As well all know, a little under a year ago the music world changed forever. In an instant the floodgates were opened for any song, no matter how old or how obscure, to make the singles chart, just as long as enough people made the decision to buy a digital copy at some point during the week in question.
During the course of the year, the consequences of this have been at times quite entertaining. Album tracks intended as singles have appeared on the chart weeks before any promotional activity was scheduled for them. The release of a new Rocky film sent the themes to its predecessors into the chart, random plays on TV shows prompted David Bowie tracks to show up on the rankings. The sad death of an opera legend sent his most famous recording into the bestsellers, and a TV commercial featuring a drumming gorilla gave Phil Collins an unexpected Top 20 hit.
It now turns out that this was just a foreshadowing of what was to come. Even back in January, we knew that the possibility existed of selections from the vast catalogue of Christmas-themed pop favourites selling enough to register on the chart. Having said that, I don't think anyone predicted the kind of mass invasion that has started to snowball this week.
It is only the first week of December, with only the boldest of radio stations having added seasonal favourites to their playlists. Nonetheless, online stores are registering sales for some of popular music's most hardy perennials to a quite dramatic effect on the singles chart.
Leading the way is Mariah Carey who soars 23-8 with All I Want For Christmas Is You, returning the track to the Top 10 for the first time since its release in December 1994. Hard on her heels are The Pogues who now sit at Number 12 with Fairytale Of New York, the single as I mentioned last week on course to make the Top 10 three Christmases in a row and for the fourth time in total. New to the Top 40 at Number 23 is Last Christmas by Wham!, originally Number 2 in 1984 behind the original Do They Know It's Christmas and as a consequence, the biggest selling single never to top the charts. George Michael's pension plan hasn't been a Top 40 hit since its second bite of the cherry in 1985, a 1986 re-release having only peaked at Number 45.
Two places below at Number 25 is the one "classic" which has never been a hit before, the TV commercial inspired It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year giving Andy Williams a Top 40 hit at the age of 80. At Number 27 is I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday from Wizzard, the track having originally been a hit in 1973 and which surprisingly has only charted twice since then, once in 1981 when it made Number 41 and then again in 1984 peaking at Number 23. The track it lost out to in the race for the top in 1973 is a few steps behind at Number 37, Merry Xmas Everybody from Slade returning to the chart for the second year running after a re-release made it eligible for a Number 21 placing last year.
Just above at Number 33 is the 1985 Christmas Number One from Shakin' Stevens, Merry Christmas Everyone. This is its first chart appearance since some remaindered copies helped it to Number 58 in late 1986, a year after it was first released. At Number 38 is the original Band Aid with Do They Know It's Christmas, the track now having been freed from a co-bracketing with the unloved 1989 version with which it charted outside the Top 75 last week. This original version hasn't been seen on the chart since Christmas 1985 when a first anniversary re-release propelled it to Number 3.
Outside the Top 40, the parade of oldies continues. Chris Rea is at Number 51 with Driving Home For Christmas, his track being a famous example of a record that flopped when first released (it made Number 53 in December 1988) but which thanks to annual doses of airplay has become a much-loved seasonal favourite. This week thus marks its highest ever chart placing although I'm sure there are better things to come. At Number 60 is Happy Xmas (War Is Over) from John Lennon and Yoko Ono, this now the seventh time the single has charted for Christmas. Originally a Number 4 hit in 1972, it reappeared in 1974, 1980, 1981, 1982 and most recently in 2003 when a re-release took it to Number 33. This is the second John Lennon classic to chart this year after Imagine crept to Number 75 in the wake of his back catalogue being made available online.
At Number 61 is what for some people ranks as the most famous Christmas recording of all, White Christmas from Bing Crosby. A single that predates the chart era, its first appearance in British Hit Singles came in 1977 when it hit Number 5. The single was last seen on the chart in 1998 when it crept to Number 29. Most astonishing of all however is the track at Number 71, It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas from Perry Como. Another track that predates the chart era, it was an American hit for the late star in 1951 and until today has never been a hit single in this country.
To think we still have two more chart weeks to go before the season is out. The most significant effect of this invasion is to create one of the most retrospective looking singles charts in history. If one includes other non-seasonal oldies from Elvis, Phil Collins and Ernie K-Doe it means that 15 of the Top 75 singles this week are tracks which are 14 years old or more. It is quite unprecedented and would be a matter of some concern but for the fact that the golden oldies will inevitably vanish from sight almost overnight once January arrives. Small consolation of course for anyone trying to promote new music over the course of the next month. [As the years wore on we'd become pretty much inured to the sight of seasonal golden oldies flooding the listings come December, but when it happened for the first time it was nothing less than jaw-dropping to view the parade of golden oldies which barged their way into singles chart contention. Easily the defining phenomenon of all those to shape the UK singles chart once the free-for-all digital era finally arrived].
