1 TELETUBBIES SAY 'EH-OH' (Teletubbies)
Hardly a surprise here, the Teletubbies maintain their domination of the whole of British popular culture and spend a second week at the top of the charts. As the rather quiet nature of the rest of the chart will testify, what happens this week is of hardly any concern. Next week is the big one, the Christmas chart and the climax to the whole music year. Quite why the feat of a Christmas Number One should be such an institution is lost something lost in the mists of time, but ask any artist and most would give their right arm for the chance to have the best-selling single during the most frantic sales period of the year. As I mentioned last week it is really a three horse race between the Teletubbies and the big new releases from the Spice Girls and Chicken Shed. After several years where the final Number One of the year has been well signposted weeks beforehand it is extremely refreshing to note that this year it is far too close for anyone to call - even the bookmakers are divided. One thing is certain, with the Teletubbies shifting over 200,000 units a week and dramatic sales forecast for both the Spice Girls and the children of Chicken Shed it is quite possible that the Top 3 singles next week will sell a combined total of over 1 million copies. Not bad for a format that was considered dead in the water just five years ago.
4 NEVER EVER (All Saints)
Meanwhile below the scrap for Christmas Number One, the also-rans jockey for position in the Christmas Top 5, many taking advantage of the scarcity of big new releases to improve their chart placings a little. Most significant winners are All Saints, their bluesy ballad a popular Christmas choice and now rebounding for a second successive week to climb back from Number 6 and now just short of regaining the Number 3 peak the single achieved in its first week on release.
11 THE REASON (Celine Dion)
For the first time this year there is no brand new entry inside the Top 10. In fairness Celine Dion only missed out by a whisker and curiously enough was only an inch away from managing the unusual feat of occupying successive positions in the Top 40, Tell Him sticking this week at Number 13. Released just six weeks after Tell Him, hence the chart collision between the two, The Reason is actually a rather disappointing single, a surprise especially when one considers the writing credit of one Carol King which should have been enough to make it a classic.
12 IF GOD WILL SEND HIS ANGELS (U2)
Pop may not have been U2s most commercially successful album ever but in singles terms has certainly been their most productive. No less than five Top 40 hits have now been lifted from the platter, including the February Number One Discotheque and now this latest hit single which becomes the first to land outside the Top 10. [There was actually a reason for that. The deadline of a pre-booked concert tour meant the album was released in what the group have always considered an unfinished state. Each single was therefore remixed or in some cases completely remade, making them more essential purchases than usual for completists]. Indeed Christmastime hits seem to be something of a jinx for Bono et al, their last two singles to ultimately miss the Top 10 were Mysterious Ways and Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses - both released in mid-December. Only Angel Of Harlem has given U2 a seasonal Top 10 hit.
17 ROXANNE 97 (Sting/The Police)
Sting's bank balance and to a lesser extent his musical reputation was improved no end by one of this year's biggest international smashes, Puff Daddy's I'll Be Missing You which sampled extensively from the old Police track Every Breath You Take. The time has now come for the favour to be returned and Puff Daddy duly obliges with a radical reworking of Roxanne, arguably the seminal Police track and the single that rocketed them into the big time, reaching Number 12 in 1979. Radical is hardly the word, whereas the original was a classic piece of whiteboy British ska Roxanne 97 is transformed into hip-hop, complete with rapping. Nonetheless it carries Sting's seal of approval, credited to him and the Police and is featured on his current Greatest Hits collection that combines the best of his solo work with that of the Police. Roxanne becomes the first Police track of any kind to chart since a live version of Can't Stand Losing You reached Number 27 in May 1995, previous to that was the only other Police single to be reworked, a 1986 re-recording of Don't Stand So Close To Me that reached Number 24.
18 BACK TO YOU (Bryan Adams)
Just when you thought we had seen the last of the MTV unplugged concept, up steps Bryan Adams with the latest TV special that has in turn spawned an album and now its very own hit single. Unplugged of course is hardly the word as Bryan Adams followed the example of Bruce Springsteen by plugging the odd amp in anyway but the raw nature of an acoustical set remains. Coincidentally this brand new track lifted from the TV session is possibly the best single Bruce Springsteen has never made, Bryan Adams (subconsciously?) doing one of the best impressions of the Boss this side of John Cougar Mellencamp. His first single since 18 Til I Die made Number 22 in April, it becomes Bryan Adams' 11th Top 20 hit of the decade, a far cry from his earlier career when he could barely make the Top 40 with acknowledged standards like Heaven.
19 HISTORY REPEATING (Propellerheads featuring Miss Shirley Bassey)
Following on from their breakthrough smash hit with the David Arnold arranged remake of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the Propellerheads forge ahead with another smash hit, continuing in a way the James Bond connection. This time the song has nothing to do with the film franchise but instead features the quintessential Bond theme singer, the legendary Shirley Bassey who became the only singer ever to sing on two different Bond themes when she had hits with Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever. Although these days reduced to the cabaret circuit, she has in recent years become something of an icon for a younger generation of hitmakers and this is reflected in the number of one-off collaborations she has been involved with over the course of the last decade. Yello were the first to start the trend, inviting her to sing on The Rhythm Divine and giving her a Europe-wide hit single for the first time in years although the track only made Number 54 here in August 1987. More recently Chris Rea enlisted her help for Disco La Passione which similarly could only reach Number 41 in November last year. So full marks to the Propellerheads who take Shirley Bassey into the Top 20 for the first time since Never Never Never made Number 8 in March 1973.
21 BACHELORETTE (Bjork)
Still bumping along the bottom in chart terms, Bjork hits the Top 40 for only the second time this year, albeit with a far stronger single than I Miss You which could only reach Number 36 in March.
24 DOG TRAIN (Levellers)
The start of what I suspect will be another perfunctory in-and-out performance from the Levellers' third hit single of the year although Dog Train instantly improves on the Number 28 peak of its predecessor Celebrate. For a band which has rarely crossed over to a great extent, it is surprising to recount that Christmastime once gave them one of their biggest ever hits. Said single was the drinking song Just The One which made Number 12 just prior to Christmas 1995 and remained in the Top 20 for over a month and remaining on the chart for 8 weeks, far and away their most enduring hit single ever. Dog Train is now their 13th hit single and yet again falls short of the Top 10. Still, they have no reason to be depressed just yet, AC/DC hold the record having had 26 hit singles without ever climbing higher than Number 12.
26 LIFT ME UP (Red 5)
32 DANGEROUS (Busta Rhymes)
35 LOST YOU SOMEWHERE (Chicane)
38 RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT (Powerhouse)
40 DEEPER (Serious Danger)
With something of a pre-Christmas lull overcoming the Top 40, new entries at the bottom end are dominated by a serious of largely nondescript dance and rap singles. Red 5 score their second Top 40 hit of the year, I Love You... Stop! being the first; Busta Rhymes follows up the Top 20 hit Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See with his third solo hit of the year; Chicane end their year with a tally of 4 Top 40 hits, even if two of them were with the same song whilst Powerhouse enter disappointingly low down with one of the more curious dance tracks of the moment. In the same manner of Dario G's Sunchyme the track takes an old 1980s hit as its inspiration, DeBarge's Rhythm Of The Night and fashions the instrumental hook into a new dance single. It possibly deserves better but has sadly appeared to get lost in the seasonal rush.