[A busy week this one. It went unnoticed at the time, but there were no fewer than 19 new entries to the Top 40 this week, setting a brand new singles chart record, albeit one which would only last for 18 months].
1 I BELIEVE/UP ON THE ROOF (Robson and Jerome)
Well, as contrasts go they don't come more pronounced than this as Coolio is replaced at Number One by a record that could not be further apart musically. It appeared that Coolio was looking unimpeachable at the top but then again with this single having racked up a reported 600,000 pre-release orders an instant Number One was perhaps inevitable. At the start of the year Robson Green and Jerome Flynn were two actors in the ITV series 'Soldier Soldier'. As part of a storyline in the last series they were required to sing Unchained Melody. The song was duly released as a single and immediately shot to the top of the charts, being confirmed last week as having sold to date over 1,900,000 copies to make it the best selling single of the decade so far and one of the Top 10 best selling singles of all time. A new series of 'Soldier Soldier' has brought with it a new musical performance and thus a new single which at a stroke emulates the feat of its predecessor. The song itself, despite yet again being over 40 years old, is one of the most celebrated in chart history. It has been recorded in the past by people such as David Whitfield and the Bachelors but it is Frankie Laine's recording that takes most of the honours. Back in 1953 it had no less than 3 separate runs at the top of the charts, spending in total a record 18 weeks at Number One - more than any other record ever. On the flip side of the single is a version of the Drifters' song Up On The Roof which never charted in its original version but instead has been a hit in the past for Kenny Lynch and Julie Grant. Robson and Jerome's hit has for a number of weeks also been a favourite in the betting for Christmas Number One. Whilst it is by no means impossible for this to happen, it does mean that the track will have to outsell all others for another 7 weeks, which on the face of it could well be tricky, especially given the competition it will be up against over the coming 2 months. We wait in anticipation.
One further issue to be raised regarding this single is the fact that it is no less than the 11th this year to enter the charts at Number One, making this once-astonishing feat look almost run-of-the mill. People often express concern to me at this trend, wondering whether the charts and the feat of hitting Number One are somehow becoming devalued by the way singles can so easily be marketed straight to the top of the charts. To my mind this is to miss the point slightly. What it points to is that the release of a single is once again a genuine event. Such an event that the anticipation for a particular release causes several thousand people to rush to the shops and buy it the minute it appears on the shelves. This is surely a far better state of affairs than a singles chart dominated by singles nobody gives two hoots about, much less wants to buy, yet that is how it was just a couple of years ago. In short, don't complain about instant Number One hits, relosh them and acknowledge that they are a primary indicator of a music industry at the height of a resurgence of interest that even the boom of the 1980s would be hard pressed to beat.
2 WONDERWALL (Oasis)
Oasis do not appear to have much luck when it comes to release dates. For the second time in succession they have been denied a Number One single simply because of competition from above. Just as Roll With It lost out in the famous 'battle of the bands' in the summer, the third single from the Morning Glory album is stalled at Number 2 by the unstoppable Robson and Jerome. The positioning of this single also means that yet another apparantly rare feat is in danger of becoming almost run of the mill. Before this year there had been a new entry at both Number One and Number 2 in only 2 different occasions. This week marks the third time this year, and the second in the space of three weeks for this bizarre state of affairs. Maybe it is worth pointing out that there have never been three new entries in the Top 3 and we wait in anticipation for that day which could well soon arrive. All the indicators are there - for a start the Top 40 this week contains no less than 19 new entries, almost 50% of the records in last week's chart having been moved out of the way by new hits. [For some reason this isn't quite as famous a moment as Joe Dolce keeping Ultravox off the top of the charts, but to my mind it should be. Who stopped Wonderwall becoming a Number One hit? Robson and sodding Jerome].
8 YOU'LL SEE (Madonna)
Amidst all the frantic activity on the chart this week, only one record actually makes a climb, but there is no climb more significant than this. No doubt aided by her first Top of the Pops performance in over ten years last week, Madonna's gorgeous ballad makes the necessary climb to give the star no less than her 36th UK Top 10 hit with a strike rate of over 94% for doing so. It is an incredible statistic which demonstrates that behind the hype, behind the outrage and bizarre behaviour is one of the most consistent singing stars of all time - only Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley have managed more.
