1 2 BECOME 1 (Spice Girls)
Well this has to be the strangest chart of the year. It covers the period 22-28th December and so the sales week is neatly bisected by the Christmas holiday. As a direct consequence of this hardly any new singles of any significance have been released, record companies sensibly waiting until the Christmas rush is over before unleashing any new product. This means that for the first time in as long as anyone can remember not one single record makes its Top 40 debut. The entire chart consists of existing stock rearranging itself slightly and with three older singles making re-entries lower down the chart. Don't be fooled by the apparant stagnation however, singles sales just prior to Christmas day were at their peak for the year and records in the Top 10 will have sold far far more than they would need to to justify their chart positions at any other time of year.
There was a time when no chart would be published at all in the week following Christmas. This was partly due to the problems involved in collecting the data over a holiday and in part because such a meaningless survey was hardly worth the extra effort. These days the chart is produced 52 weeks a year, even if this particular countdown is more for completeness that anything else. At the top, as you would expect the Spice Girls maintain a hold on the Number One slot, giving them an impressive 11 weeks at Number One during the whole of 1996. It is equal to the total notched up by Robson and Jerome in 1995 and if you excuse the record-breaking stays of artists such as Bryan Adams and Wet Wet Wet during the 1990s it is the highest total achieved by any one act since Frankie Goes To Hollywood managed 15 in 1984.
2 UN-BREAK MY HEART (Toni Braxton)
On the rebound yet again in its 10th week on the chart, the seasonal chart-topper in the United States returns to its peak position, poised to strike should the sales of the Spice Girls start to slide in the new year.
3 KNOCKIN' ON HEAVEN'S DOOR (Dunblane)
Last week I stated that the Dunblane single marked the first time that a Bob Dylan track had topped the charts. In actual fact two acts had famously done so before, the first were the Byrds in 1965 with Mr Tambourine Man and they were followed in 1968 by Manfred Mann who took Mighty Quinn to the top. Thanks to everyone who took the trouble to write and point this out.
5 DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA (Madonna)
Another error that is worth correcting is the issue of how many Andrew-Lloyd Webber songs have topped the charts. As I said last week, Julie Covington's original of Don't Cry For Me Argentina was the first but it was belatedly followed in 1992 by Jason Donovan's version of Any Dream Will Do from the revival of "Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Mention should be made in passing also to the co-writer of both of those hits, Tim Rice who also topped the charts in 1985 as one of the writers of I Know Him So Well by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson. Lifted from the musical "Chess" and written in conjunction with Benny and Bjorn from Abba, the song remains to this day the best selling female duet ever. Both Rice and Lloyd-Webber have been involved in chart hits outside musicals of course, Tim Rice most recently collaborating with Elton John on the soundtrack to "The Lion King" and a whispered reference should also be made to Bombalurina's astonishing take on Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini which made Number One in 1990 and for which Lloyd-Webber was Executive Producer and creative spark behind the track.
10 HILLBILLY ROCK HILLBILLY ROLL (Woolpackers)
In a week when many records take advantage of the lack of new releases to bound back up the charts, the most spectacular turnaround of all comes from the Woolpackers single which climbs back in the Top 10 a full five weeks since it last ventured this high. The track originally peaked at Number 5 in November. [There is a Woolpackers Vevo channel. I can't even].
34 WORDS (Boyzone)
The biggest new hit of the new year is hardly new at all, Boyzone's Number One hit from earlier this month climbing seven places from its Number 41 position last week to make them incredibly the third act to have two singles inside the Top 40 this week, Spice Girls and Faithless being the other two.
39 ONE KISS FROM HEAVEN (Louise)
A further surge in sales gives Louise a second Top 40 appearance for this track which first peaked at Number 9 at the end of November. She makes an 8 place climb from her Number 47 placing last week.
40 SECRETS (Eternal)
To round off the trio of re-entries comes the seasonal single from Eternal which climbs two places to reappear inside the Top 40, the single originally making Number 9 at the start of December. Special mention should really be made of the three singles they replaced, Blow Up The Outside World by Soundgarden, Ultra Flava by Heller and Farley Project and In Your Wildest Dreams by Tina Turner and Barry White.