1 PRETTY FLY (FOR A WHITE GUY) (Offspring)
Want to know when Offspring last had a major Top 40 hit? Try never. Throughout the whole of their career (one which began in 1984) the US punk rock band have charted a grand total of two singles inside the Top 40. The first came in February 1995 when Self Esteem reached Number 37, the second was just under two years later - All I Want reaching Number 31. So how does a band without any history of mainstream success and who normally tread a musical path that appeals to a minority manage to score a massive international hit and more importantly land a Number One single in the UK from absolutely nowhere? Actually the appeal of the single isn't too hard to pin down, good old fashioned thrash metal that has no pretensions of putting across a serious message. Memories of 1987-vintage Beastie Boys spring to mind and in terms of both style and subject the track is reminiscent of old Anthrax tracks such as I'm The Man, a kind of "we are a bunch of pasty white rockers attempting to sound like cool rappers and we know it looks stupid" attitude. Saturation play on a surprising number of radio stations has meant the single flies to the top of the charts to emulate its achievements in many countries on the continent to become the most surprising but in some ways the most welcome Number One single of the year so far. Heck, it is almost certainly the first Number One ever to sample a Def Leppard song...
2 TEQUILA (Terrorvision)
Terrorvision's current album Shaving Peaches has already produced one Top 40 single in the shape of Josephine which reached Number 23 in October last year. Tequila also first appeared on that album and like most of the tracks was produced by Edwin Collins. Hardly one of the most outstanding tracks on the long-player you would not have earmarked it as a likely single. That was before remixers Mint Royale got their hands on the track and performed the same magic on it as Fatboy Slim did to Cornershop's Brimful Of Asha around this time last year. Most of the original instrumentation has been stripped away, a chorus of children has been added along with whistles, shakers and trumpets, effectively turning the track into the most sublime party track you have heard since, well, Brimful Of Asha. Radio One breakfast presenter Zoe Ball claims to be a long-time fan of the band and put pressure on EMI to release the mix as the next Terrorvision single and so here it is, frustrated at the last from becoming their first ever Number One single but at the same time far and away their biggest chart single ever. It sails past the Number 5 peak scaled by Perseverance in March 1996 to put the Bradford band in the Top 3 eight and a half years after their first chart hit.
4 WESTSIDE (TQ)
The string of new entries near the top of the chart continues with this debut UK hit single for TQ. Again it comes seemingly from nowhere but once again the appeal of the single is quite obvious, rather melancholy gangster-rap lyrics that a reminiscent of late 2-Pac recordings (indeed, the track is dedicated to him and other deceased rappers) but performed in a hip-hop soul style, making it easily the smoothest gangster rap single ever.
5 GIMMIE SOME MORE (Busta Rhymes)
Another man always keen to push the boundaries of rap is Busta Rhymes. Remember last April he had the biggest hit of his career with Turn It Up/Fire It Up, all based around the theme to Knight Rider. After the comparatively disappointing Number 23 peak of One last July he returns to the Top 10 with a vengeance with this rap hit that is backed by a haunting string melody (sampled from the Cape Fear soundtrack) that sits both uncomfortably and at the same time rather well with his in-yer-face delivery. Those that have bought the single will note that the sanitised radio version that cleans up the lyrics makes the subject matter of the track impossible to understand rather than simply difficult. Note that four of the Top 5 singles this week are big new entries yet none of them are what you could safely call pop music.
10 TO EARTH WITH LOVE (Gay Dad)
Almost as soon as Christmas was over the hype machine went into overdrive to promote Gay Dad, the band whose name even shouts at you to sit up and notice. Sit up and notice the media certainly has done with interviews and profiles galore even before they had released their first single. Finally it has arrived and as expected lands neatly inside the Top 10 (albeit only just you will notice). In fairness Gay Dad are certainly something to get excited about and the single itself is a breathless, energetic track that seems to be an amalgam of every trendy rock song made over the last 25 years. Any record that contains throwbacks to Roxy Music, Be Bop Deluxe, XTC and U2 within the first 30 seconds is worthy of anyone's attention but time will tell whether this is the start of something big for Gay Dad or whether they have used up their share of inspiration on this one single.
