Permit me a little digression before we begin this week. I need to rant.
Years ago the whole "Christmas Number One" deal was just a game the industry played with itself, working on the basis that having the biggest selling single during the period when sales consistently reached their annual peak was a pretty good position to be in, both artistically and commercially. Christmas was such an important time that very often the best material was held back for the end of the year, making Christmas charts over the years a very special period for pop music. In recent years this has pretty much gone by the wayside, and the Christmas Number One, fuelled by tabloid hype, has become a special concept in and of itself. Rather than simply releasing your best product and hoping for the best, the industry now uses calculated precision planning to line up records released for the sole purpose of being the Christmas Number One.
That's all well and good, but it does mean that we the consumers who make up the bulk of the industry's income for the rest of the year are forced to sit by and watch a tidal wave of crap engulf the charts for the benefit of the huge crowd of casual consumers who will swamp their local HMV branches over the next few weeks.
Don't believe me? Just take a look at the latest betting for the Christmas top slot. X Factor contestants, a tired cover from Westlife of a hit from 14 years ago, an 18-year-old Pogues reissue, singing cricketers and a novelty record about JCB diggers. Not to mention Crazy Frog. All considered strong contenders to be topping the charts at Christmas. Not a "real" pop record amongst them. The annoying thing is it didn't have to be like this. The truth is that the pop market is as exciting and vibrant as it has been for the last five years. Just look at the track listing for Disc 1 of Now 62 for the proof of that, the CD is loaded with tracks that are either instant or potential classics. Despite this most of the acts featured are little more than outsiders in the Christmas Number One race according to the bookies. I can't be the only one who thinks there is something badly wrong there.
Our proximity to the big Christmas rush means the charts are kind of holding their breath at the moment. For the second time this year (the last was back in August) the Top 3 hold firm with Madonna, Westlife and the Black Eyed Peas all retaining their placings from last week. That is enough to give Madonna a third week at the summit with Hung Up making this easily her longest running Number One single since the four week run of Vogue back in 1990. Credit too for Westlife with You Raise Me Up which becomes their first single ever to spend five weeks in the Top 3. Even their longest running Number One ever I Have A Dream/Seasons In The Sun tumbled straight to Number 4 after its four week run at the top.
There's a big gain too for Simon Webbe who sees his second single No Worries make an impressive rebound back up to Number 4. This is thanks to a consistent marketing campaign which just for a change has seen him continue to plug the single on TV and in the media rather than all the efforts being focused on the week of release as is usual these days. His last single Lay Your Hands refuses to die either, this week rising back up to Number 58 after 14 weeks on the chart.
He's not the only act to find himself with two concurrent chart hits at the moment but only one group currently has three Top 75 hits. Stand up Gorillaz whose new hit Dirty Harry (a neat progression from their first ever chart hit which was entitled Clint Eastwood) becomes the highest new entry in a quiet week for new releases, slotting nicely in at Number 6. The track is joined by both former Number One single Dare which this week slips five places to Number 33 and its own immediate predecessor Feel Good Inc which thanks to consistent trade online hovers around at Number 68 this week, a full 33 weeks after it first hit the chart.
A quiet Top 10 and a slightly depressed market leaves room for some existing hits to scale the ladder a little. Arctic Monkeys see their former Number One arrest its decline a little, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor rising a place to Number 8 whilst just below them Craig David's Don't Love You No More returns to the Top 10 having dipped to Number 11 last week.
The second new entry of the week arrives at Number 10 in the shape of what is arguably the first "proper" club record to make it this high since the summer. Your Body comes thanks to the skills of German producer Tom Novy who is well known on the continent both for his music and his role as a VJ on European MTV. His only previous Top 40 appearances in this country both came at the turn of the century. Billed as Novy vs Eniac he hit Number 32 in 1998 with Superstar and Number 19 with Pumpin' in the summer of 2000. Your Body is thus his biggest hit to date. Singer Michael Marshall is no stranger to the chart himself, having sung lead vocals on the Luniz' I Got 5 On It which was a Top 3 hit in 1996. To give the track roots firmly in the 80s it is based around a sample of Jump To It, a minor hit for the legendary Aretha Franklin back in 1982.
Next to play at Number 11 is 50 Cent who misses the Top 10 with one of his own records for the first time in his career. Not that he will be complaining too much as Window Shopper has the distinction of being nothing less than his 7th chart hit of 2005. This total results from his own four hits Candy Shop, Just A Lil Bit, Outta Control and now this new one, plus his two appearances on The Game's singles How We Do and Hate It Or Love It and finally topped up by his guest starring role on Tony Yayo's So Seductive which limped to Number 28 back in September. To think back in 2003 we were impressed at Sean Paul's feat of appearing on five different Top 40 hits. Pedants will, of course, argue that Elvis Presley managed 17 Top 40 hits in as many weeks at the start of the year but as these were all re-releases and as he is dead and everything it doesn't really qualify to compete in the productivity stakes.
Not quite as busy, but still landing a fourth hit of the year are the Stereophonics who watch Rewind make a token Number 17 appearance. They've sold enough albums this year for it not to matter but it seems such a shame that after opening their 2005 tally with the potential classic Dakota they have yet to follow it up with another Top 10 single.
Still, it could be worse, they could instead be Paul McCartney who for all the goodwill in the world just cannot land himself a major hit. Jenny Wren enters the chart at Number 22 to become his second hit single of the year, following up Fine Line which made Number 20 back in September. It thus continues his odd run which has seen his last five singles all land in the 20s. Indeed since 1997, he has now had hits peak at 20, 21, 22, 23 and 25. As time goes by his last Top 10 hit gets ever more distant. November 1987 was the date - Once Upon A Long Ago hitting Number 10.
Finally this week amongst the also-rans there is a fun curiosity. At Number 28 is a cover of the classic Buzzcocks hit Ever Fallen In Love... recorded as a tribute to the late John Peel. All the artists playing on the track claim some affinity to the late radio legend with wrinklies such as Elton John, Roger Daltry and Robert Plant being joined by members of the Futureheads, El Presidente and the Datsuns. Also included is Pete Shelley who as a member of the Buzzcocks also performed on the original. Don't say it too loud but like so many multi-artist tracks the single is actually a bit of a mess and entertainingly even Radio One declined to playlist the track, despite it being made in memory of its most famous presenter. It's the first Top 40 single to be credited to the famous catch-all Various Artists since the all-star recording of It's Only Rock And Roll made Number 19 in December 1999. That single was itself attempting to copy the charity success of Perfect Day which became the most successful multi-artist single ever when it topped the charts several times in late 1997 and early 1998