11 HE'S ON THE PHONE (Saint Etienne)
If ever there was a cult act it is Saint Etienne. Since 1991 the enigmatic band, fronted by the lovely Sarah Cracknell have released a series of singles in a variety of fluctuating styles, to critical acclaim but never it appears, major chart success. Actually to say this is a little unfair as they have had four Top 30 hits, one of which You're In A Bad Way made Number 12. Even so, the forthcoming release of their Greatest Hits collection seems bizarre given they never appear to have had a major hit. All that has suddenly changed, however, with the release of this fantastic single. They have often flirted with Europop in album tracks but this is the first time they have ever release an out-and-out pop stomper. Boasting remixes by Motiv-8 and Uno Clio it explodes onto the chart to give the band their biggest and certainly most commercial hit ever. Die-hard fans need not worry as the single is backed by tracks such as the ten minute Cool Kids Of Death which is as trippy and ambient as anything they have ever done. One of Britain's most unique bands is finally a major chart force. [Except that they then made what Bob Stanley acknowledges is the colossal error of going away for two years and coming back to find people had stopped caring].
12 LIKE A ROLLING STONE (Rolling Stones)
It has almost become one of those universal rules that where there is a Rolling Stones album and tour, there will follow a live document of that tour. Sure enough the 'Voodoo Lounge' tour and album is about to be followed by Stripped, a slightly unusual take on the live album, featuring soundchecks and rehersals rather than actual shows themselves. The release is heralded by a single featuring a concept so obvious you wonder why they have not tried it before. Like A Rolling Stone is arguably one of the all-time classic Bob Dylan songs. Back in 1965 it sent his record company into a blind panic when it was clear he was determined to release the epic-length track as a single. That did not stop it reached Number 4 and for it to remain to this day his biggest hit ever in this country. Since then it has become a concert staple for many different bands, not least of which the group who share its name. Whilst this new version is in truth a little staid and possibly lacks the energy that is has in front of a live audience, the pre-release airplay for the track means that it has exploded onto the chart to give the veteran band a second Top 20 hit in the space of two years, following the Number 14 peak of Love Is Strong in July last year. It is also incredibly enough their biggest hit single since She Was Hot reached Number 11 in February 1984.
13 EVERYBODY BE SOMEBODY (Ruffneck featuring Yavahn)
Finally after all the above a hit I don't have to write too much about. Even in one of the biggest weeks for new hits all year, a dance track can appear from out of nowhere to become a Top 20 hit. Sadly that is just about the only interesting thing to say about this track...
15 BEGGING YOU (Stone Roses)
Strange to think that it is now a year since the music world held its breath for the new Stone Roses album before realising that it had been a waste of effort and that it was nothing special after all. The pattern of singles released from the Second Coming album has been a strange one. The first single was Love Spreads which made Number 2 in December last year, followed by Ten Storey Love Song which reached Number 11 back in March. Since then there has been no promotion from the band at all, save for yet another remix and re-release of the ubiquitous Fools Gold which made Number 25 in April. Finally here comes the third single from the album, making a fairly impressive debut inside the Top 20 but one which is likely to see it slip away as fast as it came. It is strange to think that in 1990 the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays were being mentioned in the same breath as the saviours of British music. Five years on the Happy Mondays have become the critically and commercially acclaimed Black Grape whereas the Stone Roses just drift on with nobody paying them much attention at all.
20 LUCKY LOVE (Ace Of Base)
New album time for Ace of Base who have a great deal to prove having unwittingly conquered the world with their debut album Happy Nation and its resultant singles. Despite having scored a Number One first time out with All That She Wants the Swedish group have struggled slightly over here and it took the American success of The Sign to rebound over here and kick start their chart career. This new hit doesn't mark much of a progression from their earlier work, which is either a sign of stagnancy or a pretty shrewd move, depending on your point of view. Circumstance more than anything else seems to dictate whether Ace of Base singles become big hits in this country and at the present time the chart is so busy that I suspect this one will get lost in the rush, despite having become their fifth UK Top 20 hit.