[This single was briefly notorious for the extraordinary writer and producer credits its Music Week listing carried when it first made the charts:
"information withheld by label" was a last resort by the magazine after the label failed to respond to requests to register it properly and prompted write-ups elsewhere (notably in one of the first editions of Heat magazine). The explanation eventually forthcoming was that the Gay Dad track was an amalgam of production by Tony Visconti (who had then been fired) and his replacements Gary Langan and Chris Hughes. The single had been rush-released after Mark Radcliffe got hold of it and it wasn't initially clear even to London records' A&R department whose work had ended up on the finished product. It wasn't until three weeks later, the single's final week on the Top 75, that they at least came through with composer credits].
12 THREE DRIVES (Greece 2000)
The first of two semi-instrumental trance tracks to chart this week is Three Drives, a club favourite throughout much of last year but which never had a proper release at the time, preventing it from making a Top 40 appearance until now. It may be the bigger hit but there is one below that inspires more fond memories.
18 LOVE STIMULATION (Humate)
More dance retrospectives here or should that be Paul Van Dyk retrospectives? Vam Dyk made Number 28 back in September last year, a long-overdue release of a classic track he had made a number of years ago. It is the same story for Love Stimulation, the track with which the German DJ began his career and made his name back in 1993. The blurb which accompanies the single claims it was the most-played club hit of that year and whether or not this is true the track is something of a lost classic and has certainly never had a commercial release in this country. Until now of course and the mainly instrumental trance track with a deliciously retro eurodisco-inspired bouncing bassline lands nicely in the Top 20.
22 MALIBU (Hole)
Sensibly waiting until the Christmas rush is over, Hole release the second single from the Celebrity Skin album. Maybe not as commercial as the title track which made Number 19 in September last year, this ode to beach life just falls short of giving Courtney Love her fourth successive Top 20 single and indeed it is the first Hole single to fall short of the 20 since Miss World in April 1994.
23 ELECTRIC BARBARELLA (Duran Duran)
After being quiet for the whole of 1998 Duran Duran released a Greatest Hits collection to coincide with the tour they undertook as part of last Autumn's 80s-revivalist cult. As always such collections included a new recording and in this case it was Electric Barbarella which duly becomes their first chart hit since Out Of My Mind made Number 21 in May 1997 and their 28th chart single in total. It is strange really that their triumphant 1993 comeback should seem so long ago but if nothing else this single proves that they are still capable of making some rather good records. Alright Electric Barbarella is far from a classic but it is a nice nod to the past, its title a direct reference to the nightclub which the band used to frequent in the late 1970s and which in turn inspired them to take their name from the Jane Fonda film. The fact that the single is more closely related to their debut Planet Earth than anything they have released in the last decade can be no coincidence either.
30 FLAME (Sebadoh)
Maybe a bit too alternative to become a big hit but nontheless it is a good sight to see Sebadoh have a Top 40 hit for the first time. The American act first made their chart debut in 1996 with a track called Beauty Of The Ride which reached the dizzy heights of Number 74.
40 QUANDO QUANDO QUANDO (Engelbert Humperdinck)
OK OK OK, let me just take a reference point here. This week's UK chart has seen the likes of Offspring at the top, a band called Gay Dad land in the Top 10 and a six year old instrumental dance hit that sounds like a London Boys backing track make the Top 20. After all of this are you really surprised that Engelbert Humperdinck has scraped into the Top 40 for the first time in 27 years? A whole generation may know him for some rather cheesy US TV shows in the 1970s and the thing he does with a telephone directory but let us not forget that at one time he was one of the biggest selling stars ever to hail from this country (even if he was born in India - but then again so was Cliff Richard). His 1967 hit Release Me spent 56 consecutive weeks in what was in those days the Top 50, a record that remains unbroken to this day. His run of hits dried up not long after he turned Vegas, his last Top 40 single until now was a track called Too Beautiful To Last which made Number 14 in March 1972. His return to the chart comes thanks to this camp disco version of his take on the Italian standard Quando Quando Quando, a record so astonishing I'm glad I don't have to write anything else until next week.