"Did you manage to get Kate Bush tickets?" appears to be the phrase on the lips of just about anyone with half an interest in British music at the moment, her new series of London dates which kicked off last week marking her return to live performances after a gap of 35 years. Personally, I didn't, owing to the small issue of being unable to stand her, but it is hard to escape the sheer buzz that surrounds the concert series by the celebrated singer-songwriter and inevitably this has had a beneficial effect on sales of her back catalogue.
The result this week is a total domination of the album chart ever achieved by a female artist. With her hits collection The Whole Story leading the charge at Number 6, Kate Bush sees what amounts to her entire recorded opus invade the Official UK Albums chart this week, her albums further occupying places 9, 20, 24, 26, 37, 38, 40, 43, 44 and 49. Eight Top 40 albums at once is something that has only ever been achieved twice before, with Elvis Presley landing 12 in the aftermath of his death in 1977 and The Beatles clocking up 11 simultaneous Top 40 albums when their catalogue was launched digitally back in 2009.
On the singles chart Ms Bush fares slightly less well although it is telling that her two most downloaded/streamed singles of the week are possibly her two most famous - 1985 comeback hit Running Up That Hill landing at Number 51, two years after it last charted in the aftermath of the Olympic Games closing ceremony, along with 1978 debut chart-topper Wuthering Heights which hits Number 57, the first time it has re-charted since its original issue.
Onto more contemporary matters now and at the top end of the Official UK Singles chart is yet another club single whose ascent to the very summit was a matter of when rather than if, the only uncertainty based on the interminably long time British audiences have had to wait to purchase the thing in the first place. Prayer In C began life as a track by French folk-pop duo Lilly Wood and appeared on their 2010 debut album Invincible Friends. Its transformation from little-regarded acoustic strum into European club behemoth is all thanks once again to the work of German producer Robin Schulz. Having already turned Mr Probz' Waves into a club smash earlier this year, his remix of Prayer In C has turned it into one of the most essential club tracks of the latter half of the summer.
Put simply this is a track that has topped charts EVERYWHERE. Britain now joins Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Ireland as countries where the single has raced to the top of the charts, although it is hard to escape the elephant in the room that in many of those territories the single has already been available for some considerable time. Indeed such was the delay in the release of Prayer In C that despite being available for pre-order for several weeks now, a soundalike cover version threatened to steal some of its thunder, the presence of The Mega Giants at Number 43 on last week's chart and in the Top 10 of iTunes the weekend before last prompted a rush-release of the single a day early, meaning it actually registered at an unpublished Number 115 last week and takes a flying (if unofficial) leap to the top this time around. Also telling is the fact that around 8% of the sales total of Prayer In C is attributable to online streams, its total of 700,000 plays an unusually high number for a brand new single given the way the streaming market tends to be a beat or so behind the sell-through one. It is almost as if people have been waiting for this track for far longer than they were comfortable with. [It was chaos like this which was a major factor in the push for a Global Release Day which would finally be implemented in the summer of 2015].
All of this is to the slight detriment of a returning Maroon 5 who launch the campaign for their fifth album V this week with its lead single Maps which has to be content with a Number 2 entry. Appropriately enough the single is their fifth Top 3 hit single, the first since the chart-topping Payphone from a little over two years ago.
In articles and podcasts, I can often be heard bemoaning the virtual glass ceiling that can exist on the singles chart, often preventing singles from rising from the depths to become Top 10 hits and limiting the upper end of the chart to those records which are front-loaded enough to make it there in their first week. It is pleasing therefore to note the arrival of Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora with Black Widow which has bounded 35-15-7 in recent weeks as the Australian star's follow-up to Problem, and also I'm Not The Only One by Sam Smith which has similarly moved 40-17-9 for the man who has topped the charts twice already in 2014.
Space in the Top 10 was neatly made by the rapid departure of former X Factor boy band Union J who were at Number 9 last week with Tonight (We Live Forever) and who this week prop up the slightly less impressive chart placing of Number 74. Draw your own conclusions as to the full extent of their popularity and the relevance of their music to all but a tiny band of dedicated fans.
Lethal Bizzle landed the second biggest hit single of his career back in June when The Drop reached Number 20. This week he came agonisingly close to his best ever chart performance but instead has to watch new single Rariworkout hit Number 11, at the very least matching the chart entry point of his debut single Pow! (Forward) which made Number 11 on the chart dated January 1st, 2005. His only brush with the Top 10 in the past came as a member of More Fire Crew whose single Oi! reached Number 8 in March 2002.
Ariana Grande's album My Everything was finally released in Britain this week and duly lands at Number 3 on the album chart. Its availability has finally removed the handcuffs from its second single Break Free which has at times sold enough to justify a Top 10 placing over the past few weeks only to be debarred from the singles chart due to its status as the second Instant Grat single from the album. Now free to take its place in the bestsellers table, the track hits Number 20 this week, four places behind its predecessor Problem.
At Number One on the album chart, however, are Brighton rock duo Royal Blood whose self-titled debut makes a strong start to its sales career. The pair have charted three singles to date without ever penetrating the Top 40, although their last release Figure It Out has a familiarity which belies the Number 50 peak it scaled last week. The album sells 66,000 copies this week, the highest figure for a debut rock album for almost three years.