1 GYM AND TONIC (Spacedust)
A lesson here in copyright laws and how to get around them. For most of the summer, one of the most sought-after dance albums has been an import by Bob Sinclar called Paradise. Attention focused on one track he produced in collaboration with Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter, entitled Gym Tonic it was the simplest of tracks, mixing samples from an old Jane Fonda workout tape with a European house beat. Perhaps understandably this attracted the attention of lawyers acting for Ms Fonda herself who agreed that the track could appear on the album but under no circumstances would they license it for release as a single. This presented East West records with something of a problem as the demand for the track indicated they had a runaway smash hit on their hands. The elegant solution was for a cover version to be made and so step forward the mysterious 'Spacedust' (who received wisdom suggests are Sinclair and Bangalter again) with a new version of the track, speeded up and revamped and this time crucially with the fitness workout commands barked by an actress doing an uncannily accuracte impersonation of Jane Fonda herself. [At least that was the presumption at the time. In actual fact Spacedust were British producers Paul Glancy and Ducan Gasson who capitalised on the legal limbo holding up the Sinclar original and made their own note for note soundalike copy. And as you will see scored big]. Upon its release the smash hit has materialised and after being locked in an extremely close battle with 911 for most of the week the single lands neatly at Number One, one of the more surprising chart leaders of the year but just for a change a dance record with genuine crossover appeal that has indeed lived up to its pre-release hype.
2 MORE THAN A WOMAN (911)
One of the closest two-way battles for the Number One slot all year has finally been resolved in quite the most unexpected mannner. The singles from Spacedust and 911 had been neck and neck for most of the week with the midweek listing showing a gap of a mere 300 units between the two discs with 911 just having the edge. Most of us suspected that it was an edge that they would retain, past trends having shown that singles with a youthful appeal tend to put on surges at the end of the week, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. As it turns out the trends were wrong on this occasion and it was Spacedust who charged into a late lead leaving 911 to claim the runners up slot. Not that they will mind too much as this is still a major smash hit single with an appeal far wider than the trio's usual material. The track is their contribution to the new Bee Gees tribute album of modern artists covering their material. 911 chose a song which the Bee Gees did indeed write and record themselves for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack but which was also featured in the film in a version by The Tavares - this version being the one released as a single and peaking at Number 7 in June 1978. Keeping faithful to the original, 911's single is actually a superb example of how to do a cover version as this is a record that has clearly been made with a great deal of love and respect, treading the fine line of retaining the best bits of the original without sounding like a direct copy. The single becomes their eighth successive Top 10 hit and far and away the biggest of their career, eclipsing the Number 3 peaks of Bodyshakin' and The Journey from 1997. It is appropriate too, given that their first ever hit single was also a cover - a version of Shalamars A Night To Remember which was a minor Top 40 hit in early 1996.
As a further footnote it is worth pointing out that over the course of the last decade virtually every track from the original Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack has become a hit in a new version. Take a look at the tracklisting and you will see what I mean: Stayin' Alive covered by N-Trance, How Deep Is Your Love by Take That, Night Fever by Adam Garcia, More Than A Woman by 911, If I Can't Have You by Kim Wilde, Disco Inferno by Tina Turner and to push the point slightly Jive Talkin' by Boogie Box High. Funny how nobody has attempted A Fifth Of Beethoven though...
5 I DON'T WANT TO MISS A THING (Aerosmith)
Although it slips a place from its peak of the last two weeks, sales of Aerosmith's biggest ever UK hit remain stable. The single rates another mention as its steady growth has come from a rather unusual source, one which has also helped the exposure of the 911 single above it. That source is BBC Radio Two. The national radio network had for years been viewed as the mature person's radio station, playing a mixture of easily listening music combined with specialist slots for niche fomats such as Big Band and Country. The BBC recently realised that the stations audience was growing old and dying out and so ordered a revamp of its music policy. The result has been the introduction of a playlist system that has led to Radio Two playing music from the current charts along with new releases from some of the most surprising artists, a move which has lead to it being dubbed Radio One and a Half in some quarters, so radical is the change. For the first time ever it has started breaking new singles by itself and I Don't Want To Miss A Thing is the classic example of this. When first released it was ignored by both Radio One and commercial radio but snapped up immediately by Radio Two, resulting in the single climbing steadily and reaching a far wider audience than its original Top 20 entry had suggested. 911s new single has also had the same treatment, paid scant attention by the traditional pop networks it has become the first ever single by a teen band to receive heavy airplay on the AOR station and this has almost certainly helped it become their biggest ever hit.
