1 KING OF MY CASTLE (Wamdue Project)
You know I never knew I was so popular. Ever since the launch of the great .dotmusic pop quiz at the start of the week my mailbox has been flooded with automatically generated messages from various "friends" inviting me to help them take part. Sorry guys and girls but the small matter of the small print that mentions something about employees of Miller Freeman Entertainment not being allowed to take part rather precludes me from helping out so you will just have to go for those rather sexy looking prizes under your own steam.
OK so what is the first thing to deal with this week? A new week can only mean a new Number One single as we say bye-bye Robbie and hello to the wonderful sounds of the Wamdue Project. Atlanta DJ Chris Brann first made this record over a year ago and it was something of a dancefloor hit at the time despite failing to dent the charts on its first release. The track came alive again earlier in the summer thanks to a remix from Roy 'Walterino' Malone and it is in this version that the single crashes straight to the very top. Don't be mistaken into thinking this is just another nothing dance record that has fluked its way into the upper reaches. Quite the reverse in fact as this comfortingly retro Deep House groove can rank alongside tracks such as Sweet Like Chocolate and 9PM as records made for the dancefloor but which have far wider appeal as excellent pop records. Proof that the single was going to be a smash came last week when import sales pushed it up to Number 61. The full commercial release has duly obliged.
2 THE MILLENIUM PRAYER (Cliff Richard)
The story so far: Cliff Richard is far and away the most successful chart star this country is ever likely to see having notched up 122 hit singles and topped the charts 13 times (second only to Elvis and The Beatles) in a career that stretches back to 1958, the only artist ever to have had a Number One single in every decade since the chart was first compiled in 1952. I could sit here all day and recount chart statistics that celebrate his achievements, but you get the picture. Lately he has been letting frustrations get the better of him, complaining about how he seems to be written off as too old to be making pop records and how nobody will play his songs on the radio any more, his last but one hit Can't Keep This Feeling In being a case in point despite the fact that it reached Number 10 in October last year. A few months ago EMI records declined his request to release his seasonal offering - a new version of The Lords' Prayer set to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. This resulted in Cliff leaving the label, marking the end of one of the most enduring record deals the industry has ever known. Of course there were no shortage of labels willing to take the opportunity to release the song and with all the attendant publicity (along with a few public spats with certain well-known DJs along the way) you could almost stake your life on the fact that the single was going to make a big splash - as it turns out challenging briefly for the Number One slot.
In the middle of all of this it is worth doing something which few have thought to do and actually appreciate the record on its own merits. Believe it or not it is actually very good. However "uncool" it may be to release a fragment of The Bible as a pop record the track remains as touching a piece of work as Cliff has made in years. Cliff's Christmas Single may have become a chart cliche over the years but to hell with it, the choice of material is spot on, the production here is impressive and his voice sounds as good as ever. No wonder it is a smash hit. Funnily enough this isn't the first time he has turned a hymn or a prayer into a pop record, his 1982 Number 11 hit Little Town was a rendition of the old favourite O Little Town Of Bethlehem set to a new tune. Back to the present though, Christmas Number One this won't be (it has come out just a little too early) although the Children's Promise charity will benefit nicely from the royalties. The future of Cliff Richard's chart career hangs in the balance - will he actually be able to have a hit record without the attendant "nasty record companies and radio stations are snubbing him" fuss? Time will tell. For now it is worth noting that the track is his biggest hit single since Saviours Day became the Christmas Number One way back in 1990 and his 64th Top 10 hit in all (far and away a record). Not bad for an old codger really is it?
6 I TRY (Macy Gray)
She gets herself a mention once again although I'm afraid I can't offer any more of an insight into just why I Try continues to be the exception that proves the rule regarding the shape of the singles market. Whilst the failure of the track to tumble down the chart immediately after its release could be attributed in part to the late availability of its video and the extra exposure it afforded, the constant popularity of the single ever since defies all logical analysis. For those who have not been paying attention, this is Macy Gray's eighth week on the chart, all of which have been spent inside the Top 10. After spending the last three weeks locked at Number 7 the single is on the move again, rising to its highest chart position to date. How much do you want to bet on it still being in the Top 20 at Christmas?
10 WHY (Glamma Kid)
Ragga is on a roll it seems. Just two weeks after Mr Vegas had his first ever commercial hit single Glamma Kid races into the Top 10 with his second chart hit of the year and one which matches the peak of Taboo - his cover of The Sweetest Taboo which of course boasted Shola Ama on guest vocals. Guest of honour this time is the strangely uncredited Marcelle Duprey as the lad from the East End toasts his way around the accurately reproduced groove of Carly Simon's original version which spookily enough also made Number 10 in 1982. Hey, I've just thought of a question for the .dotmusic pop quiz. Just what is it that links Carly Simon with the act that has a new entry just one place below her old song?
11 THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (Garbage)
Bond of course. With one sting from a 30 piece orchestra Shirley Manson and the boys join the ranks of a huge list of artists that range from Duran Duran through Shirley Bassey, Lulu and Gladys Knight right through to A-Ha, Sheryl Crow and Carly Simon herself for this is the latest theme from a James Bond movie to hit the charts. The World Is Not Enough is everything it should be, composer David Arnold has constructed a song in the very best John Barry dramatic traditions whilst Shirley Manson puts on her best Shiley Bassey voice for a song which drips with tension and class. Alright so it isn't actually the catchiest or most satisfying song ever to come from a James Bond film but it has become a hit, so who cares really? Not every James Bond theme actually ended up as a hit single but The World Is Not Enough continues a run which stretches back to the 1970s, in the process beating the Number 12 peak of Tomorrow Never Dies as sung by Sheryl Crow back in 1997. The most successful Bond theme ever was Duran Duran's A View To A Kill which peaked at Number 2 in 1995, the last one to make the Top 10 was Tina Turner's rendition of Goldeneye from 1995. As for the lowest charting one? Stand up Rita Coolidge whose theme from Octopussy entitled All Time High could only reach a lowly Number 75 in 1983.
