This week's Official UK Singles Chart
1 I'LL BE MISSING YOU (Puff Daddy and Faith Evans)
Despite a slight wobble in midweek when it looked as though Sash would displace them, Puff Daddy and Faith Evans consolidate their position at the top of the charts as the tribute to their deceased colleague and husband crosses over to an ever larger audience. Expect a further week as well given the current chart climate... most quality new singles are being held back for a few weeks for one very good reason. This week is Oasis -2.
2 ECUADOR (Sash)
One of the biggest dance hits of the year so far is Encore Une Fois, the single that crossed over to the general public to such an extent that it spent seven weeks inside the Top 10, peaking at Number 2 and was still selling as recently as last month. The follow-up is, unsurprisingly just as massive, entering in the same place although inevitably its impact will in the long term be less. One curious aspect of the packaging of this single is that it is available only on CD and Cassette. Although even a die-hard vinyl addict like myself has to admit that old fashioned records are a dying breed these days, the UK still accounts for a substantial amount of sales of black plastic, thanks largely to the music industry's exansive DJ culture. Most DJs worth their salt of course had promotional or imported copies of Ecaudor months ago but the casual dance fan will be somewhat surprised to find that the only 12" copies of the single are overpriced imports from the continent... the chart position of the single is solely due to sales of conventional formats.
3 JUST A GIRL (No Doubt)
Without a shadow of a doubt ("No Doubt!" *ahem*) Don't Speak will be one of the biggest hits of the year, Number One just about everywhere you care to name and a pop standard destined to be in radio station inventories for decades to come. It has of course presented No Doubt with something of an albatross to carry, a smash hit single for which they will always be remembered but one which bears little resemblance to their usual material. Acts such as Extreme have had similar problems in the past and it now remains to be seen how Gwen Stefani et al manage to overcome it, given that the rest of the Tragic Kingdom album is full of the college rock meets Madness lunacy of which Just A Girl is a perfect example. This was of course their first single release in this country and has been in the Top 40 before, peaking at Number 38 in October last year. Upon re-release it shoots straight into the Top 3 as I suspect any single they released at this time would do. The acid test will be where it stands in three weeks time, either lodged near the top end of the charts or heading for the bargain bins.
8 AIN'T NOBODY (Course)
The negative side of European integration rears its ugly head once again. Following their Europop massacre of Ready Or Not back in April The Course bizarrely make the Top 10 once more with this Eurodisco version of Ain't Nobody. Just as with their last single it is a cover of a cover of a cover, the single first charting for Rufus and Chaka Khan in 1984 and again in a remix in 1989. Earlier this year LL Cool J had an in-and-out Number One hit with his rapped version and it is this arrangement that The Course single uses, effectively leaning on somebody elses inspiration and creativity to make a record that is as devoid of merit as those who misguidedly purchased it are of taste.
9 SOMEWHERE (Pet Shop Boys)
Good though their own material always is, when the Pet Shop Boys turn their hands to cover versions they go to town in an orgy of effects and high camp. The first example of this came in 1991 when they deconstructed the myth of U2's Where The Streets Have No Name by turning it into a medley with the cabaret classic Can't Take My Eyes Off You. Their 1993 Number 2 version of Go West was a natural progression. Now they crash into the Top 10 with their most audacious cover to date, turning Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim's showpiece ballad from "West Side Story" into a Hi-NRG disco classic. The track, the first instalment from a long-threatened project of Broadway interpretations, is only partially successful. Whereas Where The Streets... was a wonderful satire on the pomposity with which U2 surrounded their music and Go West was never anything less than affectionate, Somewhere somehow manages to be neither and just ends up as a gratuitous cover version that suggests little in the way of creativity. Still, one can be too negative, it is their 19th Top 10 hit since 1985 and extends their run of consecutive Top 20 hits back to Can You Forgive Her in June 1993. One worrying statistic is that the Pet Shop Boys set a record of their own with their last single. Red Letter Day entered the Top 40 at Number 9 at the end of March before plummeting to outside the Top 40 the following week. No single had ever before entered the Top 10 only to vanish without trace seven days later. This isn't the first time in recent years that a Steve Sondheim ballad has been turned into a pop record by Tennant and Lowe, Liza Minnelli's version of Losing My Mind, as produced by the boys themselves, made Number 6 in August 1989.
12 SCOOBY SNACKS/I'M NOT IN LOVE (Fun Lovin' Criminals)
Re-release time once more and one that will find few people to criticise its presence. Scooby Snacks was first released in August last year to coincide with the first promotional tour by the lounge lizard rappers. Thanks to a series of public appearances the Tarantino-approved single replete with Pulp Fiction samples charted at Number 22, their biggest hit single of the last year. Following on from the Top 30 success of King Of New York earlier this year, the track has been re-released, this time in an intriguing double a-side. I'm Not In Love is of course one of the most famous records of the 1970s, Number One in 1975 for 10cc and arguably one of the most innovative tracks ever made. Several attempts have been made to cover the song, mostly by people who should have known better. Johnny Logan reached Number 51 with his version in 1987 whilst Will To Power had the temerity to take their unholy massacre to Number 29 in 1990. The Fun Lovn' Criminals have avoided such pitfalls as their wonderfully languid version, for a long time a concert favourite, makes a welcome chart appearance.
