In the land of eternal cabaret, Tony Christie is a God. Although never quite in the same league as the likes of Englebert Humperdinck or Tom Jones, the singer had a brief flowering of fame in the early 1970s going Top 10 in 1971 with murderers lament What I Did For Maria. After the hits and bookings dried up he retired to Spain but his kitsch appeal remained, no better illustration of this being his 1999 come back when Pulp's Jarvis Cocker wrote Walk Like A Panther for him, his guest vocals on the All Seeing I hit helping to take the track to Number 10. Another celebrity fan of his is comedian Peter Kay who for a long time has used his 1971 Number 18 hit (Is This The Way To) Amarillo as a kind of unofficial theme song, playing the sing along classic at the start of live concerts to rev the crowd up.
For a long time, there was talk of cashing in on this by re-releasing the track. All that was needed was the opportunity. Enter the Comic Relief appeal for which Kay filmed a new video for the track which features him miming to the track whilst a galaxy of stars appear marching behind him (Christie himself making a brief cameo appearance). The premiere of the video was easily one of the highlights of the TV appeal last week and when the single was released last Monday a massive sale was pretty much assured. So it is that 34 years after he first recorded it, Amarillo gives Tony Christie a very welcome Number One hit. For the second week running Comic Relief provides the biggest selling single of the week and for the second week in a row as well the Number One hit becomes the fastest selling single of the year, sales of the track having soared well into six figures in a welcome change from the miserable levels we have witnessed since January. Peter Kay gets a chart credit on the single [in one of the greatest chart gatecrashes of all time you will note] but his sole contribution is his starring role in the video (featured neatly on the DVD single) - quite rightly the plaudits have gone to Tony Christie and the return of his long lost classic. All together now: sha-la-la la la la la la. [Strap in, we're going to be here a while].
Whilst one single release has overshadowed all the others this week, that hasn't stopped the chart seeing a frantic rate of turnover and yet again seven new singles all debut inside the Top 10. The second biggest of these goes to Elvis who just for a change has the second biggest re-release of the week. She's Not You originally topped the charts for The King in September 1962 and was his third Number One hit of the year. For the moment Elvis could do no wrong charts-wise but fate and Colonel Tom were about to ensure that this situation was not going to last.
Next up at Number 4 is Gwen Stefani with the second single from her current solo album. Rich Girl swiftly matches the peak of her last hit, the radio favourite What You Waiting For which enjoyed continuing airplay months after it originally hit the charts. Happily, her new single is just as radio friendly. The chorus of the track borrows heavily from the Broadway musical Fiddler On The Roof and in particular its famous song If I Were A Rich Man. Actor Topol took the lead role in the 1967 film of the musical and his rendition of the song was lifted from the soundtrack to become a Number 9 hit. Stefani's track is, of course, a world away from the original, a frantic pacy pop song that more than deserves its place as the biggest (almost) original new hit of the week. Guesting on the track is Eve, who thus returns the favour given to her by Gwen back in 2001 when the pair duetted on Let Me Blow Ya Mind which spookily enough also peaked at Number 4.
So what about a new single that isn't a re-release by a pensioner or the deceased or which isn't based on a song from the 60s? Well, that would be the debut hit from Jem which makes a welcome appearance at Number 6. Hailing from Wales, the young singer-songwriter has been a name to drop for some time now. Thus far it has been America who has done all the running for her, Jem's song Nothing Falls having found its way onto Madonna's last album whilst in 2002 before she even had a record deal her song Finally Woke' was championed by a Los Angeles radio station and soared up the airplay charts. Her debut UK hit is the haunting They which combines a madrigal-esque chorus with a trip-hop beat to create a spine tingling track which grabs your attention from the word go. Never was there a more deserved debut than this and if there is any justice she deserves to go on and become massive. Hear this track and be utterly enchanted. [Yeah, this is a sadly ignored classic. Still compelling to this day, but once more was part of pop's lost era - that time when the charts struggled for relevance as the slow transition to the digital era began. And so nobody really noticed this one].
Bringing us back down to earth at Number 8 are Basement Jaxx with new single Oh My Gosh. This is their first new single since last years Greatest Hits collection and the TV advert inspired re-release of I See You Baby which hit Number 14. The appealing new single restores them to Top 10 status for the first time since the classic Where's Your Head At back in December 2001 and in the process becomes their biggest hit single for almost four years. Their biggest hit to date remains something of an all-time classic, 1999 Ibiza classic Rendez-Vu hitting Number 4 in August that year.
A genuine jaw-dropper greets us at Number 9. Runners-up in the TV talent show X-Factor, G4 are no run of the mill boy band. All classically trained singers, their speciality is cod-opera versions of famous hit songs, renditions of which helped them all the way to the final of the contest. To be fair they choose their material well, their debut album featuring operatic arrangements of David Bowie's Life On Mars and even Radiohead's Creep. Who then can blame them for turning to the most famous cod-opera track of all, namely Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. The kind of single that either turns heads or turns stomachs, G4 imbue the track with a campness that was even beyond Freddie Mercury. Queen purists will hate the track with a passion (and indeed some of the rudest reviews you will ever see have been directed at both the single and its parents album) but to pull this off requires balls, no doubt about that and credit where credit is due, they have a Top 10 hit as a result.
Back To Basics in a quite literal sense at Number 10 as Shapeshifters get the seventh new entry of the week with their second single. This is, of course, the follow-up to the memorable Lola's Theme which topped the charts last summer and which easily ranks as one of the anthems of the year. The new single takes them further in the direction of the Brand New Heavies, laden as it is with strings and brass and a floor-filling vocal track - best of all the single claiming to be sample free (although the melody owes more than a little to disco classic Ain't No Stopping Us Now but that is surely a minor quibble [technically they were correct, the strings once more replayed by Mark Summers]). I've always been a closet Acid Jazz fan so I can't help but love this track, others may wish to seek out the other mixes which dials the 70s down a little.
At Number 11 are the resurgent Green Day with the third single from the acclaimed American Idiot album'. Holiday is the follow-up to Boulevard Of Broken Dreams which hit Number 5 at Christmas and which subsequently spent the first part of this year lingering in the Top 20 and refusing to go away. Indeed 16 weeks on from its release the single is still shifting copies, sliding nine places this week to Number 55. Whilst we are on the subject it is interesting to note that the other two evergreen hits of the first few months of the year are also still selling, Uniting Nations' Out Of Touch finally dropping out of the Top 40 after four months at Number 42 this week. Jay-Z and Linkin Park however just won't go away, Numb/Encore now resting at Number 37, it too has been charting now for 17 weeks.
Beverley Knight chalks up another hit single at Number 16, Keep This Fire Burning returning her to what seems her regular position in the Top 20 after her last single Not Too Late For Love made a comparatively disappointing Number 31 back in October. Hailed upon each return as one of the biggest voices in UK R&B, Beverley Knight has never really broken through as a huge star, despite some memorable singles in the past. Two Top 10 hits is the peak of her achievements, this after some ten years of trying.
One act who will be more than happy with a Top 20 hit are Queens Of The Stone Age who return this week with their first hit single in almost two years. Little Sister instantly becomes one of their biggest, only their second Top 20 hit ever - the first coming in November 2002 when No-One Knows hit Number 15. Speaking of rock acts, Number 20 sees the UK Top 40 debut for The Mars Volta of whom big things have been predicted for some time. Their only other chart appearance to date came back in 2003 when an EP entitled 'Inertiatic' made Number 42. I'd tell you more about them but either the biography on their website is written in impenetrable English or I'm just worn out after 11 new entries in the Top 20 alone.