12 WHEN WE ARE TOGETHER (Texas)
Hit single Number 3 from The Hush but the first signs are there that the formula may be wearing just a little as When We Are Together narrowly misses out on a place in the Top 10. Just for a change, the band have openly acknowledged the source of the inspiration for this hit, an old northern soul classic entitled Seven Days Too Long and indeed as a throwback the song works brilliantly. Sad to relate this Number 12 peak (as always with the caveat that it could theoretically climb higher) means that the song ranks as their smallest hit single since So In Love With You staggered to Number 28 back in February 1994.
14 NO DISTANCE LEFT TO RUN (Blur)
Heavens, with all the money they have made out of their music in the past you would have thought Blur would sound a little more cheerful wouldn't you? Actually that is probably to miss the point a little as the follow-up to Coffee + TV sees Damon take the mic once more to deliver a sad, mournful song which is almost certainly one of the many tracks from the album 13 that are acknowledged to be about the breakup of his long-standing relationship with Justine Frischmann. If you are into listening to your favourite chart stars singing about their broken love lives then this is the one for you. It is Blur's 16th Top 20 hit since 1990.
17 I SEE YOU BABY (Groove Armada featuring Gram'ma Funk)
Groove Armada you may recall were responsible for one of the summer's most blissed out and yet inspired moments, the trombone-driven blues-sampling At The River which made Number 19 back in August. This single, their third hit of the year, could not be more of a contrast as Manumission star Gram'ma Funk delivers a high-powered rap whilst a frantic percussive beat threatens to run away with itself underneath. Look for the name Fatboy Slim in the remix credits as well.
27 LIFE'S TOO SHORT (Lightning Seeds)
..in which Ian Broudie reveals himself as the forgotten member of New Order as the Lightning Seeds go all dance on us with a rather impressive production full of strings and techno beats. Die-hard fans need not fear too much as their trademark killer chorus is still as present as ever in this new track. Cue an image change as well for the one man band as out go the beard and glasses and in comes a short spiky haircut. Opinions are divided as to how successful this new direction is likely to be, but one cannot read too much into the chart position of this, the first Lightning Seeds record proper for two years. After all, Three Lions excepted, the last two Lightning Seeds singles You Showed Me and What You Say contrived to be in turn their biggest and smallest hit singles ever.
30 S CLUB PARTY (S Club 7)
Worthy of a footnote at the very least is the curious behaviour during the course of the last few weeks of this single from S Club 7. Having spent a fortnight at Number 2 back in October the single has been slipping down the rankings ever since but in the last few weeks has arrested its decline slightly to move 32-31-30. Bizarrely enough this means that S Club Party shares with I Try the honour of being the Top 75s highest climbing single.
34 SO LOW (Ocean Colour Scene)
I didn't feel comfortable mentioning it at the time but did you know it was possible to sing Brian and Michael's classic Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs along to the rhythm of OCSs last hit Profit In Peace? Sad to say the truth has to come out, Ocean Colour Scene have turned into plodding dad-rockers with a musical output that is a pale shadow of the driving post-Britpop rock sound that propelled them to stardom back in 1996 after many years in relative obscurity. OK I so I risk a lynching from dedicated fans and in fairness this latest single sees the band in laid-back country-rock mode with a rather sweet song that sounds like a collision between Bob Dylan and The Eagles but their chart positions tell their own story - from the Number 13 peak of Profit In Peace to the barely registering Top 40 entry of this new single is a long way to fall. So Low (how ironic) is due to become their second smallest hit single ever. Only their solitary pre-stardom chart single Yesterday Today ranks lower, that single have peaked at Number 49 in March 1991.
35 YMCA (Village People)
Does anyone actually not own a copy of this record, much less not know the dance movements? The party season is upon us once again which means the strains of YMCA will be drunkenly buried into your brain before the party season is finally over well into the new year. This isn't actually the opportunistic re-release that it seems at first sight as the YMCA itself has finally buried the hatchet with Jacques Morali's creation after being slightly disturbed at way its hostels were being painted as a homosexual pickup joint when the single was first released to worldwide acclaim back in 1978. Thus this new release is all in aid of charity, proceeds going to the YMCA, however much they may end up being. Of course as befits one of the most enduring disco classics ever it has to be soiled by a remix for this re-release (I mean they have speeded the song up - anyone want to tell me what the hell that is about?), funnily enough the second time in recent years this has happened. Back in 1993 just in time for Christmas and to promote a new Greatest Hits collection a remixed version of the track peaked at Number 12.
36 YOU DON'T KNOW (702)
The second Top 40 hit of the year from 702, this the followup to Where My Girls At which made Number 22 back in August. Classy female R&B complete with vocoder effects is the order of the day here. Next...
38 WE HAVEN'T TURNED AROUND (Gomez)
The "Gomez are the future of British music" bandwagon comes off the rails slightly here as their recent trend of beating their previous chart position with every successive release is dramatically reversed, the Number 18 hit Rhythm And Blues Alibi looking like a smash compared to this rather lowly new entry. Still as the third single from an album by a band whose appeal is still rather selective, whatever the hype may tell you, this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. I still maintain they have a massive Top 10 hit in them somewhere. It is only a matter of time.