[And now for what, perhaps regrettably, ended up being the musical sensation of the year. Ding Ding].
My American friend Cori texted me on Sunday afternoon with an air of deep concern. "Is it true that a ringtone has topped the singles chart over there?"
Well of course if you are a newspaper hack the answer is "yes", a ten-second ringtone is indeed the Number One single in the UK and it is the end of the music business as we know it.
The rest of us know the real story of course. When German telecoms company Jamster picked up the rights to a well known viral flash animation and its accompanying sound effect for sale as a mobile ringtone they wound up with something of a phenomenon on their hands. Backed of course by copious amounts of carefully targeted television advertising, Crazy Frog became the must have download for an entire generation across Europe. With that kind of ubiquity, it was almost inevitable that someone would turn the jingle into a pop record - it was after all a chance for Jamster to make even more money out of the concept. Producers Bass Bumpers (hitherto known only for their 1994 Top 30 single The Music's Got Me) have meshed the ding-ding-ding of Crazy Frog onto a by the numbers cover version of Harold Faltermeyer's 1995 movie hit Axel F and the result is what you see here, a record that has sold 150,000 copies in its first week on sale (curiously enough only a handful of them online), enough to make it far and away the biggest selling track of the week.
Of course creatively speaking it is an incredibly lazy piece of music making (could they not have thought up an original tune for heaven's sake) but the actual single itself is really only part of the story. Axel F has exploded into the chart thanks to the most intensive TV marketing campaign in history. To promote "their" track, Jamster spent several thousands of pounds in buying air time not just on Satellite channels but on the likes of ITV and Channel 4, ensuring that plugs for the track (and of course the ringtone) were in almost every commercial break on television. So intensive was the campaign that the Advertising Standards Authority were forced to issue a statement saying they had no powers to act over the frequency of the commercials, despite hundreds of complaints. Faced with that kind of onslaught it is hardly surprising that the single outsold everything else in its wake, albeit at the cost of a huge chunk of people being put off the single for life.
Axel F began life as the theme to the movie Beverley Hills Cop and hit Number 2 in the summer of 1985. The track returned to the Top 10 in 1995 thanks to a club remake from Clock, that version hitting Number 7. Ten years further on and the catchy synth riff winds up with its biggest chart position yet, this time to the annoyance of half the nation.
No, we haven't got a ringtone at the top of the charts. We've a naff club track inspired by a ringtone at Number One. Love or hate the single (and in truth, there isn't much here to get wound up about), you have to marvel at the marketing effort that put it there in the first place.
[And then, in one of those crazy coincidences which the charts throw up, here come Coldplay cementing their status as true global superstars and winding up with what circumstances dictated would be one of the more notorious Number 2 hits of all time. Just because of what it was stuck behind]. The runners up in this most curious of chart battles could not present more of a contrast if they tried. Thanks to the way they have spellbound America, Coldplay are well on their way to legendary status, even if their career is only three albums old. The eagerly awaited follow-up to 2002's A Rush Of Blood To The Head spawns its first single this week, one which it was hoped would give Chris Martin et al a long overdue Number One hit. Sadly fate has other ideas and so Speed Of Sound is left to join 2002 single In My Place as their joint biggest hit to date by slotting in at Number 2. There is an argument to be made that Coldplay are more of an albums act (single that never was God Put A Smile On Your Face is proof enough of that) but their record of five successive Top 10 hits and more than their fair share of classics is enough to persuade you otherwise, even if Speed Of Sound doesn't suggest they are in any hurry to move on from the melancholy formula that plenty have tried to emulate in their wake but which few have managed to nail.
In a way the chart duel this week has given us a nice balance with Coldplay as the Yin to Crazy Frog's Yang. Ask yourself this though, which is really the more creative. Bass Bumpers serving us up a remake of a 20-year-old instrumental hit or Chris Martin rewriting Clocks and serving it up as their exciting new single?
Third biggest hit of the week and one that is almost lost in the shuffle it seems is 1 Thing, the first ever solo hit single proper from Amerie. The sultry hip-hop soul star has until now been more used to appearing as the featured artist on hits by others. Her chart debut came at the end of 2002 when Why Don't We Fall In Love from her debut album made Number 40, the single being given a small leg-up thanks to the appearance of Ludacris on guest vocals. She is perhaps best known here for her starring role alongside LL Cool J on his Number 18 hit single Paradise from early 2003. Now the time is right for her to emerge as a genuine star in her own right and this sparkling new single from her forthcoming second album is just the ticket, the club friendly track blasting its way into the Top 5.
