[A fairly legendary chart this one, the entire Top 5 made up of brand new singles for the first time ever and the parade led by the final long-running megahit of the decade].
1 BELIEVE (Cher)
Anyone scanning the release schedules in advance will have pinpointed this week as one where some spectacular chart action was likely. A string of major new singles by major artists all due for release on the same day. As it has turned out this has resulted in the most sensational series of chart entries of all time, as will become clear. To work through them one by one then, sitting on top of the pile, quite unexpectedly too, is Cher. Her first single for over two years must surely rank as one of the finest moments of her long career. Never afraid to try new directions, the veteran singer and actress has plunged into the world of dance with this wonderful pop song that comes complete with Roger Troutman-esque vocoder effects [or so everyone thought at the time. History now records it was Brian Higgins and the producers who would become Xenomania inventing a brand new trick using the extreme settings of Antares Autotune]. Alright, so it looks a little strange when she mimes it on TV but the irresistible nature of the single more than makes up for that. Believe emerges victorious in the battle of the biggies and gives Cher another Number One single. Working out exactly how many she has had depends on how you interpret the statistics. At the very least it is her second solo Number One, a full seven years since she last topped the charts with her rendition of The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss). She has been at the top one more since then though as part of a trio along with Neneh Cherry and Chrissie Hynde on the charity version of Love Can Build A Bridge which hit the top in March 1995. All of this, of course, overlooks her most celebrated moment, being one half of Sonny and Cher when I Got You Babe topped the charts in early September 1965. This means that in one form or another she has had a 33-year span of Number One hits although the fact that the first of these was as part of a different act means that technically the record for this still belongs to Cliff Richard whose total of 31 years has stood since 1990.
2 OUTSIDE (George Michael)
The second biggest new hit of the week is the record that was widely expected to be the one to reach Number One. With this new single from a forthcoming solo Greatest Hits collection, the country's finest singer-songwriter shows that he has a well-developed sense of humour, taking every opportunity to poke fun at his well-publicised misdemeanour earlier this year. Hence Outside is an ode to the joys of outdoor sex, features pictures of people in handcuffs on the cover and has plenty of police in the video. All of this overlooks the fact that the single is George Michael at his best, stripped to the bones funk a la TooFunky and a guaranteed hit. Despite narrowly failing to become his first Number One hit since 1996 it maintains his spectacular run of hit singles in recent years. The album Older was famously the first ever to spawn six different Top 3 hits which means his last single not to make the Top 3 was the aforementioned TooFunky which could "only" make Number 4 in 1992. To complete the mickey-taking theme George's forthcoming hits album is apparently to be called Ladies And Gentleman which of course means I will be unable to resist saying it will be more than just a bog-standard Greatest Hits album. Sorry.
3 SWEETEST THING (U2)
In this frantic week of massive new releases, U2 have to content themselves with a Number 3 entry for a single which in any other week could have been expected to make Number One. It is greatest hits time too for the Irish legends and to promote the album they have chosen to rework a little-known ten-year-old song. The Sweetest Thing originally appeared in a stripped-down acoustic form as the b-side to the single release of Where The Streets Have No Name in October 1987. Eleven years later the band have revisited the song, polishing off the production and turning it into a single in its own right. There are two schools of thought to this of course, either it shows have far they have progressed in the intervening period (compare this to recent, more experimental, recordings) or is a sad reminder of the days when they knew how to write a proper tune. Either way, it returns U2 to the Top 10 for the first time in just over a year and is their biggest hit since Staring At The Sun also made Number 3 in April 1997. Guess what though, the run of new hits doesn't end there.
[Honourable mention for the video here, one of U2's best ever featuring Bono attempting to apologise to his wife for forgetting their anniversary and featuring an array of surprises - Boyzone amongst them].
4 I JUST WANNA BE LOVED (Culture Club)
In spite of Boy George's admission that relations between the band members are still slightly strained, the current nostalgia tour of the original Culture Club lineup has been a massive success around the world. Before setting out on the tour the band reconvened in the studio for the first time since 1986 to record a one-off single. Boy George here demonstrates that several years as one of the country's top club DJs has not meant he has lost his ability to carry a tune as Just Wanna Be Loved surely is as good a single as anything the band ever recorded in their heyday. The song is a glorious slice of old-style lovers rock and evokes memories of classics such as Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and others. It is the first Culture Club single to chart since God Thank You Woman made Number 31 in June 1986 and their first Top 10 hit since Move Away a few months before that. Boy George had several solo hits after the band dissolved but only his Number One cover of Everything I Own made a huge chart impact and until now his last appearance in the UK charts was Same Thing In Reverse which staggered to Number 56 in October 1995.
5 THANK U (Alanis Morissette)
So for the first time ever the whole of the Top 5 are new entries, the combined might of Cher, George Michael, U2, Culture Club and Alanis managing to shoulder away every single one of last weeks big sellers. Bringing up the rear so to speak is the long-awaited new single from Alanis Morissette with the biggest hit of her career to date and only her second ever Top 10 single. Her first album Jagged Little Pill was something of a slow burner in this country, topping the album listing in mid-1996 a full year after it was first released. It was aided by its singles which never hit the heights expected but which were played endlessly by radio. Believe it or not her biggest hit before now was Head Over Feet which made Number 7 in August 1996. Accepted classics like You Outta Know and Hand In My Pocket only made 22 and 26 respectively. Thank U sees her team up with Glen Ballard once more on a hauntingly beautiful track that tells the tale of her falling ill in India whilst travelling around the world several years ago and comes complete with a video that is hard to forget in a hurry. One final point to note is that Alanis is the only artist in the Top 5 whose hits are confined to the 90s. All the others are tracks from veteran acts: Cher (first hit 1965), George Michael (first hit 1982 with Wham!), U2 (first hit 1981) and Culture Club (first hit 1982). Furthermore she is the only one of the five never to have had a Number One hit. For now.
8 LITTLE BIT OF LOVIN' (Kele Le Roc)
The melee at the top of the charts almost seems to have lessened the impact of this debut hit for Kele Le Roc which is a terrible shame. Easily one of the best R&B singles of the year this sensual track establishes Kele Le Roc as a major new star. Don't expect this single to vanish too quickly either.
17 SEXY CINDERELLA (Lynden David Hall)
A well-deserved re-release for this track, the debut single from Lynden David Hall which was originally released exactly a year ago only to peak at Number 45. Since then his stock has risen somewhat thanks to March's Do I Qualify? which made Number 26 and so Sexy Cinderella now lives up to its potential with a healthy Top 20 placing.
18 CAR WASH (Rose Royce featuring Gwen Dickey)
Exactly what is in vogue at the moment? 80s revivalist chic or the 70s revivalist Chic which appears to have been going on for the last 10 years. Ten years in fact since Rose Royce's Car Wash last appeared in the charts, a straight re-release of the original 1977 hit which peaked at Number 9 first time round and Number 20 in June 1988. Now the disco classic appears once more in a slightly unncessary remix and with a modified credit to remind the current generation of the presence of club diva Gwen Dickey on vocals on this classic song.
28 I GOT 5 ON IT (Luniz)
Originally a Number 3 hit in February 1996, this jungle remix of the modern day rap classic first appeared as a white label earlier in the summer. Now a single proper and with equal credit given on the sleeve to remixers Mickey Finn and Aphrodite it becomes a hit all over again, albeit a slightly lesser one. Call me old-fashioned, but both this single and the Rose Royce one above it proves that at times it is hard to improve on the original.