Well, this is a head scratcher. It has been six and a half years since I've had to find some way of talking about a record that had spent a whopping seven weeks at the top of the singles chart. That was back in December 1998 when Cher's Believe was at the end of an epic run that until now has been unmatched. All that changes this week of course as Tony Christie sits proudly at the top of the pile, seeing off midweek challenges from both Elvis and Snoop Dogg. What I can do is recite the statistic that I used for the week ending December 12th, 1998 and point out that of the over 1000 records to have topped the UK charts since 1952, only 20 of them have had a longer run at the top than Amarillo. Moving down a run however and it is interesting to note that assuming that this week is Amarillos last week at the top, it will be the 18th single to spend seven weeks (no more, no less) at the summit. It is the fourth to do so in exactly a decade, the first of these being Robson and Jerome's rendition of Unchained Melody which hit the top of the charts on May 20th, 1995. The most extraordinary year in chart history for seven-week runs came in 1957 when no less than three acts: Tab Hunger, Harry Belafonte and (of course) Elvis all achieved the feat. Tony Christie could of course clock up an eight-week run next week - I'll be waiting.
Landing the runners up the slot and the honour of the biggest new single of the week is Snoop Dogg with an all-star cast on the pleasingly hummable Signs. Like his last two singles Drop It Like It's Hot and Let's Get Blown it is lifted from his acclaimed R&G album but (thanks to a strong showing online) soars past the chart peaks of this hits - and indeed every other single he has ever released - to land a Top 3 hit for the first time in his long career. It must have been the bane of the life of every hip hop producer that ever before his pariahdom it was impossible to arrange for Michael Jackson to guest on your tracks, so they must be thanking the heavens for the arrival of Justin Timberlake, the former 'NSyncer adding the necessary guest vocal to this track two years after he performed a similar service for Nelly on Work It. The Gap Band's Charlie Wilson also gets a credit on the track and whilst Pharrell Williams is absent from the credits this time around, the single has the Neptunes written all over it in terms of production values. After 12 years and 10 albums can anyone really argue against the fact that Snoop Dogg is currently at his peak?
After 17 weeks the Elvis re-release juggernaut finally reaches the end of its journey with a chart reappearance for a rather more familiar track and one which I suspect will sit uncomfortably alongside the R&R classics that formed the earlier part of the set of collectable singles. A Little Less Conversation began life as a forgotten late-60s b-side before being revived thanks to a 2002 Nike commercial via the soundtrack to the movie Oceans 11. JXL's remix soundtracked the advert and helped propel the single to the top of the charts to give Elvis a record-breaking 18th Number One single, a full 25 years after his 17th. Since then, of course, the 2005 re-releases have given him a 19th, 20th and 21st chart-topper but the arguments rage on as to whether re-released Number One singles can count twice towards an artists total (the OCC, Guinness, Tony Brown and I all agree that they do - so there). Incidentally, to answer the most commonly asked question of the last four months, Elvis' first Number One single All Shook Up was indeed also re-released. It came out in the same week as Jailhouse Rock back in January but as it came packaged with the famed cardboard box with spaces for the other 17 singles it was chart ineligible.
Next up at Number 6 is the third release in the Destiny's Child comeback, Girl charting as the follow-up to Lose My Breath and Soldier. The law of diminishing returns means that this new single just misses out on a place in the Top 5, astonishingly their first to chart this low since Bug A Boo was a Number 9 hit back in October 1999. It still extends their run of successive Top 10 hits to 11. [And there they ended, this being the group's singles chart swan song as we all hitched ourselves to the Beyonce train].
At Number 9 is the debut single from an old act - because indeed such a thing is possible. Back in the early 1990s Suede were rightly regarded as one of the best bands in the world. Lead singer Brett Anderson had a voice that somehow managed to channel the best of David Bowie in his glam era whilst in guitarist Bernard Butler they had a virtuoso musician who could make his instrument hoot and wail, giving Suede a sound that was a step beyond the jangle jangle of traditional "indie" bands. What didn't help was that the working relationship between the two men quickly soured and after two albums Butler quit the band. Suede carried on for a further three albums but somehow never recaptured the magic of early singles such as Metal Mickey and Animal Nitrate. As if to prove a point, Butler teamed up with singer David McAlmont in the mid-90s, made one of the greatest records ever with him (Yes) and promptly fell out during the recording of the subsequent album.
