[A word before we begin here as this was the first of two infamously botched charts where one retailer submitted duplicate sales data in lieu of a day which could not be retrieved from their systems. It resulted in a colossal behind the scenes row and the relevant chart data being retrospectively corrected, even if on this occasion the full listing was never republished and indeed remained mostly a mystery until the Official Charts Company put their own archives up in full. This column was written using the positions as they had been announced at the time, but I've noted the corrected places where relevant to correspond to the link to the full chart above. For a full explanation, check out the column for w/e December 24th where I tell the story in full]
Christmas -3. Brace yourselves, that is all I can say. Brace yourselves over the next few weeks for one of the most spectacular chart Christmases for years. The facts stand for themselves, 1994 has been the best year for singles sales for over 5 years and this year we have seen some of the biggest sellers for ten years. People have money to spend for the first time in ages and at Christmas a frighteningly large amount is spent in record shops by the music-loving British. This week sees the start of a flood of releases, designed to have maximum impact on that all-important Christmas chart which will be published on Christmas day itself. This week sees 9 new entries, 7 climbers and 2 non-movers.
No. 40 [actually 37]: NEW ENTRY. Optimystic - Nothing But Love
Making their chart debut this week come Optimystic with a cheery piece of dance, clearly designed with an eye for the commercial market but suffering, I suspect, from being released with bad timing. Nonetheless that is not to write it off completely. Amongst the flood of Christmas tunes there are always the slow growers which have a knack of emerging at the top of the pile once the seasonal rush has calmed down.
No. 38 [actually 36]: NEW ENTRY. Rolling Stones - Out Of Tears
It may not be the best or the biggest single they have ever released, but the third single from Voodoo Lounge is enough to make 1994 the best year for the Rolling Stones since the early 1980s. With a Top 20 hit and a Top 30 followup as well as this ballad, it marks the first time the veteran stars have had 3 consecutive Top 40 hits since their last Top 10 hit Start Me Up in 1981. Moreover it is interestingly the first time they have had 3 chart hits in one calendar year since 1966. Here's to their next album, that is all I say...
No. 32 [actually 34]: NEW ENTRY. Joe Longthorne and Liz Dawn - Passing Strangers
Whilst Christmas may be a time of huge sellers and brilliant pop hits, it also has to from time to time suffer from Naff Record Syndrome. We have already had the first of the season a couple of weeks ago in the shape of David Essex and Catherine Zeta Jones, and now here is the second. Whilst neither artist has ever made the charts before, both are familiar names to the tea-party generation. Joe Longthorne is a singer/comedian and occasional TV star whilst Liz Dawn is better known as Vera Duckworth, her character in Granada TVs 'Coronation Street'. By strange coincidence, Bill Tarmey, who plays her screen husband Jack also had a Top 40 hit in February with Wind Beneath My Wings. Aside from the celebrity, the record itself is bloody awful if truth be known. Passing Strangers was first a hit for Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan in 1957 where it made No.22 and was reissued in 1969 for a two-place improvement. Joe n Liz warble their way through the standard, into the hearts of Grannies everywhere but for the sake of sanity I trust, no further up the charts.
No. 31 [actually 30]: NEW ENTRY. Mary J Blige - Be Happy
Never what one would call prolific in her hitmaking, Mary J Blige scores a second hit of the year, following the No.29 appearance of My Love back in May.
No. 30 [actually 28]: NEW ENTRY. EYC - One More Chance
Almost exactly a year since their debut hit Feelin Alright crept into the Top 20 in the aftermath of Christmas, EYC score their fifth hit single. True to the spirit of the moment it is a harmonised ballad, as good as anything they have done but unlikely to make it much further, if the performance of the last single from Boyz II Men is any good as a litmus test. Their previous chart hit was surprisingly the biggest one of all, Black Book made No.13 in August.
No. 22: FALLER. Sinead O'Connor - Thankyou For Hearing Me
Count back over the earlier part of this article. Between 21 and 40 this week there are no less than 12 records making large drops this week. Every single one of them could potentially make way for a new entry next week - just a hint of the bonanza that is in store.
No. 21 [actually 20]: CLIMBER. Erasure - I Love Saturday EP
Erasure shift themselves up a couple of notches - the first time they have actually had a single climb the charts for several years - although given that during that period they had a No.1 single it is perhaps wise not to draw too many conclusions from that particular statistic.
No. 20 [actually 21]: FALLER. Whigfield - Saturday Night
1.4 million copies on and still selling, long enough to be joined by her second hit single further up the Top 20. That makes Whigfield one of the select few female artists to have simultaneous Top 20 hits and the first to do so since Whitney Houston had both I Will Always Love You and I'm Every Woman on the chart in January 1993.
No. 18: FALLER. Bon Jovi - Always
The longevity of many autumnal hits this year is causing release congestion for a number of artists. If sales of this single hold up, Bon Jovi too could end up with two Top 40 hits at once with their Christmas release due on the chart next week.
