1 BREATHE (Prodigy)
Dramatically and inevitably, the new release from The Prodigy sails past all opposition to give the act their second Number One single of the year. Like Firestarter before it, Breathe makes few concessions towards commercial appeal or airplay potential and simply sweeps away all-comers with its massive club following. To call it uncommercial is actually a little unfair as Firestarter certainly sold well enough to remain top for three weeks back in March and Breathe follows pretty much the same formula. One thing is certain, in terms of musical depth and production values the Prodigy have come a long long way from their debut hit Charley in September 1991. They are the fourth act this year to have two Number One hits, following in the footsteps of George Michael, the Fugees and the Spice Girls. For so many acts to consistently hit the top inside a calendar year is extremely unusual, surpassing 1995s total of three double chart-toppers. Indeed, before last year the Number One slot was dominated by a succession of different acts and only Queen and Take That managed more than one chart-topper in a calendar year between 1990 and 1994. Haters of dance music may perhaps be relieved to hear that next week we are set for yet another new Number One hit as Mark Owen becomes the third member of Take That to release a solo single. Bear in mind also that there are only five chart weeks to go before the Christmas chart and that betting is well underway as to the identity of the Christmas Number One. The Spice Girls are currently odds-on favourites but as we all know, a month is a long time in a record shop.
2 WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT (Warren G featuring Adina Howard)
This track was a smash hit even before it was off the blocks but the size of this debut will have surprised many. It is a familiar enough song, the Number 3 hit from 1984 that has over the years become one of many anthems for its originator Tina Turner. Warren G's new version strips the song down to leave him room to rap but retains enough of the spirit of the original to give Adina Howard time to do a pretty convincing Tina impression. It is the first hit single for the King of the G-funk since This DJ made Number 12 in November 1994 following on from the massive summertime success of Regulate. It is also a sweet return to the chart for Adina Howard, her first hit being last year's Freak Like Me which reached Number 33.
3 WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKEN HEARTED (Robson and Jerome)
The pressure from the two massive hits above proves two much for the duo, particularly with their new album deflecting sales from the single and they slide after just two weeks at the top. Their album Take Two debuts at Number One in the album chart this week to complete a rather remarkable coincidence. Over the past month or so the singles chart has been topped by Boyzone who were then replaced by the Spice Girls who were in turn replaced by Robson and Jerome. The albums chart has followed exactly the same sequence a few weeks behind, Boyone then the Spice Girls and then Robson and Jerome. From this one can either conclude that fate can play some strange tricks at times or that record company marketing strategies are depressingly similar.
Whilst the Top 5 frantically rearranges itself above them, Robert Miles and Maria Nayler cling onto their Number 6 position. The success of this new single has had a remarkable effect on Robert Miles' album Dreamland which leaps up the albums listing this week. The leap is all the more remarkable when you consider that One and One isn't even on it! This single is also the last of a rather impressive run by RCA records which can lay claim to the distribution or promotion of Robson and Jerome, Toni Braxton, the Woolpackers and Robert Miles who all occupy Numbers 3,4,5 and 6 respectively.
7 GOVINDA (Kula Shaker)
As the year draws to a close and critics and music writers compile their own personal lists of the bands of the year, Kula Shaker will almost certainly feature in most of them. Their music and their approach to life in general may not be that of a conventional rock act but this has not stopped them racking up a string of hit singles, of which this is the fourth. Govinda follows in the footsteps of the earlier release Tattva being sung entirely in the ancient Hindu language of Sanskrit which certainly marks it down as one of the most unusual records on the chart this week. Whilst not a cover version exactly the spiritual mantra has been a hit once before, for the Radha Krisha Temple of Oxford Street who took it to Number 23 in March 1970.
10 MILK (Garbage featuring Tricky)
Believe it or not it was back in February when Garbage made the ultimate breakthrough with Stupid Girl, a track heavy enough to be true to their grunge-linked roots yet commercial enough to become a Number 4 chart smash and an airplay staple for many months afterwards. Perhaps sensibly they decided to let the fuss die down and build up the anticipation for the release of this single which closes their acclaimed debut album. The track also features the vocal talents of Tricky, who so far this year has had three hit singles under a different name each time. First of all came the Nearly God single Poems before he charted a mere fortnight ago with the Number 28 hit Christiansands.
12 WHEN I FALL IN LOVE (Ant and Dec)
Thankfully nothing to do with Nat King Cole but an original composition from the newly-monikered duo that follows neatly on from Better Watch Out which made Number 10 back in August. They may fall squarely into the "teen appeal" bracket but everything about them suggests that they are worth far more than that as their forthcoming Channel 4 TV series should confirm. The only problem should be how they will break away from this teenybop image once the time has come for them to broaden their appeal. For the moment, this slow-tempo track nicely pitched for the endless round of school Christmas discos will suffice to keep their commercial flame burning.
13 STAR (Bryan Adams)
Another release and another chart smash for the Canadian superstar it seems, Star following in the footsteps of Night To Remember and The Only Thing to become a instant Top 20 hit. The ease at which he appears to have hit singles is in stark contrast to the early part of his career. Before the ubiquitous Everything I Do... Bryan Adams was one of the chart's also-rans, only Run To You having ever been anything approaching a sizeable hit.
14 SINGLE (Pet Shop Boys)
The third single from Neil and Chris who are faced with how to follow the towering masterpiece that was Se A Vide E from the summer. They do so with this track, the title song (almost) from their current album which forms part of the frantic opening dance medley. Their run of hit singles is now so impressive that chart positions hardly matter (although of course they would probably disagree!), suffice it to say that this is their 29th UK Top 40 hit since 1985 (this includes the Absolutely Fabulous single), only one of which has fallen short of the Top 20.
