1 MI CHICO LATINO (Geri Halliwell)
You'll have to bear with me a minute. Although I'm supposed to be say writing this week's chart commentary I'm having too much fun flicking through the press clippings that greeted the release of Geri Halliwell's solo album. You may remember these, the ones that looked down their noses at the number of weak-kneed songs, the ones that dismissed her as a novelty and in particular the ones that suggested that the first single Look At Me was certain to be her only big hit. You can see why they are now so entertaining as with one stroke the artist formerly known as Ginger Spice has rammed these words down people's throats by charging straight to Number One with her second solo single, in the process destroying the sales of teen sensations Westlife. Thus the Spice Girls join none other than Take That and The Beatles in having at least two of their members top the chart with solo singles. It wasn't an easy ride as visitors to the dotmusic front page during the week will have noticed, a printing error that incorrectly labelled CD2 as CD1 caused a brief withdrawal of the track from some outlets earlier in the week - clearly though this did not affect the sales of the single unduly. If one is to go along with the view that the album Schizophonic is full of Madonna-aping pop then Mi Chico Latino is clearly Geri's La Isla Bonita, a track which neatly rides the current wave of latin-inspired tracks and is arguably a perfect summertime smash and, dare I say it, a far more accessible pop single than Look At Me ever aspired to be. In the theoretical but still raging battle of the Spices Geri appears to have the upper hand for the moment. Whereas Melanie B/G followed up a Number One with the rather terrible Number 14 hit cover of Word Up, Geri has followed a "failed" Number 2 hit with a massive Number One. On top of all that she is posing in a bikini on the record sleeve. How can you not delight in the success of this track?
3 IF I LET YOU GO (Westlife)
OK so maybe Westlife won't be delighting too much at the all-conquering sale of Geri Halliwell. She has after all dumped them from the top of the chart after just a single week. Although it is a point I have made before and doubtless will before the end of the year it is worth stating once again here - the rate of turnover at the top of the charts in 1999 is on a scale without precedent in the 47 year history of the British charts. If I Let You Go has the dubious honour of being the 15th Number One single this year to spend just seven days at the top of the listing and is one of no less than 24 singles to top the chart since January (25 if one counts Geri). Already that is above the average for an entire calendar year, more than the 20 Number One singles we had had by this time last year and it means we are well on course to beat the all-time record of 30 that was set in 1998. It goes without saying really that we can expect another brand new Number One single next week - assuming Mr Bega hasn't been hurt too much by his phenomenal import sale.
5 SUMMER SON (Texas)
More of the same their current album may be but the signs are there that the flood of stunningly good Texas singles isn't set to dry up yet. After the massive Number 4 hit In Our Lifetime which charted back in March, Sharleen and the boys land straight back in the Top 10 with the second single to be released from The Hunger. Once again Summer Son is slick beyond belief and a gentle reminder that Texas used to be a rock band as layered guitars combine with some distinctly Eurodisco chimes to create a rather engaging atmospheric track that has one eye on the dancefloor too, as the mixes by none other than disco legend Georgio Moroder prove. As with all Texas singles it sounds just like another famous song of old, but so subtly that you will be hard pressed to place it. The now notorious too raunchy for MTV video won't have hurt the single either and it has dutifully become their seventh Top 10 hit.
6 UNPRETTY (TLC)
Not for the first time in their career TLC have the task of following up a massive hit single that during its life managed to buck just about every chart trend going. No Scrubs was first released at the end of March and made an impressive start, charting at Number 7 first week out. When it dropped to 13 the following week you could have been forgiven for accepting that it was just another here today and gone tomorrow hit of which the charts are full these days. Not so as the following week the single was back in the Top 10, embarking on a run that would see it peak at Number 3 and spend a total of 16 weeks inside the Top 40. Now in the past TLC have been occasional one hit wonders, their last single to experience a similar level of success - Creep - was followed by the release of Diggin' On You which could only make Number 18 in November 1995. Of course this is to reckon without the many hidden gems of the Fanmail album of which Unpretty is possibly the brightest. With this new single the three superstars move even further away from their R&B roots and into the field of mainstream pop with the sad tale of the woman made to feel unattractive by the unkind comments of her man. So progressive is the production that it could well be the first ever New Jill Swing single to feature a guitar solo. Unpretty could well stand up as one of the most magnificent singles of the year and this Top 10 placing is the very least that it deserves.
