This week's Official UK Singles Chart

[So many stories to tell this week, at over 3,200 words this column ranks as one of the longest ever].

1 LIGHT MY FIRE (Will Young)

Well, follow that if you can. Pop Idol or no Pop Idol, the sales figures for Will Young's debut single Anything Is Possible/Evergreen were nothing short of breathtaking. Topping seven figures to clock up the largest first week sale in chart history, the single spent three weeks at the top of the chart, going on to sell close to 1.8 million copies overall, enough to put it on the cusp of being one of the ten biggest selling singles of all time. 14 weeks later the track is still selling, re-entering the Top 40 last week and falling to Number 49 on the chart today. Inevitably the follow-up was going to make a more understated impact on the chart, but for all that it still manages to give him a second straight Number One single. Light My Fire was of course first written and recorded by The Doors, but despite being one of their most famous tracks it actually could only reach Number 49 when first released in August 1967 despite topping the US charts. In fact it was not until 1991 that it became a "proper" hit single, hitting Number 7 when re-released to tie in with the biopic that was in the cinemas at that time. Will Young's cover version stems from a performance he made during the Pop Idol heats and in fac, is not based on the Doors version at all but rather on Jose Feliciano's more soulful and mellow arrangement that made Number 6 in October 1968. The song has in the past also been covered by Mike Flowers Pops (Number 39 in 1996) and UB40 (Number 63 in 2000) but until now the highest charting version of the track has actually been a disco one - Amii Stewart's storming medley that meshed the song with 137 Disco Heaven has twice been a Top 10 hit, Number 5 in 1979 and Number 7 in 1985 when it was part of a double-sided reissue. Hence Will Young has this week managed two firsts - the first act this year to top the singles chart twice and the first act to, quite deservedly, take a Doors song to the top of the charts. To think he didn't mention football once.


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2 WITHOUT ME (Eminem)

Like so many acts of late, Eminem can only manage a solitary week at the top before being replaced by a bigger act than even he. Not that he will be complaining too much of course as The Eminem Show long player this week charges to the top of the albums listing. Anyone who wonders if there is still a correlation between singles success and the subsequent promotion of an album will be fascinated to see that the albums Top 3 this week consists of Eminem, Ronan Keating and Liberty X - the last three acts to have Number One singles.
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3 WE'RE ON THE BALL (Ant and Dec)

By the reckoning of the Official Charts Company, there are no less than 23 different singles due for release over the coming month that have some kind of official or unofficial link to the World Cup finals that finally kicked off in Japan and South Korea this week. First out of the blocks was England Crazy by Rider & Terry Venables which thankfully only made Number 46. This week sees the invasion begin in earnest.

Topping them all is the official England anthem for the competition. The tradition of assembling the squad for an endearingly bad singalong has thankfully been cast into to the dustbin of history in recent years and the FA have instead commissioned "proper" songs to be their officially endorsed release. Hence Three Lions for Euro '96, (How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World for World Cup '98 and Fat Les' Jerusalem for Euro 2000. This year the honour has fallen to TV presenters Ant and Dec to fly the flag for the England team. Their choice of material is a rewritten version of a song that was first popularised as an anthem for the Arsenal football team in 1970 and in fairness has attracted derisive comments all round regarding its quality and potential as a temporary national anthem - most of which have actually come from people with rival singles to plug. Naff and cheesy it may be but for the moment it is the highest charting of all the world cup singles and has beaten out Jerusalem (Number 10) and On Top Of The World (Number 9) to become the highest charting official England anthem since the original version of Three Lions famously topped the charts back in 1996.