No. 14 [actually 13]: NEW ENTRY. Whigfield - Another Day
There is an obvious point to make regarding this track so I will be perverse and step around it for a moment. The maker of the second biggest selling single by a woman ever explodes back onto the chart with her followup hit. Impressive though a No.14 entry is, it pales into insignificance behind Saturday Night' which entered at No.1 to make Whigfield the first artist in chart history to spend her first ever hit making week at No.1. Statistics over, here comes the obvious point. The new single is almost exactly the same. Actually that is a little unfair, but there is no denying that the two tracks use exactly the same baseline and have an almost identical annoying piano figure running throughout. Having said that, Another Day is in some ways the better record of the two, being more of a proper song rather than 'Saturday Night's sequence of lyrical set-pieces. Proceed with caution though, because I smell allegations that the song bears too close a similarity to In The Summertime for comfort. [Ray Dorset did indeed sue and took an out of court settlement, noting that he waited for the song to become a smash first rather than injunct and force them to change it. Clever man].
No. 12 [actually 14]: NEW ENTRY. Cliff Richard with Phil Everly - All I Have To Do Is Dream
Another great British institution rears its head. The Cliff Richard Christmas single. The feats of this man have been revelled in far too many times to count in this posting, but for the uninitiated, in most senses Cliff is the greatest chart star ever. In an unbroken string of hit singles dating back from 1958 he has charted no less than 115 times - six more than even Elvis Presley. He has also had 13 No.1 hits and had the Christmas No.1 three times. It comes as no surprise then that the appearance of Cliff in the Top 20 gives him a good chance of reaching that top slot once again - a position he last occupied for Christmas 1990. The track itself comes from his current collection of Hits (Cliff also holding the distinction of having more Greatest Hits albums to his name (9) than any other artist) and is of course a new version of the Everly Brothers' 1958 No.1 hit. What makes it even more magical is the presence on the track of Phil Everly himself and this is not the first time he has duetted with Cliff - She Means Nothing To Me made No.9 in 1983. To add to the attractiveness of the single, on the flip is Miss You Nights a classic ballad which made No.15 in March 1976 and has been consistently voted his best single ever by his ever numerous fanclub. It may sound as if I'm waxing lyrical but this is quite simply one of the most skilfully targeted records in the chart at the moment and as a hit it couldn't possibly miss.
No. 11: CLIMBER. Gloria Estefan - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
Christmas is clearly a good time for Gloria Estefan. Her version of the classic ballad becomes her biggest hit single since the Miami Hitmix was Top 10 for Christmas in 1992.
No. 10: NEW ENTRY. Boyzone - Love Me For A Reason
[Superstar debut klaxon! But who would have guessed at the time?] Be warned. This is just the first instalment of a cover battle over this song and could well be the start of a mini-Osmonds revival in the new year. For now, this cover of the Osmonds classic 1974 No.1 becomes the debut hit for the latest crop of lads to make a bid for teen stardom. The timing of the release is impeccable. I'm a sucker for a good pop record, well made and this ranks with the best of all of them, the harmonies are impeccable and the song has a proven track record. Now strongly in the running for the coveted seasonal No.1 slot, Boyzone are off and running.
No. 9: CLIMBER. Celine Dion - Think Twice
In its fifth week on the chart, Celine Dion's ballad suddenly shifts up a gear and charges into the Top 10 to put her in the upper reaches for only the third time in her career.
No. 6 [actually 5]: NEW ENTRY. Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
The biggest new hit of the week is the first hit this year to mention Christmas and it comes from the lady who this year has finally made a massive breakthrough in Britain. Released from her new Christmas album (one of several made by established stars this year) the single is, I'm sorry to sound like a stuck record, a model of perfection. Faithfully reproducing the classic Phil Spector sound it has achieved something none of the tracks from the classic Spector Christmas album has ever done - a Top 10 placing and in the running also for Christmas No.1 The competition though is so stiff it is frightening. [Who else had forgotten this hit? Nobody? Oh, right].
No. 3: NON-MOVER. Louis Armstrong - We Have All The Time In The World
Whilst the competition piles up behind him, Louis Armstrong seems to have ground to a halt for the moment. His moment has not necessarily passed but I suspect that if the track was destined to be Christmas No.1 it would be at the summit by now.
No. 1: FIRST WEEK. East 17 - Stay Another Day
Well, no prizes for guessing who is now odds-on favourite to take the title. Two years after they first charted with House Of Love, East 17 score their first ever No.1 hit - and do it in style. Although climbing from No.7 to No.1 is by no means unusual, it has become still rarer in recent years. This is in fact the biggest leap to No.1 made by any single since KWSs Please Don't Go leaped from No.9 to the top in May 1992. As for what happens next - well, that is anyone guess. For East 17 and their seasonal harmonies to remain at the top for Christmas they have to stay there for another 3 weeks. Whilst that is by no means out of the question it is worth bearing in mind the competition that is stacked against them, both on the chart this week and in the next crop of hits due to flood in next week, and also the fact that this is the third single from an album that has been available for a couple of months. The battle ain't over yet...