1 SAY YOU'LL BE THERE (Spice Girls)
A fairly quiet week for new singles and although there were one or two new smashes released, competition for the Spice Girls was somewhat scarce. Therefore without too much difficulty they spend a second week at Number One, taking their total for the year overall to nine weeks. That is still a little short of the eleven weeks notched up by Robson and Jerome last year but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they will reach that within the few weeks that are left to us. Regardless of what happens to this single next, another is scheduled for release before Christmas and it is odds-on favourite to top the chart come the season itself. Speaking of which, the annual game is about to begin again, the frantic race to be Christmas Number One in the UK - well we are only eight chart weeks away after all.
2 IF YOU EVER (East 17 featuring Gabrielle)
Perhaps unsurprisingly the biggest new hit of the week, uniquely combining the talents of an act about whose future the speculation has been rife all year and another who has revived her career in 1996 after a break of nearly 3 years. For East 17 it is Greatest Hits time, a move which has prompted speculation that their career may well soon be over. The band insist that this is not the case and they are far from splitting up. Time will tell. It is at least a good opportunity to reflect on a career that has lasted most of the 1990s and has seen the London lads at times labelled as second-rate rivals to Take That but who were ultimately to last even those superstars. This new single has a rather unusual genesis. If You Ever was first recorded by Shai back in 1992, released as a single it made Number 36 just before Christmas that year and became a sizeable American hit also. East 17 liked the song and it has had a regular place in their live sets ever since. Earlier this year they were invited to perform live on a French TV show, a feature of which was a duet between the artists featured that week. East 17 and Gabrielle performed the song together and the response was so positive that a proper recording was the natural outcome. So here it is, exploding onto the chart to give the band their biggest hit single since Stay Another Day made Number One for Christmas 1994. For Gabrielle it is her fourth hit of the year and comes just four weeks after her last If You Really Cared peaked at Number 15.
4 UN-BREAK MY HEART (Toni Braxton)
The second hit this year for Toni Braxton, now clearly one of the hottest soul acts around. Following the slow-growing sensuality of You're Making Me High comes this new single, another ballad but one which is transformed by a series of mixes to become a true dancefloor hit as well. Complete with a steamy video it could hardly fail and instantly becomes her biggest hit single since her debut Come In Out Of The Rain made Number 2 in 1994. [Bit awkward as that was actually Wendy Moten, Toni Braxton debuted with Breathe Again.]
6 PLACE YOUR HANDS (Reef)
The first hit from the forthcoming new album from Reef makes a strong Top Ten debut. Reef you may remember were the rootsy British rock band who first shot to prominence having their demo rejected by an ignorant executive in an advert for Mindiscs. Ironically enough Naked, the song they were performing became a substantial hit, reaching Number 11 to become the biggest of three hits they had that year. Place Your Hands, as commercial a track as they have ever released, immediately sails past that peak to give them the biggest hit of their career to date. [And gave TFI Friday a famous jingle. But you had to be there].
9 FOLLOW THE RULES (Livin' Joy)
A swift followup for Livin' Joy to their earlier hit Don't Stop Movin' which made a slow decline from its initial Number 5 peak back in June to become one of the most-charted dance hits of the year. It is just one of a record-equalling five new entries inside the Top 10 this week.
10 YOU MUST LOVE ME (Madonna)
It has certainly been quite a year for Madonna. Becoming a mother for the first time and finally filming the title role in the movie of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's 'Evita', a role she had been mooted to play for the best part of the last ten years. That the forthcoming film should produce some hit singles was inevitable but the first comes from a rather surprising source. In order to breathe new life into a musical that is now nearly 20 years old, a new song has been worked into the libretto. You Must Love Me is really everything you would expect it to be, typical (although maybe not vintage) Lloyd-Webber with Madonna proving she is more than capable of handling the vocal demands of the role (and as the film soundtrack proves so is Antonio Banderas). The most famous song from 'Evita' is of course Don't Cry For Me Argentina, first recorded commercially by Julie Covington who hit Number One with the track in early 1977. The Shadows made Number 5 with their version a year later whilst Sinead O'Connor also charted briefly with the track in 1992. The part was originally played on stage by Elaine Paige who curiously enough never had a hit single from the musical and the only other hit single from the original composition was Barbara Dickson's version of Another Suitcase In Another Hall which reached Number 18 in February 1977. [Not true, David Essex's rendition of Oh What A Circus was also a hit in 1978]. This is the first hit single from an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical since Dina Carroll's version of 'The Perfect Year' from "Sunset Boulevard" made Number 5 in late 1993. [This writeup prompted an email from no less a figure than Sir Tim Rice wondering why I was so keen to overlook his contribution to the composition of Evita. So I wasn't immune to smackdown from the famous].
