This week's Official UK Singles Chart


I was here, promise. A combination of emails not getting through on time and then nobody being in a position to do anything about that fact meant that the big Christmas chart commentary never actually made it onto the net [I suspect my reaction to discovering that my hard crafted words weren't destined to go online for the most important chart rundown of the year were not printable]. Fortunately as history has often proved, the chart following Christmas week is always a quiet one as sales graphs take a spectacular fall and nobody but the very foolish releases any new records. Normally I'm stuck for something to write, so what better opportunity is there to offer a 'remixed' version of the lost column from last week?

1 SOMETHIN' STUPID (Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman)

Ah well, no betting stings were possible this year then. The greatest foregone conclusion in music this year turns out to be just that as not even the last-minute challenge of Gordon Haskell could prevent the superstar celebrity pairing of Robbie and Nicole from topping the charts for a second (and subsequently third) week and in the process writing themselves into history as the 2001 Christmas Number One single. In many ways it is actually quite fitting that Robbie Williams should finally get to have the honour. In his entire career he has only been in contention once before, that time being in 1993 when as a member of Take That he was near the top of the charts with the song Babe. Those who can remember back that far will recall that Babe did actually top the charts in the week before Christmas but was then sensationally removed from the summit in Christmas week itself by Mr Blobby who himself had been deposed by Take That one week previously. Eight years later and it seems that justice has finally been served.

This is actually the first time that a male/female duet has been Christmas Number One since 1982 when the top honours fell to Renee and Renato with their timeless classic Save Your Love. This is also the second time in three years that the seasonal chart-topper has been a cover of a song that had previously topped the charts, following in the footsteps of Westlife's 1999 triumph with Seasons In The Sun. Anyway, enough of the triumphant twosome, what about the unlucky loser? That is in itself a far more fascinating story...

2 HOW WONDERFUL YOU ARE (Gordon Haskell)

Well what better occasion to tell a story than the Christmas holidays? Back in the late 1960s there was a band called King Crimson. Feted today as "the progressive rock band it is OK to like", the group made a series of albums with an ever-changing set of personnel, mainly centered around guitarist Robert Fripp. Following rows with many of the other members during the recording of their second album, Fripp recruited some unknown local musicans to help him out, one of whom was a Bournemouth pub singer called Gordon Haskell. Haskell appeared on two King Crimson albums before departing and returning to the pub circuit, destined it seemed to spend his days in anonymity and with a nice pension fund from the royalties on his King Crimson work.

Fate it seems had other ideas and one day whilst helping his elderly mother round the supermarket he had an idea for a song - How Wonderful You Are. His recording of the song found its way to the ears of several Radio 2 presenters who aired the track to a rapturous response, a response which led to a huge demand for the track. Suddenly major labels were scrambling to distribute the single which seemed set to turn the retired rock singer into a brand new MOR superstar.

That then is how the 55 year old Haskell suddenly found himself a prime contender to be Christmas Number One. Sadly for now this particular fairy tale does not have the happy ending many were hoping for as even a late surge in sales at the end of last week was not enough to help the single to the top of the charts. Still, a Number 2 hit for Christmas is not something to be sniffed at. Something tells me it is unlikely that we will see Gordon Haskell back in the singles chart any time soon but he is destined to sell a fair number of albums on that back of this rather sweet hit record. King Crimson themselves were the classic "albums act" and have never released a single in this country. Having said that, many of the group's alumni have made their own mark on the singles chart in the past. Greg Lake of course went on to become one third of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and had a Christmas hit himself in 1975 with the perennial I Believe In Father Christmas. Also notable is bassist Boz Burrell who went on to become a member of Bad Company whilst Pete Sinfield became a songwriter, one of his most famous compositions being The Land Of Make Believe with which Bucks Fizz topped the charts in January 1982 after just missing out on being Christmas Number One.



Whether it is coincidence or as a direct result of the Boxing Day news we shall never know but Steps turn around and step two places back up the chart, giving what will quite probably turn out to be their final single one last bid for glory. In truth they probably split up at just the right time, even those close to them admitting that the act was in danger of becoming stale. Rather than risk fading away with a series of progressively smaller hits, the cheesy but never less than entertaining pop act have bowed out on their terms and with an impressive string of chart singles intact. The first Steps single was the line dance single 5,6,7,8 which only made Number 14 but those with long memories will recall that it was released in November 1997 and was still floating around the Top 20 in February 1998. It may have been their smallest hit ever but it remains one of the biggest selling singles never to reach the Top 10. After that there was no stopping them and every single one of the 14 that followed charged into the Top 10, even if only two of them topped the chart. 14 Top 10 hits is more than the Spice Girls, more than Five, more even than Take That. Indeed the only pop act of the last decade to have a more impressive run of hits is Boyzone who managed 16 Top 10 hits before they too finally bit the dust. Something tells me their planned solo careers aren't going to be quite as successful (lets face it most of the group are a little too old to be genuine pop idols) but for the moment it is appropriate to toast the career of Steps. It's been quite a fun ride.