17 CHASING RAINBOWS (Shed Seven)
Here is a strange thought. Aside from the statistic-bending achievements of Oasis over the past couple of weeks, Shed Seven are the first act this year to accumulate the rather impressive total of five Top 40 hit singles. If an act releases singles at the start of the year they can reasonably expect to amass around three or four hits but to exceed that number is extremely rare indeed. So far in the 1990s few acts have managed such a feat. REM set the benchmark in 1991 with six Top 40 entries, although two of those were old hits reissued by their old record company to cash in on their sudden commercial renaissance. The feat of the decade so far must be that of The Wedding Present who in 1992 set out to release a limited edition single once every calendar month. That tactic resulted in all twelve reaching the Top 30 giving them a turnover of hit singles not seen since the days of Elvis Presley. Of course Shed Seven are in no way going to approach that total with just a few weeks left of 1996 but their tally of five, only one of which has missed the Top 20 is to be applauded.
21 THIRTY THREE (Smashing Pumpkins)
The third hit of the year for the Smashing Pumpkins and they just keep on getting better. Every bit as classic as May's Tonight Tonight, yet strangely enough their smallest hit of the year.
24 IF/KEEP ON RUNNING (John Alford)
The third hit single for actor and sometime singer John Alford. Just as his first release, a cover of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes coincided with the end of the last series of 'London's Burning', the drama in which he has a starring role, this new release comes just a couple of months into the run of the new series, enough time for him to be back in the public eye and in a position to sell records. Yet again he takes on two classic songs in his own, cod-reggae style but the former child actor is no Robson and Jerome. Ironically enough the single is produced by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken, the same minds behind the aforementioned sensations but whereas one act are destined to sell millions, John Alford remains little more than a distracting novelty.
26 LUST FOR LIFE (Iggy Pop)
Of all the artists to have Greatest Hits compilations to promote, Iggy Pop is perhaps the most unlikely. Then again he could be one of the most eagerly-awaited as a collection of some of his classic recordings is long overdue. To promote the release of Nude and Rude comes this reissue of one of his most classic recordings, the David Bowie-helmed power-pop title track from his 1977 album which also spawned his classic The Passenger. It charts as a single for the first time in this country, his chart performances in the past having been somewhat erratic. In fact it took him until 1987 to chart a single at all, his galloping take on Real Wild Child reaching Number 10 to become his biggest ever commercial hit and until now his only UK Top 40 entry. [There was method in the madness of picking this track of course, this being the opening piece of music from "Trainspotting", but 1996 James didn't think that was important enough to mention].
27 IF YOU LEAVE ME NOW (Upside Down)
The never-ending stream of wannabe boy bands continues with the fourth hit single for Upside Down. This band, you may remember, began the year in fine style with a TV documentary which charted in explicit detail the way the members of the group were recruited, groomed and then promoted. That exposure helped their first single Change Your Mind accelerate from a slow start to peak at Number 11 back in January. Their two singles since both made brief appearances in the Top 20 and at this present time the buzz around the band has clearly diminished. Not to be beaten a different tack is now being taken, the lads admitting that to be shown so candidly in the documentary may have been ill-judged and the approach this time is more careful. The single itself is well chosen - a fairly straightforward cover of the Chicago song that was at Number One exactly ten years ago this week. I'll confess this slightly conciliatory attitude is coloured by the fact that I met the group when they visited West Yorkshire last week [I have precisely zero recollection of that] and can report that despite being manufactured from the ground up, they do have some nouse and a clear sense of purpose over where they are heading. Number 27 represents yet another slide in chart positions but there is life in their concept yet.
30 JUMP TO MY BEAT (Wildchild)
The return to the Top 40 after a long absence for Wild Child, the producer who made an enduring club classic last year with Renegade Master which charted twice during the course of the year and ultimately reached Number 11. His new single is ironically enough slightly more commercial than its illustrious Ibiza-fuelled predecessor and so this lowly chart position is a slight disappointment. [There's a story behind this release which one day I'll research (or someone will tell me in the comments) as Roger "Wildchild" McKenzie had passed away a year earlier. So this otherwise new track must have been an older recording which had been dusted off as his legacy].
33 STRESSED OUT (A Tribe Called Quest)
The chart comeback of the stateside rappers continues with their second hit of the year, hot on the heels of 1nce Again which reached Number 34 in July. The new single drifts along in a not to unpleasant manner but this lowly chart placing only serves to underline that their commercial stock has declined since their halcyon days of 1991 when Can I Kick It reached Number 15.
35 JUST A TOUCH (Keith Sweat)
The second hit this year for the soul star, following on from Twisted which reached Number 39 in June. By surpassing that peak this single thus becomes his biggest UK hit since his debut I Want Her which reached Number 26 in March 1988.
36 WHATEVER (Oasis)
The clutch of Oasis singles that dominated the back end of the chart last week vanish as quickly as they came with the notable exception of Whatever, the single that is unique in the sense that it has yet to appear on an album by the band. It's continuing presence has helped to ensure that Oasis will be far and away the most charted act of the year and extends their legend still further.
37 GOT TO GIVE IT UP (Aaliyah)
To round things off on the Top 40 this week comes child Prodigy Aaliyah (a tag that will of course wear off as she gets older [oops] but for now it seems to suit her). Her second Top 40 hit of the year is a bold move to say the least, a cover of Marvin Gaye's classic hit which first reached Number 7 here in 1977. Face it, nobody will ever be able to cover a song by the Master himself but Aaliyah makes a reasonable, if uninspiring, fist of it. It is unlikely to be troubling the compilers next week.