Yeah, I admit it, I'm frustrated. I've been studying chart statistics since the 1980s, took up telling the world about the UK charts via the internet in 1992, have had the privilege of doing so for a variety of respected publications since 1995 and now am sitting back in 2004, watching the old fashioned single die out as a mass market consumer product and wondering how much relevance can really be attached to the singles chart as it currently stands. It isn't all doom and gloom of course as the music itself remains as popular as ever. The tools are now in place for online downloads to be tracked and audited properly and these sales are set to be added to the "official" chart later in the year [naive fool]. For the moment downloads exist as a separate listing so that the kinks of the methodology can be ironed out. It is understandable (and the way the OCC and its predecessors have always done things) but it leaves the main chart listing in a kind of interregnum, still ticking over but with the focus of the industry decidedly elsewhere. [More download angst, but it was understandable. The physical single was dead as a product by this point, the singles chart tracking a product which mainstream pop fans had all but abandoned. But it was still too early to fold downloads into the main chart, as I illustrate over the next few weeks].
Still, let us work with what we have until the end of the year, with Usher maybe not necessarily with the most popular single in the nation but at the very least the biggest selling. Burn lands itself a second week at Number One, thus landing him a fourth week at the top of the charts this year to bring him level with the total notched up by Eamon back in April. Just below him, there is a surprise turnaround for Britney Spears, singer of the last but one Number One hit who sees Everytime climb back one place to Number 2. The single that replaced her at the top, McFly's Obviously slides dismally to Number 10 this week although the boy band do at least have the consolation of topping the albums chart with their debut release this week.
No, the big story of the week is easily the one of the Number 3 single - the release for the first time ever in this country of one of popular music's great watersheds. Contrary to the hype surrounding the single and the waxings of people who simply rehash press releases, Elvis Presley's That's All Right was not the first Rock N' Roll record ever made. It is generally agreed that that particular honour goes to a song called Rocket 88 recorded by Jackie Benston in 1951, the first one ever to make the US charts being Bill Haley's Crazy Man Crazy in 1953. No, what the record did represent was the realising of a dream by local record label boss Sam Phillips who saw the early RnR hits by black artists and the middle aged Bill Haley struggle to become anything more than a southern US interest and was convinced that a million dollars could be made with a good looking white boy who could sing country and blues as if he was a black man. Enter then Elvis Presley who released this as his first ever single exactly 50 years ago. That's All Right was never released in this country (it wasn't until May 1956 that The King first made the UK charts) and so its release as a 50th-anniversary surprise has attracted great attention with much speculation that it could charge straight to the top of the charts. Sadly that hasn't happened but it does mean that for the third time in two years, Elvis Presley has a Top 5 hit single - and this time with nary a remix in sight.
Chalk this up then as his 116th chart single, a full 27 years after his death. Given that the song itself is 50 years old it is almost certainly one of the oldest recordings ever to make the singles chart. Indeed by my reckoning, the only hit to be inspired by a recording that is even older is White Town's 1997 Number One Your Woman which was based around a 1932 recording by Al Bowlly which gave it a vintage of 65 years. See you in 2019 Elvis [OR next January when he does something extraordinary].
Taking second place to Elvis (not that he will mind too much I guess) is Will Young with a single that seems to have been on the TV since the dawn of forever. The title track from the original Pop Idol's second album is Friday's Child and it nips into the chart at a commendable Number 4. Perhaps shockingly that is enough to make it his smallest hit to date, his other six releases having all gone Top 3.
In a nice touch, as well as playing host to one of its oldest acts, the Top 10 is also graced by the presence of its newest hitmakers. Nina Sky is not a she but a they, identical twins Natalie and Nicole Albino. Happily, no Cheeky Girls are they, instead, they are two talented musicians from New York who appear to be on the verge of showing that the US can do the cool girl group from an angle other than R&B. Move Ya Body has its roots in Jamaican dancehall, being based around a well-known riddim Coolie Skank and if you have managed to listen to the radio without having heard this once in the last few weeks then you have probably had Classic FM on by accident, sorry about that. Move Your Body wins the award for the catchiest hit of the week and conjures up memories of 12 months ago when everyone from Lumidee to Sean Paul was making hits based on the Diwali. Could this be the first of many Coolie hits?
