An 'incorrect' chart?
Before the article proper, a few words are needed by way of explanation of the various stories that have been flying around over the past week or so about the chart 2 weeks ago - that for the Week Ending 10th December. That week represented one of the few occasions when the chart rushed to the media on the previous Sunday happened to be wrong owing, not to human error as has been suggested, but by an unfortunate combination of circumstances.
Alarm bells sounded at compliers Millward Brown in the early hours of December 4th. Despite repeated attempts, computers at several branches of Woolworths were refusing to surrender their sales data for the Saturday. A few phone calls to engineers later and the problem was apparantly sorted, the computers were dialled up and the data exchanged. Except that things were not sorted, the data sent by Woolworths was corrupt, and was simply a repeat of Friday's sales data. The error was not spotted until Monday afternoon when reports for individual record companies showed that some singles had apparantly sold twice as many on Friday as they had on the Saturday rather than the other way round as is normal. Millward Brown re-ran the chart to check the error had not come from their end and 24 hours later the problem was tracked down to the rogue Woolworths data. By now the chart was in public circulation and it was too late to undo the error. For the sake of accuracy, a second chart was compiled, this time using the corrected data and it is that which will form the basis of historical records and which was used for the 'last week' positions of the chart printed last week. In the event the error only affected a small part of the calculations resulting in minor switching of places for a few singles - nothing that can be said to have harmed the prospects of many of the records on the chart. All in all it was not a week that the CIN nor Millward Brown will look back with with joy...
The only similar upset in recent times came in October 1989 when an elecrical fire at then compilers Gallup early on the Sunday morning wiped out the entire computer centre responsible for chart compilation. A skeleton staff working at another location prepared a chart for broadcast that evening using sales data up to Friday - the full official chart was not compiled until early the following morning. Even in this electronic age it seems things can go wrong.
Christmas -1. The main rush of new hits is over, this week by and large seeing the last bulk of records all hoping to be in contention for the No.1 slot next week. Record shops across the country are already full to overflowing, resulting in some interesting moves in places - and things are set to be even stranger next week with the Christmas chart. 7 new entries, 9 climbers and 2 non-movers.
No. 38: NEW ENTRY. Robert Palmer - You Blow Me Away
First this week comes Robert Palmer with his third single release and second Top 40 hit of the year, following on from Know By Now which made No. 25 in September. Robert Palmer comes and goes in favour at semi regular intervals. At the moment he appears to be out of favour, this mellow ballad gaining a good deal of radio airplay but is well and truly lost in the current seasonal melee.
No. 35: NEW ENTRY. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant - Gallows Pole
As if Page and Plant getting together for an MTV Unplugged session wasn't enough of a shock, they have also scored a hit single from it. The two ex-Led Zep stars have in recent years carved moderately successful solo careers for themselves. Robert Plant has had a string of hit singles, the biggest being Big Log which made No.11 in July 1983 and more recently, 29 Palms which made No.21 in May 1993. Jimmy Page also popped up last year in company with David Coverdale on Take Me For A Little While which made No.29 in July. Teaming up on record for the first time in years, the two have scored a hit single with this striking acoustic epic, maybe not the biggest hit in the world but a hit all the same - and that's one more hit single than Led Zeppelin even had.
No. 33: NEW ENTRY. Joe Cocker - Let The Healing Begin
Playing to the MOR crowd which throng into record shops at this time of year, Joe Cocker gets a second hit of the year, following The Simple Things which made No.17 back in August.
No. 32: NEW ENTRY. Bill Whelan - Riverdance
Cast your minds back to April this year. The Eurovision Song Contest was as big an event as it always is, the British were stuffed and the Irish won for the umpteenth year in a row. What stuck in peoples minds though was the entertainment in the interval. That entertainment took the form of a piece of music by Irish composer Bill Whelan which started off as a choral ballad accompanied by footage of some beautiful Irish countryside. Just as the audience were lulled into complacency by this, the music turned into a frantic Irish jig and the stage was invaded by dancers. Quite simply it eclipsed everything else in the contest and for days afterwards people were talking about 'The Riverdance'. On the strength of this it was released as a single - and flopped. This was not the case in the country of its origin and the track has recently spent 18 weeks at No.1 in the Emerald Isle. A few weeks ago saw the annual Royal Variety Performance which was broadcast on television. One of the highlights of the bill was another performance of Bill Whelan's Riverdance. If anything the response to the performance was bigger than before, greeted with a standing ovation which went on for several minutes and threw the timing of the show into chaos. On the strength of this new exposure the single has now charted, thanks also to a push by DJs on both Radio One and Radio Two. Despite all this the track is struggling, entering the Top 40 after having charted outside last week. Despite the novelty of the music and despite the mesmerising performances one of the most innovative records in the chart at the moment will have to do well to rise above the fray following the Christmas rush.