11 NEIGHBOURHOOD (Space)
The strangest bunch of Liverpudlians on the block return to the chart with their third hit single, following on from Female Of The Species and You And Me Versus The World. This track was actually supposed to be the first, released back in April it narrowly missed the Top 40 but was enough to get the band noticed and paved the way for their well-deserved breakthrough.
12 ALISHA RULES THE WORLD (Alisha's Attic)
A second hit single for the two (apparently) warring sisters, following on from the feisty I Am I Feel which made Number 14 back in August. As is well documented by now, the two are the daughters of Brian Poole who had a string of hits in the 1960s, the biggest of which being Do You Love Me which was a Number One in 1963.
14 WHAT IF... (Lightning Seeds)
One cannot help wondering if Ian Broudie should be given sympathy. The author of some of the best pop hits of the 1990s, a string of mid-range hits to his name yet his place in history is assured only by the fact that he helped to write Three Lions, the Number One smash hit that accompanied England's Euro 96 campaign and which still rings out on the terraces of virtually every football match played in this country. Hot on the heels of Susanna Hoffs' Top 40 version of All I Want comes the second Lightning Seeds single proper of the year. Describing it is next to impossible, it follows exactly the same format as all the others, a killer melody, a chorus that lodges itself into your brain yet most bizarrely yet again it only becomes a moderate hit. Assuming Number 14 is as far as it gets this will be the band's seventh Top 20 hit but Three Lions aside, the biggest remains Change which made Number 13 early in 1995. Will they ever have a Top Ten hit under their own steam?
19 BITTERSWEET ME (REM)
The second hit single from Adventures In Hi-Fi for one of the most expensive bands in the world and with a chart placing that is indicative of the way future releases from the set are likely to go, small and getting smaller.
21 BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Braids)
OK, so in a few weeks time it will be the fifth anniversary of Freddie Mercury's death. A time when virtually everyone who loved his music will be paying tribute and remembering him fondly. So why inflict this travesty on the world? The bargain bins of record shops are full of failed attempts to make naff dance hits out of well known records. Sometimes, and Clock's recent version of Oh What A Night is a case in point, they are bought by some misguided individuals who are clearly ignorant of the irrelevancy of the records compared to the originals. That does not explain why anyone, given the incomparable nature of the original should want to send this recording to Number 21. Maybe that is a little harsh as Braid's version of the Queen megahit gives it a Fugees-style treatment, giving the song a gentle hip-hop beat, by no means ruining the song but adding not one bit to the original. Joint winner of the most irrelevant cover version in the Top 40 this week.
22 FIGHTING FIT (Gene)
Gene's fifth Top 40 single in all and their second this year, following on from For The Dead which reached Number 14 back in January and is so far their biggest hit to date.
29 MACH 5 (Presidents Of The USA)
A further hit single for the current American college favourites, although one which falls some way short of the peak of their previous three, which include Peaches, the biggest of them all which made Number 8 back in April.
31 HELP ME MAKE IT (Huff and Puff)
So the gloves are off... who has made the worst cover of a classic record, Braids or Huff and Puff. Judge for yourselves... if you dare. Help Me Make It Through The Night has its rightful place as one of the most beautifully moving soul records ever made, twice a hit, once for John Holt in 1974 but originally and most definitively by Gladys Knight who hit Number 11 in 1972. Yet again this is a track which neither needs or deserves to be made into a 90s dance version, but here it is anyway. As a minor Top 40 entry and a record that will swiftly be forgotten about within weeks it can easily be dismissed but the fact that it samples in its entirety Ms Knight's opening monologue from the original is less easily forgiven.
38 LET'S GET TOGETHER (Alexander O'Neal)
The first Top 40 single in over three years for Alexander O'Neal and an entry which proves he has some ground to make up to return to the days of the late 1980s when he was a chart regular. This is his first appearance in the upper reaches since In The Middle made Number 32 in July 1993 and he has not been near the Top 20 since All True Man made Number 18 in January 1991.
40 FLOWERS IN DECEMBER (Mazzy Star)
How ironic that the last record to feature on the Top 40 this week is one which in all truth deserves to sit right at the other end. For the first time ever the original stars of the Paisley Underground have themselves a UK Top 40 hit. Hope Sandoval's voice has featured on some well-received albums and singles in the past but the closest they have ever come before was the Number 48 peak of Fade Into You in August 1994. This new single comes as a breath of fresh air, a simple guitar and harmonica backing the lady with a voice like an angel to create a magical record.