6 DAYSLEEPER (REM)
I may have said this before but REM are turning into Spinal Tap so rapidly it is frightening. First of all the exploding drummer with Bill Berry finally quitting the band last year after refusing to contemplate another worldwide tour. Then in June this year they stepped on stage in Washington DC and all but said "Hope you like out new direction" before debuting several meandering almost tuneless songs from their forthcoming new album to a somewhat bemused crowd at the RFK stadium. The truth is that REM have reached the stage all bands do after a never to be equalled high and have begun experimenting with different sounds, different noises and production techniques. Never mind if it sells, it is their way of being artistic. The only problem is of course that the only band ever to pull this off without alienating their audience were The Beatles - something U2 discovered to their cost last year. All this may seem a rather negative way to herald a Top 10 single but it may well be the closest REM will get to the top of the chart in the near future. The darkly beautiful Daysleeper does indeed become their sixth Top 10 hit and their first since E-Bow The Letter in September 1996 but it is no secret that it was felt to be the the best way of introducing the world to the strange new sound of REM and certainly one of the few tracks likely to make it as a commercial single. Of course the die-hard fans will love the new album and it will sell comfortably enough but the record breaking sales and massive hit singles of Out Of Time and Automatic For The People are now just a memory and I cannot help but hear the sound of REM aiming guns at their own feet.
7 GANGSTER TRIPPIN' (Fatboy Slim)
On the slide after just a week but my list of Norman Cook's previous chart aliases inspired some interesting correspondence last week. As several people rightfully pointed out I had omitted Mighty Dub Katz from the list. This means that over the last decade Norman Cook has charted under seven different names, his own, The Housemartins, Beats International, Freak Power, Pizzaman, Mighty Dub Katz and now Fatboy Slim. It is an impressive total but falls slightly short of the record for such an identity crisis. Step forward Jonathan King who between 1965 and 1979 charted as himself, St Cecilia, Weathermen, Sakkarin, Shag, Bubblerock, 53rd and 3rd, Sound 9418, One Hundred Ton And A Feather and Father Abraphart and the Smurps - ten different acts in total. [The old British Hit Singles books used to take great delight in cross-referencing them all].
9 HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE (Dru Hill)
After three hits in 1997, Dru Hill return with a new single from a new album and promptly notch up their biggest hit to date, soaring past the Number 16 peak of In My Bed from May 1997. The single incidentally is nothing to do with the Bee Gees hit of the same name, as if we needed another Saturday Night Fever cover!
10 CAN'T KEEP THIS FEELING IN (Cliff Richard)
No matter how many times people try to write him off (and that has happened many many times in his long career) Sir Cliff will always bounce back with a hit. The all-time greatest hitmaker this country will ever see is back on the chart with his first release since the lukewarm response to the musical Heathcliffe from which three singles were lifted, with only Misunderstood Man reaching the Top 40 (Number 19 in October 1995). It comes 40 years and 1 month since his first single Move It first charted in this country, a span of hits than no other act can even begin to approach. Can't Keep This Feeling In is his 119th hit single and his 64th Top 10 hit - totals than once again nobody else can approach. As for the track itself, this is another example of why the 58 year old singer has lasted so long, his ability to integrate different musical styles into his sound, hence this single has an R&B flavour and sounds like something R Kelly might have recorded. It is a welcome return to chart form for the legend, his first Top 10 single since 1993's Peace In Our Time (is he the first Knight of the Realm to have a Top 10 I wonder?) and it charts in the same week that he has announced plans for a single this coming Christmas. Be afraid.
12 ALL 'BOUT THE MONEY (Meja)
I will quite unashamedly admit to this being my favourite single of the week, Meja's debut single in this country arrives here after enormous sales in both Europe and the Far East. But for the strange reluctance of radio stations to give it heavy airplay this fantastic pop single could have been nestling in the Top 3 this week.