Now if Bernard Butler is good at falling out with his musical collaborators he is also very good at making up with them. Hence the 2002 reunion of McAlmont and Butler which resulted in the well received Bring It Back album. Next up was a reunion of Butler and Anderson. The result isn't a Suede reformation but instead the return of the duo under an entirely new name. It is actually quite funny to play Refugees by The Tears to the uninformed and watch them wax lyrical about how much it sounds like early records by Suede, the single being a near perfect recreation of the vibe and the inspiration of the first Suede album. Whether what worked so well in 1993 will fly in quite the same manner in 2005 remains to be seen but for the moment there is something warm and comfortable about this single, fully deserving of its place inside the Top 10.
Down inside the Top 20 now and Britpackers Bloc Party land their second Top 20 hit of the year with Banquet hitting Number 13 as a follow-up to the Top 5 hit So Here We Are/Positive Tension, both singles having come from their Silent Alarm album. Their desire to channel the best bits of late 70s new wave clearly knows no bounds, Banquet sounding like a glorious cross between The Jam, Duran Duran and The Stranglers all at once.
Just below at Number 14 are Rooster who frustratingly fail to make it three Top 10 hits in a row with You're So Right For Me. Their usual formula applies here, nothing retro about it, just some damn fine rock music. If you prefer your music a little quieter then look no further than Athlete who follow up January's depressive classic Wires with their second hit of the year. Half Light actually manages to be a rather more sprightly single than its predecessor and in all honesty is all the better for it. Number 16 compared to the Number 4 peak of their last hit is a bit of a disappointment - and for the moment it seems that the new chart hasn't quite reversed the trend of singles entering the chart at their peak position.
Mention must be made of the first ever Top 40 single for the Paddingtons at Number 25. The Hull band tickled the bottom end of the charts at the back end of last year with their single 21/Some Old Girl reaching Number 47 but their breakthrough into the upper reaches comes thanks to Panic Attack which comes at you at 100 miles an hour, sweeping you away in a breathless rush of guitars, drums and energy. Make no mistake, guitars are back in a big way, as Bloc Party, Rooster and Athlete this week will testify only too happily.
Guitar rock of a more different kind arrives at Number 27 in the shape of the debut UK hit for teenage actress Lindsay Lohan. After a career in movies such as 'Freaky Friday' and 'Mean Girls' she released her debut album in the States at the back end of last year - a career path that mirrors that of fellow US starlet Hilary Duff who herself has had a handful of hit singles here. What is most entertaining is that most of the media coverage surrounding the two has centred on the hilarious feud that developed between the two women last year over the affections of Aaron Carter - to such an extent that nobody really can take the pair seriously as they issue ever more wild threats and even write their hatred into song lyrics. Over here we've actually been spared most of the stories as the two women are hardly tabloid fodder. Nonetheless, it is clear who is the victor for the moment in the UK chart battle. Whilst Duff's So Yesterday made a strong Number 9 back in November 2003, Lohan's Over can do nothing more than limp into the Top 30. [This is one of those moments you swear you could have hallucinated if there weren't the physical evidence of it. We've still Paris Hilton to come next year as well].
To round things off at Number 32 the singles chart welcomes a true rock legend making yet another comeback. Former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant has had a sporadic solo career ever since his old band broke up, his occasional albums always being highly regarded and sometimes even producing the odd hit single. His band Strange Sensation were first formed to back him on his 2002 album Dreamland and have now been rewarded with a co-credit on his latest release Mighty Rearranger which comes out later this month. In advance of the album comes the single Shine It All Around which nips into the Top 40 to give Percy his first Top 40 hit single since 29 Palms hit Number 21 way back in 1993. His biggest ever solo hit was Big Log which made Number 11 in 1983. Led Zeppelin, of course, were famous for never releasing singles, their only brush with the Top 75 coming in 1997 when a re-release of Whole Lotta Love became their first ever UK single release and peaked at Number 21.