1 3 LIONS '98 (Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seeds)
For the second time in three weeks, the Top 3 singles in the country are all brand new releases - well, of a sort when you consider the Number One. Leading the list, so to speak, is yet another World Cup-related song and somewhat appropriately is a new version of one of the most successful football records ever made. Three Lions was first recorded in 1996 as the official England anthem to support their bid to win the European Football Championships which were held here two years ago. Written by chief Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and TV comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel it was a masterpiece of songwriting, the chant of "Football's Coming Home" having echoed around football stadiums in a variety of lyrical forms ever since. It shot straight to Number One at the start of June 1996 before being unceremoniously deposed by the Fugees' Killing Me Softly. As the England team did steadily better during the course of the championships so the popularity of the song grew and four weeks later it was Number One once more.
Fast forward to 1998 and when ideas for the official World Cup anthem were being solicited the trio suggested an updating of Three Lions. The FA rejected the idea and as is now well known went instead for the England United track. Not to be outdone they re-recorded Three Lions anyway and the track now achieves the ultimate vindication by outperforming all the other football songs around at present and shooting back to Number One, complete with new lyrics to relate it to the World Cup and genuine sound effects of Wembley crowds singing the song's central chant. Astonishing though this is, this is by no means the first time an artist has had a Number One hit with a re-recorded version of one of their own former chart-toppers. Cliff Richard was the first to do so, taking a new comedy version of Living Doll (complete with anarchic contributions from the Young Ones) to the top in 1986, a full 27 years after his original recording had, in turn made the top.
2 VINDALOO (Fat Les)
Comedian Keith Allen, although better known for his scriptwriting skills has had a hand in a number of football songs over the past few years. In 1990 he wrote the lyrics to the official World Cup song World In Motion whilst for Euro 96 he collaborated with Black Grape on the Top 10 hit England's Irie which featured on the official Euro 96 album. For the World Cup he suddenly realised that nobody had asked him to get involved, and so not to be outdone made a record on his own. Enlisting the help of Blur's Alex James and somewhat bizarrely artist Damien Hirst, Keith Allen has yet again produced a football classic, stripping the football song down to its basic element, the terrace chant. Hence the track is little more than a military march with the verses paying tribute to various aspects of English culture before a mass chorus launches into an infectious nah-nah-nah chant that culminates in the belligerent "We're gonna score one more than you". As a novelty single that will have a longer shelf life than most other world cup songs it approaches perfection and the accompanying video that parodies Bittersweet Symphony pushes the whole concept close to perfection [and which, if you are paying close enough attention, features a teenage Lily Allen]. A huge favourite to top the charts it ultimately loses out to Three Lions but it would be a foolish man that writes it off just yet... it will be interesting to hear what the England supporters in France end up singing during the matches.
3 GOT THE FEELIN' (Five)
The third biggest hit of the week breaks the run of football songs and takes us back to the realm of pop. Five's third single turns out to be their biggest, surpassing the peaks of Slam Dunk (Da Funk) and When The Lights Go Out, and giving them their first Top 3 smash. They are clearly the kind of boy band who are keen to straddle as many musical styles as possible. They have now gone from US-style jack swing to now enter the world of rap. Got The Feelin' flies dangerously close to the land of naff, a Fresh Prince-era rap song with a sung chorus and a summery video that features all five lads posing topless as they move about a world of endless summer. Impressively they carry it off, depending on your point of view this is either an annoyingly catchy summer hit or simply plain annoying but it consolidates the position of Five as a credible British version of the Backstreet Boys with the prospect of many more hits to come.
5 CARNIVAL DE PARIS (Dario G)
Not a he apparently but a they, the identity of Dario G and the brains behind last years' smash hit Sunchyme has been revealed as musicians Paul Spencer, Stephen Spencer and Scott Rosser. Prior to the release of what is about to be one of the albums of the year they release their second single and it is, you've guessed it a World Cup single. Intended as a tribute to the competition rather than a song in support of any particular nation the single has been adopted as an unofficial anthem for the whole tournament. Based on the musical refrain used by the bands which play for Dutch football teams, the instrumental track simply repeats the figure over and over again but each time using an instrument to represent each country involved in the competition. Hence Dario G are probably the first act since Mike Oldfield to use bagpipes, accordions and steel drums on the same track but although slow to get going the single is nothing short of a masterpiece. Although destined to be a runner-up behind the all-conquering duo of Three Lions and Vindaloo this will still end up a massive worldwide seller and the colourful video that also uses children from all 32 nations to reinforce the message of global togetherness than a sporting event can promote can only help its case. The release of the album is a fortnight away and on the basis of this track I cannot wait to hear it.
