[Incredible though it may sound, dotmusic didn't publish the 1995 Christmas chart. This was before the days of content management systems when websites had to essentially be coded by hand with text editors. With its owners Music Week having shut down for the holiday and with Christmas Day falling on the site's usual publication day of Monday it was hardly surprising there was nobody around to update the chart pages. Hence it wasn't until a week later that I could reflect on the mad, bizarre week before Christmas and note for the record just what had gone down].
1 EARTH SONG (Michael Jackson)
Well happy new year to all .dotmusic readers and also to Michael Jackson as Earth Song spends a fifth week at the top of the charts and reinforces its claims as his biggest hit single ever in this country. The track maintained its sales right across the holiday period, becoming Christmas Number One in the process. This week is one of the strangest weeks of the year for chart activity. It's a kind of interregnum week, covering sales in the week immediately following Christmas. As a result the data only covers the few days that the shops were open and with stores largely populated by bargain hunters and people with record tokens received as presents, rather than music buyers out hunting the latest releases. It means that many older hits register strange turnarounds and with new hit singles few and far between. It all serves to focus attention on what will be the first Number One of the new year. Traditionally the big new releases have taken a couple of weeks to penetrate the market which has meant that the top slot is taken by a hit already present on the chart over Christmas. Recent trends have seen quite the reverse of this as record companies realise they can use this period of lull to aggressively market a single to the top of the charts. This particular trick was memorably first pulled in early 1991 when EMI records used this week to release Iron Maiden's Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter. The band's naturally large following, coupled with the lull in sales meant that the single shot to the top of the charts to become the most heavy metal Number One ever. Sadly it seemed to ruin forever the magic of a Number One single as more and more record companies realised they could manipulate seasonal trends and market singles directly to the top of the charts instead of allowing the genuine quality of the tracks to win out. Anyway, I digress... Candidates amongst the current crop of chart hits to climb to Number One once Jackson ultimately falls look few and far between, Boyzone the only current Top 5 hit showing anything like upward mobility. I suspect that the first chart-topper of 1996 will come from some new releases in a week or so - most probably either from the hardy perennial of a jeans advert or from the most astonishing Led Zeppelin remake the charts have ever seen. Oh yes, and in case you are wondering why a chart dated 6th January is Week 52, this particular countdown covers sales in the period December 24th-30th, hence it is the last sales week of 1995.
2 FATHER AND SON (Boyzone)
Boyzone go on the rebound yet again, having spent Christmas at Number 3 last week they reinstate themselves as runners-up and thus as the most likely candidates to take over the top slot should Michael Jackson finally run out of steam.
3 WONDERWALL (Mike Flowers Pops)
So this was what all the fuss was about. When the battle for Christmas Number One went to the wire it was between Michael Jackson and the last minute release of this particular track. Mike Flowers has been playing small-scale gigs for several years now with his 13 piece 'orchestra' as a throwback to the days of easy listening. Back in November a demo tape of his version of the current Oasis hit began circulating and was obtained by Radio One weekend presenter Kevin Greening who aired it with great delight. He gave the tape to his weekday breakfast counterpart Chris Evans who again played the track to phenomenal reaction and which sparked a scramble by several apparently respectable record companies to sign the act and release the track in time for Christmas. As for the recording itself, well imagine the Oasis song produced by Norrie Paramour and you are halfway there, more cheesy that putting a slab of cheddar on the turntable and with more cheek than a coachload of mooning rugby supporters. Noel Gallagher doesn't seem to mind what they have done to his song although I suspect his songwriters royalties prevent the irreverence from weighing too heavily on his mind. In the end the scramble was all for nothing as the record could only make Number 2 for Christmas although the rash of empty shelves come Christmas Eve suggests that demand for the single may well have outstripped supply. Never mind, something tells me this may not be the last we hear of Mike Flowers Pops (MFP - geddit?) and at the end of a year when the simultaneous release of singles by Blur and Oasis can make headline news in The Times and Jarvis Cocker became its biggest sex symbol, maybe it took a man with a cheesy grin and a blonde nylon wig to put it all back in perspective.
4 IT'S OH SO QUIET (Bjork)
5 MISSING (Everything But The Girl)
Meanwhile the logjam at the top of the chart continues with both Bjork and Everything But The Girl rounding off a month of astonishing sales with the biggest hit singles of their respective careers spending a third week locked in the same positions.
6 WONDERWALL (Oasis)
The success of the Mike Flowers track has inevitably had a knock-on effect on the original version. Almost two months after it first peaked at Number 2, Oasis' biggest selling hit single ever has been in turnaround over the last few weeks, having now moved 11-10-7-6. It also means that the same song is in the Top 10 for two different acts, a situation not unknown in chart history but certainly pretty uncommon these days. The last time this occurred was at Christmas 1987 when Rick Astley's version of When I Fall In Love was joined in the Top 10 by Nat King Cole's original recording.
