There are a few changes afoot in the singles chart. For those that missed it, this week the industry agreed to a few tweaks to the rules which will come into force at the start of March. The "downloads only count alongside a physical release" rule is to be relaxed very slightly, allowing singles to chart on digital sales alone in the immediate week before their physical release. Apparently the resistance to this before now has come from high street record chains who wanted to avoid huge gaps in their racks where a single was in the Top 40 before they could actually sell it - allowing singles to appear on the chart in the same week that they first become available will at least avoid this becoming an issue.
What this is almost certain to do of course is put to an end the near decade-long trend for singles to enter the chart at Number One. Even the biggest selling downloads at present only rank amongst the Top 20 best sellers overall, but dust off your "biggest leap to Number One" tables - it is entirely possible that huge chart jumps for newly-released tracks are about to become commonplace.
The other change that was agreed this week is a move designed to put an end to digital sales clogging up the lower reaches of the chart long after a single has ceased to be physically available. From March the act of deleting a single (removing the CD format from the catalogue of products available for stores to order) will result in its digital sales ceasing to be chart eligible three weeks later. This too will probably put an end to the year-long chart runs of some tracks that we've seen over the past 12 months. For those that are outraged, yes it is sad to see the industry wanting to manipulate the listings in this way but let's remember that for all the hype the singles chart is a wonderfully effective marketing tool for the music business and not the straightforward popularity contest we like to think. Always has been and always will be. [The grumblings over these new rules have fascinating parallels with the similar grumpiness over the 2017 changes to streaming ratios for older hits and the 3 Hits Max rule for artists. The 2006 rules were an imperfect cludge in retrospect, but a necessary step in ushering in the purely digital age, but they would indeed make for some odd chart runs as the year progresses].
Onto this weeks chart itself and for the moment the old fashioned way continues with a new entry charging straight in at Number One. The nicest most affable man in pop is back. Leo Sayer's original brush with fame came back in the 1970s when he notched up a consistent run of middle of the road chart hits, climaxing in a Number One for When I Need You in 1977. Later that year he flirted with disco with rather less success, the uptempo Thunder In My Heart making a slightly less impressive Number 22. It was an old copy of this single that DJ Meck (Craig Dimech to his mum) found in a second-hand record shop in LA last year and the producer swiftly added some updated beats to make a track that had smash hit written all over it. So it proves and with the blessing of Leo Sayer himself the track lives up to its hype and flies to the top of the UK charts, returning Sayer to the top exactly 29 years to the week he first climbed this high.
The all-time longest gap between Number One hits is the 31 years that elapsed between George Harrison's appearances at the top with My Sweet Lord (1971 to 2002) but Leo Sayer's 29 year wait still ranks as the second longest of all time, beating the 25 year gap between the Righteous Brothers' chart-topping singles in 1965 and 1990.
Those with slightly longer memories may be entertained by the fact that we've actually been here before. In the late 1990s, two Sun journalists saw him perform in London and began a tongue in cheek "bring back Leo" campaign, asking first for his whereabouts and then demanding the re-release of his old singles. The result of that bit of fun was a new version of You Make Me Feel Like Dancing which Sayer released with Groove Generation, the campaign running out of steam somewhat when the single could only make Number 32 in August 1998.
It's been an odd week for new releases overall. Each of the three "new" entries isn't exactly new at all. Leo Sayer is a remix of an old hit of course and indeed so it the new entry at Number 7. It is both 1991 and 1997 all over again as Source and Candi Staton hit the Top 10 with You Got The Love.
The Source is producer John Truelove whose chart career began in 1991 when he picked up a copy of a flop single disco legend Candi Staton had released in the 1980s. He stripped out all but her vocals and replaced it with a hypnotic house beat [lifted from Your Love by Frankie Knuckles], turning the original track into something very special indeed. Released in February 1991 the single soared to Number 4 and is justifiably regarded as a classic club track.
Six years later it was back again, the track this time augmented by some slightly harder beats as befitted the club trends of the time. This new "now voyager" mix was in fact just Truelove again but nobody really cared as You Got The Love hit the heights once more, this time beating its original chart peak and making Number 3.
