1 FLAT BEAT (Mr Oizo)
For their latest advertising campaign to promote their new range of Sta-Press clothing, the Levis' Jeans company turned to French director Quentin Dupieux who created a bizarre series of commercials featuring the yellow gopher puppet Flat Eric. Distinctive though the commercials were, the one thing everyone wanted to know was what exactly was the 'music' Eric was grooving to, the hypnotic white noise techno beat that was blaring out of his car stereo. The tune is called Flat Beat and was written especially for the advert by Dupieux himself. Public demand more or less forced its official commercial release and the hype that has built up around the track over the last couple of months meant that a debut at Number One with a sale of over 250,000 copies was almost inevitable. Monsieur Dupieux can now claim to be the first Frenchman to have a Number One single in the UK since Charles Aznavour topped the chart with She way back in 1974. Even taking into account the number of records that have charted this year thanks to TV adverts, Levis have far and away the best track record for creating hits. Since they started using musical soundtracks for their adverts in 1986 there have been no less than six Number One singles that have topped the chart as a direct result of the advert, ranging from oldies from Ben E King, Steve Miller Band and The Clash in 1987, 1990 and 1991 to brand new hits from unknown acts like Stiltskin in 1994, Babylon Zoo in 1996 and now Mr Oizo [it was actually the seventh, this list omitting to mention Shaggy's Mr Boombastic from 1995]. The presence of this record at the top of the chart will baffle as many people as it delights as the record itself can barely be called music. It is techno reduced to its basic elements, a thumping beat and a bassline consisting of varying tones of white noise, pretty much the same effect can be obtained by attempting to play a CD-Rom in a domestic hi-fi. Never before has a record so totally devoid of anything approaching a tune sold quite so many copies and I cannot help but wonder if this is the Candle In The Wind effect all over again - a record being bought because of what it stands for and what it represents rather than what it actually sounds like.
2 WITCH DOCTOR (Cartoons)
Well it has more music in it than Flat Beat but I wonder how many people will welcome the presence of Cartoons as the second biggest selling hit of the week. The Danish pop group are essentially based on the same blueprint as fellow countrymen Aqua except that Cartoons have done away with any pretence of seriousness. Their mission in life is to produce fun, bouncy novelty singles that are guaranteed to appeal to everyone under the age of nine. Their opening chart salvo comes in the form of a frantic cover version of Witch Doctor, originally written and recorded by Chipmunks creator David Seville in 1958. Although his version was a Number One single in America he could only reach Number 11 and had to watch British singer Don Lang go one better and reach Number 5 in a version that charted at the same time. Whereas the original 1950s versions created their high pitched choruses by speeding tapes up by hand in the studio this 1990s version uses modern studio technology to make what was at the time an innovative novelty single seem almost totally effortless. It is highly unlikely that any of the 7 year old children who have persuaded their parents to buy them this track will appreciate that the song dates from the classic era of rock and roll, the rest of us should note that this is almost certainly the first stage in Cartoons becoming one of the biggest acts in the world. [Panic over, they weren't].
3 HONEY TO THE BEE (Billie)
With her fourth single Billie maintains her 100% record of Top 3 hits and must surely be cursing her luck as for the second successive time she releases a single during a busy week for massive new hits, thus preventing Honey To The Bee from emulating her first two hits and shooting straight to the top. The title track from her debut album is easily her most sophisticated and most accessible offering yet, a composition based on the same blues stylings as All Saints' Never Ever. The almost effortless way Billie has been turned from schoolgirl model into a fully fledged singing star has meant she has received more than her fair share of criticism in the nine months since her first single Because We Want To but anyone who claims she is untalented has clearly not been paying enough attention to her music, as this single admirably proves.
5 YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE (New Radicals)
For the first time since October 31st last year (when the Top 5 were all new entries) four of the five biggest-selling singles of the week are brand new songs. Bringing up the rear so to speak is the debut single from the band from Michigan who reached the American Top 30 with this single a few months ago but now go one better in the UK. Its sheer unconventionality and addictive chorus makes it stand out from the crowd and this Top 5 entry is really nothing less than it deserves. [This would also be the cue for Gregg Alexander to carve out a career for himself as a pop songwriter, even if that did mean 20 different clones of this hit track].
7 NO SCRUBS (TLC)
For TLCs new album Fanmail Arista records used the same marketing strategy they employed for Whitney Houston's current album, releasing it without too much fanfare to prevent the market being diluted with imports as can happen with releases of this nature. Hence its first single arrives on the chart a few weeks after the release of its parent album but just like Whitney's recent single it makes an immediate impact for the band who played a large part in introducing female R&B to a British audience in the early 1990s. No Scrubs shows the veteran girl group at the height of their powers, easily one of the catchiest and most accessible singles they have released in years, even if the concept of a man as a "scrub" may well be an unfamiliar one to British audiences. It crashes into the Top 10 to become only the third Top 10 single of their career. Their only other singles to climb this high were Waterfalls (Number 4 in August 1995) and a remix of Creep which hit Number 6 in January 1996.
