1 KILLING ME SOFTLY (Fugees)
Number One for a fourth week, but only just. The Fugees maintain their lead at the top of the charts in the face of some very stiff and some very surprising opposition...
2 THREE LIONS (Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seeds)
The past week has seen the England football team march triumphantly to new heights, demolishing the hitherto invincible Dutch and overcoming the Spanish in the Euro 96 quarter finals. The resultant wave of popular emotion has spilled over into the pop charts as the team's official anthem, a Number One hit when first released five weeks ago, reverses its decline and registers a massive surge in sales to propel it back up to Number 2 and to come within an inch of deposing the Fugees to reclaim the Number One position. This is a prime example of something unique to this country - success by association. The success of the football team is completely unconnected with the sound of the record but the two have become inextricably linked with 70,000 people singing the song in unison whenever it booms out over the PA at Wembley Stadium. England have a semi-final against Germany this week and maybe the final at the weekend. Who knows what effect this will have on the sales of Three Lions [I wonder...].
6 ENGLAND'S IRIE (Black Grape with Joe Strummer and Keith Allen)
Go on, guess what this is about. Yet another new song to be lifted from the Beautiful Game compilation, the official Euro 96 album which also contains Three Lions, Eat My Goal and Big Man and Scream Team. Black Grape's contribution to the project is possibly one of the best, hence this high new entry now it has finally been released as a single. The song is typical Black Grape in their usual manic party groove and at a stroke it beats the Number 10 peak of their last single Fat Neck. Just like Primal Scream's hit a few weeks ago the track features an array of guest stars not least of whom is Joe Strummer the former Clash guitarist who even swallowed his career-long principles to help the band perform the track on 'Top Of The Pops'. The other guest star is comedian Keith Allen, well known for his association with New Order and other bands from the old Factory empire (of which the Happy Mondays were one) and who also contributed lyrics to another chart-topping football track - EnglandNewOrder's World In Motion back in 1990. [The official video is lost in the ether, but the Top Of The Pops performance is indeed rightly famous].
8 WRONG (Everything But The Girl)
The reinvented Everything But The Girl continue to go from strength to strength. The successes of Missing, Walking Wounded and now this new single give them the most impressive run of hits they have ever strung together in their entire career - three consecutive Top 10 hits in the last six months compared to just three Top 40 entries in the whole of the previous ten years. Wrong is possibly a more accessible track than April's Walking Wounded which despite a Number 6 placing first week out sank like a stone thereafter. The band have turned back to Todd Terry and he creates the same kind of groove that he did on Missing and lets the track flow with Tracey Thorn's always exquisite vocals. The new-found commercial appeal of the duo has been welcomed always universally by the industry, except maybe for Blanco Y Negro records who dropped the band after 11 years just months before the success of Missing.
9 LET ME LIVE (Queen)
With every release from the Made In Heaven album Queen move ever closer to vanishing from the charts forever, hence it is a good idea to make the most of them whilst they are still here [hindsight is 20/20 and all that]. The fourth single from Freddie's posthumous swansong benefits from being a hitherto unreleased song and so charges past the Number 15 peak of Too Much Love Will Kill You back in March to land a Top 10 placing. It is the 24th such hit for the band, a total bettered by only seven other acts in chart history.
14 SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND (Divine Comedy)
Slowly but surely a new phenomenon is growing in British music. The byword for the last couple of years has been Britpop, the musical movement that began quietly in early 1994, reached its zenith at the heart of popular culture in 1995 and is now simply another part of the mainstream in 1996. The new movement has yet to find a universally recognised name for itself but it is typified by the slightly bizarre off the wall style of acts such as Space and now the Divine Comedy. Coincidentally both are presently in the Top 20, Space's Female Of The Species being joined by the similarly understated Something For The Weekend after being championed by several of the more on the case radio stations.
