1 I'LL BE MISSING YOU (Puff Daddy and Faith Evans)
[Boom. Just like that as we hit the halfway point, the rather turgid and hard going 1997 suddenly bursts into life with the first of what aren't so much hit singles as era-defining megahits].
Tribute singles from one act to another are normally invariably bad, doses of sentimentality that do little to enhance the memories of the departed. However when such a single is made by the mentor and widow of the departed it takes on a different kind of poignancy. Such is the case with this now celebrated single, dedicated to the murdered Notorious B.I.G. Based around the old Police song Every Breath You Take the single brings a lump to the throat in much the same way as 2Pac's posthumous Ain't Mad Atcha did shortly after his death. The poignancy of the original song, coupled with Puff Daddy's rap combine in such a way that is quite quite moving. It becomes the first single ever to go straight to Number One both here and in America, and is the first chart-topper for both Puff Daddy and Faith Evans, Biggy's widow having made the Top 40 late last year with Stressed Out. Although specially recorded tributes to deceased artists have charted in the past the only other one to hit the top was Roxy Music's version of Jealous Guy which topped the charts in March 1981 following the death of John Lennon. I'll Be Missing You certainly has the staying power to remain at the top but as with any single released over the next month it has to be constantly looking over its shoulder - the new Oasis single is now just three weeks away.
2 BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY (Verve)
[...and speaking of megahits].
The Verve were arguably (sometimes quite literally so) a band who could teach Oasis a thing or two about internal strife. Formed in 1992 they released two albums and built up quite a following, including the Gallagher brothers themselves, Oasis often playing as support to The Verve when they first started out - indeed the Oasis track Cast No Shadow is said to have been inspired by lead singer Richard Ashcroft.. In 1995 the band split in a haze of drugs and recrimination, just as they were on the verge of greatness, their swansong single History was their biggest, peaking at Number 24. Last year Oasis invited Ashcroft to perform with them in New York and in doing so inspired him to bury the hatchet with the other band members and reform. The result is this single which demonstrates just why Noel Gallagher recently proclaimed that they were the only band worth listening to. Bittersweet Symphony demonstrates an astonishing musical sophistication with a string quartet sawing away throughout as the understated song slowly gets under your skin. Whether it is the sensation of their reformation or the quality of the single, or maybe both, Bitter Sweet Symphony charges into the Top 3 and indeed only by a whisker misses out on topping the charts.
4 HUNDRED MILE HIGH CITY (Ocean Colour Scene)
After almost six years in obscurity Ocean Colour Scene finally became huge stars with the release of 1996s Moseley Shoals album and its attendant hit singles. Now they hope to consolidate that with a new album and this first single will certainly have given them a start. Straight into the Top 5 to equal The Day We Caught The Train as their biggest hit to date. The new single might not quite have the magic of some of their previous Top 10 hits but it would be a foolish person who writes them off on the strength of this one sample from an unreleased album.
5 ON YOUR OWN (Blur)
The third hit single this year for Blur and with it the final confirmation that they have abandoned all attempts at commerciality and proved that however much of a racket you make, as long as you have fans who think you are wonderful a huge hit is guaranteed. Their sixth Top 10 hit but oh for the days of Charmless Man and Sunday Sunday.
8 NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (Echo and the Bunnymen)
By a strange spooky coincidence this is the second hit single from a reformed band to land in the Top 10 this week. Echo and the Bunnymen are still regarded as one of the legendary bands of the 1980s, named after the drum machine that accompanied them on many early concert outings, Ian McCulloch's band had a string of hit singles that spanned almost the entire decade and included two Top 10 hit singles. Their swansong was People Are Strange, the Doors cover that was their contribution to the soundtrack of the film "The Lost Boys" before Ian McCulloch embarked on an ill-fated solo career. The band continued on without him despite the tragic death of drummer Pete DeFreitas and recorded one more album but with little success. Then a couple of years ago McCulloch fancied the idea of a group again and along with original Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant formed Electrafixion. Their only Top 40 hit came in March last year when Sister Pain reached Number 27. Last November they announced that Electrafixion were no more and that the next album would be a proper reunion. So it proves, with all surviving members intact and the sensation thus caused has been enough to catapult this first single straight into the Top 10 to equal their biggest ever hit. It's success could also be put down to the fact that on backing vocals (although you would be hard pressed to tell) is a certain Mr L.Gallagher - I suspect to the die-hards the fact that it sounds like singles such as The Game as if they had never been away will have been a bigger influence.