The much-heralded arrival of download singles has it seems for the moment failed to affect the shape of the singles market or the way most singles behave upon release. Indeed looking at the singles chart this week you would be hard pressed to spot anything that has changed, the table characterised by a string of high new entries and older hits gradually slipping down - no climbers whatsoever feature on the chart this week. Nobody is more a victim of this than Oasis who see Lyla lose momentum in a big way, the single tumbling 1-6 this week in only its second week on the chart. Lyla doesn't even have the excuse of the availability of its parent album to harm sales - and compare this with Feel Good Inc whichy clings on at Number 5 despite the album Demon Days soaring to the top of the charts after its full release last week. It is actually very unusual for an Oasis single to fall this quickly. Until today their most spectacular fall was the 1-5 move undertaken by All Around The World way back in 1998.
With effortless ease Gwen Stefani notches up a third solo hit single with Hollaback Girl slipping in to Number 8, just a few places down from the Number 4 peak scaled by both What You Waiting For and Rich Girl. As you would expect the new single innovates yet again, the track treading an intriguing line between out and out rap and US-style cheerleading. It is a world away from your average pop hit and all the better for it frankly.
Still if you want a genuine surprise then look no further than the single at Number 9, Shot You Down which sees the Audio Bullys return to the charts for the first time in two years. The mixers unique selling point is their willingness to create club records out of the strangest possible sources. Having in the past created Top 20 singles out of obscure blues and easy listening tracks they turn their attention now to Nancy Sinatra's rendition of the old standard (Bang Bang) My Baby Shot Me Down) which is duly torn apart, sampled and reassembled to create a work for beauty. The song is perhaps best known in the original version as performed by Cher, her rendition hitting Number 3 here back in 1966. That same year Nancy Sinatra hit the charts for the very first time, going to Number One with her classic single These Boots Are Made For Walking. A year later she would be back on top once again duetting with dad Frank on Somethin' Stupid which of course returned to the top a few years ago thanks to Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman. Shot You Down marks her first Top 40 appearance since 1969 but her last chart hit of any kind was actually only last year, her version of Let Me Kiss You having hit Number 46 in tandem with the original version by Morrissey which did rather better, hitting Number 8.
Next up is a very welcome debut at Number 15 for Forever Lost by the Magic Numbers. The New York foursome specialise in the same kind of sun-drenched sixties melodies as Turin Brakes but somehow infuse their work with an uplifting spirit that is a world away from the formula pioneered by the aforementioned melancholy duo. Forever Lost is the best single the Beatles never got around to recording, the band worthy of becoming Jellyfish for the 21st century, the kind of single that makes you glad summer is on the way and its cute animated video only serves to add to its charm. If the thought of Crazy Frog at the top of the charts brings you down, a prescribe a swift dose of Magic Numbers to restore your faith in music once more.
My Chemical Romance appear stuck on the cusp of big chart hits, this week following up I'm Not Okay (I Promise) with the similarly frantic Helena, a Number 20 hit to follow a Number 19. The noise they make is by no means unpleasant and has a fantastic energy about it, could it just be that they are took traditionally "rock" to make a big commercial splash in 2005?
Amongst the also-rans outside the Top 20 this week is a genuine curiosity. Soundtrack singles are of course commonplace on the chart and have been for decades, no film worth its salt appears without at least one tie-in record even if they only qualify for "as heard in the film" status by playing for 30 seconds over the closing credits. What is more unusual is for the orchestral scores from movies to become chart hits, but that is just what we have at Number 25 as John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra chart with Battle Of The Heroes from the score of the new Star Wars film. Not that movie legend John Williams hasn't done this before. His famous Theme From Superman reached Number 32 in 1979, the theme from ET hitting Number 17 in 1982. His last singles chart appearance as conductor came in 1993 when the Theme From Jurrasic Park crept to Number 45. His most successful composition is arguably the original Star Wars theme which although it did not chart here, became a Number 10 hit in America in 1977. Its success prompted producer Meco to record a disco reworking which duly topped the US charts and was a Number 7 hit here in that same year. No orchestral recording has ever topped the UK charts although the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra came close in 1982 when their medley single Hooked On Classics hit Number 2.
That's it for this week (we'll gloss over the dismal performance of Brian McFadden's latest offering for fear of making his quite scary fans angry). Incidentally I've got Verbalicious' Don't Play Nice as my ringtone which recently replaced Paffendorf's Be Cool. Some of us have taste after all.