1 NEVER EVER (All Saints)
For the second week running we have a new Number One and for the second week running it comes as something of a shock. In similar circumstances to last week when the Top 3 singles all sold similar amounts, last week's runner-up holds its sales steady and edges out the challenge of both Wildchild and Bamboogie to become a rather surprising chart-topping hit. I say surprising as Never Ever was first released in the middle of November, has spent the past nine weeks in the Top 10 without ever dipping lower than Number 6 and was one of the Top 15 biggest selling singles of last year. All Saints' nine week wait for a Number One hit with this track is easily the slowest climb since Celine Dion's Think Twice took no less than 13 weeks to reach the summit early in 1995 and beats the more recent 8 week climb of Gina G's Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit in 1996 [It also set a brand new benchmark, having sold more copies (900,000) prior to reaching the top of the charts than any other single in history]. Whatever the circumstances it is nothing less than the girls (or the song) deserve. The nearest we have to a British female RnB group to rival the likes of En Vogue and TLC their prospects for 1998 look brighter than ever. Their third single is a cover of the Red Hot Chilli Pepper's Under The Bridge and is currently scheduled for release at the end of this month... assuming Never Ever has burned out by then.
2 BAMBOOGIE (Bamboo)
Tipped as a Number One single before All Saints had their say, this is perhaps one of the more pointless club smashes of the moment. Taking as its inspiration the chorus of KC and the Sunshine Band's 1975 disco classic Get Down Tonight, it adds to that sample the bassline from Show Me Love and... well that's it basically. What it lacks in creativity the track makes up for in inanity and with record sales demonstrating their usual early January slump it somehow sneaks in to become a big Top 3 hit and almost certainly forgotten by March.
3 RENEGADE MASTER 98 (Wildchild)
In early 1995 clubbers went wild for a rather unique dance record that had all the energy of the most popular jungle hits of the time yet was more allied to the spirit of good old fashioned rave. Under the rather cumbersome title of Legends Of The Dark Black Part 2 it became a minor chart hit when released as a single, peaking at Number 35 in April that year. Still the popularity of the disc persisted and it spread to Europe, becoming one of the biggest club hits of the summer and in the process was exposed to a far larger audience. The resultant reissue saw the track become something of a smash hit, now with the more sensible title of Renegade Master it peaked at Number 11 in October. Now over two years later the track is back, remixed imperceptibly by Norman Cook it reaches its highest chart position yet third time around. The fact that the frantic track sounds as fresh in 1998 as it did in 1995 suggests that either dance music has stood still or that it was one of those records that was genuinely ahead of its time.
11 THAT'S THE WAY (I LIKE IT) (Clock)
In common with most critics I enjoy taking the mickey out of Clock. It is easy, mildly diverting and seems to make absolutely no difference to the number of records that they sell. Over the past three years they have notched up an impressive string of Top 40 hits that vary between inspired reworkings (Axel F), terrible originals (It's Over) and unholy massacres of songs that should have been left well alone (December 63 and U Sexy Thing). Now comes a fourth category, the identical remake. Spookily enough the second single release this week to be inspired by KC and the Sunshine Band, this version of their 1975 Top 5 hit is so faithful to the original that it is hard to believe this isn't a remix. Of course it goes without saying one cannot improve on perfection but if so then why waste the time simply copying?
12 STAY (Bernard Butler)
To describe him as the Johnny Marr of his generation is more of an accusation than an plaudit but it gives you an idea of Bernard Butler's reputation. Since he split from Suede in 1993 the guitarist has axe duties in a variety of places, some more notorious than others. He teamed up with singer David McAlmont in 1995 for a brief partnership which produced one album, many public arguments and two classic singles in the shape of Stay and You Do. Almost three years later he emerges on his own once more for this first ever solo hit. The quality of the record is undeniable even if he will forever be more famous for his guitar playing than his singing. Sounding like a close relation of George Michael's Praying For Time, the single builds up into a dramatic climax that borders on the epic. Easily one of the most outstanding singles of the year to date (and even after three weeks that is no idle claim).
13 NO-ONE BUT YOU (ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG (Queen)
It has been over six years coming but here it is, the first ever minus-Freddie Queen single. The track originally appeared on the Queen Rocks hits collection that was released last Autumn and was at one stage not being considered for single release. Fan pressure (or so they say) forced a rethink and the track duly becomes yet another Top 20 hit for the legendary band and continues a run that stretches back to the start of 1991 when I'm Going Slightly Mad became their last hit to miss the 20. As for the quality of the record itself, opinion is divided as to whether a joint lead vocal between messrs May, Taylor and Deacon stands comparison with the work of their late lamented colleague but Queen as a whole has always somehow been more appealing than Queen solo projects and should they decide to continue in this manner the hits may well continue for a few years yet. How Genesis must envy them.
20 UNTOUCHABLE (Rialto)
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the groups to watch this year. Expect Rialto to get bigger with each release. Last year's minor Top 40 hit Monday Morning 5:19 was a taster and now they enter the Top 20 for the first time ever.
29 ASHES TO ASHES (Faith No More)
The second of three re-releases to chart this week, Ashes To Ashes was a moderately sized hit in May last year, reaching Number 15. Following their pre-Christmas collaboration with Sparks the track is re-released but any hope that it would prove to be bigger second time around have now been dashed. One can see the logic - their biggest hit ever came in January 1993 when their cover of the Commodores' hit I'm Easy reached Number 3 during the traditional January lull.
30 GHETTO HEAVEN (Family Stand)
It feels slightly strange to hear a record that was a hit whilst I was at school described as an all-time soul classic but in some senses that is how Ghetto Heaven must be categorised. First released in 1990 it reached Number 10 for the group but sadly proved to be their one and only hit single. The new year is often a breeding ground for timely reissues such as this and so the track makes a reappearance to become a more minor chart hit second time around.