1 PERFECT DAY (Various Artists)
As expected the charity single comfortably spends a second week at the very top with only Boyzone below them presenting a passing challenge. With December now upon us the annual game of guessing the Christmas Number One single can now begin in earnest. After this week there are just three more Top 40 charts and a flurry of big new releases can be expected, many of which are singles specially targetted for the season. Perfect Day is one of the discs in the running (the chart-topper in early December always is) but it is only in exceptional circumstances that the leader of the pack at the start of December becomes the final champion [2016 says "hi"].
Of more immediate interest is the cause that is to directly benefit from the sales of the single, namely the BBCs annual Children In Need Appeal. Although primarily a telethon, the appeal has spawned a number of chart hits in the past, although none quite as big as this. The late radio presenter Ray Moore was the first on the case, reaching Number 24 with the novelty Oh My Father Had A Rabbit in 1986 and following it up with Bog Eyed Jog in 1987 which could only make Number 61. Last year it was the turn of the Red Hill Children whose rendition of When Children Rule The World reached Number 40 in aid of the appeal.
2 BABY CAN I HOLD YOU (Boyzone)
The versatility of Boyzone is illustrated once more with this new release. Seemingly effortlessly they slip from the pop perfection of this summers' Picture Of You into the role of mellow balladeers. Their seasonal offering is actually rather wonderful, a faithful and respectful version of a song that appeared on Tracy Chapman's debut album back in 1988. Despite widespread popularity at the time, the song never became a hit and so has remained something of a lost classic ever since. The Irish lads put that record straight at last and in doing so notch up their tenth hit single. Every one of these to date has reached the Top 5, indeed only Coming Home Now missed the Top 3. They are now within an ace of equalling Kylie Minogue's record of 11 Top 5 hits to have the best start to a chart career by any act ever. Impressive though this may seem, it is worth pointing out that of those 10 hit singles, no less than 5 have been cover versions. Boyzone of course contribute a line in Perfect Day giving them the unusual distinction of appearing on 2 of the Top 3 singles.
7 LUCKY MAN (Verve)
Compilers of 'album of the year' polls may as well pack up and go home now as The Verve's Urban Hymns seems surely set to walk them all. The third single release of the year from the band and the quality just keeps on pouring. The followup to the soon-to-be classic Number One hit The Drugs Don't Work is another wonderfully understated piece of rock, upping the tempo back to the level of Bittersweet Symphony and at times sounding like a distant relative of Extreme's Hole Hearted. Not quite as big a smash as its predecessors given the massive sales the album has generated, but their third Top 10 hit of the year nonetheless.
11 LET A BOY CRY (Gala)
Britain plays catchup once more. Whilst we spent the summer having Freed From Desire rammed down our ears by every car stereo going, the rest of Europe was frantically buying Gala's second smash hit of the year. A slightly more sophisticated record with a proper storyline rather than one long anthemic chorus, Let A Boy Cry will certainly not emulate the 8 week run in the Top 10 of its predecessor but could well fill a few floors from now until new year.
12 SING UP FOR THE CHAMPIONS (Reds United)
There was a time when football clubs and football teams confined themselves to the football field, troubling music buyers only at cup final time maybe just before the world cup. Now with football a national merchandising industry it appears to be fair game for any time of the year. Produced by Music Factory, the people responsible for Jive Bunny in the early 1990s, Sing Up For The Champions is designed to be a celebration of Manchester United and just about every terrace chant imagineable. Now it could be argued that in the mid-1980s Liverpool were every bit as big as Manchester United but even they never inspired such a terrible party medley record. Doubtless bought by every United fan from Essex to Basildon and loathed by everyone else it somehow manages to reach Number 12 and conjures up nightmares of a horrifying mini-revival of party medley singles. Gay Gordon and the Mince Pies anyone?
14 DID IT AGAIN (Kylie Minogue)
If you listen carefully you can hear a sharp exhaling of breath by everyone involved with Kylie Minogue. The panic button was pressed in September when Some Kind Of Bliss, the single produced by the Manic Street Preachers and lavished with praise by critics everywhere bombed out at Number 22. Immediately the release of the new album Impossible Princess was shelved [ostensibly because the title was no longer appropriate, but it was a fortunate excuse] and a rethink was ordered. 10 weeks later and they try again with Did It Again, possibly a slightly inferior track to Some Kind Of Bliss but backed up with every marketing strategy in the book, even down to including a CD Rom video on some versions of the single. Whatever the motives, it seems to have worked. Number 14 is a far more respectable placing for a Kylie record, before Some Kind Of Bliss all of her previous 23 singles had made the Top 20. Only Madonna comes close to emulating that kind of consistency.
