1 I FEEL YOU (Peter Andre)
After two weeks at the summit the Prodigy are deposed by the narrowest of margins by the man with the washboard chest. This single rounds off an incredible year for Peter Andre who started out as an Australian ex-pat and has wound up with four Top 20 hit singles and two Number Ones. In his turn he joins a list I mentioned last week, one of an incredible five acts to have each had two Number One hits during 1996. To find a similar occurrence of so many acts having more than one spell at the top of the charts during a calendar year you would have to go back to 1973 when Donny Osmond, Wizzard and Gary Glitter all had two chart-toppers whilst Slade ran away with no less than three, and bear in mind that one of this year's dual-summit stars (the Spice Girls) have a third single scheduled for release before December is out. Interestingly enough Peter Andre is nowhere in the running to be Christmas Number One. Betting is now well underway for this annual game (the only time of the year that betting on the pop charts is encouraged by bookmakers) with the aforementioned Spice Girls firm favourites with Madonna close behind.
3 I NEED YOU (3T)
The Christmas singles market has developed a worrying trend over the past few years. Something, somewhere has convinced pluggers and marketeers alike that what the public really wants at Christmas time is a drippy, slushy ballad. The logic goes that such a song will appeal to the wide demographic likely to be wandering in to their local record shop during the run-up to the festive period and hence will promote its chances of leading the pile come Christmas Day itself. The problem here is that the charts become awash with slush, the "Christmas Ballad" has now become such a cliche that sooner or later people are going to become tired of this trend and go for an uptempo pop stormer (although admittedly the last time that happened was in 1987 when the Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind was at the summit for yuletide). It is also a lazy way to make records. Face it, any idiot can write a pop ballad [number written by Masterton: 0], just bang down a few piano chords, write a lyric involving love (either newly-found or newly-lost) and watch the tears flow and the sales roll in. Sadly this also means that the Christmas charts become awash with badly-written slush as the recent hit by the Backstreet Boys could well have proved, and look how quickly that has vanished from sight. Happily, amongst all the dross you occasionally get a classic. Last year Michael Jackson made this point admirably with the stunning Earth Song and he was indeed rewarded with the Christmas Number One. Strange to relate then that one of the more genuinely moving ballads to be released this year should have a Jackson family connection. With the second highest new entry of the week, 3T have their third Top 3 hit, and just like Why the single features Uncle Mike on some suspiciously prominent "backing vocals". Nonetheless the song is magnificent, immaculately produced and staying just the right side of bombastic. With such strong competition up ahead a Christmas Number One looks unlikely but it will be a great surprise if this song does not retain its Top 5 position over the next 3 weeks to be high on many people's Christmas present lists.
4 UN-BREAK MY HEART (Toni Braxton)
An astonishingly consistent chart run from Toni Braxton's second hit of the year. It has now spent six weeks on the chart, three of them at Number 5 and three of them at Number 4. A bizarre sequence of yo-yos has seen the record move 4-5-5-4-5-4 with a Top 3 placing still just tantalisingly out of reach.
5 ONE AND ONE (Robert Miles featuring Maria Nayler)
It is a similarly consistent run from Robert Miles. Earlier in the year he had one of the most consistent hits singles of the year, Children spending an astonishing seven weeks alternating regularly between Numbers 2 and 3 and now after three straight weeks at Number 6 it climbs one place to give him a second Top 5 hit.
6 COSMIC GIRL (Jamiroquai)
The second single proper from what is certain to become a succession of Jamiroquai hits over the coming months. The man can do no wrong at present and the Top 3 success of Virtual Insanity is followed by the similarly nagging funk of Cosmic Girl which becomes his fourth Top 10 hit.
9 SECRETS (Eternal)
A new album from Eternal is reportedly in the pipeline for the new year but in the meantime Eternal round off another spectacularly successful chart year with this track remixed from the Power Of A Woman album. It means that all four singles lifted from the album, plus the Disney Soundtrack of Someday have made the Top 10. Add to that the four that came from their debut and they are well on their way to challenging to become one of the most successful all-female bands in chart history. A total of nine Top 10 hits is bettered only by Bananarama with 10 and the Supremes with 13.
