1 WANNABE (Spice Girls)
The success of 'Wannabe' is now on the verge of passing from the realm of impressive to that of being quite phenomenal. For the past two weeks their grip on the top of the charts has been threatened by heavyweights such as George Michael, 3T and now the Charlatans and Kula Shaker. Each time none has had quite the impact needed to knock the girls from their perch. Now seven weeks at Number One, the longest run since Robson and Jerome's Unchained Melody in 1995, the track is challenging Babylon Zoo's Spaceman as the best selling single of the year so far. It would take a bold man to bet against them taking that honour too within a few weeks. The question that must be raised at this point is whether they will now suffer the same problem that caused the enforced deletion of recent hits from the Fugees and Peter Andre - that of the success of the song eclipsing the act itself. For the Spice Girls I suspect this is unlikely, their strong visual image is easily the selling point for what is, when it comes down to it, quite a lightweight pop song. The release of their second single, whose release date is still yet to be definitively pegged, is certain be quite an event.
2 HEY DUDE (Kula Shaker)
There are two acts who can lay claim to being the bands of the year for 1996 and coincidentally both are this week at Number 2 in various charts. The first are Ocean Colour Scene whose Moseley Shoals album rises to the runners up slot on the album chart this week. The second is Kula Shaker who this week score their third and biggest hit to date with this track, failing by a whisker to hit Number One and even managing to outsell the sentimental aura surrounding the Charlatans single. Kula Shaker appear to have it all, a genuine sense of innovation in their sound, rave reviews from virtually everyone who counts within the industry and a famous mother for the lead singer.
3 ONE TO ANOTHER (Charlatans)
It appears to have been a tragic summer for the music industry. American rock has been shocked by the deaths of prominent members of Blind Melon and the Smashing Pumpkins whilst over here one of the doyens of the baggy scene from the early 1990s suffered their own potentially crippling bereavement. Keyboardist Rob Collins was always one of the linchpins of the band, his almost virtuoso style with a Hammond Organ was the defining point of classics such as The One One I Know, Then and Weirdo. He had always led a curiously fated life having been jailed briefly in 1992 for being the unwitting accessory to an armed robbery. By the start of this year things were looking bright for the band. A string of hit singles in 1995 had reversed their recent commercial decline, they had had a Number One album and the signs were that their newly recorded piece was set to do the same. Then came Edwards' fatal car crash last month and the whole world of the Charlatans was turned on its head. Hence this single, released as a tribute and on a tide of emotion that many expected to sweep it straight to Number One. In the event that proved a little optimistic but Number 3 is still their biggest hit single ever, only their second Top 10 hit after their debut The Only One I Know made Number 9. Rob Edwards' death is by no means the end of the band, if the Manic Street Preachers can continue without Richie then the Charlatans can continue without Rob but there can be no denying a fundamental part of their sound has been lost forever.
4 I'VE GOT A LITTLE PUPPY (Smurfs)
For someone of my age the Smurfs are a long-lost part of childhood culture. The cuddly toys that Dad brought home from the petrol station, the cartoon series and the cheesy novelty records such as the 1978 Number 2 'The Smurf Song' performed by Father Abraham, the Dutch man in a self-consciously obvious fake beard. In Europe the Smurfs never really went away, shrewd marketing having kept the concept going with a string of albums that featured helium-toned versions of recent hits - a sort of modern day Pinky and Perky if you will. Earlier this year EMI decided to attempt to sell the concept back to Britain and set about recording an album for the UK market. The project hit the headlines before it had even started when Oasis vetoed the Smurfation of any of their songs. The Smurfs Go Pop was released just over two months ago, shot into the albums Top 10 and has remained there ever since, to the amazement of many who are at a loss to explain just who the album is selling to. The same can now be said for this attendant hit single which has belatedly been lifted from the long player. Like all the other tracks it is a reworking of a recent hit: Technohead's I Wanna Be A Hippy which hit Number 6 last March becomes I've Got A Little Puppy. The track benefits somewhat from being fairly ridiculous in the first place but the transformation of the lyrics into 'I've Got A Little Puppy - Pooper, Pooper Scooper' takes it into a whole new realm. As 'Who The F*** is Alice' proved last year, toilet humour in a record can indeed sell a record - how else is one to explain a Number 4 placing for a track so childish - and yet so bloody funny?
9 ME AND YOU VERSUS THE WORLD (Space)
The Snob-rock revolution continues apace with its most commercial protagonists so far returning with their third single of the year and the second to make the Top 40. The growing following for the band was evidenced by the slow burnout of their last single Female Of The Species which peaked fairly rapidly at Number 14 but then took another two months to exit the Top 40. Me And You Versus The World is in the same vein as its predecessor and easily sails in to give the band their first ever Top 10 hit with more surely to follow.
