1 GANGSTA'S PARADISE (Coolio featuring LV)
Earlier this week I had a bet with a few colleagues about who would win the battle for Number One this week. I have lost every penny. The battle would always be tight with both Simply Red and Def Leppard still looking strong after last week and with a number of major new releases also jockeying for position. The winner is perhaps the most unexpected one of all. It is not that Coolio's hit is unpopular, far from it as even radio stations that would normally avoid rap like the plague have been plugging it to death, caught up in the undoubted brilliance of the track but it is the fact that it is still a rap hit, up against some of the finest that pop and rock has to offer. This is not Coolio's first UK hit but given that his biggest to date was Fantastic Voyage which reached Number 41 in July 1994 this hit marks an astounding turnaround for him. It becomes no less than the ninth single this year to debut at Number One and the third in succession, following the successes of Shaggy and Simply Red. The success of the single is in no small way due to the clever marketing of the two CD singles, one featuring bonus tracks from Coolio and the other from LV but that is not to take away the achievement of the chart-topping hit. It is also the third rap Number One of the year, following on from two Outhere Brothers chart toppers earlier this year, the first time so many rap records have topped the charts in quick succession since 1990 when Snap!, Partners in Kryme and Vanilla Ice performed the hattrick.
2 I'D LIE FOR YOU (AND THAT'S THE TRUTH) (Meat Loaf)
So near... so near. For the second time this year and only the fourth time in chart history the top two positions are both taken up by new entries. A new single release from Mr Loaf was always going to be a big (no pun intended) event and in the event it just loses out in a two-way tussle with Coolio for the top slot. Nonetheless it brings him back into the Top 10 for the first time since Christmas 1993 and for only the fourth time in his career. It is, as you would expect, an impressive enough track, the kind of epic, blustering ballad that only he appears to be able to get away with with credibility intact. There is, however, one important element lacking. As any Meat Loaf fan will tell you, Meat Loaf on his own is impressive enough. Meat Loaf with Jim Steinman is on another, magical plain altogether. It is therefore inevitable that this single should suffer from not having the magic touch of Steinman's genius to bring it alive. True, the production on Diane Warren's song tries its best to create the same epic scale of past masterpieces but inevitably falls some way short. That does not appear to have harmed the success of the single at all, and the album when it arrives is certain to be massive but it has a lot to live up to given that I'd Do Anything For Love and Bat Out Of Hell II were the best selling single and album of 1993. On the strength of this single, that may well be an impossible target to beat.
8 MISSING (Everything But The Girl)
Everything But The Girl are Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn. They have been making records together for well over ten years, all of them masterpieces of understated production with their voices combining in always perfect harmony to make some wonderfully relaxing records. Chart success has been there, albeit sporadically as until now they had only had three Top 40 hits, Each And Every One in 1984 and cover versions of I Don't Want To Talk About It and Love Is Strange in 1988 and 1992 respectively, the former of that pair being their biggest hit ever, making Number 3. Missing started life as just another EBTG track, a gentle acoustic ballad which was released as a single and made a customary brief appearance in the charts, peaking at Number 69 in August 1994. That appeared to be the end of the story, until Todd Terry appeared on the scene. With the blessing and indeed active encouragement of the pair, he remixed the track, not too much, just enough to give it a kind of ambient dancefloor appeal. The result of this was a European club smash which raced up the charts all over the continent and is currently holding the Italian charts to ransom. After a number of weeks on import and perched nicely atop the dance charts, the remixed track finally gets an official release and explodes into the Top 10 to give them the second biggest hit of their career. The success of the track also follows on from Tracy Thorn's guest vocal on Massive Attack's Protection which reached Number 14 back in January.
9 YOU ARE NOT ALONE (Michael Jackson)
The former Number One deserves a brief mention simply due to its amazing feat of endurance thus far. This is the track's ninth week on the chart, all of which have been spent inside the Top 10. This makes it far and away Michael Jackson's best selling single since Heal The World became a Christmas smash at Christmas 1992. [And yet he's about to have another that is even bigger].
11 WALKING IN MEMPHIS (Cher)
Having been to see 'Clueless' last night I cannot see the name 'Cher' without thinking of Alicia Silverstone, but I will try and put such fantasies out of my head and concentrate on this single. Cher's last chart appearance was back in 1994 when she helped Beavis and Butthead to ruin I Got You Babe so it is a welcome relief to see the enduring star return to the charts with a sensible release. Her long-awaited new single is hardly new at all, being a cover of Marc Cohn's 1991 Number 22 hit. Although she has had numerous small hits over the past few years this is far and away her biggest hit single since 1991's Love And Understanding which reached Number 10. With her promotional activities in overdrive it would take a brave man to bet against the single progressing further next week, particularly as this track has also received extensive remix treatment making it something of a dancefloor favourite at the moment as well. One of these mixes is cheekily by Shut Up And Dance, the crew who famously made their own unauthorised version of the song in 1992 causing Marc Cohn to threaten them with crippling legal action.
