[OK, important context here. This was written on what would come to be known as Diana Day, August 31st 1997 which saw the mother of the heir to the throne pass away and the world go mad for a week. Radio One even cancelled the Top 40 show that day, and the radio station I worked for at the time had binned their own live event at short notice. I thus wrote the column in a foul mood and was determined to completely ignore the events of the day. Over the next few weeks however that was to prove utterly impossible.]
1 MEN IN BLACK (Will Smith)
A cause for Will Smith to celebrate this week as Men In Black holds firm at the top of the UK charts for the fourth successive week. Although Puff Daddy's I'll Be Missing You was at Number One for a total of six weeks earlier this summer this was made up of two runs of three weeks each, Men In Black therefore clocks up the greatest number of consecutive weeks at Number One since the Spice Girls' Wannabe managed 7 exactly a year ago. His prospects for maintaining this run look fairly bleak, the competition almost certain to come from The Verve's The Drugs Don't Work, but as near-misses from Boyzone, Chumbawamba and the Backstreet Boys have proved recently, very little in pop music is a certainty at present.
3 HONEY (Mariah Carey)
Just when you thought Mariah Carey was becoming predictable and boring. The year since her last single release has clearly not been wasted by one of the best-selling artists of the decade. Steering away from saccharine ballads and the pop-soul that normally characterises her recordings she has instead turned almost totally into a dance diva. Part of the responsibility for this harder-edged sound must lie with producer Sean 'Puffy' Coombs aka Puff Daddy and also alleged paramour of Ms Carey. Whether this style of music is one that will suit her in the long term remains to be seen. [In fact, this was a more significant moment than anyone truly realised, the point at which hip-hop collided with R&B once and for all. Although this was largely down to the Bad Boy remixed version featuring Mase and The Lox. Which was technically Track 2 on the CD single]. For the moment the hit singles just keep on coming. Honey matches the peak of her last hit Always Be My Baby and becomes her 12th consecutive Top 10 hit, a run which stretches back to I'll Be There in June 1992 and which puts her level with The Shadows, Slade and Take That in the all-time records. Indeed of all currently active acts, her run is by far the longest but Madonna's record of 32 straight Top 10 hits remains some way off.
4 I KNOW WHERE IT'S AT (All Saints)
They may deny it until they are blue in the face, they may object to the label at every turn but All Saints have the achievement of becoming the first set of Spice Girls clones to make the chart. Just as the overwhelming success of Take That at the start of the decade gave talent spotters a new mould to create chart acts, so too the Spice Girls may well prove to be the first in a long line of girl groups with attitude and a nice line in fashion sense. To lean on this actually does a disservice to the record which is a well-produced pop/dance tune that follows the Spice Girls philosophy of girls stating their place in the world. A Top 5 hit first time out is impressive but as Bad Boys Inc, Boyzone, Backstreet Boys, Upside Down and OTT have discovered, a formula can becoming quickly diluted and ineffective.
5 TRAVELLERS TUNE (Ocean Colour Scene)
Easily the most successful rock band of the moment, this is the second Top 5 hit of the year for Ocean Colour Scene. Again, despite its undeniable quality and intensive radio airplay a major crossover success is likely to elude them. They too are on a run of Top 10 hits, this is their fifth in succession.
7 FREE (DJ Quicksilver)
The second dance hit in recent months with that title and the second hit single this year for DJ Quicksilver. This new instrumental has a lot to live up to following the astonishing success of its predecessor Belissima which made Number 4 in April and spent 15 weeks in the Top 40. The title is rapidly becoming one of the more popular ones for a hit single, this being the fifth such song to chart in this country. Impressive and curious but not quite as curious as the word Tonight which has been used no less than 11 times as a hit single, most recently by Def Leppard.