6 ROCKAFELLER SKANK (Fatboy Slim)
A man of as many names as he has talents, Fatboy Slim is the current production alias of Norman Cook, the man who went from bassist in 80s act The Housemartins to a hitmaking dance music wizard. As Fatboy Slim he has already been responsible for some of the biggest dance hits of the year, most notably January's Number 2 remix of Wildchild's Renegade Master and of course the storming big beat remix of Cornershop's Brimful Of Asha which turned the underperforming plodder into a massive Number One and one of the classic hits of the year. Already Norman Cook has had a hit in his own right with a temporary revival of the Freak Power name in the shape of No Way which made Number 29 in May but now he releases a commercial single as Fatboy Slim for the first time and the longtime club favourite Rockafeller Skank duly does the business and crashes into the Top 10. The only mystery is just what he will decided to call himself next.
8 LIFE (Des'ree)
This has been a massive week for new singles. Of the 8 best selling singles in the country, six of them are new entries. Bringing up the rear so to speak is Des'ree, the British singer who almost conquered America in 1995 when her hit You Gotta Be made the American Top 20 several months after it had first become a mid-table hit over here. Her two albums to date have produced a number of hits but to date her biggest hit had been her 1991 debut Feel So High which made Number 13 when re-released in January 1992. Six years later she has finally surpassed that with this new single which may well bring her to an even wider audience. Catchy though the single is, with an uplifting chorus, it may also rank as one of the most badly written records of the year. Maybe I am missing what is intended to be an ironic lyric but it is something of a mystery as to how she can sing lines that rhyme "See a ghost" with "Have some toast" without bursting out laughing.
20 TOO MUCH, TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE (Silver Sun)
Slowly but surely the attempts to turn Silver Sun into the stars they are destined to be continue. They are Polydor's great hope for commercial greatness, a band who can play their instruments who actually write great sounding pop tunes, indie rock with wonderful harmonies and mass appeal. That is the idea anyway, but for the moment few people have been interested, their debut album receiving grudging reviews last year but their two Top 40 singles to date, Golden Skin and Lava both failed to breach the Top 30. Progress is finally made with this new single, a rather fabulous cover of the song that made Number 3 for Johnny Mathis and Denice Williams in 1979, a surprising choice but one that works perfectly, conjuring up memories of classic ELO singles. Why they are not massive is something that will continue to baffle me, I think they are geniuses.
21 CAN'T SEE ME (Ian Brown)
Now selling clearly to just an established fanbase, Ian Brown's chart positions are still holding up extremely well. The third single from Unfinished Monkey Business, yet again a surprisingly appealing Stone Roses soundalike track, lands at Number 21, his previous hits having made Number 5 and Number 14 respectively.
22 A LITTLE SOUL (Pulp)
I said when commenting on Pulp's last few singles that the days of them hitting the Top 10 consistently have gone for the moment, the band having gone back to the kind of brilliantly constructed narrative songs that characterised their early, commercially unsuccessful, output. Up until now I have not had a problem with this but when they release tracks such as A Little Soul they are in danger of producing lost classics that deserve a far wider audience. This new single, a father's plea to his son, ranks as one of the most touching songs that Jarvis Cocker has ever written but of course is destined to tumble from this charts following this Number 22 entry, making this their first single to miss the Top 20 since Do You Remember The First Time could only reach Number 33 in April 1994.
39 WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES (Peter Cox)
The former Go West frontman is struggling to establish himself as a solo artist despite some excellent singles. He looked to have turned the corner back in November when If You Walk Away made Number 24 but sadly his third single only just scrapes a Top 40 entry. Now bear in mind that the Doobie Brothers' original of What A Fool Believes ranks as one of my favourite records ever, the 1979 Number 31 hit is able to inspire any number of emotions in me so it is not lightly that I proclaim this to be a fantastic version, faithful to the original and a perfect showcase for the vocal talents of Cox. In one of those cute coincidences that come to light from time to time, one of the last Go West singles was a 1993 remake of Bobby Caldwell's What You Won't Do For Love, the very song that is the basis of 2 Pac's Do For Love which this week slides to Number 24.