Something of a lull, as much as we ever get a lull in these here parts. The chart this week also notable for the return of some classic songs and also of a once-classic artist. 12 new entries, 2 climbers and 2 non-movers.
No. 32: (--) Rollo Goes Mystic - Love, Love, Love - Here I Come
After a string of hits on their way out comes the first new hit of the week. Rollo Armstrong is the latest in a long line of producer/remixers to step out into the limelight and make records of his own. He is one of those artists who also likes to change his name to match the mood of the record, hence this is the first chart appearance for "Rollo Goes Mystic" but not the first for the man himself. That honour fell to last years Get Off Your High Horse which was released twice last year but missed the Top 40 on both occasions - credited to "Rollo Goes Camping". [He'd squeak one more hit under his own name before becoming rather more famous for being one-third of Faithless. Oh, and for being Dido's brother too].
No. 29: (--) Marillion - Beautiful
I suppose the title says it all really. Marillion are a long way from their mid-80s commercial peak but ever since the departure of Fish have managed to re-establish themselves as a moderately successful chart presence, turning out some wonderfully crafted records that are just the right side of utterly uncommercial. Beautiful is yet another in this line, a pleasant, meandering rock ballad which is as good as anything the band have ever done and gives them their first Top 30 placing since The Hollow Man reached No.30 in March 1994. It's a strange irony really that they are one of the best bands around yet are probably never destined another smash hit. In their entire career they have only ever had 3 Top 10 hits, the biggest coming in 1985 with Kayleigh which reached No.2. Roll on the album.
No. 28: (--) Daniel O'Donnell & Mary Duff - Secret Love
The man who is fast becoming the modern-day Des O'Connor returns with another of his thankfully sporadic chart hits. For many years a big-selling country music artist in Ireland, Daniel O'Donnell has branched out in recent years and charted a string of cloyingly twee MOR covers of famous old ballads, the last being his version of Singing The Blues which reached No.23 in April 1994. For his latest piece of Radio Two fodder he teams up with countrywoman Mary Duff for a rendition of Doris Day's 1954 No.1 hit from the musical Calamity Jane. It's actually the second cover version of the song to make the charts since the original, Kathy Kirby reached No.4 in 1963 with her reworking, proving that the concept of remaking ballads into dance hits is not a phenomenon confined to the 1990s.
No. 25: (--) Dr Dre - Keep Their Heads Ringing
Either my speakers are broken or this is a new Dr Dre record. Producer, rapper and former NWA member Dr Dre pops up again with a new album and a new hit single. Discounting his not insubstantial presence on Snoop Doggy Dogg's hits, this is only his second ever Top 40 entry, following on from Nuthing But A 'G' Thang which made No.31 in January 1994.
No. 24: (--) Pizzaman - Sex On The Streets
The second Top 40 hit for Pizzaman [Norman Cook again], their first being Trippin On Sunshine back in August 1994. Yet another dance record, this one at least standing out owing to its use of spoken sections as a hook. It is summery and commercial enough to be more of a hit than this but the prospects look fairly bleak.
No. 22: (--) Loveland - Don't Make Me Wait
Second chart hit of the year for Loveland' entering one place below I Need Somebody which reached No.21 back in January.
No. 19: (--) Dodgy - Staying Out For The Summer 95
Dodgy's attempt to break properly into the big time steps up a pace with their third hit of the year and a remix of what is arguably one of their best recordings. The original version of Staying Out For The Summer became their first Top 40 hit back in October when it made No.38. As the title might suggest it works better as a summer record, full of the Beatlesque harmonies and melodies that apes the style that the Boo Radleys have made their own. I say 'apes' as it gives the impression of trying its hardest to be a classic yet not quite managing it. Nonetheless this re-release has done the trick and gives them their biggest hit to date, overtaking the No.22 peak of Making The Most Of back in March.
No. 16: (--) Annie Lennox - A Whiter Shade Of Pale
The second hit single of the year from Annie Lennox and another offering from her Medusa covers album. The first single was her faithful version of The Lover Speaks' No More I Love You's, one of the long-lost classics of 80s pop and which quite deservedly made No.2 back in February, shut out from No.1 by Celine Dion. For the second she goes for what many might concern an ill-advised choice. Procol Harum's 1967 No.1 should be instantly familiar to anyone who considers themselves a serious student of popular music. As one of the greatest pop records ever made, it is possibly one recording that cannot be bettered and for that reason Annie Lennox's version does not stand up to favourable comparison. That said, it is a perfectly competent version of the classic, treating the nonsense song [fighting talk in some circles] with all due respect and comes complete with a choreographed performance which has Annie Lennox singing the song whilst behind her a troupe of male ballet dancers peel off their costumes and put on animal suits - a fittingly surreal image for a song which composer Gary Brooker revealed a few years ago is simply about the process of getting drunk. It becomes her fifth solo Top 20 hit but is interestingly not the first cover version of the song to chart - Munich Machine's disco instrumental version made No.42 in November 1978.
