1 MAMA/WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE (Spice Girls)
The record-breaking Number One single holds firm at the top for a second week in the face of some pretty stiff opposition. They were aided along the way by the fact that last week was Comic Relief week, the biannual fundraising project sponsored by the BBC and most of Britain's comedy fraternity. The Spice Girls had also pledged their involvement to the project and donated all the royalties from this single to the cause, hence their high profile presence on the night of the telethon last Friday. Although there have been many Comic Relief singles in the past, this is only the second to have no actual comedy content at all. The first such single was Cliff Richard's astonishing remake of Living Doll in the company of the Young Ones which shot to Number One in 1986. This was followed a year later by Kim Wilde who teamed up with Mel Smith to re-record a comedy version of Rocking Around The Christmas Tree and had a Top 3 hit for Christmas 1987. 1989 saw French and Saunders attempt to disrupt Bananarama as they performed the Beatles' Help! and two years later Hale and Pace recorded their Comic Relief anthem The Stonk which was produced by Brian May and with perfect timing hit Number One in time for Comic Relief day that year. By now each Comic Relief telethon inevitably had a single associated with it, 1993 saw Right Said Fred and a cast of thousands perform Stick It Out, but two years ago the focus switched from comedy and the last Comic Relief single was Love Can Build A Bridge performed by Cher, Neneh Cherry and Chrissie Hynde. Thus Mama/Who Do You Think You Are is the fourth Comic Relief track to top the charts but with the event itself now gone, how much longer can the girls remain at the top?
2 ISN'T IT A WONDER (Boyzone)
Perhaps a little predictably, a new Boyzone single races near to the top of the charts. Following the chart-topping successes of Words and A Different Beat they are denied by the Spice Girls from having a trio of Number Ones, although such a minor detail is unlikely to bother them. In all fairness the choice of single may not have been the best, Isn't It A Wonder being a rather dull piece of balladry . There are far superior tracks on the album , many of which would have sustained their sales near the top end far quicker than this one is likely to. Still, this won't be the last we hear of the band by a long way, they are the rather curious choice of hosts for this year's Eurovision Song Contest. [Actually that was just Ronan, but same difference].
3 IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN (Wet Wet Wet)
Just three weeks shy of 10 years ago, a new band released their first single. Wet Wet Wet were a bunch of lads from Glasgow with permanent smiles on their faces who made pop records that were heavily influenced by the soul classics they had grown up listening to. Their first single was Wishing I Was Lucky, an infectious pop song with a hidden message about unemployment which quickly hit the top ten. Fast forward to the present day and we find that Wishing I Was Lucky was merely the first of what is now 23 Top 40 hits from a band whose career has sunk from the heights down to the very depths only for them to haul themselves right back up again. They have transcended their original marketing as a group of teen favourites to become a band with a wide-ranging appeal and along the way have recorded the second biggest selling single of all time. It is with this pedigree that they release their first brand new single for two years to herald a forthcoming new album and at a stroke it becomes their highest new entry ever and the fifth Top 3 hit of their career.
6 FRESH (Gina G)
There are very few acts who have used an appearance on the Eurovision Song Contest as a springboard to continuing chart success. Obvious ones such as Abba spring to mind and perhaps indirectly Celine Dion and Julio Iglesias. The last British act to launch a successful career off the back of Eurovision was Bucks Fizz who won in 1981 with Making Your Mind Up and then set off on a seven year run of hit singles which included three Number One hits along the way. Now they look to have a successor in the shape of Gina G, the red-haired Australian girl who wore hardly any skirt and sang her way to a Top 10 placing in the competition, a Number One hit both here an in Europe and most astonishingly of all a Top 20 placing in America with Ooh Aah.. Just A Little Bit. After following that up with I Belong To You she now appears again with a new single heralding a brand new album due for release shortly. Fresh eases back on the Europop angle slightly but is still as bright and perky a pop song as you will hear all month and as long as the quality of her material is sustained and as long as she can find new ways of wearing hardly any clothes in photo shoots without people becoming bored, then the hits look set to continue for a while yet. Incidentally, last week the announcement was made of this year's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. The song is Love Shine A Light sung by.... Katrina and the Waves.
7 LOVE GUARANTEED (Damage)
Hit single Number 3 for Damage, following on from the Number 6 smash they had at Christmastime with Forever.