Ant and Dec are of course no strangers to the singles chart themselves. Their rise to mainstream fame began almost ten years ago when they were both cast as actors in the childrens TV series Byker Grove. A plotline called for their characters PJ and Duncan to make a rap record and upon release Tonight I'm Free made er, Number 62. For whatever reason they were given the shot at a followup and when Why Me? made Number 27 in April 1994 they were off and running. As PJ and Duncan they clocked up 10 chart hits, the biggest of which was Let's Get Ready To Rhumble which peaked at Number 9. By 1996 they had left the TV series and performing under their character names was no longer deemed appropriate so they reverted to their real names and as Ant and Dec notched up a further four chart singles before "retiring" from the music business with Falling in 1997 to concentrate on being TV presenters. Hence We're On The Ball is not only their first chart hit for four years but is far and away their biggest. No matter how rude people are prepared to be about the record, as far as they are concerned, this is surely a massive success.


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10 HEY BABY (UNOFFICIAL WORLD CUP REMIX) (DJ Otzi)

World Cup single number two is possibly rather more of a surprise. DJ Otzi's Hey Baby may have been conceived as a party hit but it was also perfect fodder for the football terraces, the lyrics being easily adaptable to heap praise or abuse on particular teams or players and indeed whole stadiums were shouting "Uhh Ahh" within days of the record topping the charts last year. Hence it was an obvious, if opportunistic move to re-release the single to coincide with the world cup. Given that the single spent a staggering 28 weeks on the chart and sold close to a million copies you would have thought that everyone who wanted a copy owns it by now and that everyone else hates it with a passion. Nonetheless this slightly reworked version that alters the lyrics slightly to make it a "proper" football song has attracted enough attention to chart back inside the Top 10. It thus becomes DJ Otzi's fourth chart single in this country and his third to go Top 10. Help us.
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15 GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (Sex Pistols)

[A significant rant this one, marking the first time I took steps to debunk the strange myth of the Sex Pistols' "stolen" Number One single. Which was nothing of the sort]. OK, time to move away from football for a moment and on to another issue of topicality. HM Queen. As I write the nation is in the middle of a four day weekend to celebrate the Golden Jubilee and of course this means it is 25 years to the week that one of the most controversial singles of all time was first on the chart.

After having grazed the bottom end of the Top 40 with Anarchy In The UK the previous year and being dropped like a hot potato by both EMI and A&M records, the Sex Pistols went mainstream for real in the summer of 1977 with this snarling anthem. Sophisticated it wasn't, "God Save The Queen/She Ain't No Human Being" is hardly the most subversive lyric ever recorded on a pop record and barmy though it may seem the sense of outrage the single generated was something else altogether. Radio stations declined to play it, many shops declined to stock it altogether and as the single raced up the charts some of the more small minded shop owners physically deleted all references to the single from the printed listings they displayed in their shops. Nonetheless chart it did, peaking at Number 2 exactly 25 years ago this week. Except that wasn't quite the end of the story, for Virgin records took the somewhat unprecedented step of complaining to anyone who would listen that the charts were wrong, that as far as they were concerned God Save The Queen had sold more copies that Rod Stewart's I Don't Want To Talk About It and had in fact been kept off the top by the establishment who were "embarrassed" (yes, even though it was just a silly pop record) that such a track was going to top the charts in jubilee week. To this day the legend has persisted, even to the extent that TCBBC's listing of the single contains a footnote making reference to the controversy.

To be honest this conspiracy theory is not something I've ever really suscribed to. Malcolm McLaren has admitted on several occasions that just about everything the Sex Pistols did was 90% hype, and being "cheated" out of a Number One single was a wonderful story with which to make his charges seem like social outcasts and to guarantee even more headlines. It is entirely possible that the Sex Pistols did indeed outsell Rod that week but it must be remembered that this was in an age when the singles chart was based on a sample of 200 or so selected shops each week and that the data was collected by the assistants manually noting in a diary which records they had sold. The system could and indeed was widely abused and for every establishment conspiracy against the Sex Pistols there were probably countless other examples of acts being penalised because the teenager working the till on a Saturday wasn't going to bother writing down the sales for acts he hated. Indeed I often wonder how it was that a single which could not be heard on radio or TV and which in some towns was impossible to even purchase actually managed to hit the survey enough times to be listed even as the Number 2 single. Fingers crossed the forthcoming official history of the singles chart will shed more light on the matter but for what my opinion is worth, it is probably best not to rely on everything you have heard on badly researched TV nostalgia shows.

