[A singles chart which came out at the end of the oddest week in modern British history. Princess Diana had been killed on the Sunday, so for the whole of the next seven days the country was plunged into mass hysteria. Radio stations abandoned playlists and most normal television shows were cancelled. All the new hits of the week were essentially fighting against the mass media having other things to focus upon].
1 THE DRUGS DON'T WORK (Verve)
I always hesitate to use the word "inevitable" when discussing the prospects for a particular record but in this case there seems to be no other that will do. If their previous single, the Number 2 hit Bittersweet Symphony convinced many people that the return of The Verve was the musical highlight of the year then their new single should put it beyond all reasonable doubt. Anyone familiar with their material from their previous incarnation will be astonished that they could be capable of anything as beautiful as this. Following the example set by acts such as Radiohead and the Manics, The Verve go sophisticated, classy and inspirational. The Drugs Don't Work is possibly one of the most moving original songs of the decade; an acoustic, country-tinged ballad as sung by a broken-hearted alcoholic for whom drink and drugs no longer hide the pain but just provide an excuse for him to wallow in memories once more. Whilst Bittersweet Symphony was a reasonable crossover success, spending seven weeks in the Top 20 this single could well be bigger, their first ever Number One hit single and such an instant standard that you can almost see Willie Nelson covering it in the none too distant future.
4 WHERE'S THE LOVE (Hanson)
You cannot really follow a single like MMMBop without people making unfavourable comparisons. Back in June Hanson's debut single made them one of a select few acts to hit Number One in their first ever week on the chart, staying there for three weeks and in the process becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. Repeating that dose of inspired brilliance is almost certain to be beyond them and so Where's The Love is inevitably a lesser single despite being in its own right an energetic fun pop song. Top 5 is no less than it deserves.
7 LIVE THE DREAM (Cast)
Their third Top 10 hit of the year, Live The Dream also equals the peak of Free Me which charted back in April. Since their debut hit Finetime in July 1995 Cast have had a 100% strike rate for Top 20 hits and this is now their sixth consecutive Top Tenner.
10 EVEN AFTER ALL (Finlay Quaye)
An impressive talent in his own right, Finlay Quaye will of course be forever associated with his nephew Tricky, the acknowledged master of the world of trip-hop. Uncle Finlay's second hit single becomes his biggest, launching him into the Top 10 for the first time with a wonderfully atmospheric trip-hop ballad of the kind that makes you want to close your eyes and drift away into the world that the characters in his songs inhabit.
12 WE COME TO PARTY (N-Tyce)
The second Top 20 hit in succession for N-Tyce stakes their claim as the UK's fastest rising female R&B group. Quite sensibly taking the most commercial route possible, We Come To Party treads that wonderful line between a proper US-style R&B hit whilst remaining a very English pop hit.
14 JOY (Staxx)
This mid part of the Top 20 is dominated by new versions and re-releases of previous chart hits. First of all is this new remix of Joy, a Number 25 hit first time around for Staxx when this single was last available in October 1993.
16 CRAZY CHANCE 97 (Kavana)
Re-release time too for Kavana whose quest for stardom is still far from over but who has received a huge boost with two Number 8 hits this year in the shape of I Can Make You Feel Good and MFEO. Kavana's songs always benefit from the quality of their writing, MFEO was written by the same team behind many Spice Girls songs whilst his earlier offering was of course a cover of an old Shalamar hit. The composer of Crazy Chance has a certain kudos to him as well, he is Howard Donald the former Take That member who has had his own solo album "in the pipeline" for several months. This single was Kavana's first release, originally a Number 35 hit in May 1996 and now re-released in a far superior remix to give him his third successive Top 20 hit.
17 OFFSHORE 97 (Chicane with Power Circle)
This is possibly rather more bizarre. Offshore was first released just prior to Christmas, the instrumental track becoming one of the first pieces of electronica to hit the charts, making Number 14 in the process. Now it returns to the Top 20 in a rather different form, Chicane having teamed up with Power Circle to put vocals to their earlier hit. [More subtle than that, this was actually a bootleg mash-up created by Australian DJ Anthony Pappa and using the vocals from a Power Circle track A Little Love, A Little Life. 1997 James cared little for dance music, nor researching the background to the hits it produced]. What started life as a rather catchy piece of electronic instrumental dance now becomes a rather catchy pop song which more than deserves to be a hit in its own right. Believe it or not this kind of thing is by no means unique. Just prior to Christmas 1989 FPI project released an instrumental cover version of Going Back To My Roots which gradually climbed the charts only to be joined in the new year by two different vocal versions of the track. Under the more relaxed chart rules of the time, all three versions were technically the same single and the contributions of Paolo Dini and Sharon Dee Clarke helped the track climb to Number 9.
