1 TELETUBBIES SAY 'EH-OH' (Teletubbies)
Only the Germans have ever seen fit to invent a word for it. Zeitgeist. The definition of the moment in society. As far as Britain is concerned it has to be the Teletubbies. Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, La-La and Po were unleashed onto TV screens in April this year. The four oversized baby aliens inhabit a sunshine world populated by rabbits and computer-generated animals. They eat Tubbycustard and Tubbytoast and are looked after by their robot vacuum cleaner Noo-Noo. Aimed at the under-fives the programme nonetheless attracts 2 million viewers a day suggesting that somehow it has struck a nerve. Along with the phenomenon comes the marketing, from posters, books, videos and now the inevitable single. The record itself is simply an extended version of the theme tune but that is hardly the point, in the space of a week it has sold nearly a quarter of a million copies to surge to Number One, the second BBC-related single in a row to hit the top of the charts and as the parents who queue outside Toys R Us at midnight every Saturday to obtain one of the precious few Teletubby dolls in existence will testify, anything Tubby-related this Christmas will delight any child you care to name. Curiously enough the last time a TV character attracted this amount of interest was exactly four years ago this week when Mr Blobby climbed to Number One and somehow remained there to top the charts at Christmas.
So here now is the real struggle, who will be Christmas Number One and force the bookmakers to pay out on the thousands of pounds worth of bets which have been placed. There are two chart weeks to go until the moment of truth and it is becoming clear that it is a three horse race. Firm favourites at the moment are the Teletubbies and with the precedent of Mr Blobby to go on they certainly seem to stand a chance. Then there are the Spice Girls. In spite of the current media fashion to stick the knife into them at every opportunity, the album has this week climbed back to the top of the charts and Too Much - to be released on December 15th is certainly on a par with every song they have released in the past - don't forget they have an unprecedented 100% strike rate of Number One hits. Coming up on the outside is a record which did not even figure in the published odds until a few weeks ago - I'm In Love With The World, the single performed by the Chicken Shed Theatre company and which features on the Princess Diana Memorial album, a macabre collection of the most morbid songs imaginable which has just become the fastest selling compilation album in history. Released too on December 15th, a full account of the single can wait until then but it too is being tipped as a yuletide chart-topper although opinion is divided on how much its presence on the album will detract from sales of the single. Either way the next few weeks should produce the most fascinating charts of the year as record sales soar through the roof once more and record shops are flooded with people who would never enter their local HMV at any other time of year. Such is the magic of Christmas marketing.
4 TOGETHER AGAIN (Janet Jackson)
Her model of chart consistency continues with this effortless Top 10 entry, emulating the Number 6 peak of Got Til It's Gone back in October. It is her 12th Top 10 single if you include her credit on brother Michael's Scream and indeed but for the relative failure of Twenty Fourplay which could only manage a lowly Number 22 in April 1996 she would have a run of Top 20 hits that reaches back to The Best Things In Life Are Free in August 1992.
7 ANGELS/WALK THIS SLEIGH (Robbie Williams)
Believe it or not, in many people's books this single is an outside bet for the Christmas Number One. Lifted from the album, Angels is Robbie Williams possibly at his very best. A step away from the indie-pop style of singles such as Old Before I Die, this is a lighter-waving ballad that shows his voice off magnificently and certainly has an appeal far wider than his usual audience. This is reflected in the improved chart position, returning him to the Top 10 after South Of The Border peaked at Number 14 in September. Couple that with the double-a side Walk This Sleigh, likely to be one of the few Christmas songs on the chart in a fortnight plus the inclusion of a live recording of the rocked up version of Back For Good that he performed in concert recently and you have an all-round guaranteed smash hit single. [Aside from its now 20-year overfamiliarity and near-ubiquity at funerals, it is hard to overstate just how important this single was in rescuing the Robbie Williams solo project. Every last drop of his superstar status can be traced back to the long-running success of this track].
10 SLAM DUNK (DA FUNK) (5ive)
As expected, 5ive charge straight into the Top 10 with their first hit single, a masterpiece of promotional and publicity aided and abetted by the teen press who have been championing them for some months.
12 TOMORROW NEVER DIES (Sheryl Crow)
Tom Jones, Gladys Knight, Shirley Bassey, A-Ha, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Carly Simon, Lulu and now Sheryl Crow adds her name to the illustrious list of acts to have recorded a James Bond theme. She has also quite possibly recorded one of the best ever. It takes time to grow on you but Tomorrow Never Dies is a perfect pastiche of John Barry's early Bond themes, an epic ballad that one can quite easily imagine setting the atmosphere for the still-unseen film over the opening credits. With the current flurry of Bond-related hits, ranging from Moby's remake of the original theme to David Arnold's collaborations on remakes of old songs, Sheryl Crow is already close to equalling Tina Turner's U2-penned Goldeneye which reached Number 10 in November 1995 despite vanishing from the charts soon afterwards. The most successful Bond theme ever was Duran Duran's A View To A Kill which made Number 2 in 1985.