No. 31: NEW ENTRY. Strike - U Sure Do
More dance and more recycling of past riffs and hooks. U Sure Do is based around Donna Allen's 1987 Top 10 hit Serious. The original is a dancefloor classic. This one isn't. [We'll talk again in the summer].
No. 25: CLIMBER. 2 In A Tent - When I'm Cleaning Windows
A small climb for 2 In A Tent, the group that has brought the sound of George Formby bang up to date. Actually 'group' is a misnomer as the record is the creation of the twisted minds of Mike Stock and Matt Aitken, formerly two thirds of the Stock/Aitken/Waterman production team which dominated the charts in the late 1980s. So far they have kept a fairly low profile but have still been behind some of the more interesting hits of the year - before you get too excited they are also responsible for the Power Rangers record...
No. 21: CLIMBER. Whigfield - Saturday Night
In a situation that has not arisen for several years, three acts have two records on the chart this week and the 'oldies' for each of them line up next to each other. Whigfield in particular has the unusual distinction of seeing her new hit fall whilst her old one (already the second biggest seller of the year) rises a few places.
No. 16: CLIMBER. Madonna - Take A Bow
A climb, but a very very small one for what is arguably one of Madonna's best records for ages. As I mentioned last week, she is in danger of bringing to an end her record breaking run of over 30 straight Top 10 hits. This I'm sure will not come as news to the promotional department at Warner Brothers who I suspect will be embarking on a major push for this single to try to give it a Top 10 placing. They have their work cut out...
No. 15: NEW ENTRY. Eternal - Crazy
Hmm.. In a way this smacks of a desperate attempt to see Eternal chart high for Christmas. Barely six weeks after Oh Baby I... first charted a sixth single for Eternal arrives with the previous hit only a few places behind. It marks the first time any act has ever taken six Top 15 singles from a debut album.
No. 14: CLIMBER. PJ and Duncan - Eternal Love
PJ and Duncan rebound slightly with their seasonal ballad. They were in many ways one of the more unfortunate victims of the errors in the chart a couple of weeks ago, being listed as holding steady at their debut position of No.15 rather than the No.12 which was their actual placing. The move this week may come as some consolation.
No. 11: CLIMBER. Gloria Estefan - Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me
Gloria Estefan gets the third single on the rebound this week, along with Saturday Night and Eternal Love. With hardly any new releases next week the chances are many singles currently dropping will show slight surges of sales as the Christmas buying frenzy reaches a climax.
No. 8: NEW ENTRY. Zig and Zag - Them Girls, Them Girls
The biggest new hit of the week belongs to two aliens from the Planet Zog. I kid you not. Zig and Zag are a pair of woollen puppets, created by a pair of demented Irishmen (whose names I confess escape me at this moment) [Mick O'Hara and Ciaran Morrison to give them full credit]. Their curious brand of humour, appealing as much to adults as it did to children, had made them stars of Irish TV for many years. In 1992 they were brought to Britain to be the hosts of the children's section of 'The Big Breakfast' show on Channel 4, once again building up a cult following amongst adults alongside children. What is not so commonly known about the pair is that they also make records - their standing in Ireland is such that in 1991 they stopped U2's The Fly from getting to No.1. Their first release here fits in with Zig and Zag's current fixation with ragga and jungle, and this is where the record gets clever. It is hard to tell exactly where this is pitched. On the one hand it is a novelty comedy record with Zag expertly rapping away with Zig following several steps behind and never quite getting the hang. It can also be interpreted as a straight dance record, not sounding at all out of place next to the tracks by Real 2 Reel which it is a homage to. The third option is to see it as a combination of both of those, a startlingly elegant satire on the banality of ragga tracks such as this which appear to have dominated the charts for much of the year. Whatever your interpretation, this was at one time in the running for Christmas No.1 but now may just have left it too late to make a proper impact.
No. 5: CLIMBER. Celine Dion - Think Twice
More steady climbing for Celine Dion to take Think Twice within one place of The Power Of Love - her biggest hit ever from earlier this year.
No. 2: NON-MOVER. Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
Whilst Boyzone make representations, Mariah Carey holds firm at No.2.. a position she looks set to occupy for Christmas.
No. 1: THIRD WEEK. East 17 - Stay Another Day
The sales of the lads from Walthamstow hold firm, outselling the competition by 2:1. With just one week to go it looks unlikely that anything will topple East 17 to be Christmas No.1 on the chart that is to be published on Christmas day for the first time ever. The only unpredictable factor is the one new single released this week - Whatever by Oasis. The following of the band and the sheer corking brilliance of the track will be enough to catapult it into the Top 10 but it remains to be seen whether it can gather enough casual sales to challenge for the top. The chart next week will cover sales for the full Christmas week - December 19th-24th. Its the biggest sales week of the year and only the fittest will survive.
Next week's article will of course arrive after Christmas so I should take the opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and to thank you for all the mail you have sent over the past year. Here's to 1995 and another frantic year in the world of pop... Happy Christmas.