14 HEY BABY (DJ Otzi)

With Gordon Haskell being the only major new single release of the week of the Christmas chart, the way was left clear for many older singles to take advantage of the Christmas rush. The most notable moves are being made by those singles which one could class as party favourites. How else to explain the sudden resurgence of DJ Otiz's former Number One hit which last week made an 11 place leap to register its highest chart placing for four weeks and which this week retains a place in the Top 20. DJ Otzi actually has three singles on the Top 75 this week, both this one, Do Wah Diddy (which itself climbs back four places to 24) and a new single X-Mas Time which has been rushed into the shops at his own personal request. Fortunately at retail taste has prevailed and the single could only limp in as a new entry at Number 51 last week, sliding to Number 63 today.


Just behind the Austrian star, Afroman leaped 8 places last week, reversing his downward trend which saw Because I Got High fall out of the Top 20 for the first time a fortnight ago. This week the track rebounds even further, now occupying its highest chart placing for a month. The song seems to have become something of a karaoke favourite since its release although it is always entertaining to see the reaction of people when they see for the first time the lyrics that were edited out of the radio version that most people are familiar with.

16 CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD (Kylie Minogue)

Completing the trio of former Number One hits all lining up in the Top 20 is a certain Australian superstar. Kylie's nearly four month old former Number One is also picking up seasonal sales. Can't Get You Out Of My Head last week experienced a 9 place rise, it too occupying its highest chart position since the start of December although this week she slips back two.


So what of the brave souls who released singles to go up against the Christmas rush? The most successful of those was David Gray who despite having a brand new album in the can and ready for release in the spring is still finding the record company keen to promote the older White Ladder album, even to the extent of airing a second set of TV commercials for the platter. His third Top 30 hit single of the year is a rather fascinating choice of cover, a remake of an old Soft Cell track that first appeared on their debut album and which was their third chart single, reaching Number 3 in March 1982. For those of us who have the original version all but coded in our brains it is quite a shock to hear David Gray singing the track pitch perfect as opposed to Marc Almond's trademark off-key warble which in some ways made the original the melancholy classic it has become. Say Hello Wave Goodbye duly matched the Number 26 peak of David Gray's last single Sail Away on the Christmas chart, the track slipping back slightly this week.


36 TARANTULA (Faithless)

The third single from the third Faithless album was of course intended to complement (and hopefully benefit from) their UK tour this month, a tour which of course has had to be postponed following the car accident which put lead rapper Maxi Jazz out of commission for a while. As if to develop a theme this week, Tarantula also matched the chart peak of its predecessor, in this case Muhammed Ali which was a Number 29 hit back in September. [The track would gain a new lease of life the following summer, picked up by the BBC as the theme to their World Cup 2002 coverage although it would never re-chart].


39 NEVER TOO FAR/DON'T STOP FUNKIN' (Mariah Carey featuring Mystikal)

Mariah Carey's comeback after her much publicised personal problems was always going to be a difficult one to call. For so long the golden girl of music, she finds herself for the first time with bad reviews of her new album and the star of an incredibly bad film whose release was tied in to her album. Still, she does at least have public sympathy on her side, plus a sentimental vote as Never Too Far was one of the show-stealing moments of the Concert For New York back in October and which marked her public comeback. The other side of the single shows the other side of Mariah as she teams up with Mystikal on a track that represents all that is stale about the hip-hop and soul crossover formula. Many will be quick to point out that this is one of her worst performing singles for years, one which makes the Michael Jackson single look like a smash in comparison. Something tells me you can put this down to being lost in the shuffle at Christmas (airplay for the track has been minimal) so reports of the demise of her career are likely to be wildly exaggerated. Anyway it is Christmas, I'm not going to shovel dirt onto the grave of someone's career right now..

41 BLAST THE SPEAKERS (Warp Brothers)

Just creeping in at the bottom end of the Top 40 last week were the Warp Brothers, this single marking their second chart entry of the year after We Will Survive which made the Top 20 in February as the followup to Phatt Bass which was of course a slightly large success exactly one year ago. Some may wonder just why anyone bothers to bring out singles in a week like this, knowing that they are almost certainly destined to end up as chart footnotes. The answer is of course that in Christmas week even the Number 40 single is likely to sell twice as much as it would at other times of the year. Also bear in mind that after the phenomenally large sales of the past month the music market always takes a spectacular tumble into a black hole at the start of January. Those people with singles in the shops are perfectly poised to take advantage of that slightly weaker market although that clearly isn't going to happen to the Warp Brothers who slip out of the Top 40 altogether this week. Still, they have outsold Michael Jackson.

So there you have it, the holiday charts of 2001. Thanks to everyone who has responded to these columns over the past twelve months be it with praise, death threats or requests for Kylie's mobile phone number. Here's to the new year, new stars to be made, new records to be set and not forgetting the plans that are in place to commemorate the fact that the 50th anniversary of the UK singles chart is upon us. See you on the other side. Enjoy the rest of the seasonal break and have a Happy New Year.