One person who has most definitely been there done that in terms of cool girl groups is Shaznay Lewis. Natalie, Nicole and Melanie were the glamour in All Saints but Shaznay was regarded as the musical talent, having a hand in writing most of their songs, even to the extent of hiding herself away in 1999 to write their second album whilst the others made movies and did photo shoots. It is therefore perhaps something of a surprise that it has taken her all this time to launch a solo career, three and a half years since the girl band that first gave her fame dissolved in acrimony. In the intervening period she has watched her former bandmates all crash and burn in an attempt to form their own careers, the Appleton sisters managing three hits before a Number 38 chart entry torpedoed their recording deal. Similarly, Mel Blatt has thus far failed to follow up her Number 16 hit Do Me Wrong from the end of last year, suggesting that somebody somewhere is taking their time to follow up the option. Happily, Shaznay has made a solid start to her solo career, hitting the Top 10 with Never Felt Like This Before. Unkinder critics than I have suggested that the single demonstrates that songwriting is where her talents truly lie but the girl who did all the dirty sounding husky bits on All Saints singles was never going to reappear with a sweetly sung pop stormer. I'm content to give her talent the credit it is due and watch with interest just what she does next.
Dropping outside the Top 10 and the rest of the Top 20 is pretty much devoid of action. This is nonetheless a quite special week for fans of The Hives. The Swedish screamers arrived on the scene on the back of the whole Strokes/White Stripes dirty rock craze back in 2002 and managed two Top 30 hits in the shape of Hate To Say I Told You So and the unforgettable Main Offender which of course had the honour of soundtracking Kylie and her bucking bronco in a certain underwear commercial. Two years on and this brand new single Walk Idiot Walk arrives nicely to coincide with the festival season, charges into the singles chart and gives them their biggest hit to date.
One of the weeks biggest surprises is at Number 19. Irish folk singer Damien Rice first released Cannonball back in November last year and was rewarded with an unexpected Number 32 hit. Second time around the single finds itself lodged firmly inside the Top 20, its reappearance prompted by his well-received performance at Glastonbury last month. Ignore the tedious anti-war pontificating he insists on indulging in and on the album O there is actually very much to love.
You know when we do get downloads included in the singles chart I'm hoping that it brings back the possibility of tracks having a shelf life of more than just a few weeks with the potential there for slow burning hits to grow steadily. It would mean no more writing off hits just because they have charted low down, thus preventing the chart run of six singles which all chart between 27 and 34 being over before they have started. The most unfortunate of all of these is Woo Hoo by the 5,6,7,8's whose single popped up earlier this summer in two rather prominent places in pop culture. Credit for their 'discovery' (even though they have been together for 18 years and have been making records since 1991) goes to Quentin Tarantino who heard the song playing in a shop in Japan and plucked it from nowhere to become one of the highlights of the Kill Bill soundtrack. The track also appeared on Carling's entertaining "shirts v skins" TV commercial that aired in the run up to the European Championship. Football and martial arts - a single that covers all bases it seems. [Woo Hoo is actually a cover of an old rockabilly track from the mid-50s but the 5,6,7,8s made it their own].
Also with a football connection is Max Sedgley's Happy which finally makes the charts after loitering in the boxes of many a DJ for well over a year now. The track had the honour of being ITV's theme tune to their Euro 2004 coverage although with the championships now but a distant memory (unless you are Greek I guess) that particular ship appears to have sailed. It arrives in the charts just one week after the BBCs own effort, Basement Jaxx's Good Luck stormed in at Number 14. I'd stay around to brag about the fact that the biggest Euro 2004 single was the one I appeared on but I'm being chased by some angry Damien Rice fans. See you next week.