No. 14: (--) Jam and Spoon - Right In The Night
Better. Better. Better. Undisputed kings of German dance, Jam el Mar and Mark Spoon have had smashes all over the continent but thus far have struggled to gain a foothold in this country. This failure was most pronounced with Right In The Night which was a smash all over Europe in the spring of 1994 but could only reach No.31 when released here in February last year. Despite this the track has sustained an underground following, fuelled by a seemingly endless stream of remixes pouring from the continent. Now in another commercial remix the track explodes back onto the charts once more and becomes an instant Top 20 hit. Sweet music to my ears, I love this to bits and commented in these lines back in 1994 that it had the potential to be a No.1 hit - I could still be right.
No. 12: (--) Whigfield - Think Of You
A third hit single for Whigfield who has, possibly to the relief of many, given the music world a breather after the double whammy last autumn of Saturday Night and Another Day. Just in case you have forgotten Saturday Night irritated and entranced a nation in a way no record had since Mr Blobby, crashed straight into No.1 in its first week and in its second week notched up what was at the time the biggest sale in one week for ten years. Think Of You moves more than ever towards being a straightforward narrative song and possibly loses even more of the charm of her first smash hit. Whigfield's third single is unique is one respect though, her first single not to attract litigious attention from people who have detected similarities to other people's hits.
No. 9: (--) Black Grape - Reverend Black Grape
Welcome back big conk. In 1990 the Happy Mondays could be regarded as one of the biggest bands in the country. The 'Madchester' movement took its name from one of their records and they notched up a string of hits, most notably Step On and Kinky Afro. In 1992 the drug problems that had beset the band, and lead singer Sean Ryder in particular, caused them to lose a major record deal and the band disintegrated soon after. Never write a good Mancunian down though as Sean Ryder returns with a new band and a top 10 hit at a stroke, sold virtually on his name alone. That, said Reverend Black Grape isn't all that bad, being the kind of of acid-funk workout that featured on many early Happy Mondays recordings. Imagine Ryder shouting 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' over a frantic harmonica rhythm and you are halfway there, maybe not the most conventional record in the chart this week, but Top 10 nonetheless.
No. 7: (--) Bon Jovi - This Ain't A Love Song
Another hit for Bon Jovi who a currently on a run of hits unheard of so far in their career. Their fifth straight instant Top 10 hit in the last 18 months, following on from Someday I'll Be Saturday Night which made No.7 in early March. The new single is another ballad although rather more understated and reflective than many they have produced in the past. Another massive hit it is, the eighth top tenner of their career. Not bad for a style of commercial rock that many thought had died in the 1980s.
No. 4: ( 5) Baby D - I Need Your Loving
Just two records climb this week, both Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Baby D only managing a solitary place each, making this one of the most downwardly mobile charts for months.
No. 3: (--) Michael & Janet Jackson - Scream
It was always going to be the biggest hit of the week, the question was just how big. When the brand new track from the newly rehabilitated Michael Jackson was premiered to the nation in a massive operation a few weeks ago the reaction was mixed to say the least. Scream turned out to be one of those Michael Jackson records that is a groove and little else, at least it appears that way on first hearing it. That factor alone may have affected its sales in this first week - certainly Sony were hoping for an instant No.1 and publicly expressed their disappointment when it fell short. In fact the single fell way short, outsold by Pulp by a margin of 2:1 and by Unchained Melody by 4:1. Hopes rest now on the premiere of the video on Thursday's 'Top of The Pops' which it is hoped will give it another boost. The reason for this apparent desperation on the part of the record company is simple - both the first singles from Dangerous and Bad were No.1 smashes and anything less than that from this new album will be seized by the press as an example of how the artist's career has been wrecked by the recent spate of allegations against him. I would rather suggest though that any underachievement by the single is more likely to be centred on the fact that this single sounds like little more than a b-side filler, would not rate a second glance if released by anyone else and certainly does not bear comparison with some of the classics he has released in the past. Herein lies the rub - Michael Jackson's whole superstar reputation it must be remembered, rests almost entirely on an album he made fifteen years ago and which probably means nothing to the generation of record buyers which has grown up since. More on this single, and its place in his overall chart achievements next week - whatever position it is at.
No. 1: ( 1) FOURTH WEEK. Robson Green & Jerome Flynn - Unchained Melody/White Cliffs Of Dover
A strong challenge from Pulp but still not enough to depose the pair of actors from the top, now having sold around 1.5 million copies of the single and who are now challenging for a place as one of the bestsellers of all time. Most of the attention so far has been focused on the first track on the single, ignoring almost entirely the flipside - their rendition of White Cliffs Of Dover. The song first became a standard during World War II as sung by Gracie Fields and is often cited as one of the songs that kept the people of this country going during those dark days: "There'll be blue birds over, the white cliffs of Dover. Tomorrow - when the world is free." Since the pop charts were inaugurated in 1952 there have been two other hit versions. The first was by Acker Bilk who reached No.21 in 1960, the other by the Righteous Brothers who managed exactly the same position in 1966. Thus both sides of this single have been popularised at one stage by the 60s duo yet both were standards even before they had touched them.