9 THE REAL THING (Lisa Stansfield)
Whilst the remix of People Hold On which made Number 4 back in January was a nice reminder of Lisa Stansfield's talents, it only served to whet the appetite for some new material for one of this country's finest singers. When she talks she sounds like the down to earth Rochdale lass that she is, but when she sings she has a soul voice to match the best of them. The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels remix of her first hit was possibly a blessing in disguise as her chart career had fallen off the rails slightly. Her last proper single release Little Bit Of Heaven had barely grazed the Top 40 whilst her last Top 10 hit was In All The Right Places from June 1993 lifted from the soundtrack of 'Indecent Proposal'. Looking further back it is curious to note that her last appearance in the Top 10 that wasn't connected to charity or a film soundtrack was Change which made Number 10 in October 1991. Therefore it is a great pleasure to watch The Real Thing' her first new material for three years, smash into the Top 10 and possibly herald a turnaround for one of our greatest singers.
10 IT'S OVER (Clock)
The first hit single of the year for Clock, and their first since they made the Top 20 last year with their astonishingly disrespectful version of Oh What A Night. It's Over sends them back into the Top 10 for the first time since they opened their chart career with a trio of Top 10 smashes in 1995.
14 EVERYBODY KNOWS (EXCEPT YOU) (Divine Comedy)
Fresh from a tour of Britain where he seemed to be trying to outdo Jake Shillingford of My Life Story over how many people you can get on a stage at once, Neil Hannon aka The Divine Comedy returns with his fourth hit single and a third Top 20 hit. Matching the peak of his debut Something For The Weekend, Everybody Knows is one of his most laidback and dare I suggest accessible singles so far but that elusive Top 10 hit will have to wait a little while longer.
17 OXYGENE 8 (Jean Michel Jarre)
Very much a product of an era which saw the new technology of synthesizers as a wonderful thing that would change music forever, Jean Michel Jarre exploded onto the music scene in 1977 with his electronic suite Oxygene. It was to be the start of a long career which saw him produce a succession of ever more curious mood pieces and a legendary series of concerts that saw him take over entire districts to produce fireworks and laser shows in an attempt to make people forget that when you listen to his music in one long stream you find it is actually rather tedious. Certain tracks from his albums have been deemed worthy enough for single release but only one has ever reached the Top 40, Oxygene Part 4 which reached Number 4 in September 1977. Last year he announced that he was thinking of recording a followup to that smash hit debut and approached various producers to see if they would consider helping remix the tracks to give them an added commercial bite. As is now notiorious, one such act were The Orb who duly remixed one of the newly recorded tracks only to find it rejected for taking too much of the original out. As if to prove a point they released it anyway, and had a Top 5 smash with Toxygene earlier this year. All this aside, the release of Oxygene 8-16 proper has led to the first movement being released as a single and it this week enters the Top 20 to give the Frenchman the second UK hit single of his career. The musical quiality of the track is open to question. To the non-devotee, Jarre's music never achieves more than a squiddly-bonk kind of catchiness and you can bet that the sales of this single can be directly attributed to the same devotees that have rushed out and bought the new work. Good to see him in the charts, but don't expect any more big hit singles, at least until Oxgene III - The Return of the Reverb.
20 ELEGANTLY WASTED (INXS)
The first single for over two years for Australia's most celebrated rock export. In the period since The Strangest Party charted in October 1994, Michael Hutchence has certainly not been idle, cuckolding a friend, making a baby and becoming a man for press photographers to fear. Happily none of these tabloid goings on have diminished his, or his colleagues capacity for making some fine records. Elegantly Wasted sees the band pick up from where they left off and they notch up their 8th UK Top 20 hit. Some might have expected such a long-awaited single to chart higher, but then again major smash hits have never been INXS' style. To date their only Top 10 hit is Need You Tonight which made Number 2 in 1988.
22 THE DISTANCE (Cake)
The debut hit single from the band from Sacramento who are attracting a great deal of attention for the curious subject matter of their music. The Distance tells the tale of a driver who insists on finishing his race, long after the competitors and spectators have packed up and gone home... read into that whatever allegories you wish. [One of those random minor hits which people vaguely remember but cannot place either the title or artist].
36 SAY MY NAME (Zee)
With most of the action in the Top 40 this week confined to the top end, it is left to minor acts and dance singles to clean up at the bottom. Say My Name is the followup single to Dreamtime which reached Number 31 in July last year and worthy of note simply because of the word that is more prominent on the label than the name of the act: Perfecto.
37 NI-TEN-ICHI-RYU (Photek)
A long-awaited Top 40 breakthrough for Photek who have been the name to drop for a good many months now and whose singles last year appeared on the end of year favourites list for many a music press critic.