1 PERFECT DAY (Various Artists)
The BBC, that most venerable of institutions is 75 years old this year, an anniversary which has prompted a corporate redesign and a series of promotional campaigns aimed at demonstrating to the public at large the service it offers. Part of this campaign was a TV trailer designed to showcase the wide range of music that the BBC offers. To this end over a the course of 18 months a string of artists were asked to perform selected lines from Lou Reed's classic song Perfect Day and the results were spliced together into a complete rendition of the track. The result was possibly the most spectacular TV trailer ever made and public demand ensured that a single release was inevitable. With all proceeds going to the BBCs annual Children In Need appeal it could hardly fail to become an instant Number One single and potentially one of the biggest hits of the year. [It sold around 380,000 copies that week].
The song was first recorded in 1973 for Lou Reed's Transformer album yet never became a hit in this country, despite being regarded as a classic ever since. Recently the song has come back into prominence. In 1995 Kirsty McColl duetted with Evan Dando on a version that appeared on her Greatest Hits collection although it never became a single. That same year Duran Duran recorded their own slightly inferior cover which was released as a single, peaking at Number 28. Then last year came the film "Trainspotting" and the use of the original in the memorable overdose sequence at the heart of the film. If anything this Various Artists rendition surpasses all of them. Given that none of the people involved were in the same room at the same time the various parts are stitched together quite seamlessly and they combine to create a piece of music that is quite breathtaking, both in the scale and the genuine feeling that each artist manages to convey, even when each sings just a line at a time. Perfect Day is the first Various Artists track to top the charts. Although thin on the ground, such singles have become hits in the past, mainly in the early 1990s when a mini-craze for single versions of dance mixes led to several such hits, the biggest being another charity creation, the Brits 1990 Dance Medley which reached Number 2 early that year.
Part of the challenge of course is identifying who is singing each line, especially without the benefit of seeing the video. For the curious, the full list of artists involved is as follows: Lou Reed, Bono, Sky from Morcheeba, David Bowie, Suzanne Vega, Elton John, Boyzone, opera singer Lesley Garrett, Burning Spear, opera singer Thomas Allen, Heather Small from M People, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Shane McGowan, Dr John, Robert Cray, Huey from the Fun Lovin' Criminals, Ian Broudie from the Lightning Seeds, Gabrielle, Evan Dando, Brett Anderson from Suede, The Visual Ministry Choir, Joan Armatrading, Laurie Anderson and Tom Jones with the musical accompanyment provided by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and with Courtney Pine and Young Musician of the Year Sheona White also contributing solos.
3 WIND BENEATH MY WINGS (Steven Houghton)
The TV series 'London's Burning' is consistently one of the top-rated programmes in the land, the current series being no exception despite a series of real-life events which have uncannily mirrored plotlines causing it to be repeatedly cancelled. A recent plotline saw the character played by actor Steve Houghton take part in a talent contest in which he performed a rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings, the song made famous by Bette Midler and which reached Number 5 for her in July 1989. Here's a surprise - just two weeks later the song is released as a single and imediately crashes straight into the Top 3. In fairness the recording is actually a superb rendition of the track, far superior to the last version released by a TV star - Coronation Street actor Bill Tarmey who made Number 40 with the song in February 1995. Steven Houghton is by no means the first London's Burning star to reach the Top 40, John Alford having had three Top 40 hits last year, the biggest being Blue Moon which reached Number 9 in May.
6 AIN'T THAT JUST THE WAY (Lutricia McNeal)
The latest R&B discovery makes her chart debut in this country and makes an impressive splash by doing so, joining the select list of artists to spend their first chart week inside the Top 10. [Poor research this, the song a cover of an old Barbi Benton single from the 1970s].
8 SMACK MY BITCH UP (Prodigy)
With all the media attention that the Prodigy have generated over the past 12 months and with the massive worldwide sales of The Fat Of The Land it comes as a surprise to note that they have not actually charted a single so far this year. Although Firestarter and Breathe were Number One hits they were both released last year, Breathe charting at the top of the chart almost exactly a year ago this week. This long-awaited single release is of course the most controversial track on the album, long-delayed and accompanied by an x-rated video that has been banned from just about every TV show going. As the band themselves point out, the coverage the video has generated, from interviews to accounts of its filming has made the making of it worthwhile anyway.. who cares if it will never be shown when everyone knows about it and what is in it? The single itself is typical Prodigy although its 'naughty' title is still causing a stir amongst those who have had their sense of irony surgically removed. It is their eighth Top 10 hit. [Radio One were so po-faced about it they played one of the other tracks from the CD single on the chart show and had Mark Goodier insist it was a "track from their current EP"].