16 ONE, TWO, THREE (Dina Carroll)
Good to see this lady back, Dina Carroll being one of the UKs most talented soul divas. Whilst she has never quite come close to equalling the runaway smash hit of her 1993 debut album So Close she always produces some marvellous singles. One, Two, Three is her first Top 40 single since Only Human reached Number 33 in December 1996 and neatly becomes her ninth Top 20 hit. One perculiar quirk of Dina Carroll singles is the way they almost always contain club friendly b-sides which sometimes eclipse the main track on the single. It happened in 1993 when her single The Perfect Year contained the track Here on the flip which was a club smash for several months after the single had gone from the charts. Similarly this new hit has been trailed for a number of months, not by this track but by Living For The Weekend which has had a good run in the dance charts.
22 YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET (Bus Stop featuring Randy Bachman)
Now listen, there is a right way and wrong way to do everything, even a chessy pop-rap remake of a classic song. You could argue that the right way is to pick a classic that has a rhythm track that lends itself easily to being rapped over and better still one which has a chorus which can be included in your rap and make it sound like it was part of the original song. Good examples of this include N-Trance's remake of Stayin' Alive and yes, Bus Stop's summer hit version of Kung Fu Fighting which took Carl Douglas' Number One hit and turned it into one of the most entertaining pop hits of the summer. The wrong way is to be totally gratuitous with your production. Ripping the heart and soul out of a well known song to just leave a hook onto which you can hang a ludicrous set of lyrics in the hope that the inclusion of a chorus that everyone knows and loves will somehow be enough to redeem you for the criminal way you have treated someone else's composition. We have already seen an example of that this year in the shape of N-Trance's Paradise City, proof if ever any were needed that turning rock classics into cheesy pop-rap hits is right at the top of the list of Really Bad Ideas. Step forward Bus Stop who with this remake of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive classic now have a single has very carefully followed the latter procedure.
31 TRULY (Hinda Hicks)
Following her support slot on Boyzone's recent UK tour, this rather unimpressive single from Hinda Hicks lands her this minor chart entry but does at least give her the honour of being the first act to enter the chart with four different singles in 1998. Other acts have indeed been on the Top 40 with four different hits this year but Aqua, Five, Natalie Imbruglia, The Spice Girls and Celine Dion did so with hits carried over from 1997. The only person to be as prolific as Hinda Hicks so far this year is Missy Elliott who has also had four different Top 40 hits, although two of those were as part of a 'featuring' credit.
35 CONCRETE SCHOOLYARD (Jurassic 5)
Having missed out on a place in the Top 40 earlier this summer with Jayou, the LA rap group cement their ever-growing reputation with this second single and their first Top 40 hit. Somebody now give the Insane Clown Posse a break in the UK, please.
36 MEMORY (Elaine Paige)
A week after Boyzone's No Matter What has surpassed the ultimate sales goal of any single and become the third million-selling single of the year it is perhaps fitting that another of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's most famous compositions should make a reappearance. Memory is far and away one of the most beautiful melodies the composer ever wrote, originally from the Musical "Cats" which opened in 1981 but one which has become one of the few songs from a musical to stand as a classic in its own right. The original version reached Number 6 in the summer of 1981 but this single is a complete re-recording to tie-in with release of the stage musical on video. Having concentrated on acting for most of the last few years the new version of Memory gives Elaine Paige her first chart single for some time. Her last Top 40 appearance was on the 1985 Number One hit I Know Him So Well in a duet with Barbara Dickson but she has had some minor hits since, most recently with Hymne A L'Amour (If You Love Me) which reached Number 68 in January 1995. The song itself has been covered by a multitude of acts in the past but few have come close to charting. Barbara Dickson reached Number 34 with her version a year after the original whilst choirboy Aled Jones made Number 42 in 1985. To this I suppose one must add Elaine Paige who has effectively covered her own song.
37 HOUSE MUSIC (Eddie Amador)
Dance revival of the week comes from further back in history than usual, this embyonic deep house track having first been recorded in the late-80s but until now has never been a commercial hit. According to the track House Music is a spiritual thing. Amen to that.