There are now just five chart weeks before Christmas. It is around this time that the British record industry and the public in general play the annual game of attempting to guess what the Christmas No.1 is going to be. It is really an honour that has little significance, other than being a feat to remember by the acts concerned. Chartwatchers may remember last year that the country was in the throes of Blobbymania when the pink and yellow one ruled supreme, edging out Take That at the last minute. This week the book was opened on this year's hopefuls and William Hill are quoting prices as follows:
5-1 Power Rangers - Go Go Power Rangers
6-1 Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
6-1 Captain Sensible - Hokey Cokey
6-1 Zig and Zag - Girls All Love Me
8-1 East 17 - Stay Another Day
8-1 Louis Armstrong - We Have All The Time In The World
12-1 Cliff Richard - Miss You Nights
14-1 Lisa Stansfield with Babyface - Dream Away
14-1 Oasis - Whatever
Those now in a state of mindless panic will perhaps be reassured by the fact that the bookies pre-season favourite rarely every makes it! More updates in the coming weeks, but to this week now and a curious state of affairs near the top, 14 new entries, 6 climbers and 1 non-mover.
No. 39: NEW ENTRY. Sophie B Hawkins - Don't Don't Tell Me No
After a while in the doldrums, Sophie B Hawkins sprung back into action this summer with Right Beside You, early criticism of it sounding like a Madonna track paling away as it reached No.13 and stayed in the charts for 13 weeks. If anything the new single is even better, one of the more corkingly brilliant pop songs in the chart at the moment but starting life at a disappointing low point. This is not to say that there is no hope for it (Right Beside You entered at No.31) but it will still be interesting to see if this is still around next week.
No. 38: NEW ENTRY. David Essex and Catherine Zeta Jones - True Love Ways
Christmas time it is indeed and so we end up suffering from Naff Record Syndrome - synthetic MOR records that flood the shops to attract the older record buyers who come out in force this time of year. The first of these to chart is this bland cover of the old Buddy Holly track which first made No.25 in 1960. Of more interesting note are the performers on the track. Aged teen idol David Essex has had a stellar career, including 10 Top 10 hits and 2 No.1 singles. He has not had a Top 40 hit since February 1985 when Falling Angels Riding made No.29. Catherine Zeta Jones first came to prominence in 1990 as the star of the Yorkshire Television serial of 'The Darling Buds Of May'. Inevitably she made the move into music, with a starring role in Jeff Wayne's 1992 project of Spartacus and made No.36 with a single from that album For All Time.
No. 34: NEW ENTRY. Luther Vandross - Love The One
Like his weight, Luther Vandross' chart fortunes have varied considerably over the years. His greatest successes came in the period 1986-1989 when the Give Me The Reason album was mined continuously for singles. Lately he is on an up following his Top 3 duet with Mariah Carey on Endless Love. The second single from his new album of covers is if anything rather better than the initial weedy ballad but of course destined to do even worse. The song itself has had a varied chart history, being an American hit twice in 1971 for the Isley Brothers and Steven Stills. The Isley's version never charted here, leaving Stills to make No.37 with his only solo hit. The song was revived again by Bucks Fizz in 1986 who could only reach No.47. This new version, therefore, represents the highest position ever reached by an underrated soul classic.
No. 33: NEW ENTRY. Barbara Tucker - I Get Lifted
At last one I can be brief about, Barbara Tucker finally making the Top 40 for a second time, following Beautiful People which made No.23 back in March.
No. 32: NEW ENTRY. Roger Taylor - Happiness?
Also notching up a steady run of hits this year is the former Queen drummer, his third hit of the year following Nazis 1994 and Foreign Sand.
No. 29: NEW ENTRY. New Atlantic/U4ea - The Sunshine After The Rain
I sometimes regret not being more into the world of dance music, otherwise I'd be able to comment better on tracks such as this. A return to the charts after a long absence for the name of New Atlantic, the production duo having first charted in February 1992 with I Know which reached No.12.
No. 27: NEW ENTRY. Beastie Boys - Sure Shot
To remarket the Beastie Boys again after a seven year absence is one of the feats of the year. This is their second hit of this run, following the quick in and out performance of Get It Together which made No.19 in July. Whilst their current hits show glimmers of the old brilliance, speaking as a former member of the VW badge-toting generation I still say they are not a patch on their first run of hits.
No. 21: NEW ENTRY. 20 Fingers featuring Gillette - Short Dick Man
As the title might suggest, the current hot dancefloor hit causes a few headaches for radio programmers when playing chart rundowns. It is interesting to note that the single come pre-packaged with American-style 'Parental Guidance' stickers owing to the explicit language on the track - interesting that is in the sense that there never has been the kind of furore over here that means record companies have to sticker records to placate the moral minority - people over here simply don't care if someone says 'fuck' on a record. The stickers therefore are little more than hype, in an attempt to draw people to the record out of curiosity.
