Pop music is a young person's game, a point few would surely wish to argue for very long. Yet 2009 will go down as a benchmark era with age records having tumbled on several occasions since the start of the year. First, we had Sir Tom Jones, topping the singles chart with the Comic Relief single Islands In The Stream just a couple of months shy of his 69th birthday to become the oldest living man ever to have a Number One hit single. Now, this week it is the turn of Dame Vera Lynn who makes up for having narrowly missed out last week by rising to the top of the album charts with her We'll Meet Again hits collection. Born on March 20th 1917 she is thus the grand old age of 92 years old and by topping the charts sets a benchmark not just in this country but the entire world over as the oldest living person ever to have a Number One album.
She shatters the existing record by some considerable margin, eclipsing Tina Turner who was 54 when she topped the charts with the What's Love Got To Do With It soundtrack album back in 1993. It is hard to envisage circumstances where Dame Vera Lynn's record will ever be beaten, suggesting she will hold the crown for some considerable time. Best then leave it to the men who seem more than capable of having hit albums when close to pensionable age. The oldest man to top the album chart is Tony Christie who hit the top with a hits collection in 2005 at the age of 62. On current form he is most likely to be caught by Bruce Springsteen whose most recent Number One album was Working On A Dream earlier this year at the ripe old age of 58, although he is still yet to top Tom Jones (again) who was last at the top in 2000 with Reload when he was a mere 59 years old. Meanwhile, let's take a moment to reflect on the fate of chart runner-up Jamie T who lands at Number with his brand new album Kings & Queens. At the age of 23, he's lost out to a lady who is old enough to be his great-great-Grandmother.
Dame Vera Lynn's benchmark is in severe danger of eclipsing what was expected to be the true story of the album chart this week - namely the mass reappearance of the entire Beatles back catalogue. Although Beatles albums have been available on CD since 1987 when they were re-released in batches several weeks apart, they had never before been properly remastered for the digital age and so this week's collective re-release represented the first chance people had to buy their albums as they were presumably meant to be heard. Their chart domination wasn't quite all it could have been thanks to the fact that the music was only released midweek, in order to hit a nice convenient 9/9/9 release date. Nonetheless, many of them still make a storming start, despite my underselling of the invasion in Chart Bite last night. In fact, the group set themselves a brand new benchmark, claiming a new record for a group of four simultaneous Top 10 albums. Leading the charge at Number 5 is Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with Abbey Road at Number 6, Revolver at Number 9 and Rubber Soul at Number 10. It is interesting to note that their highest selling and thus presumably more essential releases are from the latter end of their career when they began experimenting with studio production and were creating music that was more or less impossible to perform live. Albums from the earlier "pop stars" phase of their career are still worth the purchase for the nostalgia value, but albums like A Hard Days Night, Please Please Me and With The Beatles all chart much lower than their more famous successors.
Turning to the singles chart and guess what, yet another long-standing chart record is broken and once again in a manner which makes it hard to imagine it will be beaten any time soon. Step forward Pixie Lott who grabs her second Number One single of the year with her second release Boys & Girls. The record would have made an impressive yet for all that unremarkable debut at Number One this week, but for a release leak which meant that either by accident or design the digital single bundle was available for purchase on iTunes on Saturday, September 5th, one day ahead of schedule. The sales it picked up that day meant that the track appeared on the chart last week at Number 73. It thus means that Pixie Lott has to her name a record-shattering 72 place climb to the top of the charts, the greatest official leap in chart history.
Those with long memories may recall that such an event nearly happened before at the start of the decade. A similar distribution leak in January 2001 meant that the Steps single It's The Way You Make Me Feel leaked a few days early and charted at Number 72, raising the prospect that they would also fly to the top the following week. In the event, the single stalled at Number 2, but had they managed it that week even they would now have been forced to concede the record to Pixie Lott.
As for what the previous actual record holder was, this bizarrely seems to be the subject of some debate. Technically it belonged to DJ Otzi whose single Hey Baby is on record as having leaped 45-1 in September 2001 and is listed as such with a continuous chart run in most reference books. Of late, however, Music Week has taken to declining to acknowledge that feat, given that the first five weeks of the record's chart run were thanks to import copies that just happened to share the same catalogue number as the official release. Nonetheless, it happened and was widely acknowledged by everyone at the time as a record, so I'm damned if I'm going to revise history. Still, if you prefer until today the highest undisputed leap to Number One occurred just under a year ago in October 2008 when So What by Pink climbed 38-1.
After all this fuss there is a serious danger that we overlook Boys & Girls as a pop record itself, which we shouldn't as just like her first single Mama Do it is breathtakingly good and possibly more so than many of the singles that have preceded it at the top in this frantic summer of chart turnover, an extremely deserving Number One hit. Most headlines won't record, so it is worth noting here, that Boys & Girls only hit the top by a narrow margin, its sales for most of the week having been run close by a resurgent Sexy Chick which finished a mere 700 or so copies behind.