Anyway, enough history. Back in the present day and it was of course a no brainer that the single should be re-released as a 25th anniversary special. John Lydon flew in from LA and happily morphed back into Johnny Rotten for the press to promote the track and there was indeed plenty of speculation that the track would finally right the wrong and fly to the top of the chart. As it turns out even a slight remix could not help it do any better than Top 20 but it does at least give us the chance to appreciate it for what it is, one of the best things the bunch of session musicians ever created in the name of the most famous punk band of all and a single that does indeed deserve its status as one of the classics of its era, even if its true social significance has been exaggerated beyond belief in the intervening years. God Save The Queen is the first chart single for the Sex Pistols since their live version of Pretty Vacant from their 1996 comeback concert reached Number 18 in July that year and indeed it is their biggest hit since Sid Vicious' rendition of Eddie Cochran's C'mon Everybody hit Number 3 in late 1979.
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16 PASS THE COURVOISIER - PART II (Busta Rhymes/P Diddy/Pharrell)

Back then onto more conventional chart fodder and the fifth biggest new hit of the week goes to this superstar collaboration between Busta Rhymes, P Diddy and host of other stars who inhabit the movie parodies of the Mr T-starring video. Rhymes has stated that he wanted to make a single that got people dancing again and for sure Pass The Courvoisier does this to perfection. For Mr Rhymes it is his second chart hit of the year, following on from Break Ya Neck which peaked at Number 11 back in March. P Diddy was last on the chart in January when Diddy made Number 19. For P Diddy/Puff Daddy this is just the latest in a long line of chart collaborations which has seen him appear on hit singles alongside the likes of Mase, Lil' Kim, Faith Evans, SWV, Biggy Smalls, Jimmy Page, Nas, Hurricane G, Mario Winans, R Kelly, Black Rob and Mark Curry, not to mention the Neptunes who appeared on Diddy and who also make an appearance on one of the mixes of this single. Nice to have friends isn't it? [Notice Pharrell already had the hat image down pat even in 2002].


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18 DREAMER/GETS ME THROUGH (Ozzy Osbourne)

As I write, the TV hit show of the year in the States has yet to make the same kind of impact over here. Contractual delays have meant that to date only the first episode of The Osbournes has been aired on MTV and although the terrestrial networks are keen to also air the show, MTV are holding back the rights until they have finished with the series. Hence for the moment it is a talked-about but little watched piece of TV magic. That hasn't stopped the man himself from taking advantage of this new found exposure to clock up his first chart single for almost six years. The uncharacteristically mellow ballad Dreamer is his first chart single since I Want You reached a mere Number 43 in August 1996. Better than this though, believe it or not it is his biggest solo hit single ever in this country, beating by two places the peaks of So Tired and Shot In The Dark from 1984 and 1986 respectively. Of course his biggest hits came in his previous guise as the lead singer of metal legends Black Sabbath, the classic Paranoid standing tall as his only ever encounter with the Top 10 when it peaked at Number 4 in 1970. Indeed the track that defined the sound of Black Sabbath has only ever had one re-release, that coming back in 1980 when it reached Number 14. Surely if you are looking for a way to remind people what the Ozzmeister was originally famous for then that old single would have been a better example than Dreamer.
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25 GOLDENBALLS (MR BECKHAM TO YOU) (Bell & Spurling)

Back to the world cup then, and following their tribute to the England manager and the team's 5-1 demolition of Germany en route to the finals (Sven Sven Sven which made Number 7 in October last year), comedy duo Bell & Spurling return to the chart with another quirky piece of nonsense about one of the personalities involved in the England setup. This time their affectionate target is the England captain David Beckham, the title making reference to what his wife Victoria (the former Posh Spice) admitted is his nickname at home. Whereas Sven Sven Sven was a simple folksy two blokes and a guitar singalong the production values for Goldenballs are much higher, the duo now augmented by a complete Big Band on a track that doesn't quite have the appeal of its predecessor but which at least proves that even songs cheering on the England team don't have to take themselves too seriously.