15 WIDE OPEN SPACE (Mansun)
Forget the law of diminishing returns, Mansun's chart performances this year have just got better and better. From the brief Number 37 entry of the One EP back in April they have now progressed to the dizzy heights of a second Top 20 hit and their biggest hit to date. Most reviewers concur that this is their most commercial and most accessible single to date, hence this chart placing although I am tempted to suggest it lacks the killer chorus of their last hit Stripper Vicar which reached Number 19.
18 THE LANE (Ice-T)
More Gangsta rap as Ice-T has his second hit of the year, this one the biggest as it beats the Number 23 peak of I Must Stand back in June. It is also the biggest hit single of his career, never before has he broken through into the Top 20.
19 MAMA SAID (Metallica)
If I said this was Metallica's third Top 20 hit single of the year you may well detect a common theme emerging. Astonishingly enough for the first time this year, all of this weeks new entries are from acts who have already had a Top 40 hit so far this year. The fact that it has taken until the first week of December for this to happen is testament to the huge variety of acts that the charts accommodate these days.
22 GOLDEN BROWN (Kaleef)
Some may consider this an outrage but believe it or not this carries with it the full approval of the Stranglers themselves. Taking the original song as a backing, Kaleef perform a rather fabulous rap over the top with samples from the original cutting in to make up the chorus. It is the second hit of the year for the band, who first charted back in in March with Walk Like A Champion on which they supported boxer Prince Naseem. Those with long memories will remember that back then they were credited as 'Kaliphz', the name change coming because nobody knew exactly how to pronounce it.
26 ON MY WAY HOME (Enya)
The hits for Enya are few and far between but they are no less welcome when they come. This is her first Top 40 appearance since Anywhere Is made Number 7 just over a year ago. It is an interesting marketing strategy, only releasing a second single from the album The Memory Of Trees just before Christmas, just to give people a prod that it exists in time for the seasonal rush.
27 JOSEY (Deep Blue Something)
Those who have been to see Deep Blue Something in concert appear to come away with concerned expressions on their faces, muttering lines to the extent that they only appear to have one good song. Breakfast At Tiffany's at least made them into chart stars with a brief week at Number One back in September but the Texan band now have to build a chart career on the back of it. Josey will probably come as something of a disappointment, charting as low as it does and suggesting that they will struggle to become anything more than classic one-hit wonders. Like many of their songs there is a hidden twist, Josey being the false name that people put on their AIDS tests in America.
30 I WANT CANDY (Candy Girls)
This probably wins awards for the most astonishing remake of the year. Following their Top 20 debut in February with the Number 20 hit Wham Bam, the Candy Girls now turn their attention to 1980s Malcolm McLaren. The party chant of I Want Candy was originally recorded by Bow Wow Wow in 1982 [try The Strangeloves back in 1965, do your research], reaching Number 9. This new version transforms the original into a galloping electropop hit to quite bizarre effect.
36 DRIVING (Everything But The Girl)
It was in 1990 that phase one of Everything But The Girl's career began to slide off the rails. They recorded an album called The Language Of Life with legendary producer Tommy LiPuma who had apparently been begging to work with them for years. The result was a lushly produced album that swamped the simple beauty of much of their earlier work in a welter of big arrangements and swirling sax breaks. It was a relative commercial failure and the only single from the platter to chart was Driving which reached Number 54 in January 1990. Fast forward six years and Blanco Y Negro records find themselves with egg on their faces, having unceremoniously dumped the pair immediately prior to the worldwide success of Missing and their subsequent chart rehabilitation. Hence the inevitable, a Greatest Hits collection that deals with the early years of their career, an attempt maybe to cash in on their current run of chart hits and also, in fairness a good opportunity for new fans to find out some of the bands history. What has rankled Ben and Tracey is the fact that the record company have still insisted on remixing some of their earlier work. Todd Terry, who originally transformed Missing from an average album track into something quite magical, has been drafted in to revamp Driving. This he does as you would expect, leaving the bare bones of the track only and at the very least making it a bigger hit than it was the first time round. As for the pair themselves, they have been doing their best to promote the product by rubbishing it as much as possible, writing numerous letters to the music press to indicate their dissatisfaction with the whole idea. [In 1996 that really was a thing, Everything But The Girl incredibly pissed off about their own Greatest Hits album].