So far this year we have seen at least one incidence of something happening that isn't supposed to anymore. This was, of course, the rare sight of a single climbing from lower down the charts to hit Number One rather than crashing straight it - DJ Casper's Cha Cha Slide unusually making it to Number One in its second week on release. This week we have something slightly different but no less unusual - both recently and historically.
All week long one record has been leading the pack in the race to top the charts. It was spoken of as if it was a foregone conclusion and the press office of the record company had issued the usual quotes from the artists concerned about how overjoyed they were to be topping the charts etc. etc. I'll freely admit that I've got a never to be seen draft of this column that talked about the significance of said record topping the charts. You won't see it because it simply didn't happen.
Instead Eric Prydz's Call On Me, dumped down to Number 2 by Robbie Williams last week has reversed its decline and once again ascends to the top of the charts. It is the first record to do so since Daniel Bedingfield's Gotta Get Thru This sneaked back to Number One in early 2002 having been deposed from the top of the charts a full three weeks earlier. No other singles have managed this since the heady days of 1996-8 when in a three year period no less than six different singles all had two separate runs at the top of the charts. Call On Me thus can claim four weeks at the summit, even if those four weeks are now non-consecutive. Unencumbered by being bundled onto an album and of course enhanced by a semi-pornographic video, the single is rapidly becoming nothing less than a phenomenon.
Ah well, it was all going to be so significant. A mere 2261 days since his last chart-topping single, a song from an Andrew Lloyd-Webber was set to take pride of place at the top of the UK charts. In the event, it is "only" a Number 2 hit single. I Believe My Heart is taken from the new musical version of the famous novel 'The Woman In White', the latest work to be turned into a full on musical extravaganza by the man who over the last generation has become synonymous with the West End musical. A common tactic of Lloyd-Webber is to ensure that the first song to be released from a new production is performed by a familiar artist rather than some unknown stage actor. Hence the rather startling choice (although let us not forget he has a magnificent voice) of Blue singer Duncan James to take the male lead on the song, accompanied here by the hitherto unknown Keedie. Lloyd-Webber is long overdue a new hit and the similarities between this track and his last song to become a smash hit cannot be overlooked. Said track was indeed the one that topped the charts 2261 days ago this week, No Matter What by Boyzone which was taken from the musical 'Whistle Down The Wind'. This new single has a great deal to live up to given that No Matter What set a string of chart records in its wake, selling over a million copies (it is officially the 66th best selling single of all time) to become the biggest ever hit from a stage musical and indeed the biggest selling single ever by an Irish act.
So it remains that only three singles from Lloyd-Webber musicals have hit Number One (at least for now). As well as No Matter What he also penned Don't Cry For Me Argentina for Julie Covington in 1977 and Any Dream Will Do for Jason Donovan in 1991. Looking back at the list of musical hits he has created it is most interesting to note that the biggest smashes of all produced the smallest hit singles. Cats of course spawned Elaine Paige's hit single Memory which made Number 6. Phantom Of The Opera produced a number of hit singles. The title song sung by Steve Harley and Sarah Brightman made Number 7, All I Ask Of You by Brightman and Cliff Richard made Number 3 whilst The Music Of The Night performed by Michael Crawford made Number 7. The closest he has come to a fifth Number One single has been Michael Ball's rendition of Love Changes Everything from Aspects Of Love which hit Number 2 in 1989. In chart terms, the least successful hit Lloyd-Webber musical was possibly the most "rock" of them all - 'Starlight Express'. It's only song to reach the charts was Next Time You Fall In Love by Reeva Rice and Greg Ellis which made Number 59 in 1993 on the back of the musical's rewrite and relaunch around the same time. Mind you the same can be said for the musical that started it all - Jesus Christ Superstar. The only release from the original production came as a special maxi-single in 1972 which featured four tracks, among them Murray Head's Superstar and Yvonne Elliman's I Don't Know How To Love Him. The single made a mere Number 47.
Of course, no discussion of stage musicals should end without a mention of Lloyd-Webber's one-time partner Tim Rice (who of course as one of the original authors of British Hit Singles pretty much invented my job who I know reads this column from time to time). He, of course, co-wrote Don't Cry For Me Argentina and Any Dream Will Do and also wrote I Know Him So Well from Chess which topped the charts for Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson in 1995. He remains neck and neck with his old partner in terms of Number One hits. They wrote two together and have had one other since.
Another cause for some astonishment this week is the identity of the single that ranks as the second biggest new hit of the week. Londoners Rooster celebrate this week with their first ever hit single and one which manages to outsell some very big names indeed to land nicely in at Number 7. Their sound is rooted in the bands the members describe as their biggest influences with shades of Free, Cream and even Led Zeppelin being discernable in the chords of Come Get Some. Most write-ups on them have drawn more contemporary comparisons with Slash's Velvet Revolver - and as the chart this week proves, Rooster have managed to more than out-do them.
