1 SOMETHING IN THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT/CANDLE IN THE WIND 97 (Elton John)
Well the expectation of a record-breaking performance from this particular single was so intense that now it has finally done so there is very little feeling of sensation. Elton John's tribute to the late Princess spent its first week on sale being almost constantly unavailable. Such was the demand that deliveries of the single to record shops were virtually being sold from the back of the delivery van. Never before has there been such a rush on a single and the sight of empty racks where the Number One single would normally rest in stores was a curious sight to behold. The normal rules simply did not apply - as was illustrated by tales of people snapping up 40 copies at a time, actions which would normally result in instant disqualification for the single. Exact figures are unavailable as I write this but the expectation was that by Saturday night Candle In The Wind would have sold in excess of 1 million copies in this week alone - sailing past the record of 800,000 set by Do They Know It's Christmas in December 1984. The success of the track has also had a knock-on effect on Elton John's own catalogue, in particular 1995s Love Songs compilation (amongst which is the original of Candle In The Wind) which vaults into the Top 20. It really is beyond all rational comprehension.
One other important feat has been sadly overlooked in all the hype. Read the small print on the CD label and you will see that the new version of Candle In The Wind was produced by George Martin, providing the legendary producer with the perfect career swansong after he announced his retirement earlier this month. Put in charge of EMI's Parlophone record label in the early 1960s he made records with comedy and music hall stars before masterminding the career of Trad Jazz revivalists The Temperance Seven who took You're Driving Me Crazy to Number One in 1961. His place in musical history is however assured by his being the only record label boss to show any faith in the potential of a popular Liverpool beat group called The Beatles. Over the next seven years he produced all 17 of their Number One hits as well as tracks for Cilla Black, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Bill J Kramer. His last chart-topping production was in 1984, Paul McCartney's Pipes Of Peace was the 27th Number One hit to have George Martin at the helm and put him in a tie with the late Norrie Paramour as the most successful producer of all time. Now with what will probably be his last ever single production he breaks that tie to become the biggest record producer in chart history. Nothing could be more fitting.
2 SUNCHYME (Dario G)
This must surely be one of the most eagerly awaited singles of the year. Dario G's Sunchyme first appeared as a bootleg pressing back in the spring with demand having built up ever since, fuelled by the immense problems eventual licensees Eternal records have had with clearing the samples used on the track. Dario G's instrumental hit takes as its inspiration Life In A Northern Town by the Dream Academy. The classic single, itself inspired by the work of legendary songwriter Nick Drake, was the only big hit for the band, reaching Number 15 in April 1985 and going Top 10 in the states in the process - enough to secure them their place in pop history. Sunchyme uses the rousing gospel chant from the track as the basis for one of the best dance singles of the year, one which has transcended club culture and prompted jammed switchboards at every radio station which has played it. Indeed the idea is so brilliant you wonder why nobody has thought of it before and after months in copyright purgatory the record is released with all the samples intact. In any other circumstances it would have been a guaranteed Number One.
3 TUBTHUMPING (Chumbawamba)
A relatively quiet week for big new releases gives several singles a chance to capitalise, none more so than Chumbawamba's hit which reverses its recent slide to climb back to Number 3, this after having spent three weeks at Number 2 when first released. Indeed the track has successfully ridden the storm of becoming the most high-profile victim of first week of September when the entire radio industry convinced itself that the country was only interested in hearing ballads. Tubthumping went from being the second most played track on the radio to virtually nowhere in the space of a week, only for its radio exposure to instantly return to its previous level seven days later. The single is now well on the way to becoming an international smash, even climbing the Hot 100 in America to the bemusement, I suspect, of even the band themselves.
7 FIX (Blackstreet)
Now clearly established as Top 10 hitmakers, Blackstreet follow up the massive success of Don't Leave Me (Number 6 back in April) with another finely crafted piece of Teddy Riley soul that becomes their third Top 10 success.
8 SAMBA DE JANIERO (Bellini)
Hot on the heels of Ricky Martin's hit single comes another continental summer smash. Originating from Germany of all places, the combination of samba rhythms and eurobeats is an inevitable winner and a hit was assured. What is puzzling is quite why records such as this and Un Dos Tres are only being released now. A few years ago it was the norm, continental smashes would be held over until mid-September to inspire memories of the summer for thousands of people which directly led to tracks such as Tarzan Boy, I Can't Stand It and Lambada becoming hits. As Britain embraces European integration more and more such a tactic has ceased to have any relevance and dance hits become smashes simultaneously all over Europe with the holiday effect being negated. Indeed the trend is for serious club hits such as Sunchyme and Magic Carpet Ride to cross over following continental exposure rather than cheesy pop hits, Ricky Martin and Bellini proving to be refreshing exceptions.
9 NEVER GONNA LET YOU GO (Tina Moore)
Tina Moore's single continues its erratic passage up and down the charts. Since first charting at Number 7 four weeks ago the single has been on the yo-yo ever since, moving 7-11-9-12 and now back up to Number 9 again to become a Top 10 single for the third time.