19 NEVER FOUND A LOVE LIKE THIS BEFORE (Upside Down)
Back in the summer of 1993 there was a well-known band made up of five good-looking lads who were in search of the hit that would finally mark their transition from pop group to universally-appealing phenomenon. They released a song called Pray, a ballad with a summery groove. It had an exotic looking video, shot in sepia tones featuring the lads splashing around with bare chests in a Mediterranean setting. It was of course their first ever Number One hit. Now it is the summer of 1996 and a fairly well-known band made up of five good-looking lads have had a couple of hit singles which have made the Top 20 but which have still yet to convince many that they are worthy successors to Take That's place as the Number One teen band in the country. Hence they have released a song called Never Found A Love Like This Before, a ballad with a summery groove. It has an exotic looking video, shot in sepia tones and featuring the lads splashing around with bare chests in a Mediterranean setting. Those of you that think I'm joking can go back to the top and start again. Upside Down's third single is an almost perfect facsimile of Pray, from the gentle groove of the track, the vocal style, right down to the video itself. I should stress that it is more of a respectful tribute to the way the formula has worked in the past than anything else but as another stage in the carefully calculated plan to turn Upside Down into another Take That it may well have backfired slightly with the single debuting a place below their last hit Every Time I Fall In Love and looking unlikely to give them their first Top 10 hit.
27 INSPIRATION (Strike)
A third hit single for Strike. It follows on from U Sure Do which made Number 4 in April last year whilst on its second release and it is their first chart hit since The Morning After (Free At Last) made a brief appearance at Number 38 last September.
29 NO SURRENDER (Deuce)
Deuce first charted in January 1995. They were a clear-cut attempt by their record company to produce a British Europop act. The two boys and two girls formula worked well and the bouncy Call It Love shot to Number 11 after a steady climb. Deuce then followed up by entering the Great British Song contest in an attempt to represent Britain at Eurovision. Their song 'I Need You' lost out in the voting to Love City Groove but the track became a hit regardless, making Number 10. A further Top 20 hit On The Bible followed before London records decided the idea was not working and dropped the band. The threads of the tale have now been taken up by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken who have now resurrected the band with a minor change in personnel and have set about re-promoting them. The result is No Surrender which is a bright inoffensive pop song but which is clearly not about to set the world alight.
30 RED LIGHT - GREEN LIGHT EP (Wildhearts)
Professional Geordies the Wildhearts score their second hit of the year with this new EP, making a disappointing start following the Number 14 peak of Sick Of Drugs back in April.
31 MINT CAR (Cure)
Cure albums these days tend to follow a sort of pattern. Just as the album must contain the usual selection of melancholic and semi-ironic ramblings of Robert Smith et al it must also contain The Token Happy Track. Tradition dictates that The Token Happy Track is a good candidate for the album's second single so following in the distinguished footsteps of Cure tracks such as Lovesong and Friday I'm In Love, Mint Car makes its chart appearance. Cynicism aside when the Cure want to make an out and out pop hit they do it rather brilliantly so the low initial entry of this track is actually something of a slight disappointment given that the Number 15 peak of The 13th shows that the band's commercial appeal is as strong as it ever was.
35 WHERE IT'S AT (Beck)
The living embodiment of America's Generation X makes a return to the Top 40 after a two year absence. Beck first broke through in March 1994 with the notorious Loser yet failed to follow it up, making this new single his second chart hit.
38 COULD IT BE FOREVER (Gemini)
The second attempt to turn Gemini into stars appears to be going the same way as the first. The two blonde twins are just as appealing a commercial prospect as Bros (the original blonde twins) were in 1988 but so far the hits have not been forthcoming. Gemini's first single was Steal Your Love Away back in February but it could only reach Number 37. Now despite extensive promotion and a series of interviews by the pair (who it has to be said are a quite affable pair of blokes) their second hit single appears to have stiffed as well, entering the chart still lower than the first. Still, if at first you don't succeed...
39 KEEP ON, KEEPIN' ON (MC Lyte featuring Xscape)
A curious collaboration brings up the rear on the Top 40 this week. Xscape are the group of American females who have spent the past few years notching up a couple of minor hits, the most recent being Who Can I Run To which made Number 31 in January. They now chart again this time backing up MC Lyte. Lyte has been around for a number of years, first coming to attention in 1988 when she was the guest rapper of Sinead O'Connor's chart miss I Want Your Hands On Me. Her only UK chart entry before now was her January 1994 single 'Ruffneck' which reached Number 67.