This has been a rather stat-heavy week so far and the third new entry this week creates a few of its own. With his third single of the year Let Me Kiss You, Morrissey has the honour of his third straight Top 10 hit single as the track slides in at Number 8. This is easily his best run of hits since he opened his solo career with a run of four in a row. The release of Let Me Kiss You is notable for another reason altogether as it hit the shops on the same day as a Morrissey-endorsed cover version by veteran singer Nancy Sinatra. Whilst this isn't the first time that a Morrissey song has been covered by a sixties singing star (Sandie Shaw's memorable 1984 version of Hand In Glove with the Smiths as backing musicians springs to mind) this kind of simultaneous release is something else altogether. Sadly the two releases don't quite make the headlines they should have done, Nancy Sinatra's version can only reach Number 46 (although this is at least her first hit single since her 1971 duet with Lee Hazlewood on Did You Ever). The almost fanatical fan devotion that Mozza attracted made watching his career slip down the toilet in the 1990s almost a guilty pleasure but better still has been watching him return with some of the best records he has ever made and become, all gimmicks aside, a chart star all over again.
This has certainly been a good year to be a veteran. In the last few months alone we have seen big hit singles for the likes of Lou Reed, Donny Osmond and Paul McCartney. Last week, of course, Duran Duran had their biggest hit for a decade but there is surely no more consistent veteran than Cliff Richard. For so long dubbed the Peter Pan of pop, Sir Cliff hasn't had the easiest of times over the past few years. However much people would like to pretend, his audience has simply grown old along with him and although an army of grannies is not to be underestimated it has made him less attractive a proposition to mainstream radio programmers and, well, the mainstream in general. Somehow though he always seems to have the last laugh, most famously in late 1999 when The Millennium Prayer, the single that no record label wanted to release, topped the charts in spectacular style. Now here he is once again with what is actually his second Top 10 single in a row, the follow-up to Santas List which made Number 5 last December. This is the first time he has managed back to back Top 10 hits since 1993 when I Believe In You and Peace In Our Time made Numbers 7 and 8 respectively. Somethin' Is Goin' On is now incredibly his 126th chart single in a career that began in the age of Rock 'n' Roll in 1958, Cliff having surpassed Elvis' total of hit singles many years ago. Hard though it may be to swallow, Cliff will never be anything other than old and rather naff, but being naff and having Top 10 hits is something he and his army of fans are probably quite content with.
Just outside the Top 10 at Number 14 are the Scissor Sisters who I think have now mined their debut album for its last single. Still, you have to admire their consistency. The still awesomely good Mary is, of course, their second hit in a row to bear a girls name, Laura having made Number 12 back in June. They are still frustratingly searching for a second Top 10 hit.
Just below them at 17 are Kasabian who sneaked into the upper reaches last time out with LSF, a Number 10 hit single in August. Processed Beats doesn't quite hit the same heights but still gives them a third straight Top 20 single, which of course will do them very nicely indeed.
At Number 24 are a band from the "cannot have hits anymore but nobody can work out why" file. The last Beautiful South single to go Top 10 was 1998's Perfect 10, since when they have failed to climb any higher than Number 12, and this new single is their third in a row to even crack the Top 20. Livin Thing is taken from their forthcoming album of *sigh* quirky cover versions and is their own unique take on the classic track that the Electric Light Orchestra took to Number 4 in 1976. The new version is hardly a patch on the original but of course, that was almost certainly never the point. For the best part of a decade the world seemed OK when the Beautiful South returned with another smash hit single - now it seems their major chart successes are all behind them. One final curiosity is that their last three Top 40 hits have all come in October. Closer Than Most in 2000, Just A Few Things I Ain't in 2003 and now this single in 2004.
Three places below is the not altogether unwelcome chart debut for Rhian Benson, a Ghanian-born Londoner who has been turning heads on the jazz scene for some while. With good reason too I might add for the young lady is nothing less than eighties legend Sade reborn for a new generation, her debut single a smooth exotic track that will surely shoot to the top of any wannabe lothario's guaranteed seduction pile. Effortlessly cool and whilst not a huge pop hit, a fabulous record anyway.
Number 29 sees VS continue the downward spiral they have been on since their debut hit Love You Like Mad was a Top 10 hit back in March. June's follow-up Call U Sexy hit Number 11 but as Make It Hot waves hello to the lower reaches of the chart, you can probably kiss goodbye to any chance of seeing them in the Top 40 anytime soon.
Finally at Number 32 is the second hit single for Velvet Revolver, this their second hit single following on from Slither which hit Number 35 back in July. Formed by former Guns N' Roses legend Slash along with various other GnR alumni as a kind of FU to the antics of Axl Rose, the American band have too had their fair share of positive reviews but appear to have yet to turn that into any kind of major chart success here. Still, with a pedigree such as theirs, it is hard to ignore them, even new kids on the block such as Rooster happy to give them name-checks. Go on, buy their next single. Rock needs this kind of kick up the pants from time to time.