Xmas -4.. The countdown to the biggest chart of the year continues. In years gone by it would be this weeks chart that would be studied with interest. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of Christmas No.1s have been released in the last week of November, four weeks being also the average amount of time a record will normally take to reach the top of the charts. In recent years this form has been rather unreliable thanks to the rather frantic nature of the singles market. Nonetheless the vast crop of new hits this week gives some pointer as to the shape of the chart in the weeks to come, even if they are merely an advance scout party for the really big seasonal hits that are due to come out in the next 2-3 weeks. Onto the chart itself with 13 new entries, 8 climbers and 1 non-mover.
No. 39: NEW ENTRY. Status Quo - Restless
Think Status Quo and you think of their own particular brand of 12 bar pub-rock. The kind of music it has not been credible to love since the mid-1970s and yet which is responsible for a steady stream of classic hits. Think again, for this probably the most ground-breaking (for them) record since 1986s In The Army Now. It is a ballad. Not some thundering power-rock ballad but a beautiful, gentle song that sounds like some long-lost classic. Long-lost classic is sadly what it is destined to become with the Quo's third hit of the year making no more of an impact than the previous two. Aside from all the barbed jokes that the band attract it is always worth commenting that in one sense they are the most successful chart band ever, this being their 48th hit in all since 1968.
No. 38: NEW ENTRY. Cranberries - Ode To My Family
The fourth hit this year for the Cranberries but of course only the second from the latest album, suggesting plenty more to come. They ease back the throttle too, away from the biting minimalism of Zombie to a release with a definite seasonal flavour. Those who believe in patterns may like to note that Linger peaked at No.14, Dreams peaked at No.27, Zombie made No.14 too - so where can we expect this to peak?
No. 37: NEW ENTRY. Darkman - Yabba Dabba Doo
I'm sorry, I am in too good a mood writing this this week. I refuse to be rude about this record. Instead I'll content myself with a slight snigger in the corner somewhere....
No. 33: NEW ENTRY. Toni Braxton - Love Shoulda Brought You Home
Get a grip James, now where was I? Oh yes, Toni Braxton's fourth hit of the year, a run of success brought on in the main by the Top 3 success of Breathe Again back in January. The new single is arguably her best release since, the kind of 'Quiet Storm' track that soul DJs fall over themselves to include in a set. With all this preponderance of ballads in the charts you would think it was Christmas or something...
No. 30: NEW ENTRY. Roxette - Run To You
Another act with a steady run of hits this year are Roxette although they have failed to make much of an impact, the biggest being the initial No.14 entry of Sleeping In My Car back in March. The current single sees the Swedish duo in jangly acoustic mode, producing a not totally unpleasant single but one with work to do if it is going to be a major hit for them. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the music Roxette are making recently, but none of them appear to have the fizz of classics like The Look.
No. 25: NEW ENTRY. Erasure - I Love Saturday (EP)
Life is full of paradoxes. Why else would the best single Erasure have released in years be threatening to wind up one of their smallest ever? It is the third hit of the year for Clarke and Bell. Whilst two Top 10 entries may look spectacular on the surface, both shot quickly to the nether regions of chainstore bargain bins, largely I suspect due to my own view that neither Always nor Run To The Sun would have even qualified as B-sides to any of the tracks from The Innocents. I Love Saturday goes some way to restoring one's faith in Vince Clarke's songwriting ability but the prospects bode ill. Given the low entry point of the single and the potential competition in the ensuing weeks this could become their first chart hit ever to miss the Top 20. In their 8 year career, leaving aside a couple of early singles which missed the chart altogether, they have never had a single peak lower than No.15. [Erasure's last truly great hit single IMHO].
No. 23: NEW ENTRY. Blue Bamboo - ABC and D
Another anonymous dance hit to suddenly emerge from nowhere into the charts, this one following the lead of Doop by taking eighty year old jazz rhythms and turning them into a dancefloor smash. Tracks such as this rarely ever get exposure in the mainstream before they chart, they are simply club hits for which such a demand has built up that they sell enough copies to reach the top end of the charts once released commercially.