9 CRUSH ON YOU (Aaron Carter)
There had to be a downside to the Backstreet Boys. Near-perfect pop records like Quit Playing Games With My Heart and As Long As You Love Me had to have something to balance them out. Here it is: Nick Carter comes from a large family, many of whom have musical talents. Quite whether his 10 year old brother Aaron is one of them is open to question but that hasn't stopped him making a record. Yes, the youngest chart performer of the decade is here, set to become the Little Jimmy Osmond of the 90s, (please I do hope not). His debut single is a cover of the Jets' 1987 Top 10 hit Crush On You and, as one colleague of mine put it, sounds like a bad 1980s soundtrack song. Whether this is the first of many hit singles from this Carter sibling or whether it is just a seasonal novelty remains to be seen, for the moment he becomes the youngest chart act since the days of It's 'Orrible Being In Love When You're 8 1/2, a Number 13 hit for Claire and Friends (average age: 9) in 1986. [And I think the last 10 year old to have a hit single until Willow Smith 13 years later].
10 LET'S GO ROUND AGAIN (Louise)
Louise, bless her heart, competent pop singer that she is is certainly not a match for the Average White Band. To prove the point she has made a record to demonstrate this. First recorded by the aforementioned group in 1980 the song reached Number 12 and is still something of a timeless classic. The second single from the Woman In Me album is Louise's somewhat soulless attempt at a cover although the sheer joy of the song makes it hard to dislike. Either way it becomes her sixth Top 10 hit out of seven single releases and curiously enough the first ever chart cover of Let's Go Round Again. Failed pop sensations Yell! missed the chart altogether with their faithful cover version whilst a remix of the original made Number 56 in March 1994.
13 WHO'S LOVING MY BABY (Shola Ama)
When the inevitable reviews of the year are put together, Shola Ama will almost certainly be hailed as one of the soul discoveries of 1997. The facts speak for themselves, her cover of Randy Crawford's You Might Need Somebody spent seven weeks in the Top 10, eclipsing the original to peak at Number 4. She followed it up with the Top 3 hit You're The One I Love and now makes it a hattrick of Top 20 hits with this new single which has instantly commanded the same level of support from radio stations across the country.
15 FREEDOM (Robert Miles featuring Kathy Sledge)
Just over a year since the success of One And One, Robert Miles releases his first single since, again utilising the talents of a female vocalist [not just any female singer though, it is Kathy Sledge!] to broaden the commercial appeal of his instrunental noodlings. Whilst not quite as catchy as its predecessor, Freedom is still a perfectly competent pop single and becomes his fourth hit single, albeit the first to fall short of the Top 10.
18 FIRM BIZ (The Firm)
Nothing to do with the novelty hitmakers who hit Number One in 1987 with Star Trekkin', this firm a rap act, hitting the Top 40 for the first time.
19 MISSING YOU (Mary J Blige)
The Queen of Hip Hop Soul makes it an easy treble with her third Top 20 hit of the year, the followup to Everything which became her biggest hit single to date when it made Number 6 in August. In fact 1997 has become her most successful year to date in a chart career that stretches back to the first appearance of Real Love in 1992.
24 ARE U READY (Salt N' Pepa)
For some reason a year seems to be the correct time to wait between hit singles at the moment. It was in December 1996 that the ultimate female rap duo last charted with the underrated Champagne. Still struggling to regain the form and respect that saw them at the peak of the industry in the late 1980s, Salt N' Pepa try once more with yet another new deal and an imminent new album. Are You Ready may well be slightly formulaic but there is no denying there are few who can manage this kind of pop/rap crossover like they can. Some may argue their big hitmaking days are behind them, but it was only as recently as 1994 that Whattaman was riding high in the Top 10 and the fact that their biggest hit Push It will be ten years old next year makes them one of the most enduring rap acts in the business.
25 LINE DANCE PARTY (Woolpackers)
Oh please tell me this isn't going to be an annual occurrence. Just over a year since the TV-promoted Woolpackers crashed out of the soap 'Emmerdale' and into the Top 10 with Hillbilly Rock Hillbilly Roll another fortuitously placed storyline has led to a new album and a brand new single. Fortunately it may well be that the craze for embarrasingly bad linedancing songs has retreated back to the social clubs from which it sprang. Their last single was a Top 5 hit over Christmas, this single will hopefully be forgotten in a fortnight.
29 IT'S GREAT WHEN WE'RE TOGETHER (Finlay Quaye)
Oozing quality with every note, Finlay Quaye follows the Top 10 smash Even After All with another wonderfully produced song, neatly bridging the divide between soul and genuine trip-hop, his third Top 40 hit of the year.
33 SOCK IT TO ME (Missy 'Misdemeanour' Elliott)
The second hit for Ms Elliott, the followup to The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) which reached Number 16 at the end of August.
39 I SURRENDER (Rosie Gaines)
This is a somewhat surprising reversal of fortune. One of the original speed garage exponents, Rose Gaine's reactivated Closer Than Close finally became a smash hit earlier this summer when it reached Number 4 in a month-long run in the Top 10. One would have expected the followup to fare better but instead it settles for just scraping a Top 40 placing by the narrowest of margins.