Antony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, known professionally as Ant and Dec, are two of Britain's most successful TV presenters. Hosts of shows such as 'Britain's Got Talent', 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here' and their recently revived Saturday night variety show 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway', they are easily the most recognisable onscreen personalities in the country. American readers may also know them as the hosts of the short-lived ABC game show 'Wanna Bet?' which had a brief six-episode run in summer 2008.
Pushed rather to the background of their entertainment CVs these days, however, is their previous lives as teenage pop stars. Starting out as child actors in the 1990s children's TV series 'Byker Grove', their characters of PJ and Duncan were in one storyline required to form a rap group. Although the track they performed in the show flopped when released as a tie-in at Christmas 1993, enough potential was seen in the idea to make them pop stars on an on-going basis. Over the next three years, they released three albums, two in character as 'PJ and Duncan' and one more under their own names, scoring a respectable number of hits before TV stardom came calling. They made a one-off return to the charts in 2002 for the World Cup tie-in single We're On The Ball which went Top 3 and stood proudly as their highest charting single ever. Until today.
On Saturday 23rd March as the climax to a segment on their TV show celebrating a collection of 90s pop groups who had reformed for a TV documentary series, the duo donned their PJ and Duncan personas for the first time in 17 years and to the obvious delight of the studio audience performed their 1994 breakthrough hit single Let's Get Ready To Rhumble, demonstrating in the process that they still knew the dance routine 19 years after it was first a hit single. Then something rather odd and rather special happened. People began buying the track in large numbers, and they continued to do so throughout the week.
The result is one of the more unexpected, bizarre and yet at the same time quite joyfully spontaneous Number One hit singles we will see all year. Almost two decades after it first peaked at Number 9, and long after the musical career of the award-winning TV presenting duo had faded into nothing more than a distant memory, novelty pop-rap hit Let's Get Ready To Rhumble credited still to the original character names of PJ & Duncan sits at the very top of the Official UK Singles Chart, selling 84,000 copies last week - a total which amounts to almost 2/3rds of the 130,000 the single had sold in its entire lifetime up to last week. The duo have embraced this unexpected chart comeback with good grace, pledging to donate profits from the single to charity Childline.
Let's Get Ready To Rhumble is possibly the only Number One in chart history to step carefully around some intellectual property issues, the idiosyncratic mis-spelling of the title entirely down to the need to avoid infringing on the copyright of boxing announcer Michael Buffer who claims ownership of the (correctly-spelled) phrase and could presumably claim songwriting royalties if it was used in this context in a pop record. On a slightly less legally-fraught note, the single is the oldest recording to top the charts since Tony Christie's Is This The Way To Amarillo hit the top in 2005 after a wait of 34 years. [The original chart run of the single coincided with my post-graduation hiatus in the summer of 1994, meaning until now I'd never had the chance to write about it. But got to do so finally in a most celebratory manner. Because this was actually quite a joyous moment].
In a sense, the events of this week are incredibly hard luck on Pink and Nate Ruess who climb to Number 2 with Just Give Me One Reason, in the end a mere 5,000 copies behind PJ and Duncan and who naturally would have been Number One if the TV watching public had not decreed otherwise. The track is at the very least Pink's highest charting hit single since her last chart-topper So What back in 2008.
Two songs in chart history have been named Charlie Brown, the Coasters' rock and roll classic in 1959 and Coldplay's Number 22 hit from last year. Now the charts play host to an artist with that same name as new British urban star Charlie Brown makes his Top 10 debut at Number 7 with On My Way. Actually calling him 'new' is slightly disingenuous as he has been working in the music industry since 2004 with a decent songwriting pedigree for artists such as Jay Sean and first appeared on record on Wiley's 2009 track The Rain which was an underground success without ever being a hit. His chart debut is one of those rare pop records which manages to hit perfection from the very first note, an inspiring and uplifting song which introduces him to the world in the most spectacular way imaginable and which will almost certainly end the year as a soundtrack to a video montage during the X Factor auditions shows. It is that kind of record.
By and large the rest of the singles chart is devoid of activity, but we should take a moment to note that Ho Hey by The Lumineers frustratingly dips back to Number 15 this week, thus denying them the chance for now to do the ultimate yo-yo and have their single return to the Top 10 after a four-month gap on the same continuous chart run.
No change at the top of the album chart this week with Justin Timberlake still solidly outselling the rest of the artists market with The 20/20 Experience. It means the biggest new release of the week slots in at Number 2, Delta Machine being no less than the 13th album for veteran synth wizards Depeche Mode and their first since 2009's Sounds Of The Universe. Now long past the need for hit singles (a state I christened 'Depeche Mode syndrome' many years ago) the album matches the chart peak of its predecessor leaving them agonisingly waiting for a first Number One album since Ultra back in 2007. The biggest selling album of the week is technically compilation Now! 84 which sold 262,000 copies last week - just down on the 295,000 copies sold by its predecessor Now! 83 at the end of last year and, it must be noted, more than the Top 15 artist albums all combined.
It is actually quite the week for greybeard rock stars in a way. Eric Clapton enters at Number 13 with Old Sock, Simple Minds have a new Greatest Hits collection Celebrate at Number 19 whilst Iron Maiden chart at Number 30 with Maiden England '88, the first ever full release of the record of their concerts at the NEC in November 1988 and which was originally bundled as a limited edition of the VHS video of the concert in 1994 - the same year that Let's Get Ready To Rhumble was first a hit as it so happens.