When we come to look back on 2005 (a watershed year in the history of the charts for so many different reasons), and in particular the events of the very start of the year, just what will we make of it all? The first chart of the year proper has thrown up an event so bizarre, so astonishing, it has already made headlines just about everywhere.
This week you see marks what would have been Elvis Presley's 70th birthday. In commemoration of this, the King is to be the subject of the most intensive reissue campaign ever. EMI records spent the 1980s re-releasing every Beatles single 20 years to the week after each one first hit the shops, but the Elvis program beats that into a cocked hat. Between now and May, every single one of Elvis' Number One hits - that is all 18 of them - will be re-released at a rate of one a week.
First out the bag is Jailhouse Rock which at a stroke duplicates its chart position from its first release back in January 1958 and soars to the very top of the charts. [Technically Elvis' first Number One hit was All Shook Up. This had been re-released in tandem but came in a special cardboard box with a space for all the commemorative re-issues and for this reason, was disqualified from the charts. Reports were that it would have been Number 2 if allowed in]. This alone is enough to give Elvis his 19th Number One single, his first since 2002s remix of A Little Less Conversation and further increasing his lead over the Beatles in the all-time chart, the fab four having been locked at 17 since 1969 in spite of their own reissue programs and the brand new singles that came from the Anthology project in 1995. Jailhouse Rock was also coincidentally the first single ever to enter the chart at Number One and it seems only appropriate that on its reissue it does so once again. Having been made no less than 46 years ago, Jailhouse Rock is far and away the oldest recording ever to top the UK charts and it marks a welcome return for the golden age of Rock N' Roll. Don't forget this was the sound that kick started music as a popular youth culture in the first place. Without the likes of Elvis, there would have been no Busted or McFly - which is actually quite a scary thought.
Jailhouse Rock is only the third single ever to have been Number One twice, following in the honoured footsteps of Bohemian Rhapsody and My Sweet Lord, both of which were also posthumous re-releases. For statistical purposes, we count these reappearances at the top as brand new Number One hit which means that Elvis has the honour of being the 999th Number One single since the birth of the charts in 1952. It raises the possibility of course that one of his singles due for release in the next few weeks will similarly hit the top and become number 1000 although I suspect that this is rather unlikely - there are after all other big new hits on the way from more contemporary acts. One record that Elvis does seem to be about to reclaim however is that of "most Top 40 singles in a calendar year", a record currently held by the Wedding Present who spent 1992 releasing a new limited edition single every month with every one making at least the Top 30. If all of Elvis' releases this year make the Top 40 he will beat that figure with ease.
Never mind Elvis though, five other singles enter the Top 10 this week, although their release is somewhat overshadowed by events at the top of the chart. Most spookily of all is the appearance at Number 3 of another reissued oldie. The Number Of The Beast rightly ranks as one of Iron Maiden's most famous early singles. As the follow-up to the wildly popular Run To The Hills (itself a Top 10 re-release two years ago), the single reached Number 18 in May 1982. This re-release is in support of their double DVD The Early Years which hit the shops for the Christmas market and which commemorates (as the title suggests) the very early part of their career. It is a testament either to the loyal support of their fans - who have snapped up the single to obtain the previously unreleased live tracks that accompany it - or the sheer timelessness of the group that means this 22-year-old track can cruise into the charts and still sound as fresh as when it was first made.
The parade of oldies continues at Number 4, although this time it is a brand new single from a veteran act. Although very much a product of the 80s, Erasure made a welcome chart come back in 2003 with an album of covers, first single Solsbury Hill returning them to the Top 10 for the first time in eight years. On the back of this success (and following the remix of Oh L'Amour which made Number 13 back in October 2003) the duo return with an album of brand new material. Its release comes on the back of the recent announcement by singer Andy Bell that he is HIV positive which led to a wave of sentiment for the duo who whilst they may be long past their commercial peak, still have some classic hits in their catalogue. As for whether Breathe will rank as one of them remains to be seen. True enough it charges into the Top 5 to become their biggest hit single since the Number 4 peak of Always almost ten years ago but there is no escaping the fact that their last two Top 10 hits have both come in the first week of January when sales are at their slowest. The truth is that the duo ran out of things to say musically a decade ago and whilst they are good for the occasional nostalgia burst, Breathe cannot hide the fact that Erasure, like many of their chart contemporaries, are very much yesterday's news.
At Number 5, however, are an act who are very much today's news, most especially so after their to the wire battle with Keane for the honour of having the biggest selling album of 2004. Filthy/Gorgeous is the fifth hit single for the Scissor Sisters and returns them to the Top 10 for the first time since Comfortably Numb gave them a Number 10 hit on the debut almost exactly 12 months ago. Better than this, by hitting Number 5 the single becomes their biggest chart hit to date. It is a fitting crown for one of 2004s greatest musical pleasures. Here's hoping they can maintain this run of form with what will certainly be an eagerly awaited second album.
At Number 7 is a new entry for a brand new act. New Yorker Dana Rayne is being touted up as the first big find of 2005, the new Anastacia if you will (even if the self-aggrandisement on her web page makes you want to punch her rather than buy her records). Debut single Object Of My Desire is sparky and catchy enough and more than worth it's Top 10 placing. It's a start.
Another of the class of 2004 who start 2005 with their biggest hit to date are Kasabian who charge nicely into the chart at Number 8 with Cutt Off, thus beating the Number 10 peak of LSF which previously had the honour of being their biggest hit to date. The single release of Cutt Off is a reworking of the version that appears on their hugely successful debut album, featuring new drums, a change in the mix and even slightly different lyrics if you listen carefully enough.
At Number 17 is a genuine oddity, a chart single from a local protest group. Fans of Brighton and Hove Albion football club have been campaigning long and hard for a brand new stadium at Falmer, ever since their old Goldstone Ground was sold to developers, leaving the cash strapped club without a home. Now as part of that campaign they have re-recorded ska classic Tom Hark (famously a Number 6 hit in August 1980 for the Pirhanas) with new lyrics in support of the football club. Now it is not that songs about particular football clubs are uncommon of course but normally they tend to appear around FA Cup time. For this particular release to do so well (even at this time of year) is quite something else indeed - in fact at the start of the week the single was even set for a Top 10 placing. Full marks to the Brighton fans (trading as the Seagulls Ska) for this achievement - and if nothing else it has got their cause written about in some very unusual places. Coincidentally Tom Hark was originally a hit single for both Elias and his Zigzag Jive Flutes and also the Ted Heath orchestra - both singles charting back in 1958 thus putting this track in the same vintage as this week's Number One hit.
Just two more singles hit the Top 40 this week, the first of these being at Number 18. Interpol made their Top 40 debut in September last year with the Number 36 hit Slow Hands and they will welcome the progress being made by Evil which gives them a first Top 20 hit. Finally, at the very bottom end it is entirely appropriate that in a week when the best selling single is a true golden oldie, another re-release makes it as the smallest new entry. Stand up Urban Cookie Collective who chart at Number 31 with a 2005 remix of The Key The Secret, hardly the best club track ever made but an essential part of the soundtrack of the summer of 1993 when it first made Number 2 after a protracted chart climb.
That is all for this week. Brace yourselves, the 1000th Number One single approaches.