Funny thing this, I can actually begin this week with the same turn of phrase I used last week. We all expected this would happen sooner or later, but nobody expected it to happen quite so soon. Last week it was the phenomenon of a single leaping from relatively low down on the chart to Number One and this week, as I am doubtless the hundredth person to point out, it is the history-making fact that the Number One single in the UK is the first ever to top the charts based on online sales alone.
The record in question is Crazy by hip-hop duo Gnarls Barkley, a collaboration between producers Danger Mouse (he of the famous Grey Album bootleg) and Cee-Lo (whose previous claim to fame was penning the Pussycat Dolls' 'Don't Cha'). The single has had a long journey to the charts to date, first airing on the radio at the back end of last year with the direct result that illegal copies of the track have been in circulation for several months. The single's potential as a crossover smash was illustrated in the way it became "record of the week" on shows on both Radio 1 and Radio 2, and upon release online a few weeks ago it quickly shot to the top of the download charts. Last week, had the single been chart-eligible it would have qualified as a Top 3 single but this week it goes one better, clocking up over 30,000 purchases to outsell everything else on the main singles chart. With the CD single hitting the shops today (April 3rd) those sales became chart-eligible and the result is the first ever Number One single to be unavailable in any physical form.
It has actually been a long time since we've had this kind of format-related watershed. The first Number One hit to be unavailable on 7-inch vinyl was Culture Beat's Mr Vain back in 1993, followed two years later by Celine Dion's Think Twice which eschewed the old fashioned black plastic in all forms to become the first single to top the charts on CD sales alone. Whilst Crazy is almost certain to retain its position at the top next week thanks to the arrival of the CD format, for the moment it stands unique by becoming a best seller as nothing more than a series of zeroes and ones, nicely packaged in AAC or WMV form (with a bit of DRM tacked on for good measure).
As an added curiosity the track marks the first time the most popular song title ever has made it to the top. The Gnarls Barkley track is the 19th single to make the Top 75 with this title and beats the 1990 Number 2 peak of Seal's track to become the first ever Crazy Number One. The runner-up in this particular stable Angel has already done so, back in 2001 thanks to Shaggy. The title that for many years held the record as the most popular - Tonight - has thus far proved to be a Number One jinx, with even Westlife only hitting Number 3 when they released a song with that name.
All this fuss means that the second biggest new hit of the week winds up being almost an afterthought, which is a shame as there was a point when it was challenging for Number One itself. In the event Morrissey has to content himself with a none too shabby Number 3 placing for You Have Killed Me, the first single from his new album Ringleader Of The Tormentors, itself released this week. The former Smiths legend made a spectacular comeback in 2004 with a career-best run of Top 10 hits from the album You Are The Quarry and we have our fingers crossed that he can manage the same this year. The omens are good - the lead single from the last album was Irish Blood English Heart which also debuted at Number 3.
Brighton's The Kooks are the next big winners of the week, landing their very first Top 10 single as Naive gets a physical release and leads 28-6 on the chart this week. The single is their fourth Top 40 hit to date, with each one having improved on the performance of the last. Eddie's Gun was the first, reaching Number 35 in July last year, followed by Number 28 hit Sofa Song. They opened their 2006 account with Number 12 hit You Don't Love Me and now achieve their highest placing to date. A new band getting bigger with every hit single - it's like the 90s never went away.
It's odd, but I detect the first signs of a Mike Skinner/Streets backlash. Two years ago the urban poet went from cult hero to mainstream superstar thanks to his second album A Grand Don't Come For Free and its three Top 10 singles including the Number One single Dry Your Eyes. The forthcoming new Streets album documents the excesses he went through during that period but strangely enough the reviews have been lukewarm, almost as if his blend of part spoken, part rapped and part sung narrative has a limited shelf life in the minds of some. Never mind, those of us who were fans as far back as Original Pirate Material at the start of the decade still appreciate him and he lands a comfortable Top 10 hit with new single When You Wasn't Famous which has set tongues wagging thanks to its tale of a sexual encounter with an unnamed female star. The single leaves a few tantalising clues as to who it might be although I'm trying to avoid the speculation as it hurts to think of Rachel Stevens being soiled in that way [to this day he's declined to name the star in question but insists it wasn't Rachel Stevens. Or Cheryl Cole for that matter]. Anyhow, at Number 8 it becomes the fourth Top 10 single for the Streets, although given the way his star seems to be on the wane, I'm not sure if there are necessarily any more to follow.