15 THE GOOD LIFE (New Power Generation)
No less than six of this week's new entries are re-releases or remixes but none are as curious as this. Just prior to becoming self-indulgent and a little bit strange, the New Power Generation were some of the best musicians Prince had assembled to back him in many a long year and even after he had dispensed with their services, it was clear that remaining together would guarantee them continued exposure. The Good Life was their second 'solo' release, reaching Number 29 in August 1995. It was of course during the height of their former bosses spat with Warner Brothers records and reliable rumours that the vocals on the track that sounded suspiciously like a certain Mr P.R. Nelson were indeed from the man not only produced the track but also ran the record label to which they were signed. Two years down the line, for reasons that are best left to guesswork, the single is re-released and immediately crashes into the Top 20 to give Prin- er I mean the New Power Generation their biggest hit single to date. [This apparently random re-release was actually down to public demand. The then GWR radio network kept this track in recurrence on their centralised music scheduling and presenters would often receive requests from people wondering what it was and where they could get it. Word of this eventually reached the label who were persuaded to re-issue the single - solely it seems for the benefit of the audience of one particular set of radio stations].
17 THE AGE OF LOVE - THE REMIXES (Age Of Love)
Those with long memories and a historical interest in dance music will wipe away a tear at the appearance of this track in much the same way that many did when Ultra Nate finally scored a hit single earlier this month. Age Of Love famously emerged from continental clubs in the early 1990s, never officially released and a rare prize for any DJ who obtained a white label copy. It first surfaced officially in 1992 when Jam and Spoon remixed the track but to no avail as it became a commercial failure over here. Quite why it should have taken five years a notoriety for the single to finally deserve repromotion is anyone's guess but here it comes, a seminal piece of continental trace that was clearly ahead of its time to begin with, nestling quite comfortably inside the UK Top 20 and making a great many former clubgoers feel very old indeed.
20 HEY DJ! (PLAY THAT SONG) (N-Tyce)
Latest British R&B hopefuls are N-Tyce, groomed to be the British En Vogue although with possibly more sex appeal. Certainly their marketing so far has targeted them at the pop end of the market, support slots with the likes of Peter Andre in recent months have helped to raise their profile no end. Their debut hit single shows a great deal of potential, a bubbly piece of pop R&B that thoughroughly deserves this first week Top 20 placing. Their challenge now is which direction to take, whether pop or the more sophisticated end of the market... few acts, notably Eternal, have ever managed to juggle both.
21 OXYGENE 10 (Jean Michel Jarre)
Jean Michel Jarre's continuation of his Oxygene suite has been something of a revelation. Rather than being a tired attempt by the ageing master to play on past glories the project has proved to be something of a second coming, being ackowledged in some surprising sources as one of the fathers of techo and with some of his biggest hit singles ever. Before this year the Frenchman had had just one Top 40 hit, the original anthem of Oxygene 4 which made Number 4 in 1977. Earlier this year Part 8 made Number 17 and now this further movement from the piece brings him back to the Top 30. Either the sycophants are right, or he has been learning a trick or two from modern dance as Oxygene 10 is barely recognisable from his usual elevator music noodlings and can in fact hold several candles to any modern day electronica record you care to name. The King is indeed on his throne.
23 WALTZING ALONG (James)
With the first sensation of the new album out of the way, James show that they too can slip into the familiar routine of releasing successive singles with ever diminishing chart positions in order to add a couple of thousand sales to the platter. Their third hit single of the year, following up the Top 20 hits She's A Star and Tomorrow. They don't know how to make a bad record but the fact that this single will progress no further from Number 23 is indicative of the loyalty of their fans rather than any casual appeal for the single.
32 RAW POWER (Apollo 440)
Apollo 440 can lay claim to being far and away the most innovative dance producers around. Over the past couple of years they have turned Don't Fear The Reaper into a dance record without sullying the memory of the original (the Course could do well to take note), introduced a whole new generation to the work of Gene Krupa and most recently of all took Eddie Van Halen's famous guitar solo for Ain't Talking 'Bout Love and turned it into Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Dub, surely one of the most appropriate fusions of dance and rock made in recent years. It was the novelty of that last hit that propelled it to Number 7 back in February to become their biggest chart hit to date. The lack of sensation surrounding this new single doubtless accounts for its somewhat depressed chart position, although their capacity to surprise suggests that it would be wrong to write off their potential on the basis of this one hit.
35 JUST ANOTHER ILLUSION (Hurricane #1)
The second hit single for Hurricane #1, the band formed by Andy Bell out of the ashes of early decade superstars Ride. Whilst The Foo Fighters, Cast and the Seahorses have proved in recent months that previous reputation can count for a great deal when forming a new band. No such luck for Bell, despite the fact that both singles from Hurricane #1 so far have been quite superb slices of pop. Just Another Illusion disappoints at Number 35, six places below the peak of Welcome To My World.
38 PUNKA (Kenickie)
The third Top 40 hit for Kenicke and a re-release of their very first single, the track reaching Number 43 when first available in September last year. Stars in the making the girl-dominated rockers may be but the diminishing chart positions of their singles so far (January's In Your Car the biggest at Number 24) suggest that it will take brand new material for them to soar to the heights that their live performances show they deserve.
40 FEEL WHAT YOU WANT (Kristine W)
Coincidentally there is more than one underground dance classic making a reappearance this week. Despite a series of single releases, Kristine W has never managed a major chart hit, whether on her own or accompanying acts such as Our Tribe. Feel What You Want was her only Top 40 single, reaching Number 33 at the end of June 1994. Thanks to a small but dedicated band of DJ followers, interest in the single has been kept alive and now with the ubiquitous excuse of "public demand" is re-released with a string of new remixes. Many long lost hits have been transformed into smashes in this manner which as is demonstrated here, does not have a 100% success rate.