A long time ago when the sun shone every day, when we were promised the best summer ever by weather forecasters, when you and I were in short trousers, Tony Blair was the Prime Minister and the football season hadn't quite finished, a certain record about a well-known rain accessory landed at the top of the singles chart. Two and a half months later it remains there to enter the ranks of the all-time greatest ever chart singles.
Since the inception of the singles chart in 1952, just five singles have had continuous spells at Number One that run into double figures. Cara Mia by David Whitfield, Rose Marie by Slim Whitman, Everything I Do (I Do It For You) by Bryan Adams, I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston and Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet are now joined by a sixth - Umbrella by Rihanna and Jay-Z which, as I am sure you have worked out by now, proudly spends its tenth week at the top of the UK singles chart. Whatever you think of the record, however annoying it is to hear tinnily on the back of a bus or on the uninspired playlists of Local FM and however much you may curse the way the title of the song has unwittingly echoed the miserable British summer, there is no escaping the fact that to outsell every other track available for ten straight weeks is nothing less than a phenomenal achievement. It is now officially the longest running Number One of the century and its ten week total is now the longest since Wet Wet Wet clocked up 15 weeks with Love Is All Around in 1994.
Technically Umbrella now ranks as the joint sixth longest running Number One of all time, the ranks of double figure Number One singles swelled by two other singles - I Believe by Frankie Laine and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen whose total number of weeks at the top also propel them into the all-time list. Indeed it is because of one of those singles that there are actually two records for "longest run at Number One". The Bryan Adams single holds the consecutive record at 16 weeks but Frankie Laine can claim a longer run thanks to the 18 week total of I Believe back in 1955.
It is no coincidence that a double figure Number One single has arrived during a slump in singles sales. When the market is strong and by definition fast, big selling singles tend to shoot their bolt quickly so to speak, selling in vast quantities in a short space of time. A smaller market means that singles destined to sell in quantity will only do so over a longer period of time. The three celebrated long-runners of the 90s all came between 1991 and 1994, just prior to the golden age of pop music at the end of the decade and similarly, the 1950s members of the elite list all came in the pre-rock and roll days in the era of light opera ballads on 78rpm singles. My personal theory is that headline-grabbing mega hits have in the past been the catalyst for a surge of interest in the singles market. Back in the 1990s the single was dying as a concept with the public not quite having got to grips with the idea of buying a three-minute track on a CD that was designed to hold ten. The Whitney Houstons and Wet Wet Wets of this world helped to change that, people venturing to record shops to own their own piece of musical history and so too history can repeat itself a decade and a half later. For something that is supposedly of limited relevance, the singles chart has received more than its fair share of headlines already this year, starting with the revolution of the download rules. This week the double figure feat of Rihanna will make every single newspaper going, the biggest headlines only ultimately being reserved for the single that finally brings her run at the top to an end.
Actually, the run nearly came to an end this week, the steadily declining sales of Umbrella are narrowing ever further the gap between it and the rest of the chart. The small matter of a couple of hundred copies separated it from Kate Nash and Foundations which moves back up to Number 2 this week and following just behind is Timbaland with The Way I Are which gains a new peak of Number 3 this week. After five weeks as a download only hit the single will finally hit the shops this week but are there enough people left without a copy to give it the required surge to the top?
The only new entry to a quiet Top 10 is Mark Ronson and Lily Allen with Oh My God. The single moves 12-8 to land two places below the peak of the Kaiser Chiefs' original. It is the first Top 10 hit for Miss Allen since LDN reached Number 6 in September last year. Her last two singles Littlest Things and Alfie only made Numbers 21 and 15 respectively.
The highest new entry of the week comes from acclaimed Scottish newcomer Amy MacDonald. The latest in the wave of young singer songwriters to have had their fame sparked by web-based word of mouth, she is the most unlikely sounding pop star of the year, specialising in folk rock tunes in a manner which makes her a modern day Joan Baez. Nonetheless, at the age of just 19 her influences are rooted in the modern era which makes debut hit Mr Rock And Roll such an absorbing and attention-grabbing listen. After a slow download start at Number 79 the song leaps to Number 12 and quite frankly is deservedly the most diverting new record you will hear this month.
Also on the climb into the Top 20 is Mika with his third single Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) which moves 33-14. Like most of the tracks on his album, it is a bright, happy go lucky pop tune with a verse that is almost as much a sing along as the chorus. Its fate is to be just as good as Grace Kelly which unfortunately means it just cannot have the same impact that his debut hit (still the biggest seller of the year) managed in the dark January days. It seems odd to damn a single just for being as good as its predecessors, but this is the problem he faces.
Biffy Clyro land their third Top 20 hit of the year this week, new single Folding Stars making a debut at Number 18 on physical sales. Although a Top 10 hit eludes them for the moment they can take some satisfaction from the fact that their current album Puzzle has spawned the most successful run of hit singles of their career. In their four year career they had yet to reach the Top 20 but have now done so three times in a row, their biggest so far being Number 13 track Saturday Superhouse which hit the chart in March.
With the first "High School Musical" film having produced a couple of hit singles last year (most notably Breaking Free which made Number 9 in October) it was perhaps inevitable that the sequel would see its songs heading chartwards. The first of those arrives this week at Number 20 in the shape of What Time Is It. Diminishing returns are inevitable with these kind of projects but this new single has at the very least beaten the Number 40 peak of Part 1's finale We're All In This Together which crept to Number 40 just before Christmas. The film itself has yet to be seen, receiving its US premiere in a few weeks time with the UK one set to follow shortly after that, suggesting that this may not be the last we have seen of Cast Of High School Musical 2. The breakout star of the project has been lead actress Vanessa Hudgens who released a solo album in America last year on the back of the success of the first film. Once free of her "musical" commitments I suspect an international career is inevitable. Is it wrong to confess I'm more of a Cheetah Girls man myself?
The ability of US R&B hits to make the chart weeks ahead of proper release comes to the fore once more down the bottom end of the Top 40. New in this week at Number 32 is the superstar pairing of R Kelly and Usher with Same Girl. Take from R Kelly's album Double Up it is the follow-up to I'm A Flirt which was only released a few weeks ago and which made Number 18. Usher has been absent from the charts since 2005s Caught Up but with the release of Same Girl not due until August 13th it seems inevitable that this collaboration will return him to the heights he hit back in 2004 with a string of hit singles that included no less than two Number Ones.
Finally, for this week, one other bit of history repeating that has come about as a result of Rihanna's unexpectedly long stint at the top. Back in 1991 and 1993 both Bryan Adams and Whitney Houston saw the releases of their follow-up singles collide with the continuing run of their Number One hits. So it was that Can't Stop This Thing We Started joined Everything I Do (I Do It For You) in the Top 20 whilst I'm Every Woman landed at Number 5 in February 1993 just as I Will Always Love You slipped down to Number 4. This week in 2007 Shut Up And Drive by Rihanna makes a download only appearance at Number 65 and whilst it doesn't actually come out officially until September 3rd, you can bet your life that it will be joining Umbrella in the Top 20 at the very least within the next few weeks.