13 OH WHAT A NIGHT (Clock)
Despite their efforts to score with original material, Clock's biggest successes with their Hi-NRG dance sound have come from reworkings of classic hits. In an era when one cannot have a hit single without someone somewhere producing a cheesy dance remake of it, Clock have always managed to rise above the rest. Last year they gave Harold Faltermeyer's Axel F a new lease of life and turned Whoomph! There It Is into the smash hit single that the Tag Team never could. Sad to report then that on this occasion they have lost the plot totally. It is not too difficult to argue that tracks such as 'Axel F' needed a revamp to make them work in the 1990s. Not so Oh What A Night. The original track was the unqualified success of 1976, hitting Number One around the world (including in this country) and giving the Four Seasons something of an Indian Summer to their career which had been in the doldrums for the best part of a decade. To this day it stands up as one of the best disco-soul records ever made and possibly for that reason nobody has ever attempted a hit cover of it. Until now of course. You cannot add to a perfect record, merely take things away and Clock do a superb job of ripping the heart out of the song. No doubt their Top Of The Pops performance will be as immaculate as ever, the dance routines worked out to perfection but none of this will make it any less unnecessary.
18 I AM I FEEL (Alisha's Attic)
The second act on the chart to feature famous offspring reinforces its credentials as one of the most consistently selling singles of recent weeks. Now six weeks on release, I Am I Feel has spent all of them between Numbers 14 and 18.
21 LET'S ALL CHANT (Gusto)
New York DJ/Producer Gusto swings back onto the Top 40 with his second hit of the year. His first was the fun Discos Revenge whose tongue in cheek fun nature made it an instant smash, hitting Number 9 in February. This time around he goes for a cover version, reworking in his own style the Michael Zager Band classic from 1978. This is by no means the first time the track has been covered, Capital Radio DJs Pat and Mick taking their charity version to Number 11 in May 1988, just three places behind the peak of the original.
22 WE LOVE YOU (Menswear)
A return to chart action for Menswear who by their own admission went through a crisis of confidence earlier this year. Despite scoring their biggest hit ever with the Top Tenner Being Brave they staged a poorly received series of concerts which undermined their credentials as some of the bright young things of British music. All of that appears behind them with this new single, representing a slight dip in chart fortunes but still their fifth Top 30 hit.
25 TAKE IT EASY (Let Loose)
One suspects that there is some cheeky marketing going on behind Let Loose. After the Top 10 success of their version of Make It With You most people will be geared up to expect another cover from the threesome and a glance at the title of their new single conjures up images of a similarly laid back version of the famous Eagles song. Wrong. This is an original song by the band, in the typically relaxed summery style that they appear to be making their own. Whilst Let Loose have clearly defined this smooth romantic style for themselves their singles do have a tendency to drift towards the dull end of the spectrum and certainly lack the magic that Nik Kershaw sprinkled over their earlier smashes such as Crazy For You.
26 PEOPLE OF THE SUN (Rage Against The Machine)
The second hit this year for Rage Against The Machine, following on from the Number 8 smash of Bulls On Parade, their biggest ever. All one can say about this track is that it is damn loud, but then again that is probably the point.
34 I LOVE YOU ALWAYS FOREVER (Donna Lewis)
The tale of Donna Lewis is something of a legend in the record industry at the moment. British girl works her dues singing in piano bars and clubs, gets turned down by every record company in the country and so goes to America to find fortune - ending up of course with a smash US hit and prompting many red faces on this side of the Atlantic. Her debut hit finally gains a release over here but has suffered from being too cautiously marketed. I Love You Always Forever is as far as this writer is concerned, one of the best singles of the year so far, a towering brilliance of a pop record for which a Number 34 chart placing is frankly an insult. Whilst to enter this low is often the death-knell for many records these days there are still the odd one or two that use a lowly entry point to build a healthy sale. Somehow there is a major injustice in force if the cream in this track does not cause it to rise to the top. [One of those tracks I called as a major hit single and championed it all the way, even though the initial odds appear to be stacked against it].
36 HOT AND WET (BELIEVE IT) (Tzant)
Back in the middle of July I received an email from Jamie White, one of the brains behind this dance track. He told me of the imminent release of this single and their hopes that it would be a Top 40 hit. "Please give us a good review because it will make me happy and piss off my jealous flatmate" were his parting words. Well for the benefit of Jamie, his flatmate and anyone else who happens to care Hot And Wet may not be about to set the world on fire but it is a rather fine dance record, immensely popular with DJ's across the country, hence this Top 40 placing. [Thus began a mini tradition of Jamie White flagging up his latest projects to me and curating his own commentary entries].
38 SOMEONE SOMEWHERE (Wannadies)
Swedish lounge-pop makes a Top 40 return with the second Top 40 hit for the Wannadies, following on from the quietly understated Number 18 hit You And Me Song earlier this year.