Nine years on and the track is back with what one wag online dubbed the "John Truelove 15th Annual Flogging-The-One-Good-Idea-He-Had-To-Death" Mix. Entertainingly the 2006 version is actually the "new voyager" mix and drags the track into yet another new dimension, Staton's vocals now being drenched in a string-laden epic production that is a world away from the minimalistic acid track that Truelove originally created back in 1991. This time around I suspect the chart placing won't be quite as impressive but hey, Top 10 yet again for the third release of the track is not to be sniffed at.
So what of the third "new" entry of the week. Well, confusingly this is the track that was last week's Number 24 single - Sugar We're Goin' Down by Fall Out Boy. The single from the US pop rock band had been given a limited edition release last summer, thus granting chart eligibility for digital sales of the track. Said sales began to pick up last month as airplay for the full release of the track began to pick up. Hence the slow chart growth of the single over the last few weeks, climbing as we noted last week 54-43-37-24 all under the catalogue number of the first release. Last week the single came out in all formats but crucially with a new catalogue number. As far as the chart computer is concerned it is, therefore, a brand new product and so appears this week as a "new entry" at Number 8 despite being anything but. This is, of course, the second time this has happened since the digital era began a year ago, the Kaiser Chiefs' re-released I Predict A Riot entering at Number 9 last August, one week after digital sales of its previous release had propelled it to Number 31.
I guess then we should hold up the Number 18 hit as the biggest genuinely new song of the week. Refreshingly under-hyped and all the better for it are Kubb. The band are led by singer and songwriter Harry Collier and came together after Rollo Armstrong (he of Faithless etc.) introduced Harry to some old school friends of his. They are joined by former Reef drummer Dom Greensmith and various others recruited via NME ads. For extra magic, their debut album is produced by Killing Joke legend Youth and it is quite deservedly being hailed as a masterpiece. Imagine Coldplay without the naffness and Embrace without being quite so overwrought. That appears to be Kubb. Their first single Wicked Soul made a token Top 30 appearance back in November but they now step up a gear with Grow which gives them their first Top 20 hit in advance of the release of their album which has been backed by some intensive TV advertising. All in all this is well deserved. I'd have preferred a bigger chart hit which would have enabled me to rave about it just a little more but hey, they have the highest "new" entry of the week and I'm running with that...
One place below is the disastrous chart entry for a record we flagged up last week. Antony Costa is the last member of Blue to chart under his own steam following the dissolution of the celebrated boy band at the end of last year. Costa's first post-band brush with fame came at the end of last year when he was one of the celebrities starring in "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". If he was hoping the exposure would do for him what it did for Peter Andre in 2004 it looks like he was sorely mistaken. I can't be too harsh as he is a top bloke (and actually more than a little pissed off at the "advisors" who suggested the boys all went solo) but although his debut single Do You Ever Think Of Me is a pleasant enough sub-Bon Jovi ballad it hasn't set the charts on fire in the way he or indeed his record company will have hoped. Compared to Simon Webbe and Lee Ryan, his solo career is for the moment a bit of a non-starter.
Finally this week a new single enters the chart at Number 24 for a celebrated 80s band attempting their second comeback in the last few years. Led by Mike Peters, the Alarm were actually underrated even in their day. Although singles such as 68 Guns and Rain In The Summertime are considered classics today, as far as the singles chart was concerned they never really took off, the aforementioned two singles making 17 and 18 in 1983 and 1987 respectively as their only big hits. Their last attempted comeback came in 2004 when they released the single 45RPM under the pseudonym of "Poppyfields", just to deflect any possible prejudice that their own name might have generated. Actually, they needn't have worried and the single and accompanying album were well received in their own right. To reflect the ever-changing lineup, new single Superchannel appears on the chart as Alarm MMVI (or 2006 in new money). It isn't the Top 20 hit they were hoping for but the single still beats the Number 28 peak of 45rpm to rank as their biggest hit since Rain In The Summertime charted way back in 1987.