1 I WANT YOU BACK (Melanie B featuring Missy Elliott)
Isn't marketing a wonderful thing? A few months ago when the Spice Girls were in America as part of their current world tour, Missy Elliott invited Mel B to contribute a guest vocal on a song she was recording for a film soundtrack. The recently-married Spice Girl agreed and both the track and its accompanying video were laid down in a matter of days. Now the song in question emerges as a single with the artist credits reversed - Missy Elliott becoming a guest star on what is now effectively the first solo Spice Girls single. Perhaps predictably that factor alone has propelled the single straight to the top of the chart, deposing none other than Robbie Williams after just a single week. Of course it is easy to be cynical, the song is a long way removed from standard Spice fare, a half-sung half-rapped piece of stateside R&B crossover that is typical of most Missy Elliott recordings - although untypically this one has become her biggest hit to date. Still, this could be the shape of things to come, should the Spice Girls ever record a third album they have promised more solo vocals and if nothing else I Want You Back is proof that the Spice Girls name is still worth a great deal when it comes to selling records.
8 I DON'T WANT TO MISS A THING (Aerosmith)
A fortnight after it first charted, the single from the soundtrack of Armageddon makes a sudden and quite startling turnaround to charge into the Top 10. Just as when it charted I talked of Aerosmith never having broken into the ten biggest sellers they now do so after what many would see as an almost interminable wait. Their first chart single in this country was in October 1987 when the first release of Dude (Looks Like A Lady) made Number 45 which means they have spent almost 11 years waiting for this moment, a delay second only to the 14 years the Clash endured before they finally had a top tenner in 1991. Pedants would possibly argue that the band performed with Run-DMC on their cover of their own Walk This Way which did indeed reach Number 8 in October 1986 but crucially they received no credit on the single and so to be just as pedantic this cannot count for record purposes. The rock legends have arguably had an even longer wait than most people realise as although they first hit the charts here in the mid-1980s their first US Top 40 hit came as long ago as 1975.
9 SOMEONE LOVES YOU HONEY (Lutricia McNeal)
Three singles and now three Top 10 hits for Lutricia McNeal who is making the process of recording killer pop songs look simple. If anything even more immediate than Stranded or Ain't That Just The Way, this new single is a bright, joyful song in which you cannot help but see the appeal. Time will tell whether it achieves the Top 3 peak of Stranded but for the moment there is no stopping Lutricia McNeal whose producers clearly know the secret of a great pop song - watch out for the Great Keychange Of Joy just before the end of this track.
11 RELAX (Deetah)
One from the clubs, Relax is a great example of commercial Garage with enough hooks to help it cross over to a pop audience. Heavy airplay from both dance and mainstream radio stations has helped this track to just outside the Top 10. [Oddly no reference to the rather groundbreaking sampling of Dire Straits' Why Worry. Had 1998 James even heard this properly at this point?]
16 HALF ON A BABY (R Kelly)
R Kelly finds himself at an interesting career crossroads. For so many years the writer (both for himself and others) of raunchy, danceable R&B he discovered a whole new audience as a soul balladeer with the soundtrack hits Gotham City and most notably I Believe I Can Fly which gave him a Number One single all over the world and indeed in this country where it became one of the biggest sellers of 1997. To his credit he has managed to steer a path that will satisfy both his audiences with this first example from a forthcoming new album. Half On A Baby is a toned down, almost sensual track that is a masterpiece of production but which also still contains the requisite level of raunch. She's Got That Vibe seems like a long time ago listening to this track but if Half On A Baby isn't the most novel chat up line of the year I don't know what is.
19 GENERATION SEX (Divine Comedy)
A welcome return to the chart for Neil Hannon aka the Divine Comedy, back after a long gap with a typically sardonic piece of witty lyricism that immediately lands in the upper reaches of the chart. Always an act which takes songwriting to the heights of the art, they have had Top 20 hits in the past with Something For The Weekend and most recently Everybody Knows which became their biggest hit to date, reaching Number 14 in March 1997.
23 LAST STOP: THIS TOWN (Eels)
Difficult Second Album time for the Eels, the band out to prove that hitting the Top 10 with tracks such as Novocaine For The Soul and Susan's House wasn't just a fluke. For the moment the jury is out, this new single which heralds the death-related theme of the forthcoming new album is every bit as good as previous singles from the band but which lands short of the Top 20. This may well be as good as it gets for them this time round.
