Well, no prizes for guessing what has taken place at the top of the singles chart this week. The events of spring 2005 repeat themselves as a Peter Kay endorsed single usurps the "official" Comic Relief track and surges to Number One, in the process resurrecting the career of an act who have been absent from the charts in some while.
So it is that Walk This Way slips to Number 2 the new version of (I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles as performed by The Proclaimers, Brian Potter and Andy Pipkin becomes the second Comic Relief single in a row to top the UK charts. The single sold over 125,000 copies last week to become the fastest selling single of the year so far.
Dealing with the comedians first of all, Peter Kay and Matt Lucas achieve something of a modern day first by appearing on record as two of their many fictional alter-egos. Whilst plenty of other fictional characters have topped the UK chart, they have all been animated or non-human entities - ranging from The Archies to Chef through The Simpsons, Spitting Image, Mr Blobby and most recently Bob The Builder. When films and TV shows have spawned Number One singles in the past, the performers have almost without exception appeared their real names. Back in 1986 when Nick Berry topped the charts with his "Eastenders" song Every Loser Wins he did it under his real name rather than in character as "Simon Wicks" and when "Grease" soundtrack singles Summer Nights and You're The One That I Want sold in millions they were credited not to "Danny and Sandy" but as the real world John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The only exception to this was the single which inspired the whole Comic Relief concept in the first place - Living Doll in 1986 which was credited to Cliff Richard and The Young Ones, the cast of Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Christopher Ryan all appearing in character - just as Peter Kay and Matt Lucas do on their current hit single.
Of course, equal attention should be paid to The Proclaimers who join the select band of acts to have topped the charts with a re-recorded version of one of their own previous hits - Cliff, The Lightning Seeds, Elton John and Status Quo amongst the others. It is nothing less than a triumphant return for the Scottish duo who even when they first emerged were the most unlikely looking pop stars you could hope to imagine. They have been absent from the singles chart since 1994 although they have charted several albums in the years since and despite a stuttering singles history, as (I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles proves, they have written their fair share of classics in a career which spans two decades. 500 Miles gives them their first ever Number One hit a massive 19 years, 4 months and 17 days since they made their chart debut with Letter From America. In one of those odd coincidences that the chart throws up from time to time, the act who holds the all time record for the longest wait for a Number One single is none other than Tony Christie, who got there in 2005 after a near 35 year wait - all thanks to Comic Relief and Peter Kay.
Meanwhile, the success of the 2007 version continues to rub off on the original 1988 recording of the track. Aided one suspects by the fact it is available online as Track 2 on the single and is picking up more than its fair share of individual purchases, the single moves 37-26 to continue the Proclaimers' odd feat of having two simultaneous Top 40 hits with different performances of the same song. Only once in British chart history has the same recording occupied two different chart positions. It came in 1969 when Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus caused a stir thanks to its rather graphic aural description of the act of copulation. In a moral panic, the single was deleted by Fontana records while it was in the Top 3 only for the licence to be obtained by the Major Minor label. Thus the chart of October 4th 1969 saw the last remaining copies of the Fontana release appear at Number 16 whilst the new Major Minor issue was a new entry at Number 3.
The biggest new hit of the week and the record whilst I suspect is destined to be locked at Number 2 behind the charity track for the next few weeks arrives on the chart at Number 3. Girlfriend marks the welcome return to the chart after a two-year absence of Avril Lavigne. Despite now being a mature married woman she clearly knows the best way to connect to her original teenage fan base and storms back into the chart with this infectious and upbeat tale of a girl doing all in her power to steal her man away from his current partner. At a stroke the single lands at Number 3 thanks to downloads alone to match the 2002 peak of her debut hit Complicated. With a physical release still a fortnight away it is entirely possible the single has the legs to overcome the huge lead that 500 Miles currently has over the rest of the chart.
Girlfriend actually sets a record of its own this week as one of the highest ever Top 75 re-entries, thanks to a strange set of circumstances surrounding its appearance online. The track was first made available in the week of February 26th but was just as swiftly withdrawn from sale, apparently due to record company nervousness that the long awaited song was going to reach its sales peak before the promotion for the physical version was due to kick in. Thus the single charted at Number 73 three weeks ago before vanishing from the chart a week later. The single went online just before last weekend, enough sales slipping through to register at a non-canon Number 84, before the final "proper" release this week which has seen the track soaring into the Top 3. Call me suspicious but I can't help but see this as a clever marketing ploy, particularly as a similar thing happened in America, the single arriving on iTunes on Feb 23 before vanishing for three days and finally appearing for good on the 27th.
Avril Lavigne's track is now the eighth different song entitled Girlfriend to make the Top 75 and the third to reach the Top 3. 'Nsync made Number 2 with their take on the concept but for now the chart honours go to Billie Piper who topped the table with her song of that name back in 1998.
As expected, Alex Gaudino and Crystal Waters storm the Top 10 with the now fully released Destination Calabria. Like all good club tracks, it has a story behind it, starting life back in 2003 as an instrumental called Destination Unknown. Remixer Jim Tonique added the final touch of fairy dust by splicing in the horns from another club track, Calabria by Rune. With copyright wrangles preventing an official release straight away, the track became a much sought after bootleg and its arrival as a hit single marks the long awaited commercial appearance of a track that just about every clubber has come across in the last two years but which nobody has been able to obtain officially. Crystal Waters can now finally boast a second Top 10 hit, almost 16 years after her famous Gypsy Woman peaked at Number 2.
In terms of places climbed and what it means for them career-wise, Maximo Park emerge as the biggest chart winners this week, soaring 30-9 with Our Velocity. After Top 20 hits with Graffiti and Apply Some Pressure in 2005, the first single from their second album proper gives them a Top 10 hit and the foundation for their career to move to the next level.
Also climbing nicely is Fergie's Glamorous which moves 19-10 to give the Black Eyed Peas star her second solo Top 10 hit although with physical sales now added to the mix you suspect this may be as far as the single goes.
Physical sales also account for the 32-15 rise of Wide Awake, the first ever single from highly regarded Birmingham outfit The Twang. A name to be dropped in many "ones to watch in 2007" articles back in January, their music manages to combine a rather joyous throwback to the early 90s "baggy" sound with the required edge to be taken seriously in a post-Arctics 2007. Really it is a shame that this single will go no further but there are plenty of hitherto unknown acts who would kill for a Number 15 hit first time out of the stalls.
Two more entries of note creep into the singles Top 30 this week. There is a disappointing Number 25 arrival for Stay The Night by The Ghosts who deserve the same superlatives as The Twang and have a single which is frankly just as exciting but who for some reason don't have the same benefit of sales, despite having been on the radio since what seems like the end of last year. Still, at the very least they have outsold the former Lizzie Maguire, Hilary Duff's brand new single With Love limping to Number 29 on combined sales. If you listen to the Avril Lavigne single and muse that she seems to be ploughing the same furrow as she did five years ago, just remind yourself that she has a Top 3 smash whilst Hilary Duff's abandonment of jangling west coast pop in favour of squishy club beats and processed vocals has resulted in her smallest hit single to date.