On then to the other new hits of the week, and in a sense, it might be something of a surprise to note that rather than challenging for Number One itself the brand new single from Mika has to content itself with a spot at Number 4. We Are Golden marks a welcome chart return for the flamboyant star who made a huge impact upon his debut in 2007 with the Number One single Grace Kelly and a further four Top 20 hits over the course of the year from his album Life In Cartoon Motion. Having demonstrated such a range of ideas and styles over the course of that release, even his fans could be forgiven for wondering if he could maintain the standard on a second album of hits. Well on the strength of this single it appears he can. We Are Golden is a lavish and expansive production, led with a piano and the none more Steinman-esque lyric of "teenage dreams in a teenage circus" which gives way to a chanted chorus that features the Andrae Crouch Gospel Choir so beloved of Michael Jackson in his own more anthemic offerings. Mika's second album The Boy Who Knew Too Much is released next Monday (September 21st) and even if it doesn't do as well as the first, it has still given us the best single Meat Loaf never made.
The Top 10 shakeup continues with the arrival from nowhere at Number 7 of Left My Heart In Tokyo by Mini Viva. The two girls are an in-house creation of uber-producers Xenomania and so thus have the full benefit of the creative genius of Brian Higgins and his team. Left My Heart In Tokyo is therefore the catchiest, most enjoyable and possibly the most irritating pop record you will have heard all year. Although the Xenomania style becomes more and more identifiable by the day (the opening bars of the single are interchangeable with just about any Girls Aloud single of the past couple of years) the formula is for the moment still an irresistible one and you can't help but see Left My Heart In Tokyo becoming one of the biggest pop hits of the autumn.
For those aching for a slightly more credible vibe to the week, then look no further than Number 9 and the triumphant chart return of Muse with their brand new single Uprising. The alternative rock group are the decade's great survivors, having been charting hit singles since the release of their debut album Showbiz' way back in 1999. Since then they have had a run of hit singles as long as your arm, although it is always surprising to note that only a handful have climbed the charts in any significant manner. Uprising is only their fourth Top 10 hit and marks their chart return for the first time since Map Of The Problematique hit Number 18 in June 2007. A Number 9 peak for this single makes it their third biggest and their highest charting single since Supermassive Black Hole took them into the Top 5 for the first time back in June 2006. The track heralds the release of their fifth album The Resistance which itself is in the shops this week. [This track arguably being Muse's crowning glory, the moment they'd spent the decade building up to].
Also new but charting somewhat lower is the returning Shakira with her new single She Wolf. In theory, she is following up not one but two Number One singles thanks to the globe-buggering success of both Hips Don't Lie in 2006 and her 2007 duet with Beyonce on Beautiful Liar. However as the single which charted in between those two hits 'Illegal' demonstrates, Shakira's chart form over the years has been somewhat erratic to say the least, the sweeping ballad peaking at a mere Number 34 in December 2006 despite being one of the other standouts of her last album Oral Fixation. For the moment the jury appears to be out on She Wolf, a single on which she dials up her trademark yodelling to such an extent that she is almost out of tune at times. Don't be fooled by this lowly chart placing this week, however, as this was yet another midweek release with the digital single only appearing online last Friday. Top 5 status next week seems more or less assured. She waves her bottom at us in the video, so at least all is well with the world in that respect.
We should take time to note the appearance at Number 32 of the new U2 single I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy, the third single from No Line On The Horizon returning them to Top 40 status after their last release Magnificent became their first fully released single to miss the Top 40 since 1982 when it bombed out at Number 42 back in May. As we mentioned at the time, U2 have largely fallen down the digital divide being as they are a legacy act whose established fanbase will buy their albums and would largely regard their singles as collectable items. Back in the physical era, this was enough to guarantee them strong chart hits with every release, but in the digital age, their e-singles are somehow less essential to their core support.
We should finish as is traditional with a note of the X Factor-propelled single of the week, the highest profile beneficiary of a performance on the TV show this week being a record that has been around for most of the year without anyone really noticing. I'm Yours by Jason Mraz first appeared on the singles chart just before Christmas last year and apart from a two-week gap over the new year has been charting continuously ever since. The single peaked at Number 11 in February but had a 25-week run as a Top 40 single, only dipping out in July. Since then it has never been lower than Number 57 and now as a result of TV exposure soars back to Number 27 to claim its highest chart placing since April. It isn't just in this country that the lilting ballad has been setting longevity standards either - I'm Yours at the time of writing having spent 73 weeks (and probably 74 by the end of the week) on the Billboard Hot 100 to rank as America's most charted single of all time. On the subject of X Factor I must here give a shout out to my mate Gem Allen and her mates in Yellow Brick Road who you may have spotted briefly on the show last weekend. I'm honour bound not to reveal how far they get in the audition process, but look out for them at boot camp [at which point they were binned, alas]. See you later this week for the podcast.