15 YOU CAN TALK TO ME (Seahorses)
The hits are getting slightly smaller as the album is steadily mixed but the Seahorses have undoubtedly made their mark. Few now talk of them as John Squire's new band, they have their own following and have commanded the respect of many with potential classics such as Love Me And Leave Me and most especially Blinded By The Sun. As the year draws to a close and the interminable round of critics favourites lists start to be published, expect the Seahorses to figure prominently.
18 CAN'T BUY ME LOVE (Blackstreet)
Purists may hate it but full marks to Blackstreet for daring to take the Beatles on and come away with some credit. Can't Buy Me Love was a John Lennon song and one of the best out and out rockers of their early career, making Number One (like all their hits did) in April 1964 and seeing off a cover by none other than Ella Fitzgerald later that same year. Now the Backstreet Boys have turned it into a soul ballad, still recognisably a Beatles number but turning it into something new in the same way Chantay Sauvage breathed new life into I Will Survive last year. Possibly little more than a seasonal novelty but still enough to give the boys their fourth Top 20 hit of the year, their most successful run of hits to date.
20 HIGH TIMES (Jamiroquai)
After a brace of Number 6 hits earlier this year, Jamiroquai lands just inside the Top 20 with this new single, perhaps lacking the minimalist magic of Alright which was his last single back in May. Nonetheless it extends his run of Top 20 hits to 8, stretching back to Space Cowboy in October 1994.
22 BUTTERFLY (Mariah Carey)
In a way, it is a shame that American audiences seem to be so keen on Mariah Carey ballads as Honey proved that she is equally at home with raunchy in-yer-face pop dance. Nonetheless, it is big ballads that the market as a whole demands, so here is the requisite pre-Christmas dose of schmaltz that admirably proves the point by entering at what is for her an astonishingly low Number 22, a far cry from the Top 3 entry of Honey back in September. Indeed if the title track from her current album fails to move any higher it will sensationally bring to an end her run of 12 consecutive Top 10 hits that stretches back to the summer of 1992.
23 JUST CRUISIN' (Will Smith)
Suddenly the man finds he has two parallel careers that are (for once) equally successful. After reinventing himself as a movie star, Will Smith returned to the top of the charts in the summer with Men In Black, theme to the film of course but a surprisingly enduring pop record in its own right, spending four weeks at Number One and nine in total inside the Top 10. Four months later here is the follow up, maybe not with the same kind of magic of its predecessor but as long as there is a surfeit of American rappers complaining about how terrible it is to be shot at all the time, so too there will be room for a man who raps about how he likes to party.
27 FORGIVEN (I FEEL YOUR LOVE) (Space Brothers)
Messrs Simmonds and Jones are the Space Brothers, the creators of arguably some of the most appealing dance singles of the year. Shine was the first, a wonderfully atmospheric piece of Euro-electronica complemented by Joanna Law's uncredited vocals. Forgiven repeats the experience, the sort of record that sounds equally at home in your hi-fi as it does in a club. There, a dance record and I like it. What else needs to be said.
34 THE THEME (Dreem Team)
Just when you thought we had seen the last of this summers' Ibiza anthems, here comes another to remind blissed out clubbers just what their holidays were like. Quite whether it will have the same effect a fortnight before Christmas is another thing altogether.
36 BEST BIT EP (Beth Orton)
Beth Orton sneaks in with her second Top 40 single, following up She Cries Your Name which sneaked a Number 40 entry back in June.
40 THIS TOWN AIN'T BIG ENOUGH FOR THE BOTH OF US (Sparks vs Faith No More)
The history of pop is littered with strange collaborations but they surely don't come any more curious than this. Sparks are arguably making some of the best records of their career, their 1995 album Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins spawning a number of small hits including the glorious When Do I Get To Sing My Way. Now they turn to remaking their old hits in typically unusual style. This Town... was the pair's first ever international smash single, peaking at Number 2 in May 1974 it was part glam-rock but crucially another early synthesiser classic. The electronics are still in place but the track is beefed up by the appearance of Faith No More, making their first Top 40 appearance since Evidence hit Number 32 in July 1995. Quite curious.