Eric, Eric, Eric. Still there I see. Chalk that up as three weeks for Call On Me at the top of the charts, largely against expectations given the underlying novelty value of the single. The single is now the longest running Number One hit since Frankee's F.U.R.B. also had a three week run back in May and in a reversal of the slowdown we have seen on the chart over the past year or so is surprisingly only the fourth record this year to manage more than a fortnight at the top. It is also worth highlighting once again Stevie Winwood's contribution to to the single for although he is not directly credited he did re-record his vocal samples from Valerie to help them sound better on the single. Effectively then this is his second Number One single, coming a full 38 years after his first, Keep On Running by the Spencer Davis Group. Perhaps more surprisingly he is not the first 1960s chart-topper to have also hit the summit in the 21st century as he follows in the footsteps of both George Harrison and Elvis Presley, although you will note that Winwood is the only one to have still be alive to witness this most extraordinary of comebacks.
The runners up slot this week goes to Ronan Keating, back once again with a sloppy MOR song whose pop appeal is somewhat limited but which clearly presses all the right buttons with his still strong fan base. Soon he will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of his first ever UK hit, Boyzone's cover of Love Me For A Reason having been released here in December 1994. I Hope You Dance is Ronan's first single since his duet with LeAnn Rimes on Last Thing On My Mind charted at Number 5 back in May and extends his run of solo Top 10 hits to 12. Perhaps frustratingly though it is his seventh single in succession to fall short of the Number One position, his last chart-topping single having been back in May 2002 when If Tomorrow Never Comes had a week of glory at the top.
Lining up just below him in a Top 5 packed with new entries are remixers Deep Dish with an all too rare foray into hit-making under their own name. Their last hit singles as artists came as long ago as the mid-90s when they charted three singles, only making the Top 40 with one, The Future Of The Future (Stay Gold) which boasted a guest vocal from Everything But The Girl singer Tracy Thorn and which limped to Number 31 in October 1998. This single Flashdance is much more the ticket and charges into the Top 3 to take its place as the club anthem du jour. In demand though they have always been as remixers, rare are the times a Deep Dish remix makes the charts in its own right - the most notable exception was however in 1998 when their remix of the Rolling Stones track Saint Of Me was credited with helping the single reach the Top 30. I always wondered if it had climbed any higher whether it would have given the legendary rock band a whole new lease of life. Sadly we shall never know.
Keeping it in the family way at Number 4 is Ashlee Simpson, younger sister of Jessica Simpson and a girl with her own spin-off reality TV show. Comparisons abound between her and Hilary Duff for, her famous sister notwithstanding, Ashlee began her showbiz career as one of the stars of teen series 7th Heaven. Say what you like about the whole concept of clean-cut whiter than white US starlets, debut single Pieces Of Me actually isn't half bad. It oozes West Coast niceness, all anthemic chorus and rainbows but as a lightweight pop song, it is very hard to hate. Chalk this up as a worthy Top 5 entry, although you suspect Avril Lavigne could have her in a fight any day.
Time for another REM album and as is now traditional the Top 10 entry for its first single. Both of the last two REM albums have followed the same pattern as far as their hit singles go, one large hit followed by one barely charting one and then silence. Hence Leaving New York is 2004's Imitation Of Life or Bad Day, charging into the chart to remind the world that even ten years on from their career peak they still command a huge audience for any new material. Leaving New York is actually their biggest hit single for some years, their first to go Top 5 since The Great Beyond made Number 3 back in February 2000.
Sneaking in almost as an afterthought at Number 10 are The Streets. After the massive commercial success that was the Number One single Dry Your Eyes, the only place to go was down so full marks to Mike Skinner for not even attempting a similar kind of mainstream hit but instead selecting one of the more "difficult" tracks from A Grand Don't Come For Free. The tale of wild, debauched nightlife and its morning after consequences Blinded By The Lights comes complete with a controversial video that has nicely made headlines over its inability to be screened at any time when, you know, people might be watching. In spite of this, the track still goes Top 10, making it three in a row for Britain's favourite urban poet.
Number 15 sees a new entry for Big Brovaz, this their second hit of the year but frustratingly their third in a row to merely sneak inside the Top 20 rather than charging into the Top 3 like their earlier rather more inspired offerings. Yours Fatally does at least improve on the Number 17 peak of last single We Wanna Thank You but an act aimed at the pop market needs more than just a run of average hits. The truth remains that their second album just hasn't caught fire like the first. Odds against them ever making a third anyone?
At Number 16 this week is the welcome return of a single that is something of a 1990s cult classic. A tribute to 1970s footballer Robin Friday, The Man Don't Give A Fuck was the Super Furry Animals' fourth Top 40 hit single, hitting Number 22 in December 1996. At the time it was something of a sensation, using the f-word every few seconds and setting a record as the most profane song ever to make the charts. In spite of its rather lowly chart placing the track holds a special place in the hearts of their fans and has remained a concert favourite ever since. In preparation for a Greatest Hits collection due out in time for Christmas, the band have now released this, a spectacular live version of the song which clocks in in its unedited form at almost 20 minutes - pushing the bounds of the upper limit for chart singles. At the end of the day there is nothing to stop a single being one 20 minute track and so here it is, a new version of one of the most offensive records ever charging into the Top 20. Better still it has charted six places higher than the original.
Do you feel the pain of Jentina's people? The young singer was supposed to be the hot new talent of 2004 and the launch of her first single was accompanied by a strong marketing campaign, playing up her gipsy roots and making her out to be anything other than the latest manufactured pop puppet. Which of course I'm sure she isn't. The one fly in the ointment was the first single itself, Bad Ass Strippa was little short of a mess, devoid of any kind of popular appeal for the sake of being laced with attitude. It stiffed rather at Number 22 and gossip boards reported with glee on the panic it caused at the record company. Hence the reset button was pressed and Jentina was repackaged as a fully fledged pop babe. Second single French KIsses ditches the rapping and "street" clothes in favour of straight down the middle commercial pop and lip gloss videos. Want the truth? This is a far better single and should really have been the first offering. Perhaps astoundingly given the work that has gone into it, the track still fails to make an impact, hitting Number 20 which you will notice is only two places better than the "failed" Bad Ass Strippa. In a way, this is actually quite a sad situation as Jentina clearly has talent that deserved far better. Somebody somewhere has however cocked her up in quite a spectacular style and the failure of Jentina Mark II to make a commercial splash will have dealt her an almost certain fatal blow. [Yep, that was it for her, the most high profile failed project of the year].
As far as the also-rans go, we have the somewhat astonishing sight of a fifth Top 40 hit for the Cheeky Girls. Having seen their record label Telstar go the way of all flesh the girls are reduced to a low key release on a tiny independent label but still manage to sneak into the Top 40 with Cheeky Flamenco, although a Number 29 new entry is a far cry from the four straight Top 10 hits they managed in 2003. At some point, everyone will decide the joke is over but for the moment the duo continue to pop up in all kinds of strange places.
Stranger still is the new entry at Number 34 for actress Minnie Driver. When she announced she was releasing an album I don't think many people really regarded it as being any more than a vanity project, but hey, here she is with a Top 40 hit single to her name. Bearing in mind that the last Hollywood actress to decide she was also a singer was a certain Jennifer Lopez you cannot blame her for trying, but this single is likely to be little more than a curiosity.