10 STOP THE ROCK (Apollo Four Forty)
As has been proven time and time again, the Liverpool trio are capable of turning anything into a dance record. The drumming of Gene Krupa? Not a problem (Krupa - 1996). A famous Eddie Van Halen guitar riff? Easy money (Ain't Talkin' Bout Dub - 1997). What about a John Williams penned TV theme for a new movie? You only had to ask. (Lost In Space - 1998). Maybe it is best not to ponder just where the idea to make a dance record out of a Status Quo riff came from but here it is anyway, Stop The Rock takes a slice of classic Quo, adds a frantic Hammond organ on top and finally mixes in a vocodered vocal that shouts "Stop The Rock - Can't Stop The Rock". It is a rare thing - a dance track made with wit and with a sense of overriding fun throughout, as witnessed by the way it seems to be trying to turn into Good Vibrations towards the end. It has the honour of becoming their third Top 10 hit single and is quite possibly the party tune of the summer.
11 1999 (Binary Finary)
How does one put this succinctly? This frantic instrumental trance single entitled 1999 was first released in October last year when it reached a fairly credible Number 24. Back then it was called 1998 but of course this re-release along with a set of brand new mixes means that an updating of the title is called for. This is a rare example of a single charting twice under two different names although funnily enough it is always dance singles that do this - back in 1988 Nitro Deluxe had a hit single with Let's Get Brutal - a track that had actually charted before in 1987 under the title of This Brutal House. You can at least understand the logic behind Binary Finary changing the title. Otherwise it may well have been called "1998 '99" which would have been a little too confusing.
14 BUGS (Hepburn)
Interestingly enough the foursome managed to emerge unscathed from the revelations that their first single I Quit was a track rejected by none other than Natalie Imbruglia for her own debut album. Her loss was their gain as it helped them to a Number 8 placing first time out and has set up nicely for this second release. Bugs follows the same formula to perfection, a spiky four minutes of melodic pop rock, performed immaculately by the girls themselves. For the moment they seem to be stuck as a curiosity but as any A&R man will quite freely tell you if you buy him enough drinks, with their desks full of submissions from teenagers convinced they are set to be the new Spice Girls or All Saints, a female pop band that breaks the mould are an extremely refreshing change.
17 KING OF SNAKE (Underworld)
Beaucoup Fish's third hit single is actually the track that was originally released as a promotional single some time before the album itself appeared. Although Push Upstairs wound up as the first release from the long player the fact that King Of Snake had already established itself in clubs at the start of the year meant that it made sense to turn it into a single at some point. Hence this release now, giving it the honour of becoming their third Top 30 hit of the year and the fifth of their career.
26 GODDESS ON A HIGHWAY (Mercury Rev)
Having finally made a chart breakthrough in 1999 with the Top 40 hits Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp and Opus 40 Mercury Rev turn back to the track that began life as the first single from the Deserters Songs album. The rather lovely Goddess On A Highway was first released in November last year but could only reach Number 51. This time around it lands nicely in the Top 30 to match the peak of Delta Sun... as their biggest hit single ever.
31 MAMBO NO.5 (Lou Bega)
Mambo No.5 spends a third week at the bottom end of the Top 40, once again solely on the basis of import sales and once again climbing up the chart - two places this time. In the process the single is doing a wonderful job of exposing to the general public the rather mysterious world of the CIN rulebook, the dreaded list of regulations with which a record must comply in order to qualify for a placing on the chart. The 20 minute time limit rule made headlines a few weeks back when Five complained that one of the CD versions of Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loca overran by a couple of seconds. The imported copies have done the same over the last few weeks as one batch that arrived in the shops were of a set of mixes that exceeded the limit by a long way. This meant they failed to qualify for the singles chart and instead had to bizarrely register as the Number One selling budget album last week. You can guarantee that next week's chart will confuse a great many people as this week the single gets its official UK release, a fortnight ahead of the original schedule. The much cheaper and more readily available copies are certain to sell in massive numbers and it will be a major surprise if the single does not hit Number One next week. The problem is that with this official release, the imported copies become "extra formats" and will automatically be in breach of the rulebook - resulting in their total disqualification from the listings. Thus it will be that the printed charts next week will show Mambo No.5 as a "New Entry" despite having spent the last four weeks on the Top 75.
Don't get the wrong idea, the rules aren't there to make stupid situations like this happen all the time, they exist to prevent marketing excesses by over-hyped record companies and to ensure a level playing field between smaller labels and rich multinationals who would give away a free pair of trainers with every single if they were given the chance. It is just that there are enough loopholes and exceptions that can cause strange situations like the above to occur. Mind you this is probably no consolation to Big Country whose single Fragile Thing only made Number 69 last week when the sleeve of one of the CD formats was found to contain "too many folds" and was thus chart ineligible.
37 BACK HERE (BB Mak)
Not your average boy band are these three as they are pretty much self-created, having worked together for a while to develop their act. Their debut single has the distinction of being co-written by Phil Thornally and is as pleasant a piece of summery pop as you could wish for but as this chart placing indicates, it hasn't quite had the hoped for impact. It could be that BB Mak will have become massive stars by Christmastime, for now though the jury will have to remain out.