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26 GO ENGLAND (England Boys)

Hee hee. Now I know for a fact that the brains behind this single reads these words most weeks and has corresponded with me about it in the dim and distant past so I must be careful what I say. Darryl Denham is the current host of the breakfast show on Virgin Radio. One of his favourite features is parodic rewrites of current and past chart hits with the lyrics altered to give them an extra dose of topicality. In that spirit he has rewritten the old Jam hit Going Underground to become, yes you've guessed it, a terrace anthem for the England team. Paul Weller has given the reworking the nod and so as a result the single arrives at the lower end of the chart to become the fourth World Cup related single to hit the Top 40. Featuring the vocal talents of some of the other members of the Virgin Radio team it is far from the best single ever made but of course it was never meant to be was it? Fair play to him anyhow, when I was a DJ I never even got asked to star in panto. [I'm still bitter about that part].

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29 PUNK (Ferry Corsten)

Well we are almost done with the football and indeed you can be forgiven for feeling a modicum of sympathy for the new dance singles of the week which have been relegated almost to chart afterthoughts. Ferry Corsten has the biggest of these with the crossover release of a white label track that was first championed by Judge Jules last summer. Originally credited to Funk Einsatz it has turned out to be the work of Ferry Corsten, the Dutch trancemaster who is actually better known for his remixing work and for his hits under a variety of other artist names rather than his own. His most famous remix work was on William Orbit's Barber's Adagio For Strings which charted in late 1999 whilst he was also the brains behind Starparty's I'm In Love which hit Number 26 in January 2000. His most famous alias is probably Gouryella with which he had chart hits with Walhalla, Tenshi and Gouryella in 1999 and 2000, unless you believe that the System F singles were better.
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31 YOU TAKE ME AWAY (Reel)

A second chart single for Reel, the Irish pop act who gained their first exposure when supporting Westlife last year. Their first single Lift Me Up could only stagger to Number 39 last November and this second release fares little better. To be fair to them this is a stunning pop record, tuneful, soulful and with an uplifting chorus of the kind that A1 wish they could write every day. Something tells me they need a better gimmick.
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33 REST & PLAY EP (Orbital)

The great survivors of the 90s dance scene, Orbital chalk up the first hit of their 13th year as chart stars with with EP release. The Hartnoll brothers were last on the chart in April last year with Funny Break (One Is Enough) which made Number 21.
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34 CARNAVAL 2002 (Dario G)

Chalk this one up as World Cup hit Number 5 this week. This one is the first of what are set to be many opportunistic re-releases of past world cup smash hits as Carnaval 2002 is a remixed (with some added oriental gongs for effect) version of the multi-instrumented track Carnaval De Paris that Dario G first wrote to coincide with the 1998 World Cup in France. So effective was the track that it effectively wound up as the official unofficial anthem for the tournament, being played at all the games and in the process charting all over Europe. On these shores it reached Number 5 and even today manages to conjure up memories of that glorious summer when we lost to Argentina on penalties. Re-release fever doesn't end here as both Three Lions and World In Motion are set for chart comebacks (however small) not to mention the imminent arrival of The Opera Babes' One Fine Day, Faithless' Tarantula (the themes to the ITV and BBC coverage respectively). Fat Les are on the case as well, Elvis is on the verge of a sensational return to the top of the charts thanks to a TV ad and even Anastacia is in on the act with Boom, the official song of the tournament. World Cup fever is only just beginning...