No. 20: NEW ENTRY. Boyz II Men - On Bended Knee
Whilst I'll Make Love To You continues its stranglehold on the top of the US charts, the followup is already in the Top 30 and now makes an appearance here, marking the first time Boyz II Men have managed 2 Top 20 hits in a row and following the Top 10 success here of the aforementioned track. Never one to let a formula pass them by, the new single is another piece of romantic soul, complete with a cod-Barry White spoken section that I would suggest does not work quite as well as the one in End Of The Road. The only other comment worth making is to suggest that taking the titles of their last two hits back to back gives one the impression that the lads have been reading the Karma Sutra perhaps a little too closely.
No. 18: NEW ENTRY. Sinead O'Connor - Thankyou For Hearing Me
With all the hype and furore surrounding Sinead O'Connor and everything she does, it is frighteningly easy to overlook the fact that the Irishwoman has only ever had one major hit. The success of Nothing Compares 2 U in 1990 has tended to eclipse every piece of music she has made before or since - her only subsequent Top 20 hit being 'Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home' in 1992. Happily that looks set to change with an inspired choice of track. This Tim Simenon-produced ballad achieves almost hymn-like proportions with Sinead singing like the angel you always suspected she was. Exactly how commercial it will be remains to be seen, she has made spine-tingling records that have flopped in the past, but for the moment it is good to welcome her back to the heights.
No. 17: NEW ENTRY. Kylie Minogue - Put Yourself In My Place
Attention all Kylie bashers: Confide In Me was no fluke. The new 'mature' Kylie scores her second hit from her long-awaited new album. Prepare for an even greater shock: this is arguably the best record she has ever made, using her voice to perfect effect on this song. Bad luck, and the flood of big new hits expected next week aside, this could well be set to be another smash hit for her. Either that or I end up with egg on my face I suppose...
No. 15: CLIMBER. Jamiroquai - Half The Man
Jay Kay climbs a couple of notches, overtaking the No.17 peak of Space Cowboy and interestingly climbing the charts for only the second time in his career. Only his first Top 40 hit Too Young To Die made progress beyond its first chart week.
No. 14: NEW ENTRY. Janet Jackson - You Want This
A third Top 20 hit of the year for Janet, aided in part by the obligatory set of dance remixes, and only one place behind the No.13 peak of Any Time Any Place back in June.
No. 10: NEW ENTRY. Pearl Jam - Spin The Black Circle
I'm in an opinionated kind of mood this week so I will hold my hand up and confess that I have never understood the appeal of this kind of rock. Pearl Jam in particular just leave me cold. Nonetheless, a new album from the lads, who must now be the No.1 Seattle grunge band owing to circumstances, is an event in itself. The first single smashes straight into the Top 10, giving them their biggest hit (their previous best being the No.14 peak of Dissident back in June). In actual fact it is not the first time they have had one of the Top 10 best selling singles though. Almost a year ago they released a single that sold enough copies first week out to make No.10 but the deliberate move of including a free live cassette with copies of the single rendered the track, as was famously detailed on the sleeve: 'Ineligible for 'the only chart that counts' (a mickey-take of the BBCs promotional puff for the One FM chart show).
No. 8: NEW ENTRY. Jimmy Nail - Crocodile Shoes
Jimmy Nail is more of an all-rounder than he is often given credit for. An actor first and foremost, he has starred in several successful TV serials, most famously in 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet' and more recently in his own self-penned vehicles, 'Spender' and the new BBC serial 'Crocodile Shoes' about a manual worker who becomes a Country and Western star. In between TV shows he has had the odd hit single too, making No.3 in 1985 with his version of Love Don't Live Here Any More and most memorably No.1 in 1992 with Ain't No Doubt. As you might expect, the new TV series has a soundtrack provided by the man himself, and the title track crashes into the charts in line with most expectations. It is perhaps not the best vehicle for his voice, high registers not really suiting him too well, but seeing as he wrote it himself one cannot really complain. Either way a massive hit, his first since that No.1 success over two years ago.
No. 5: CLIMBER. Louis Armstrong - We Have All The Time In The World
You could have put money on him being No.1 this week but it looks as though that will have to wait. Clearly the first major seasonal hit of the year, the classic ballad climbs strongly to make an assault on the Top 3. As the track has never charted before it counts for record purposes as a brand new hit for the artist, despite the fact that he died in 1970. His first chart appearance was on December 19th 1952 giving him a span of chart hits of nearly 42 years, the longest in history and wiping out the record set by Nat King Cole earlier this year.
No. 1: FIRST WEEK. Baby D - Let Me Be Your Fantasy
Major shocks all round as Baby D edges out Pato Banton and snatches the No.1 slot in its second week on the chart. Let Me Be Your Fantasy is the closest thing the underground dance scene has to a long lost classic. The track has been around in one form or another for over two years now, has been released commercially several times but until now had never ever been a hit. The popularity of the record was confirmed by a recent survey by dance music station KISS FM whose listeners rated the track their favourite dance hit of all time. Such a following like that could hardly be ignored and the track has now exploded to the top of the charts. What happens next is really open to question. It is easy to dismiss the track as a minor aberration, as it is easily the most hardcore dance record ever to top the charts in this country, and as such will be avoided by a large number of record buyers. Despite this, one has to consider the competition for the top especially with Christmas approaching and it is quite possible that Baby D could 'keep the seat warm' so to speak before the big seasonal hits move in. Time will tell....