This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG (Emma Bunton)

Almost with every step they take the various members of the Spice Girls shatter records in their wake. Apart from her 1999 collaboration with Tin Tin Out on What I Am this single marks the solo debut of Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton. As a pop record it is nothing spectacular, a semi-acoustic guitar-based pop track complete with its freckles, cleavage and gingham dress video but it does enough to send the lady rocketing to the top of the chart to end Hear'Say's three week run. She thus becomes the fourth Spice Girl to top the chart away from the band, following nicely in the footsteps of Melanie B, Geri Halliwell and Melanie C. No other chart-topping act has seen as many as four of their members go on to similar solo success. Prior to this the record was held by The Beatles but only John, Paul and George have had solo Number One hits. For the moment Ringo Starr's best ever solo performance is Back Off Boogaloo which reached Number 2 in 1972. Meanwhile the nation waits for Victoria Beckham to top the charts in her own right. That has to come sometime surely? [*snork*] The success of What Took You So Long is also something of a triumph for its writer, Richard Stannard. He has already co-written six Number One singles for the Spice Girls and was also the co-writer of Five's Keep On Movin'. Thus he can now claim to have penned 8 chart-topping singles in the last five years, a strike rate which nobody else can match.


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3 PURE AND SIMPLE (Hear'Say)

When is a debut single not a debut single? This is the debate that has raged all week over the widely reported claims that last week Hear'Say became the first act ever to top the singles and albums charts simultaneously with their debut releases. Over the last seven days many people have pointed out that The Monkees, Tubeway Army and Hanson can also claim the same. It all depends on how you define "debut" of course. Taking them in order, The Monkees did indeed hit the top with their first hit I'm A Believer in January 1967 during which time their album The Monkees also ascended to the top. Crucially though this was not their first ever single release, that honour fell to Last Train To Clarksville which had been released in late 1966 but never charted, the single eventually appearing alongside I'm A Believer in the singles chart in early 1967. So they don't count. Neither do Tubeway Army (aka Gary Numan) who did indeed top both charts simultaneously with Are 'Friends' Electric and Replicas in June 1979. This time it was the album that let them down. Replicas was actually the second Tubeway Army long player, the first was Tubeway Army which came out in 1978 and subsequently charted for the first time in August 1979. Finally Hanson who on 21 June 1997 were comfortably at Number One on the singles chart with MMMBop and at the top of the albums listing with Middle Of Nowhere. Here you have to split hairs as although both these records were their debut UK releases the brothers had already recorded two independent albums which gained US only releases in 1995 and 1996. Unlike Hear'Say their chart-topping releases weren't technically "debuts".
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6 BOW WOW (THAT'S MY NAME) (Lil Bow Wow)

What message does it send out when the hottest recording artist in American rap is a kid who would barely be old enough to do a paper round in this country? Thirteen year old Shad Moss comes complete with a wonderfully vainglorious biography which claims that he was discovered by Dr Dre at the age of six(!). Lil Bow Wow is currently under the musical wing of Dre's other canine monikered discovery, Snoop Dogg. This fact alone goes some way to explaining the strange similarity between Bow Wow (That's My Name) and Snoop Dogg Dogg's own chart debut What's My Name? which made Number 20 in December 1993. Both singles are based extensively around George Clinton's Atomic Dog which first appeared on his 1980 album Computer Games. Lil Bow Wow's single also samples heavily from Andy Gibb's 1978 hit Shadow Dancing, thus giving the Bee Gees their second Top 20 writing credit in as many weeks. As a career start Lil Bow Wow could hardly have hoped for better but his real problem is going to be living down the fact that pre-teen rappers have been tried out as a concept before and as Kriss Kross found to their cost in 1992, once the novelty of a child act wears out they are left with little to show for it.


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12 CHILLIN' (Modjo)

In an almost deathly quiet week for new releases, the Top 20 is dominated by followups. First in line are Modjo who made history last year when they became the first French group to top the UK charts with Lady. The follow-up sticks sensibly to the same disco formula, albeit with rather less of an impact.
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13 BURN BABY BURN (Ash)

Next in line are Ash, here following up their Number 8 hit Shining Light which was released barely two months ago. Burn Baby Burn has little more significance other than being their 8th Top 20 hit single. [Get in the sea 2001 James, it is another magnificent record from Ash's best ever album].


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14 SEVEN DAYS IN THE SUN (Feeder)

A second hit single of the year too for Feeder albeit at a slightly more restrained schedule than Ash appear to be following. Their last hit was the rather wonderful Buck Rogers which is still easily one of the singles of the year so far and which gave them a Number 5 hit back in January. This Top 20 entry may not look like much but compared to their nine chart singles between 1997 and 1999, all but one of which falling short of the Top 20, this is nothing short of a major and long overdue career turnaround.
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15 SUSPICIOUS MINDS (Elvis Presley)

Pick those jaws up off the floor for you are not seeing things. The King returns to the singles chart on the back of the promotion of a compilation album of his Greatest Hits - Live. As a result this rendition of Suspicious Minds is not the studio recording that reached Number 2 in late 1969 but a hitherto unreleased live version, captured just before his live performances began to echo his life and descended into self-parody. The song was originally recorded by country star Mark James but it is Elvis' version that has since become the standard and today ranks as one of the best performances of the latter part of his career. The song has since become a hit in two other versions, first for Candi Staton in 1982 (Number 31) and most recently for the Fine Young Cannibals who reached Number 8 with their rendition in 1986. Amongst the many others against his name, Elvis Presley holds something of a never to be beaten chart record, having had at least one single placed on the singles chart every year between 1956 and 1985. Suspicious Minds is however his first chart appearance since May 1997 when Always On My Mind reached Number 13 after being using in a TV commercial. As this version of Suspicious Minds is a live recording it ranks as a brand new hit, bringing Elvis' total in the UK to 112 chart singles. The King was the first act ever to clock up more than 100 singles chart appearances although he has since been overtaken by Cliff Richard who now has 122 to his name. Finally it is somehow appropriate that this latest chapter of Elvis Presley's chart career should be as a result of a live recording as he is one of just a small handful of artists to have topped the charts with a single recorded outside the confines of a studio - in this case The Wonder Of You which hit the top in 1970.
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19 HAPPINESS (Sound De-Zign)

Delegates to the recent Miami Dance Conference (from where most of the big summer club releases will spring) will probably have been subjected to the strains of this retro-house track which escapes over here after doing big business on the East Coast. What is most notable though is the fact that the single (the seventh new entry of the week) is at Number 19 yet is the lowest charting of all this week's Top 40 new entries. In a situation which to the best of my knowledge is more or less unprecedented in recent chart history, every single track between 20 and 40 is an older hit on the way out. Ordinarily such a gap would at least leave the door open for an older hit to rebound slightly but even that has not happened this week, the closest any of the lower-charting singles can manage is the one place drop experienced by Offspring at 25 and Jakatta at 36. It is a far cry from the days when the bottom end of the chart would be crammed with new singles and for one to penetrate the upper reaches of the sales rankings on its first week was a very big deal indeed. Still, who am I to complain. It is Sunday afternoon and the sun is shining. I'm off for a beer, see you next week.
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