16 IT'S OVER LOVE (Todd Terry presents Shannon)
The producing legend continues his most commercially successful year to date with yet another chart single. Although only sporadically known for making commercial singles under his own name, the past two summers have seen him have Top 10 smashes with collaborations with Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown. First of all came Keep On Jumpin' in 1996 and then earlier this summer Something Going On which spent five weeks in the Top 20. Now he teams up with another faded dance diva for another classic garage-styled hit. Shannon was the lady responsible for the club classic Let The Music Play which reached Number 14 in January 1984. Her last chart hit was in July 1985 when Stronger Together reached Number 46. Now, thanks to Todd Terry she has the second biggest hit single of her career.
21 OPEN YOUR MIND 97 (Usura)
The ugly spectre of the dance reissue rears its head once more with the repackaging of Open Your Mind which was first released early in 1993 when it reached Number 7, the new mixes only serving to confirm its status as a club classic. What is more interesting about the single is its position as the highest of a surprisingly large string of new entries at the bottom end of the chart. There are 16 new songs on the Top 40 this week, no less than 10 of them landing below the Top 20 in marked contrast to normal chart trends. One possible explanation is the fact that many labels are delaying the release of their biggest prospects until just before Christmas so they have the maximum impact during the shopping rush and don't slip out the chart too soon. Nonetheless, expect there to be a gradual slowing of the chart over the next month or so as the volume of record sales increases as the gift-buying season approaches. The domination of fickle regular record buyers is swept aside by the rush of casual shoppers, all of whom go for what they know and prolong the life of existing hits at the expense of a great many also-rans who ordinarily could expect a decent chart entry.
22 5 STEPS (Dru Hill)
Their time will surely come, but for the moment Dru Hill round off 1997 with a single that suggests there is plenty more around the corner. Their third hit of the year is far from their biggest but it is easily the best, a slushy soul ballad that only occasionally finds a niche in this country. In My Bed, Number 16 from May remains their biggest hit to date.
27 DEMONS (Super Furry Animals)
Super Furry Animals have had a curiously consistent year. Four Top 40 singles, all peaking between 24 and 27 and all spending just a week inside the Top 40 before vanishing to the lower reaches. Indeed their last single to spend more than 7 days inside the Top 40 was Something 4 The Weekend in July 1996.
28 I NEED (Meredith Brooks)
The followup to Bitch, whilst clearly not destined to emulate the international success of her first single is another example of why Meredith Brooks can be sure of clocking up a few more hits between now and next summer.
30 MERMAIDS (Paul Weller)
Paul Weller's third hit of the year and the smallest so far. Like many artists on the chart this week, he seems to be in a bit of a trough at the moment, Mermaids is his smallest hit since Above The Clouds reached Number 47 in October 1992.
31 FEELING GOOD (Huff and Herb)
Something of a disappointment this, a big club record for most of the autumn, Feeling Good has also been picking up a great deal of airplay and was widely expected to become a seasonal smash hit. Nine Simone's vocal was first turned into a dance record in 1994 and it charted under her name in July 1994, reaching Number 40. Now remixed, it appears credited to producers Huff and Herb and although it represents a slight improvement on the chart peak of the original, there will still be feeling that this track could achieve so much more.
32 I THOUGHT IT WAS YOU (Sex-O-Sonic)
Another big club smash of the moment is Sex-O-Sonic's blistering remake of Herbie Hancock's 1978 Top 20 hit, proving that no matter what the age, dance music can always look to its roots for some wonderful memories.
33 FANTASY ISLAND (M People)
Of all the singles that chart low down this week, none will come as a bigger shock than this. M People looked set to start another run of smash hits from their new album when Just For You reached Number 8 in October. Fantasy Island is more of the same and in fact is one of the best pop singles they have released for a long time. For some reason it has all but stiffed and wasn't even set for a Top 40 place when the midweek placings were announced. If it fails to progress any further it will be one of their smallest hits for years. Their last single of any kind to miss the Top 30 was Love Rendezvous, the final single from Bizarre Fruit which reached Number 32. Number 33 will be their lowest chart placing since Someday landed five places lower in April 1992.
34 SONG FOR MAMA (Boyz II Men)
The subject matter no more sophisticated than the title suggests, Boyz II Men clock up their second Top 40 hit this year although one which looks set to fall way short of the Number 10 peak of 4 Seasons Of Loneliness.
39 ROMEO ME (Sleeper)
OK so their big hitmaking days appear to be behind them for the moment but that doesn't stop Sleeper singles being wonderful. The followup to October's She's A Good Girl becomes one of their lowest charting hit singles ever with the consolation of being one of the best probably little comfort. Only the debut from Louise Wener et al, Delicious was smaller, reaching Number 75 in 1994. [And with this single they bow out, the band splitting in the new year following a farewell concert. All documented in Louise Wener's book which is thoroughly recommended].