1 D'YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN (Oasis)
So Oasis have a new single out. You would think they would have publicised it or something. After months of hype and weeks of anticipation, the moment has finally arrived. There is probably little need for me to point out the significance of this release, the first new material in two years from the band who can quite legitimately claim to be the biggest in the world. No other group in recent times has commanded the attention, the acclaim and the column inches quite like the Gallagher brothers et al. Whatever they do, whether it is falling out on American tours or getting married to faded actresses is worthy of immense media attention, so much so that at times it is easy to forget about the music. Fortunately when it comes back to basics, the group never fail to deliver. Their third UK Number One single crashes into the charts in the most astonishing manner possible. Certified platinum on the day of release it had sold almost 250,000 copies by midweek, the total rising to almost half a million by Saturday. Yes that's right, 500,000 copies in just six days, more than the rest of the Top 40 put together [later calculations would revise that figure down to about 377,000 copies. Sales figures in the 1990s were a complicated issue]. Few singles can ever hope to sell in such enormous quantities in such a short space of time, indeed they weren't far short of the all-time record for a weekly sale held by the original Do They Know Its Christmas which shifted 800,000 in its first week on release.
The six-minute epic D'You Know What I Mean had been shrouded in secrecy right up until the moment it was due to be serviced to radio stations across the country yet in the spirit of Oasis even that rather mundane task ended up shrouded in controversy. The idea was that Radio One would receive a world premiere of the single on Monday June 16th with independent local stations given the single the second it finished airing on the national network. On the Friday morning by some curious coincidence the biggest commercial stations in the country (one from each of the main radio groups...hmm) announced that they had a copy and would be playing it that morning. Quite how the stations had obtained copies is still shrouded in mystery - at that stage even the plugging company charged with delivering the single did not posess a copy of the record in any format. The whole affair resulted in legal threats being made by Creation records over the breach of the embargo and mental notes being made by record pluggers not to give "exclusive previews" of singles in radio studios where they can be illicitly taped. [Yes, this was all down to one radio station (which shall remain nameless) whose head of music persuaded the hapless plugger to play him the Oasis track in a spare studio, enabling a colleague to secretly record it in another]. In the end it hardly matters, everyone wanted to hear the new single and everyone (it seems) has rushed out and bought it. With so many copies shifted already it is hard to see the single having a lengthy run at the top... particularly as the long-awaited third album Be Here Now hits the shops on August 18th.
Special Note STEP TO ME (Spice Girls)
It was exactly one year ago this week that Wannabe was released in this country and the seeds of Spicemania were sown. Even after having exhausted their debut album for singles the girls are still generating column inches by simply breathing. From their endlessly torrid lovelives to the daily stories emanating from the set of 'Spice - The Movie' due for release this Christmas the coverage they generate rivals even that of Oasis. Musically, their major tale of the moment is that of the new Spice Girls single which will never see the light of day in the shops. In a unique deal their new song Step To Me is only available via a promotion with Pepsi, collect enough tokens and the single is free. It is a clever idea as any Spice Girls single is hot property, especially one which is unavailable on an album, and so there is no shortage of people willing to buy £6 worth of soft drinks in order to send off for the CD. Aside from that the single is being treated like any other release and has been promoted to rado stations who are playlisting it gladly. Some might bemoan the fact that this method of promotion means the single will never chart - no copies in the shops, no barcodes, no sales - but in reality the single is something of a disappointment and would probably struggle to make it on a b-side. They would have been better off releasing Generation Next - the jingle they sing on their current Pepsi TV ads. [The great 'lost' Spice Girls single].
3 C U WHEN U GET THERE (Coolio)
For the first time in almost a year Coolio racks up a solo hit single and quite deservedly goes massive. The brand new C U When U Get There is possibly one of the most refreshingly original rap singles for a long long while, a tenderly voiced piece using, not a tired old backbeat or a ripped off pop classic but Vivaldi as a base for the song. Pop and classical music have never quite sat comfortably together and such hybrids are normally notoriously bad. Not so this one, one of the biggest new hits of the week and Coolio's highest chart placing since Gangsta's Paradise hit the heights at the end of 1995.
4 FREED FROM DESIRE (Gala)
A chart appearance at long long last for this continental dance smash which since the end of last year has topped charts all over Europe and has long been a club favourite over here. Despite the anticipation surrounding this single it comes as something of a disappointment with little to suggest why the whole of Europe should have gone crackers over what is at the end of the day a fairly ordinary dance record, albeit a fairly ordinary dance record which is a Top 5 new entry. [Bit harsh in retrospect. This would end up hanging around for WEEKS].
5 HISTORY/GHOSTS (Michael Jackson)
There is no doubting Michael Jackson is on a roll right now with the decision to release a remix album clearly one of the best moves he has made for years. In the same week that his world tour rolls into this country the now two year old title track from his Greatest Hits collection crashes straight in to give him his eighth consecutive Top 5 hit. When you consider that the normal marketing strategy of endlessly mining albums for singles normally results in ever low chart placings this is nothing short of incredible. Indeed together History and Blood On The Dancefloor have produced three Number One hits and some of the biggest chart smashes he has had for years. Following on from the Number One success of Blood On The Dancefloor the remixed History further halts Jacko's early-decade slide into self-cliche and instead presents him as the master of the late 90s pop record. Whatever the rumoured state of his nose, the man is, and will remain, Superstar.