9 BLAME IT ON THE WEATHERMAN (B*witched)
Well you do have to feel for them, just one week after creating all sorts of chart records with their fourth successive Number One single the four Irish lasses find themselves setting chart benchmarks of a different kind with one of the most dramatic falls from the top of the charts seen in many many months. As a direct consequence of the culture of massive first week sales and moderate business thereafter the number of singles that have fallen straight out of the Top 5 after hitting Number One is on the increase, indeed during 1997 and 1998 no less than seven different singles performed this feat. The best (or worst) of these were Block Rockin' Beats from the Chemical Brothers and Blood On The Dancefloor from Michael Jackson which both plummeted 1-8 after their spells at the top. Now B*witched beat all of these by plummeting to Number 9, equalling the decade's biggest fall from the top as managed by Iron Maiden's Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter in January 1991. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the girls should suffer this kind of fate as none of their singles to date have managed long runs at the top end of the chart. C'est La Vie fell to Number 4 immediately after its run at the top (although it subsequently climbed back up to Number 3) whilst To You I Belong slumped to five a week after debuting at the top. To date their only single to maintain a Top 3 placing after falling from Number One is Rollercoaster which only dropped to Number 2 in October last year.
10 YOU GOTTA BE '99 (Des'ree)
Turn your television on again if you will because once more a TV advert creates a hit single and yet again it is an advert for a car. After the Ford Puma advert launched Born To Be Wild into the Top 20 two months ago, the Ford Focus helps this slightly remixed version of You Gotta Be into the Top 10. Incredibly enough this is now the third time in the last five years the track has been a UK hit. On its original release in April 1994 it made Number 20 and was subsequently a minor American hit. On the back of this the single was remixed and released and reached Number 14 in March 1995. Now four years down the line this second remix helps the single into the Top 10 for the first time to give the Brit award winning singer her second Top 10 single to follow Life which reached Number 8 in June last year.
14 OUT OF THE BLUE (System F)
A much-delayed release for this Belgian-originated dance single as its most protracted period of club popularity came over the Christmas/New Year period. The long wait between white label and official release clearly hasn't harmed its commercial prospects too much, as this high new entry indicates.
15 COLOUR THE WORLD (Sash)
Sad to relate that Colour The World looks set to become the lowest charting Sash single to date. His pre-Christmas offering Move Mania set alarm bells ringing when it only reached Number 8 and became his first single to miss the Top 3. Now this latest single fares even worse and after six successive Top 10 singles he looks set to miss the Top 10 altogether. Not that there is anything wrong with it, the usual keyboard wizardry from the German is complemented by a gospel chorus and a short rap contribution from its co-author, none other than Doctor Alban who thus makes his first Top 40 appearance since Sing Hallelujah reached Number 16 in April 1993. The one criticism it was always possible to level at Sash singles was that they were all made to the same formula and that their appeal would only last until people became tired of the same basic rhythm. On this evidence that moment could well have arrived.
16 WINDOW LICKER (Aphex Twin)
It was October 1997 that the Aphex Twin (or Richard James as he is known to his mother) was last heard of with the Number 36 hit Come To Daddy, despite his huge reputation it was only his second ever Top 40 hit. Since then he has clearly discovered pop music as this new single slows the tempo right down compared to previous releases although his unique style remains intact. Adding to the singles's appeal, there surely cannot be a dance fan in the country who hasn't caught a glimpse of the tongue in cheek video that accompanies the track. The result is far and away his biggest hit single ever, the first time he has ever broken into the Top 30 never mind the Top 20.
34 JUMP JIVE N' WAIL (Brian Setzer Orchestra)
The Stray Cats were a curious musical anomaly. At the start of the 1980s, at the height of the minimalist synthesiser boom they had a string of hit singles, playing good old fashioned rockabilly swing. Although they never really took off in their native America, for a brief period over here they were red hot, reaching the Top 10 with Runaway Boys and Rock This Town. Although the band split officially in 1983 a series of one-off reunions kept the concept alive thanks to the dedication of Brian Setzer. Almost a decade after the last Stray Cats release the man himself is back, now backed up with a big band but still making the same wonderful retro-swing. After winning a grammy last year the Brian Setzer Orchestra makes a bid for the charts over here and sneak into the Top 40 with this infectious jive that comes across as the bastard cousin of Shake Rattle And Roll. The song's progress even this far up the chart has almost certainly been helped by its use as the soundtrack to one of a series of Gap Jeans adverts airing on TV at present. It is no less a novelty tune than the Cartoons single but the contrast in their chart positions could hardly be greater.