9 GUIDING STAR (Cast)
Not one word of criticism is it possible to find for Cast who will quite possibly emerge from history as one of the bands of the mid-1990s. No Oaisis-like hysteria for them, just an endless stream of quality material that seems to come round endlessly on the radio. Since their debut almost two years ago with Finetime they have never once missed the Top 20 and now notch up a fifth successive Top 10 hit with what is arguably one of the best things they have ever released. Quite why it should have taken so long for this track to become a single is something of a mystery. With its infectious "Get up, get up" chorus it sounds so deliciously summery and yet at the same time wonderfully retro. Indeed, the sound of John Power's vocals and guitar work means that you can imagine anyone from the Hollies, Amen Corner or even the Beatles themselves performing this song. Last Autumn's Flying remains their biggest but you can guarantee this will become one of their most memorable hits.
11 CALL THE MAN (Celine Dion)
The fifth hit single from the Falling Into You album and one which curiously breaks the pattern of her most recent releases by not entering straight into the Top 10, albeit by just one place. What is even stranger to relate is that since Celine Dion made her delayed breakthrough in this country with The Power Of Love in 1994 her only other single not to reach the Top 10 is 'Misled' which despite having been a Top 40 hit twice over has only ever made it to Number 15.
13 WE TRYING TO STAY ALIVE (Wyclef Jean and the Refugee Allstars)
Whilst Lauryn Hill takes time out to have a baby the Fugees bandwagon has come to a grinding halt. Notwithstanding, musical mastermind Wyclef takes the opportunity to launch something of a solo career of which this is his first offering. But for the absence of Ms Hill you would of course be hard pressed to tell that it is not a Fugees record, a novel reworking of an old hit (in this case the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive) coupled with Wyclef Jean's added vocal musings. The only thing wrong is that at no point does he say "one time". This is of course the second time in recent years that the disco classic has become the subject of a rap interpretation, N-Trance having taken their version to Number 2 in 1995.
15 WHERE HAVE ALL THE COWBOYS GONE? (Paula Cole)
One of the most eagerly-awaited new hits of the week was the debut release from Paula Cole. The half-spoken half-sung song has struggled a little for radio airplay but hopefully this should change with this impressively high entry. Not the most typically commercial hit on the chart this week which suggests a quick demise is likely - but only for the single.
16 STAR (Primal Scream)
A week before the 'Vanishing Point' album, here comes its second single. Star is yet another example of why Primal Scream have resurfaced to become the most talked-about band of the year, a gloriously laid-back piece of music with a depth that is quite astonishing when you consider it is from the same band that produced the Give Out But Don't Give Up album. Their sixth Top 20 hit.
21 YOU ARE THE UNIVERSE (Brand New Heavies)
Their last single Sometimes was a major step forward for the Brand New Heavies, saturation airplay and a chart peak of Number 11 which made it their biggest hit single ever. The lower entry of this second single from their new album points the way to diminishing chart positions for the rest of this year but the still-specialised nature of their audience means that if they pluck a real gem from the album for a future single a trip back into the Top 20 is by no means out of the question.
23 HOME (Depeche Mode)
The third hit single in the current run for Depeche Mode. The familiar pattern is starting to emerge here, a sizeable first hit released in advance of the album (Barrel Of A Gun), a smaller second hit (It's No Good which in all fairness deserved its Top 10 placing by dint of being one of the best tracks on the album) and now this new hit which settles rather lower on the chart, in many ways a shame as Home shows off once again their talent for sophisticated balladry - even if it does sound worryingly like Erasure. This Number 23 placing will come as something of a disappointment as if the single fails to progress any further it will be the first Depeche Mode single to miss the Top 20 since the live version of Everything Counts in February 1989. You have to respect the overall consistency of their chart positions. Since their chart debut Dreaming Of Me peaked at Number 57 in April 1981 their only single since to miss the Top 30 has been the import-only Little 15 in May 1988.
28 CASUAL SUB (BURNING SPEAR) (ETA)
Candidate for the most unusual dance hit of the week is this debut hit from ETA, possibly the first to mix electronica with South American rhythms, Panpipes included. It all comes together to quite impressive effect and it is worthwhile reflecting what a shame that a dance single which stands out from the crowd in such a way should have a lesser chart career than some of the more formulaic hits that regularly invade the Top 20.
36 PEOPLE OF LOVE (Amen! UK)
The second hit single for Amen! UK although something of a comedown from the first, 'Passion' which reached Number 15 in February.
39 ALL I WANT TO DO IS ROCK (Travis)
Well if they are planning to go down the slowly but surely route they are doing it in the most thorough way possible. The Next Big Thing in waiting, Travis are about to spend the best part of the summer playing as many festival concerts as they can manage, a process which should do much to raise their profile. So far their two singles have both managed Top 40 placings but the peaks of this single and U16 Girls which managed to squeak in at Number 40 back in April have done little to reflect their potential to be massive.