9 I BELIEVE/UP ON THE ROOF (Robson and Jerome)
Their Christmas Day TV special no doubt helping matters no end, Robson and Jerome remain in the Top 10 for new year and find themselves this week credited with the biggest selling single of the year in the shape of the 1.9 million selling Unchained Melody and with the biggest album of the year too, their eponymous long player having become the fastest selling album in history over the Christmas period.
16 OH FATHER (Madonna)
The week following Christmas has traditionally been the time for a scattering of new hits, mostly at the lower end of the charts. The improvement of distribution procedures over the past few years has by and large seen an end to this with the immediate post-Christmas releases charting as high as they would have done any other time. For some reason this year this does not seem to have happened. Holiday trading immediately following Christmas has been sporadic, with many shops reopening on different days and with release dates for many records being spread across the week. As a result the highest new entry comes at one of the lowest positions for many months, this hit from Madonna joining You'll See which still has a presence lower down the Top 40. Oh Father is taken from her current collection of ballads and first appeared on the Like A Prayer album in 1989. Always one of her more intensely personal tracks, it caused a sensation when it stalled at Number 20 on its American release at the end of that year. The record company here shied away from the track, preferring instead to release the Christmassy Dear Jessie instead and so the track has remained unreleased as a single in this country until now. Even after this delay it may struggle to become one of her bigger classic hits and as it stands at present is in danger of rivalling Take A Bow as her smallest hit single ever.
17 LUMP (Presidents Of The USA)
The New Year lull allows a few dance hits to slip through and penetrate the charts, the biggest of which is this current club favourite [it is really not].
18 NOT SO MANIC NOW (Dubstar)
A similar story for Dubstar who score the biggest hit of their career so far, following minor chart entries in 1995 with Stars and Anywhere.
23 SEX ON THE STREETS (Pizzaman)
More dance, this time in the shape of a timely reissue from Pizzaman, who first charted with this hit in June last year when it reached Number 24 but it has remained a club favourite ever since. It is worthy of comment simply because this was not a 'clean' release of the single. Many shops were serviced with copies before the holiday to give the track a clear run, a process that is unusual for dance records, sold predominantly in backstreet independent shops and on labels that don't have the clout to enforce release embargoes as strongly as the big boys. As a result of distribution 'leaks' and the presence of copies of the previous commercial release on the shelves, the single has been charting for several weeks now at the lower, unpublished end of the charts. Last week it registered at the bottom position of all, Number 200 making this effectively a 177 place leap. Sadly there are no records to be made here as chart positions only count for statistical purposes down to the officially published Top 75. Below this, singles only chart if they outperform the rest of the market by a certain amount, thus the track at Number 76 may not necessarily be the 76th bestselling single. The biggest ever leap within the chart proper came in 1986 when Nick Berry's Every Loser Wins leaped from Number 66 to Number 4 whilst on its way to Number One.
24 STUCK WITH ME (Green Day)
Green Day mark January 1996 in the same way that they marked January 1995 - with a British hit single. Although their chart success here never quite matched what they achieved in America last year, they still managed four hit singles of which the surely classic Basket Case was the biggest, making Number 7 twelve months ago.
28 TELL IT TO MY HEART (Q-Club)
The new year could well bring with it a cover battle more curious than that of the rival versions of Wonderwall. For several weeks now the clubs have vibrated to the sound of this continental remake of one of the pop classics of the 1980s, this song being a Number 3 hit for Taylor Dayne in 1988. The popularity of the track has not gone unnoticed and so whilst this new version charts this week, next week is set to see the return of a remixed version of the original hit with consequent focus on exactly who will win out.
29 IMITATION OF LIFE (Billie Ray Martin)
The third hit single for Billie Ray Martin following her relatively good 1995 which saw Your Loving Arms become the big hit many felt it always should be. The followup, Running Around Town did not fare as well, only reaching Number 29, the fate which looks set to befall this new hit too.
30 JUST TAH LET U KNOW (Easy-E)
The current success of Coolio could well spark off a mini invasion of rap hits, Easy-E taking advantage of the new year to score his first ever British hit single.
31 LITTLE BRITAIN (Dreadzone)
Dreadzone round off the chasing pack for this week with their first ever hit single and I suspect not the last over the course of the next year. Next week will see things all begin in earnest as the flood of new year releases arrives to sweep out many of the pre-Christmas hits and usher in the new year proper. 1995 was a cracking year by all accounts with sales of singles at their highest for almost a decade and pop music being a focus for national culture in a manner unseen for ten years either. Here's to the next twelve months and whatever surprises they may bring...