony. Has-beens they may be labelled by virtually everyone but it still becomes their 56th chart single since 1968. Elsewhere note the appearance at Number 56 of the debut single from Heather Peace, star of the TV series London's Burning but who fails so far to emulate the success of her former co-star Steven Houghton who had two Top 40 hits in 97/98.

This week there are also singles from well-established chart acts that are nowhere to be seen on the Top 75. The Super Furry Animals reach an unofficial Number 80 with the Welsh language Ysbeidiau Heulog, a shock result until you realise that the track was a limited-edition vinyl release and almost impossible to get hold of in some areas. Gomez too are one act whom you would expect to make a big chart impact but their latest single too is nowhere to be seen. This is because the big-beat powered Machismo is an old-fashioned EP single with more than three tracks and thus ineligible for the singles chart. Ironically it fails to qualify for the albums chart either and so exists in a kind of listings limbo. Had it been eligible it would have ranked as the fourth biggest selling long player of the week.