1 PRAISE YOU (Fatboy Slim)
Norman Cook's latest production alias came into being just over a year ago. January 1998 saw hits from Wildchild and Cornershop shoot into the Top 3 thanks to radical new but still very commercial remixes from the man himself. This was just the start as Cook began releasing big beat singles under the Fatboy Slim name and ended up with two Top 10 singles in the last half of last year - The Rockafeller Skank which reached Number 6 and Gangster Trippin' which hit Number 3 in October. Now for the third [no, there had been others before] Fatboy Slim single he switches direction once more and ends up with one of the biggest hits of his career. Right from the moment the gospel pianos (complete with authentic-sounding vinyl crackles) kick in it is clear this record is going to be something special. Sounding something like Primal Scream colliding with Faithless the laid-back groove could hardly miss and takes advantage of the current post-seasonal lull to smash straight to the top of the charts to become the first 1999 release to hit Number One. Although it is the first Fatboy Slim record to make Number One Norman Cook has topped the charts in two previous incarnations. First time around it was with the Housemartins on their acapella cover of Isley Jasper Isley's Caravan Of Love - a hit in December 1986 and more recently in 1990, again with a cover - Beats International's dub-reggae version of the SOS Band's Just Be Good To Me.
[Honourable mention too for the video, after several near-misses the first ever Number One to be visually realised from the cracked mind of Spike Jonze].
3 YOU SHOULD BE... (Blockster)
So the clearout now begins. Over the next few weeks the Christmas chart hits will gradually drift away to be replaced by the first batch of 1999 singles. Although the frantic chart turnover of recent years has made this new year clearout less pronounced than it used to be there is still a sense of newness and freshness about the month of January as record companies often use this time to unveil the first hits from new signings to the world. For some reason it is always the dance labels who are quickest off the mark as many of this week's big new hits demonstrate. This record is the work of DJ Brandon Block who has gone for the obvious and to his credit has ended up with a hit single. Anyone who has heard the single will hardly need me to point out that this is another Bee Gees-inspired dance single, this time based heavily around their 1976 Top 10 hit You Should Be Dancing. The single was one of the first signs that the brothers would be at the heart of the 1970s disco boom, the first of their tracks to use Barry Gibb's now famous falsetto and which was so ahead of its time it featured in Saturday Night Fever despite being recorded two years before the film was even made. The original white label copies of the Blockster single did in fact feature samples from the original recording but for this official release the vocals have been re-recorded. A big party favourite over the holidays, the single now becomes a Top 5 hit for the new year. It is probably churlish to point out that a dance remake of You Should Be Dancing is hardly a new idea - back in 1993 Ben Liebrand sampled the original and turned it into a track called Decadance which the band liked so much they put it on the b-side of their 1993 Top 10 hit For Whom The Bell Tolls.
8 RESCUE ME (Ultra)
The post-seasonal clearout is also an opportunity for some acts to revive their fortunes somewhat. This is certainly the case for Ultra who had promised so much with their first hit Say You Do, a Number 11 hit in April last year. At the time they stated their wish to be the Wham! of the 1990s but next two hits became progressively smaller, culminating in the in-and-out Number 28 performance of the Motown-flavoured The Right Time. It appeared they were rapidly vanishing down what Smash Hits used to quaintly call the dumper. 1999 could well be a fresh start for the lads as their fourth single reverses the trend and crashes straight into the Top 10 to give them their biggest hit to date. A much better attempt at a pop ballad, the only thing that could hold them back is the market's over-saturation with semi-talented boy bands.
9 UP TO THE WILDSTYLE (Porn Kings vs. DJ Supreme)
More dance, this time from the less commercial end of things, or maybe it is just me getting old. Something of a superstar collaboration here as both the Porn Kings and DJ Supreme (both former Top 40 hitmakers in their own right) collide on this reworking of DJ Supreme's own Tha Wild Style which first made Number 24 in May 1997. It is far and away the biggest hit for either act, the Porn Kings having last made the Top 40 in June 1997 with Amour (a Number 17 hit) whilst DJ Supreme was last seen in the Top 40 in February last year with Horns Of Jericho which made Number 17.
11 OVER YOU (Justin)
15 year old Glasgow lad Justin first hit the big time last year after being featured in the BBC TV show The Fame Game as it followed the hopes and aspirations of young people wanting to be stars. On the back of his appearance on the programme he released a single on a small independent label, a cover of the little-known Beatles song This Boy and was rewarded with a Number 34 hit in August last year. Now he is back and ready to do business properly with a deal with Virgin records, a new image and a new single that is actually quite breathtakingly good, a R&B-flavoured pop ballad that deserves more radio support than the minimal amount it has had so far. Young he may be but on the strength of this record certainly someone to watch.
14 GOOD RHYMES (Da Click)
Back to the dancefloor now for this rather derivative but no less appealing single. In essence it is a reworking of Chic's Good Times (which for start gives it second place behind You Should Be... in the "most obvious idea" stakes) but which also features snatches of Luther Vandross' Never Too Much and, quite delightfully, Rappers Delight, the Sugarhill Gang track that is widely acknowledged as the first ever commercial rap record and which itself was based heavily on Good Times.
21 DISCO BABES FROM OUTER SPACE (Babe Instinct)
Oh yes. This. The single that has dominated European charts for the last few months finally gets a commercial release over here. Recently the process of promoting big European novelty smashes over here has been a rather hit and miss process... for every Sex On The Beach there is a No Tengo Dinero. Babe Instinct as it turns out just miss the Top 20 and will in all probability struggle to get any further. 70s-inspired dance hits are all very well but if you are going to have big hits with them you have to add a little magic of your own (hello Thomas Bangalter and Air) rather than making them sound like something from a cheap budget label c.1978.
28 DON'T LET THIS MOMENT END (Gloria Estefan)
Another uptempo dance tune from Gloria Estefan but short of her featuring in another cola advert it is difficult to see her having a major hit single again. This is at least an improvement on the Number 33 peak scaled by Oye back in October but it is now more than six years since her last Top 10 hit.