The continuing loyalty of Depeche Mode fans gives them a third Top 20 hit since last October as Suffer Well hits Number 12, a slight improvement on the Number 15 peak scaled by A Pain That I'm Used To back in December. All this proves is that fan loyalty is a valuable thing, despite their continued chart consistency, you have to look back a long way to find a Depeche Mode track that anyone really cared about. Their mainstream profile is zero and current album Playing The Angel hasn't actually been seen on the chart since its first few weeks on release.
Now onto the Michael Jackson single of the week. The DualDisc re-releases are actually turning into a handy barometer of the state of the singles market, as all are selling roughly the same number of copies each week. The stronger singles sales are, the lower he charts, as witnessed by The Way You Make Me Feel which creeps in at Number 17, the joint-lowest placing for this run of hits to date. The single originally appeared in November 1987, the third single from the album Bad and one which followed the title track to a Number 3 peak shortly after it was released. The video isn't exactly a classic but is instantly recognisable as the one where Jackson attempts to attract the attention of an attractive girl as she walks down the street with a series of increasingly outlandish dance moves, the seduction actually continuing for several minutes after the musical track has actually finished. We can be cheered by the fact that these singles are charting lower and lower as it can only mean the market is recovering from the low point of three weeks ago which let Billie Jean get as high as Number 11.
Even a seasoned U2 hater like myself has little choice but to acknowledge the majesty of One, rightly hailed as one of their finest tracks. A song written while the band were at their lowest ebb and on the verge of breaking up in the early 90s, it became a Number 7 hit for the group in April 1992 and became a Number 29 hit for Mica Paris when she covered it three years later. Mary J Blige was a guest of the band when they played a concert in New York last summer and joined them onstage for a performance of the song. So well received was the duet that they made arrangements to record it together, the track appearing on her album The Breakthrough last December. This week it becomes the second single release from the album and beats the Number 32 peak of first single Be Without You with ease, catapulting her into the Top 20 for the first time since Love At 1st Sight hit Number 18 in September 2003. Her appearance alongside a co-credited U2 further extends her list of chart collaborators which ranges from rappers such as Method Man and Ja Rule through to the likes of Eve, George Benson and even George Michael (with whom she had her biggest hit ever on a cover of Stevie Wonder's As back in 1998).
Finally for this week, the Number 29 single is an oddity which will have most people overseas scratching their heads, for never has a five-minute piece of music caused such an outcry. The Radio 4 UK Theme is a fantasia of traditional English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and maritime songs. Arranged by composer Fritz Spiegel, a 1973 recording by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra has for years been played on Radio 4 at 5.30am as a prelude to the day's programming. At the start of the year, the controller of the channel decided it was past its sell-by date and announced that it was to be retired. He reckoned without the reactionary nature of the Radio 4 audience who immediately launched a campaign to save it (despite the fact that the number of people listening at that hour of the morning is but a tiny fraction of their peak audience). As part of that campaign (and also as a way for the rest of us to try to work out what the fuss is about), Gavin Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia have recorded their own version and it is this single which lands in the Top 30 this week, a rare example of a classical recording charting without the aid of a football tournament. In a way, I'm glad such a fuss has been made as the UK Theme isn't a bad little medley in its own right and the chance to own it along with the b-side Sailing By (which for years preceded the post-midnight Shipping Forecast) is a very welcome one indeed. Nonetheless, this really should be the end of the matter, especially given that the same Radio 4 listeners who want to keep a five minute piece of music broadcast at a time when nobody is listening are the same group of people objecting strongly to the presence on the network of announcer Neil Nunes who has committed the hideous crime of having a Jamaican accent.