21 WHOLE LOTTA LOVE (Led Zeppelin)
'Whole Lotta Love' is quite possibly one of the most famous rock songs ever written. More guitar riff than melody, the classic tune was one of the first recordings made by the now-legendary rock band and has become a standard for all budding guitar maestros. Aside from Stairway To Heaven and Robert Plant's trousers, Led Zeppelin's main calling card was their refusal to release singles in their home country, preferring instead for their albums to be heard as a body of work. Although a Top 5 hit in America in 1970, Whole Lotta Love has never appeared in a commercial release in this country. It was left instead for others to take the track on. The most famous version was that by Alexis Korner and CCS whose mainly instrumental rendition gave them a Number 13 hit at the end of 1970 and which gained further immortality by being used as the theme to "Top Of The Pops" throughout most of the decade. More recently of course one hit wonders Goldbug hit Number 3 in early 1996 by having a female vocal and combining the rousing chorus with the Pearl and Dean signature tune. Back though to Led Zeppelin who are experiencing something of a chart renaissance at present as their 1990 career retrospective Remasters is being repromoted and is dutifully climbing the album charts. Alongside this, for the first time ever a Led Zeppelin track is released as a single and so almost 30 years after they formed, 17 years since they split up one of the most inspirational rock bands of all time gets its first ever Top 40 hit.
23 HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH (Boris Dlugosch presents Booom)
Second time lucky for the somewhat implausibly named Boris Dlugosch and vocalists Booom. Their first single was called Keep Pushin which despite significant club success just prior to last Christmas failed to reach the Top 40. No such fate for this new track, benefitting somewhat from its popularity with continental clubgoers throughout this summer.
26 FINALLY (Ce Ce Peniston)
Finally is possibly one of the decade's best pop songs. First released back in 1991 it could only make Number 29 first time around and it was Ce Ce Peniston's second single We Got A Love Thang which gave her a Top 10 hit. On the back of that Finally was beefed up and re-released in March the following year. It landed at Number 2 giving the only artist ever to chart with the word "niston" in her surname a hit she has never been able to surpass. The track has proved extremely durable and is still a radio standard to this day. The re-release of a classic track is always welcome however lazy a piece of marketing it may be, but quite why there was a need to remix it further will probably remain something of a mystery. Not that the new mixes quite rip the heart out of the song but as anyone who has heard the new vocal mix will tell you, something isn't quite right and the song appears to have been speeded up to wring some fresh energy out of it. Quibbles aside, the track is a breath of fresh air as always and gives Ce Ce Peniston her first chart hit since Hit By Love made Number 33 in August 1994.
30 I WANT TO BE THERE WHEN YOU COME (Echo and the Bunnymen)
This is sad in a way as the Top 10 smash hit Nothing Lasts Forever suggested that the revived Echo and the Bunnymen were about to hit the best chart form of their career. Those hopes sag a little with the rather lowly chart entry for their second single release of the year yet the quality is undiminished. Still when you consider that first time around they only ever had five Top 20 hits then maybe major singles success was never part of the equation. Those of us who have always loved the band can happily continue to do so.
31 HEROES (Roni Size/Reprazent)
Two weeks ago the sixth annual Mercury Music Prize was awarded at a ceremony in London. The award, music's equivalent of the Booker Prize grows in status every year and the quality of the nominations for the prize made it one of the closest contests to date. With acts such as the Spice Girls, Manic Street Preachers and Radiohead on the list the result might have been obvious but in the end the accolade went to Roni Size and Reprazent for New Forms. Maybe not to everyone's taste, the album is nonetheless flying back up the album charts and to accompany it comes this second single release, the followup to Share The Fall which was a Number 37 hit back in June.
34 SOMEONE (SWV featuring Puff Daddy)
The second hit single of the year for SWV, their last being Can We, a Number 18 chart hit in April and a welcome reminder that one of the better US girl groups is still indeed with us. Their new hit takes on something of a harder edge thanks to the vocal contribution of an obscure rapper called Puff Daddy. Now when you consider this same artist also features on his own former Number One I'll Be Missing You, makes a guest appearance on Notorious B.I.G.'s Mo Money Mo Problems and that he produces and also provides vocals on Mariah Carey's Honey - all of which are current Top 40 hits... well the word "ubiquitous" springs nicely to mind.
35 YOUR LUCKY DAY IN HELL (Eels)
Always space-out, always extremely laid-back and always quite wonderful, The Eels make it three out of three for Top 40 hits this year although the law of diminishing returns suggests that future singles may not be quite so fortunate.