13 AIN'T NOBODY (Diana King)
Hot on the heels of the success of Shy Guy back in July, Diana King makes the second step in her bid to become a bona fide chart star, rather than just the singer of a soundtrack hit. She does so by going the safe route, covering one of the all-time classic pop records. Ain't Nobody has had something of a stellar chart history, first recorded in 1994 by Chaka Khan in a one-off reunion with her old band Rufus. That recording reached Number 8. The track was remixed in 1989 and beat its original peak to reach Number 6. Since then the song has been recorded by 4th Dimension (who flopped), Jackie Graham (who reached Number 44 in 1994) and most recently by KWS who teamed up with Gwen Dickey to reach Number 21 that same year. Now it is the turn of Diana King's soft reggaefied version to crash into the charts, give her another hit and prolong the life of a quite brilliant pop song.
16 DON'T YOU WANT ME (Human League)
You are not going to believe this. I just had a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that one of the greatest hits of the 1980s had been selected for a remix. Don't You Want Me, the biggest ever hit for the Human League reached Number 1 for Christmas 1981, sold a million copies and has stood the test of time ever since. Despite being perfect to begin with it had been picked up to have its very soul ripped out by a set of crass, tactless remixes. What was even worse in this nightmare was that on the back of their chart successes earlier this year with One Man In My Heart and Tell Me When, the remix had actually charted and made the Top 20. Thank heavens it was all a dream...
18 BIG RIVER (Jimmy Nail)
A return to chart form for the big-nosed Geordie actor-turned singer. Jimmy Nail first rose to prominence as a TV actor in the mid-1980s and on the back of that scored a one-off Top 10 success with a cover of Love Don't Live Here Anymore in 1985. He took time to follow this up, but when he did he did so in style, reaching Number One in 1992 with Ain't No Doubt. His most recent success was with the Crocodile Shoes project, the TV series that he wrote and starred in and also sang on the soundtrack which produced Top 20 hits for the title track and Cowboy Dreams earlier this year. Now he returns to the chart with a brand new single that comes hot on the heels of his being the subject of the ITV arts program 'The South Bank Show' last week - that almost certainly a factor in the success of this track.
20 BULLET WITH BUTTERFLY WINGS (Smashing Pumpkins)
A welcome return to the chart for the Smashing Pumpkins with what is only their third Top 40 hit ever. Despite this their chart pedigree is good, their last him coming in March 1994 when Disarm reached Number 11, making this new track their second biggest hit to date.
26 HAND IN MY POCKET (Alanis Morissette)
Whilst the more scurrilous American tabloids rub their hands in glee at the revelations of the alleged marketing tactics of Madonna's Maverick label [no memory of what those were, time to hit the Music Week back issues to find out I suspect], it's most famous signing to date notches up her second hit. Alanis Morissette has yet to achieve the following over here that she has in America but that has not stopped the Jagged Little Pill album from notching up some respectable sales and on the back of that comes another chart single, similar in style although slightly more commercial that You Outta Know which reached Number 22 back in August.
27 GOT TO GIVE ME LOVE (Dana Dawson)
Dana Dawson's image is unashamedly pop which instantly gives her an edge over many of the other female singers currently attempting chart hits. This is her second hit single, following on from the irresistible 3 Is Family which reached Number 9 back in July and as far as I am concerned is memorable not only as a good pop tune but also for the stock of pink pastel notepads which the record company despatched to promote it and which still lurk around dark corners of the office. The new hit is a good enough pop single but somehow lacks the distinctiveness and magic of her first hit which suggests it will struggle to match that impressive debut peak.
31 UNION CITY BLUE (Blondie)
If every record was a word, this one would be "unnecessary". The latest crass attempt to breathe new life into the already-perfect Blondie catalogue produces its second remixed hit of the year. The first of these was the massacre of Heart Of Glass which made Number 15 back in July and about which I have only just finished having nightmares, not to mention the version of Atomic which also made the Top 20 around this time last year. Union City Blue was composed for the film of the same name in which Debbie Harry made her movie debut. Despite being one of their smaller hits (only making Number 13 for the group at the height of their career) it is one of Ms Harry's favourites although quite what she will make of this new mix I shudder to think.
32 TELL HER THIS (Del Amitri)
Whilst the music industry (including, admittedly, this writer) carps on and on about the need for British bands to crack the US market, one band has done just that with hardly anyone noticing. Del Amitri managed a substantial US hit in 1992 with Always The Last To Know and this year it has been the turn of Roll To Me which currently languishes in the Billboard Top 20 following on from its Number 22 peak here back in July. On the back of all this the Scottish group release a new single and notch up their fourth hit of the year. Tell Her This has none of the immediacy that has made Roll To Me such an international smash, being a laid back acoustic strum which is sadly liable to shorten the chart life of this hit. Their biggest hit in this country is Nothing Ever Happens which reached Number 11 in January 1990 which means they have now had 12 chart hits without ever once making the Top 10.
34 SEND HIS LOVE TO ME (PJ Harvey)
You could almost call her the British Alanis Morrissette, if that wasn't to do her originality a disservice. Polly Harvey returns to the charts with her third Top 40 hit of the year, following on from Down By The Water and C'mon Billy which both made brief chart appearances in February and July respectively. The new single finds her in an acoustic mood to not unpleasant effect. There will almost certainly come a time when she has a massive hit single, but it isn't this one.