No. 20: CLIMBER. Celine Dion - Think Twice
Edging its way up slowly but surely, Celine Dion scores what is only the third Top 20 hit of her chart career, following The Power Of Love earlier this year and Beauty And The Beast in 1992.
No. 17: NEW ENTRY. Grid - Texas Cowboys
Dave Ball of the Grid has had a pretty good year, mainly due to the massive success of Swamp Thing which started gradually but ultimately was to make No.3, hang around the charts for 15 weeks and become one of the biggest sellers of the year. That success has prompted the re-release of this piece of sound landscaping, Texas Cowboys first made No.21 back in October 1993 and now becomes the Grid's third Top 40 hit of the year.
No. 16: NEW ENTRY. Gloria Estefan - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
Representing straightaway a five place improvement on the No.21 peak of Turn The Beat Around, Gloria Estefan releases the title track from her latest album of cover versions. This time she goes back just a little further than the 1970s... Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me was first a No.3 hit for Muriel Smith in 1953 and was also an American Top 40 hit in 1965 for Mel Carter. It is easily the longest gap between hit versions ever achieved by a song.
No. 15: NEW ENTRY. PJ and Duncan - Eternal Love
Four hits in a row and there seems no stopping them. Now here is a challenge... guess what kind of song this is? You guessed it... moving away from the street kids rap of their first few hits, PJ and Duncan release a Christmassy ballad which in many ways gives the song the interesting distinction of being their least irritating one so far. It has already matched the peak of their last hit If I Give You My Number and the No.9 of Lets Get Ready To Rhumble looks in danger.
No. 14: NEW ENTRY. Reel 2 Real - Raise Your Hands
A fourth Top 20 hit for Reel 2 Real about which there is little really to add. Its as incomprehensible, energetic and irritating as all the rest. A hit I suppose was guaranteed.
No. 7: NEW ENTRY. East 17 - Stay Another Day
One of the pre-season favourites to be Christmas No.1, especially as Take That have flatly refused to challenge for the crown this year. East 17 prove that there is more to them than the usual 'bad boy' image and sing in astonishingly perfect harmony to create what is certain to be one of the biggest seasonal successes, especially when you consider they were a fixture of the Christmas charts last year with Its Alright. Curiously enough all 3 of their hits this year have entered the charts at No.7.
No. 3: CLIMBER. Louis Armstrong - We Have All The Time In The World
The gap between the Top 3 and the rest of the chart is particularly pronounced this week, starting off with Louis Armstrong, gaining airplay all across the radio spectrum but still frustratingly shut out of the top for the moment.
No. 2: NEW ENTRY. Stone Roses - Love Spreads
No one phrase or sentence can convey properly to an outsider the sense of anticipation that surrounded this track. The debut album by the Stone Roses was released in 1989. Now seen as one of the last great albums of the 1980s, it launched the whole 'Madchester' scene into the stratosphere and dragged bands such as the Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets in its wake. Virtually every initial single from the band and from the album made the charts at least twice which included a reissue programme in February/March 1990 which saw them chart a new hit every 2 weeks. The last new material recorded by the band was One Love which became their biggest hit to that date when it made No.4 in July 1990 following which the band first of all successfully sued their record company to be released from their contract and then vanished into the studio for over 2 years. Finally then, the band re-emerge with what has to be one of the most delayed albums in recent times. Comments on the music itself are in the main, irrelevant. For most this will have been one of the highlights of the year and the biggest hit ever for the band was just about guaranteed.
No. 1: SECOND WEEK. Baby D - Let Me Be Your Fantasy
Aside from all the excitement Baby D hangs on for a second week at the top. Next week could look very interesting indeed with the long-term sales prospects of this track looking dubious, the Stone Roses I suspect due to fade fairly rapidly once the album is released and Louis Armstrong not necessarily having the momentum to carry him to the top...