As far as the modern-day singles are concerned, it is pretty much as you were at the top. Leona Lewis shoots herself further into the record books with a seventh straight week at Number One with Bleeding Love, making it now far and away the most successful single ever by a British female. T2 inject a much-needed dose of hardcore credibility into proceedings with a third straight week at Number 2 with Heartbroken whilst Girls Aloud remain locked at Number 3 with the ever more appealing Call The Shots.
Aside from the Mariah single, the only new Top 10 arrival is Crank That (Soulja Boy) from the now apparently correctly billed Soulja Boy Tell'em. Some very smart money is going on the track being Number 2 for Christmas, even if its musical appeal remains a mystery to many. Crank That remember is still a download single, the physical version finally hits the shops this week (December 10) which should inevitably help it invade the Top 3.
The interminable Elvis Presley re-issue programme finally grinds to a halt after 17 weeks with the Number 13 entry of Burning Love, a track that originally peaked at Number 7 in 1972. Even if these run of limited edition re-releases didn't quite have the same chart impact as the first time this was tried in 2005, his label do at least have the satisfaction of noting that these superannuated singles sold more consistently than the Michael Jackson dualdisc re-release programme in 2006, a week by week schedule which saw him at times struggle to even make the Top 40. As fun and record-skewing as these weekly collections are, they do little to enhance the reputation or appeal of the acts involved and very quickly become tiresome. I'm just praying that the rumours of a similar stunt involving Madonna's back catalogue in 2008 turn out to be just that - rumours.
The second highest new entry on the chart this week goes to Cascada who arrive at Number 16 with what could turn out to be the most successful version yet of a song which has spent the last five years being touted to artist after artist. What Hurts The Most began life as a C&W song, first recorded by country star Mark Willis in 2003. The first person to have a hit with the track was former S-Clubber Jo O'Meara, the song becoming her one and only solo hit single when her pop ballad rendition made Number 13 in October 2005. Now the song moves even further away from its roots with this Europop remake from Cascada which achieves the amazing feat of being one of their best singles to date. Their first hit since Miracle hit Number 8 in February this year, the single seems a good bet for a Top 5 placing at the end of the month and may even give them a second Top 3 hit to match the success of debut hit Everytime We Touch from the summer of 2006.
Not that they really need to worry about chart positions, but the 100% Top 10 strike rate of the Arctic Monkeys could well be about to come to an end as Teddy Picker creeps onto the chart at Number 20. It is the third single from Favourite Worst Nightmare and is the follow-up to Fluorescent Adolescent which peaked at Number 5 back in July. One place below at Number 21 are The Enemy whose single We'll Live And Die In These Towns becomes their fourth chart single of the year, albeit the first to miss the Top 20.
One single which appears to be unexpectedly struggling is Change from the Sugababes which moves just ten places to Number 26 this week. Although its place in the Christmas Top 10 is still pretty much assured thanks to a neatly timed December 17 release date for the physical single, the download is finding it hard to get noticed, especially as its predecessor, the former Number One About You Now is still selling strongly and is at Number 14 this week.
One new single which does, however, appear to have missed the boat is the much fancied Waiting 4 from Peter Gelderblom. The track is based heavily around a sample from By The Way from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the group having enthusiastically approved its release despite their usual hardline stance on use of their music in samples. Released physically this week, the single can only creep to Number 29 and will need a huge surge in popular support to progress further.
One final new entry worth noting is the appearance of one modern-day seasonal track. Don't Shoot Me Santa is the now annual charity digital single from The Killers, with all proceeds going to the RED campaign. The track arrives on the chart at Number 44 and could well climb higher thanks to purchases from those looking for a rather more credible festive single on their players. This is the second year running the group have made such a gesture, last year releasing A Great Big Sled in similar circumstances although due to the rules at the time the track was chart ineligible, having to content itself with a placing at Number 11 on the download chart.
Finally for this week, the mass influx of golden oldies has had one quite significant knock-on effect as Chasing Cars from Snow Patrol dips 68-85 and so for the first time since its release in July 2006 is not one of the 75 biggest selling singles of the week (a position it maintained even during the six weeks at the end of 2006 when it was ineligible for the actual chart). This also means that the continuous Top 75 run of the track is halted at 48 weeks, matching exactly the original chart run of Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood from 1984. Whilst Chasing Cars will inevitably be back at some point, the one record it looked set to shatter - that of longest continuous chart run - remains intact. Englebert Humperdinck lives to fight another day.