14 SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Robbie Williams)
As both Gary Barlow and Mark Owen have discovered, your past association with the biggest teen band of the decade is no longer an instant guarantee of a smash hit single. Instead it is the quality of the music that counts, a fact which is fortunately to Robbie Williams' benefit. Nobody can argue that his last hit Lazy Days wasn't one of the best pop singles of the year and he maintains the quality with his third single release this year, yet another example of how his versatile voice is just at home with gutsy rock as it is with pop/soul. The only thing he lacks is credibility as his teen idol past and semi-caricatural brushes with substance abuse and serial partygoing ably demonstrate, but a few more singles like this and a few less photographs of him wearing next to nothing and Robbie Williams will end up one of the countries brightest music stars. [For the record this was his last single pre-Angels which solved the whole "Robbie is rubbish" issue once and for all].
15 M.O.R. (Blur)
Their newfound hardcore style may have come as a shock to the many fans of their quirky Small Faces-style incarnation but there is no doubt that Blur have continued to occupy their place as one of the best bands in the country. Indeed at a time when Oasis have come in for criticism for the lack of progression demonstrated on their new album, Blur's desire to explore new directions seems inspired by comparison. The hits from the album are understandably starting to tail off now, M.O.R. becomes their first single to miss the Top 10 since End Of A Century in November 1994 but maintains their run of Top 20 hits that started with Girls And Boys in March 1994.
20 CIRCLES (Adam F)
The biggest in-from-nowhere dance single of the week which has followed the usual path from club to chart but carries with it very little else worthy of comment. [Don't hold back on your indifference will you].
21 KISS AND TELL (Brownstone)
Brownstone's second hit single of the year and the fifth successive Top 40 single of their career. As another piece of sweet stateside soul its charms will be readily apparent to those who appreciate that genre of music whilst giving reviewers everywhere another opportunity to attempt to write about the group without mentioning Michael Jackson. Damn.
22 THE LOVE SCENE (Joe)
Hit single Number 2 of the year for Joe, the follow-up to Don't Wanna Be A Player, his biggest hit to date at Number 16. This new hit performs respectably enough, matching the peak of the single that used to be his largest chart smash, I'm In Luv which charted in January 1994.
25 GUANTANAMERA (Wyclef Jean and the Refugee Allstars)
There are a great many people hoping that the Fugees regroup for a new album as soon as possible. Not least their sizeable body of fans but also those of us that are struggling to keep up with the various offshoot projects that have invaded the chart over the course of this summer. First came Wyclef Jean's first solo single We Trying To Stay Alive, backed of course by the rest of the band. Hot on its heels came the Refugee Allstars' own single The Sweetest Thing featuring a vocal contribution from Lauryn Hill, the other voice of the Fugees whose pregnancy caused their current layoff. Now her partner in music appears once more with a second hit single, this time a cover of the old folk standard Guantanamera, which believe it or not has been a hit before, from archetypal hippie strummers The Sandpipers who took their version to Number 7 in 1966.
29 CONGO (Genesis)
Many eyebrows were raised at the replacement of Phil Collins with former Stiltskin vocalist Ray Wilson but it seems to have done little to harm Genesis' longevity. The news that they were to drift away from pop and back to their prog roots prompted a surge of interest from die-hard fans and sent the new album Calling All Stations crashing into the Top 3 of the album chart without even a hit single to its name. Three weeks after its release comes the first single from the new opus and indeed this is more the Genesis of old, laden with meaning and short on hooks it nonetheless is far from being a retrograde step. Their stock as a singles band has inevitably taken a tumble and it will be a surprise if they have any more chart hits in the next few months but for now their run of Top 40 entries that stretches right the way back to Invisible Touch in 1986 is intact.
35 SO BEAUTIFUL (Chris De Burgh)
Chris De Burgh has come in for a rough ride in recent years. His chart career has returned to its pre-1986 levels (ie no hits) whilst being the subject of intense tabloid speculation over his private life did little for his image as an avuncular MOR singer. All of this distracts from the fact that he is capable of making some rather lovely records and so the appearance of So Beautiful in the charts is a welcome breath of fresh air. His first Top 40 hit since Separate Tables made Number 30 in April 1992, it is in a similar style to hits such as Lady In Red and Missing You, hits from 1986 and 1988 respectively that remain his only major UK hit singles.
37 SEMI-CHARMED LIFE (Third Eye Blind)
The Top 40 finishes this week with one of the biggest surprises of all, just to prove that there is still no such thing as a guaranteed hit. US rockers Third Eye Blind landed themselves one of the radio hits of the late summer as even the ultra-trendy Radio One picked up on the single the moment it arrived on these shores.A good, popular song and saturation radio play would normally result in a high, strong chart entry but for Third Eye Blind this is not the case. Instead they have to be content with a Top 40 placing by the narrowest of margins and the hope that this single can be one of the one in a hundred which can build on a slow start to become the massive hit it surely deserves to be. [A shining example of an all-time American radio classic becoming little more than a minor UK hit. Shame on us.]