Believe it or not it is well over a year since Shaggy was last in the charts. The ragga star who shot to fame in 1993 with the Number One 'Oh Carolina' has never been prolific but manages to cause a stir with each new release, whether it is the advert-inspired Number One Boombastic or his collaboration with Maxi Priest on That Girl, his last chart hit which reached Number 15 in June last year. His first new solo release for a while takes a little getting used to as he too has fallen into the trap of seeing nothing as being sacrosanct. In this case the victim is Erma Franklin's classic soul ballad of the same name which famously became a belated smash in 1992 after it too was used in a jeans commercial. Shaggy's ragga take on the track is by no means crass but any fan of one of the greatest soul records ever made will wonder quite why anyone felt the need.
9 GOTHAM CITY (R Kelly)
At some point, R Kelly will wake up and wonder how he found himself transformed from swingbeat stud into the new master of the power ballad. Hot on the heels of the Number One smash I Believe I Can Fly comes yet another soundtrack contribution, this time from "Batman and Robin". Gotham City is the song which plays over the closing credits of the film and is so closely related both lyrically and conceptually to the film that it is hard to see this one becoming an enduring standard once the film has passed from memory.
10 HOW COME HOW LONG (Babyface featuring Stevie Wonder)
The second hit single this year from production master Babyface, following on from Every Time I Close My Eyes which reached Number 13 in March. Of course, Babyface's contribution to the track is important but the eyes of most will have lit up at the sight of the name of the special guest star. Despite the odd album release Stevie Wonder has had little chart success in the past ten years. His only Top 40 hit of the 1990s was For Your Love which made Number 23 in February 1995 so his presence on this track comes as something of a delight. Indeed his last smash hit was also a collaboration, My Love on which he sang with Julio Iglesias and which reached Number 5 in August 1988. To find the last time he was in the Top 10 solo one must go right back to 1985 when Part Time Lover made Number 3. Babyface becomes the sixth different act with which Stevie Wonder has made a hit single. Impressive, beating such serial collaborators such as Aretha Franklin but still some way behind the all-time champion Elton John who notched up his 13th collaboration with Pavarotti at Christmas.
11 RISINGSON (Massive Attack)
The champions of genuine trip-hop are threefold. The master of course is Tricky, close behind are the lethargic Portishead who are still showing no signs of making a new album and somewhere in between are fellow Bristolians Massive Attack who can validly lay claim to having invented the genre back in 1991. They too are never quite off the mark with new singles, this is their first chart hit since Karmacoma made Number 28 in April 1995 but it is no less welcome for all that. Loaded with atmosphere it has of course been snapped up by their fans and in three weeks will be nowhere at all.
19 FLAMING JUNE (BT)
A welcome return to the Top 40 for Brian Transeau, one of the pioneers of trance and an eternally respected remixer. His biggest hit was Loving You More which reached Number 14 at the start of last year but his most recent chart credit was thanks to his collaboration with Tori Amos on Blue Skies which was Top 30 in November. This new single is probably one of his most uncommercial offerings to date, a nonetheless rather haunting instrumental that doubtless sounds just perfect when winding down after the end of a long nights clubbing.
20 NO MORE TALK (Dubstar)
..and here comes yet another act returning with a brand new release after far too long an absence. The Halifax group gradually made inroads into the charts at the start of last year with singles such as Stars and Not So Manic Now which sealed their reputation for making gentle, quirky singles with rather twisted lyrics. This new single makes an impressive start but still charts lower than the two aforementioned releases, leaving one to hope that their fanbase will quickly expand to give them bigger hits, which they surely deserve so much.
21 ONE BIG FAMILY EP (Embrace)
The second single in succession on the chart with a West Yorkshire connection as stars to be Embrace land a second Top 40 hit. With just about everyone falling over themselves to praise the band it is hard to add more, suffice it to say as their live performances demonstrate there is plenty more potential for hit singles where this came from.
23 THE WORLD TONIGHT (Paul McCartney)
Sir Paul's second hit single of the year, albeit a rather understated one lacking the bubbly appeal of Young Boy which scraped into the Top 20 two months ago. Of course one of the most famous pop stars ever has no real need to care about chart positions in the long run but it is now almost ten years since he last had a Top 10 hit - the most fallow period of his career.
26 SLOW FLOW (Braxtons)
Notching up hits with ease although apparantly always without the impetus to land a smash, the Braxtons score their third hit single of the year and the biggest so far, their first foray into the Top 30.
36 ANGELS GO BALD (Howie B)
A debut hit from remixer Howie B whose name has appeared in the credits of many recent hits but who has hirtherto been without a personal hit to his name. All that changes now with this single, charting on the back of his recent appearances onstage with U2 as the official DJ for the Popmart tour.
40 ABUSE ME (Silverchair)
Patience boys, patience. Silverchair find their chart placings slip a little by scraping into the Top 40 after the Number 34 hit 'Freak' from April. However massive they may be in Australia, for now Britain looks as if it is avoiding their charms.