21 THE TWELFTH OF NEVER (Elvis Presley)
A new hit from a young lad who appears to have the potential to go far. Yes alright, its a tired old joke, but what else can you say about a single from the all-time King? Resurrections of old Presley hits and regurgitated live recordings tend to come around fairly regularly but it is very unusual indeed for them to become hits as big as this. The Twelfth Of Never is one of those hardy chart perennials which has been recorded by more artists than anyone cares to remember and has been a hit in this country for both Cliff Richard in 1964 and a Number One for Donny Osmond in 1973. This recording from the King is as ropey as much of his output in the 1970s but that still does not detract from the romantic beauty of the song. Its astonishing appearance this high up the chart gives him his first Top 40 hit since I Can Help made Number 30 in December 1983 and his biggest hit of any kind since It's Only Love was Top 3 in August 1980. It certainly is a strange week... I Believe at Number One and the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley both in the Top 30... whatever next, a new Beatles single?
23 GRIND (Alice In Chains)
Mumble mumble... new Alice in Chains hit.... mumble mumble... first from a new album ... mumble mumble.. not very good ... mumble mumble... four hits from their last album ... mumble mumble... biggest was their debut Would... mumble mumble... reached Number 19... mumble mumble... this is their biggest since... mumble mumble... does anyone care?
24 YOU REMIND ME OF SOMETHING (R.Kelly)
I'm trying, I'm trying... I'm trying so hard not to make a rude comment and then pass on. The third hit of the year for R.Kelly, following on from The Four Play EP which reached Number 23 in May and the long--awaited British release of Bump and Grind which made Number 8 in January. This is yet another typical R.Kelly single, displaying as it does all that is both good and bad about US swingbeat tracks.
26 PUMPKIN (Tricky)
Last month the annual Mercury Music Prize was presented, musics equivalent of the Booker Prize. The judging panel were reportedly so divided that it took the casting vote of chairman Simon Frith to award the prize to Portishead's Dummy rather than Tricky's Maxinquaye. It's a reflection on the respect and acclaim the rapper from Bristol has received since his debut back in 1994. Despite the obvious uncommercial nature of his music, he has at least notched up a respectable string of hits, not least of was August's The Hell EP which reached the dizzy heights of Number 12. This new hit becomes his fourth hit of the year and the third to reach the Top 30.
29 B 2 GETHER (Original)
The Original has been rather unfairly labelled as a dance act, partly owing to the route his debut hit I Luv U Baby took to reach the Top 10, being first released to become a minor hit in January before being reissued to massive chart success in the summer. In actual fact he is producing some fine pop records as this followup demonstrates. Given the success, nay, cultural penetration of the first hit, it comes as something of a surprise that this new hit should chart so low down and it will have an uphill struggle to climb next week.
38 I NEED SOMEBODY (Loveland featuring Rachel McFarlane)
As the Hed Boys proved last week, reissuing previous minor dance hits has suddenly stopped becoming a passport to greater chart success. I Need Somebody was first released back in January when it reached Number 21. This re-release was clearly an attempt to spur the record on to even greater success, but as can be seen here, that has backfired. The single just scrapes a Top 40 placing and is almost certain to vanish without trace next week.
39 INNER CITY LIFE (Goldie)
The history of jungle house can be divided into two eras. Before Goldie and After Goldie. Before Goldie the movement was just that, a collection of people making some of the most manic and frankly uncommercial dance records around. Goldie appeared like a bolt from the blue, oozing charisma and setting about making jungle records with presence and flair and a genuine chance of becoming hits. Strangely enough that never happened. Inner City Life was first released just after Christmas last year and was all set to be jungle's first major commercial smash hit. Instead the track vanished without trace leaving acts such as General Levy and N-Trance to take jungle into the Top 10. Not that that stopped Goldie who quickly became an underground celebrity and his album is certain to appear on many critic's lists as one of the albums of the year. There is still the vexed question of the hit single and so in an attempt to rectify this, Inner City Life has resurfaced again. Yet again though it appears to have been strangely overlooked. To me this seems bizarre, as if there was ever a dance record crying out to be a hit it is this track. Clearly it will take a few years and a reevaluation of the movement before this will happen. Mark it down though... one day Inner City Life will become a smash hit, of that much I am certain. [Still waiting].
40 THE POWER (OF ALL THE LOVE IN THE WORLD) (D:Ream)
Hmm... problems here for Peter Cunnagh. His brand of energetic pop dance has slowly been declining in popularity following the exuberant peak of the chart-topping Things Can Only Get Better in 1994. In fairness it should be pointed out that this is the third track from the World album but even so, a minor chart entry such as this is likely to give cause for concern. D:Ream have not had hits this small since they released their first singles back in 1993.