25 A PERFECT DAY ELISE (PJ Harvey)
An intense, eerie song from Polly Harvey and the lads and the first example of material from their long-awaited new album which is released at the end of the month. Since she first charted in 1992 PJ Harvey (like Blondie and Sade the name of the group and the singer are interchangeable) has struggled for mainstream chart success and this single has the honour of being her biggest Top 40 hit to date, just squeezing past the Number 27 peak of 50ft Queenie which charted in May 1993.
26 I'LL SEE YOU AROUND (Silver Sun)
The mainstream success that has continually eluded them look to be within the reach of Silver Sun when their last single, a cover of Too Much Too Little Too Late reached Number 20 in June and found its way onto mainstream radio. Sadly it may have been a false dawn as this second single from their second album sees them slip back slightly, still at a higher peak than any of their earlier singles but hardly the kind of position you would expect for a band with an ever-growing fanbase. I'll See You Around is still a marvellous single, this time provoking comparisons with ELO performing Cars songs. For the moment, fans like me will just have to carry on believing.
27 I'VE GOT THIS FEELING (Mavericks)
Until this year despite their long career the Mavericks had never had a UK hit single and never looked like doing so. The release of Dance The Night Away changed all that, the single landed in the Top 10 back in May and stayed there for 8 weeks, peaking at Number 4 along the way and racking up 16 weeks in the Top 40 to become one of the biggest selling singles of the year. Those that suspected it may have been something of a novelty one-off look to be proved right as the follow-up manages a respectable enough chart placing but a lowly one compared to the achievements of their last hit. Part of the problem is the enduring popularity of Dance... which is still getting MOR airplay aplenty.
32 EVERY SINGLE DAY (Dodgy)
Not defunct at all, downsized a little but with their future still very much in doubt, Dodgy hit the Top 40 for the first time since March 1997 with what is arguably one of their finest ever singles. Sounding like The Monkees playing Lennon and McCartney it could hardly miss - and ironically comes close to doing so with their poorest chart performance for many years. If this is to be their swansong it possibly deserves better. [Alas it was indeed their swansong, their final chart single of any kind].
35 THE OMD REMIXES (OMD)
Ten years after their first hits retrospective, the career Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark is celebrated once more in a new album of Greatest Hits, which features several of their recordings since. Unusually the album has not been promoted either with a new recording or a re-release of a classic oldie but via the clubs with this remix package of many of their early songs. Hence this EP features remixes by the likes of Moby and Apollo 400 of tracks such as Souvenir, Electricity and the lead track, a Sash! remix of Enola Gay (which now sounds like something the man himself might record) and which has gone down a storm in clubs but has clearly failed to find a large commercial toehold. Compared to the Number 8 peak of the original version of Enola Gay in 1980 (their first Top 10 hit) it is something of a disappointment but nonetheless it becomes the first OMD single to reach the Top 40 since Walking On The Milky way reached Number 17 in August 1996 and is their 18th Top 40 hit since their career began in 1980. [Oddly enough the second end of an era in a week, this too the final OMD single to chart. Andy McCluskey moved on instead to mentoring a new three piece girl group. Atomic Kitten, they are about a year away].
36 HOW DO I LIVE (LeAnn Rimes)
How Do I Live this week secures yet another place in chart history as it celebrates its 30th week on the chart, regarded as the line between a long-running chart hit and something quite exceptional. Only a small handful of discs have ever managed 30 or more consecutive weeks and what makes the achievement of LeAnn Rimes so much more spectacular is that every single one of them has been spent inside the Top 40. Not even epic chart-topping hits such as Everything I Do and Love Is All Around have managed this in recent years, indeed the last record to do so was Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood which managed 37 weeks in the upper reaches in 1984 and indeed went on to become one of the most-charted singles of all time with a total of 48 weeks in the chart as a whole. Only two singles have beaten the achievement of Relax - Stranger On The Shore gave Acker Bilk a 55 week run in 1961 whilst in 1967 Release Me by Englebert Humperdinck managed 56 weeks, an achievement which is even more impressive when you consider that in both cases the chart was only compiled to a Top 50. Stranger On The Shore is incidentally the all-time record holder for Top 40 longevity with 45 consecutive weeks (Release Me only managed 24) but both singles pale into insignificance behind Frank Sinatra's My Way which from 1969 onwards spent 32 straight weeks in the Top 40, 47 weeks in the Top 50 and over the course of the last 28 years has spent almost 130 weeks in the British charts, the only single ever to chart more than 10 times.