8 KARMA POLICE (Radiohead)
The cult of Radiohead gathers pace with this, the release of the second single from the new album OK Computer which has received rave reviews from all around and narrowly missed out on the prestigious Mercury Music Prize last week. Karma Police follows Paranoid Android into the Top 10, their third such chart success. I confess to being at a loss to understand why as the band seem at present to be a wonderful example of one which is writing music that is beyond them. Virtually all the tracks on OK Computer are masterpieces of production, musicianship and emotion yet singer Thom Yorke's voice is quite plainly not up to it. Karma Police is a perfect example, a rather plodding record that seems almost to be the soundtrack to Yorke's ritual disembowelment. [I'd return to this theme on many occasions over the next few years] Their massive following will ensure them a string of large hits for some time to come with the next single likely to become the biggest of all but in terms of singles success you would be hard pressed to label them major chart stars.
10 WHEN DOVES CRY (Ginuwine)
The best cover versions are surely not those which seek to be straight facsimiles of the originals nor cheesy dance remakes of classic songs that deserve to be left alone. No, the best cover versions are those which pay due respect to the original but which add an artist's own interpretation and style. Past examples have included the Fugees' version of Killing Me Softly and Sinead O'Connor's Nothing Compares 2 U. Now it is the turn of another Prince song to receive a wonderful treatment. Ginuwine's third hit single is his first Top 10 hit a slow, almost trip-hoppy version of the classic hit from Purple Rain that first reached Number 4 in June 1994 for its author, becoming his first ever UK smash hit. After a brace of Number 16 singles Ginuwine lands the biggest hit of his career.
16 KISS YOU ALL OVER (No Mercy)
Having said that, there are some cover versions that are almost comically gratuitous. Stand up No Mercy, their third hit single a cover of Exile's disco-rock classic that first made Number 6 in August 1978.
17 BENTLEY'S GONNA SORT YOU OUT! (Bentley Rhythm Ace)
They jokingly call it 'Brum N' Bass' in deference to the Black Country origins of Bentley Rhythm Ace. Formed by Richard March, formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself the BRA are if you like the Chemical Brothers with fun. The same frantic blend of computerised rhythms and frantic beats is used by the pair but to that they add an eclectic range of samples and a sense of doing it for sheer enjoyment, the same sort of attitude that carried Pop Will Eat Itself along for so long. This is their second single after the first Midlander missed the Top 40 altogether and it gives one of the most talked-about bands of the summer a long-overdue Top 40 breakthrough.
18 THE SWEETEST THING (Refugee Allstars featuring Lauryn Hill)
Plotting the dynasty of the Fugees is becoming more and more complicated. Temporarily on hold whilst Lauryn Hill has a stab at motherhood the various members of the band are certainly keeping busy. No sooner has Wyclef Jean had solo hit single with We Trying To Stay Alive than the rest of the group pops up, along with a vocal contribution from the 'resting' Ms Hill. Complicated? Perhaps, but more a product of the desire to release all available material than anything else. [Actually it was more subtle than this, the Refugee Allstars were a rap duo of Pras (who was a Fugee) and John Forte (who wasn't). Wyclef thus the only Fugee not to participate in the production of this track.]
20 TOO GONE, TOO LONG (En Vogue)
They will not match the impact nor the sales of Don't Let Go (Love), not this year at least but for the moment it is good to see En Vogue notching up hits with ease. This is their third successive Top 20 hit of the year, the best run of their career.
25 GIMMIE SOME LOVE (Gina G)
It has been a strange week for Gina G. She could possibly have done without the headlines she generated after mysteriously being taken ill whilst on an internal UK flight that resulted in a dash to hospital and angry denial of the speculation that it was drugs related. The incident came as she was in the process of promoting this new single, lifted once more from the album and by now following the law of diminishing returns as it becomes her smallest hit to date.
30 CHAIN REACTION (Hurricane #1)
Still very much in the third division of new acts, despite the muscle of Creation records behind them, Hurricane #1 notch up their third Top 40 hit, none of which have climbed higher than Number 29.
35 YOUR NEW CUCKOO (Cardigans)
Lovefool was always going to be a tough act to follow and so it proves for the Cardigans, suggesting that their long-overdue UK breakthrough thanks to "Romeo and Juliet" may have been a bit of a false dawn. Lifted, like Lovefool from First Band On The Moon this single does not have the exposure of a film soundtrack nor the inspired dipsyness [is that even a word?] of its predecessor to help it along and it seems destined to join other Cardigans classics as Sick And Tired and Carnival as a very minor hit single.