What a week. Three bits of chart-related news come to mind before we start this week. First, we have to wait a bit longer for the arrival of downloaded sales into the main chart, the independent labels finally managing to make enough noise about the fact that they find it hard to get onto the likes of Napster and iTunes and persuading the OCC to put integration day back a month for the issue to be resolved. Javine is going to Eurovision - not necessarily a bad thing. Jordan would have been a disaster given that the contest is about "who can sing the best song" and not "who has the largest breasts" so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Not that Javine is necessarily going to win of course - Arabian sounding pop is so 2003 as far as Eurovision is concerned. Oh yes and finally RIP Tommy Vance who despite his rock credentials was also one of the most memorable hosts of the Radio One Top 40 show back in the early 80s. Going from his intense, gravelly tones to the two local radio clowns that populate the show now is a measure of how far that slot has fallen in the past 25 years.
Our weekly brand new Number One is something of a pleasant surprise as with Dakota the Stereophonics finally and deservedly add themselves to the list of chart-topping hitmakers. They arrive at the top of the charts after a wait of nearly four years, More Life In A Tramp's Vest marking their Top 40 debut back in May 1997. Prior to today, they have had nine Top 10 hits but none have advanced past Number 3 (The Bartender And The Thief in November 1998 and Maybe Tomorrow in August 2003). Their most famous hit is possibly their 2001 cover of Chris Farlowe's Handbags And Gladrags which made Number 4, their version often being mistaken for the one used a few months later as the theme to TV comedy 'The Office'. Finally given that this week saw the celebration of St David's day it seems only appropriate to acknowledge that the Stereophonics are the first all-Welsh group to top the charts since the Manic Street Preachers hit the top in the first few weeks of 2000. [There is so much to love about the fact that Dakota is their one and only Number One hit. Somehow it just seems so entirely appropriate that their biggest hit just happens to be the greatest song they ever recorded. Here this and revel in both a genuine classic, but the one song guaranteed to make thoughts of the lost love of your 20s tug on your heart strings once more].
Odds on any further Elvis re-releases making the top must surely have lengthened as Rock A Hula Baby/Can't Help Falling In Love becomes the second release in a row to chart at Number 3. In a way, this is a shame as the single is easily one of his most famous. Can't Help Falling In Love was originally just the b-side of the single but after a month on the chart the single was listed as a double a-side and before long the credits were reversed. The single shot to Number One in February 1962 and swiftly became an Elvis standard, for years being the song with which he closed concert performances (prior to the famous "Elvis has left the building" announcements). Sadly the single also marked the start of Elvis' crap period when almost every one of his singles came from the soundtrack of the series of increasingly feeble movies that he made throughout the mid-1960s. Both Rock-A-Hula Baby and Can't Help Falling In Love were taken from Blue Hawaii, a film which actually makes later offerings look like masterpieces. Can't Help Falling In Love is one of Elvis' most covered songs, most recently by UB40 who took the track back to Number One in 1993.
The third biggest new hit of the week lands at Number 4. It comes from clubland and oh yes, represents the latest in a trend for club remakes of 80s hits. Hard on the heels of the likes of Call On Me, This Is The World We Live In and Out Of Touch comes Cabin Crew's Star To Fall. Just for a change, the record doesn't originate from the continent but from Australia from where import copies began appearing and which has prompted this UK release. The track is based heavily around samples from Waiting For A Star To Fall which was a Top 10 hit for George Merrill and Shannon Rubican, aka Boy Meets Girl in early 1989. The duo were successful songwriters in the late 80s, contributing several hits for the likes of Whitney Houston. Indeed it was for Whitney that Waiting For A Star To Fall was first composed, her management rejecting the song and then having to watch it become a worldwide hit for its composers. Back to the present day though and the Cabin Crew version is accompanied by the requisite cheesy video featuring a series of scantily clad air hostesses going through the motions so to speak in time to the music. Yes, it is lightweight throwaway pop but it works well. By a curious coincidence, the song is the second Merrill/Rubican composition to be turned into a dance smash, the duo also having penned How Will I Know which was turned by LMC into Take Me To The Clouds Above at the start of last year. [Coincidence doesn't begin to cover what will transpire in a week or so. But the "loooping house" craze is now well and truly upon us and would blight pop music until the start of the following year].
Next up at Number 6 is Do Somethin', the latest offering from Britney Spears who breaks her self-imposed musical vow of silence for the promotion of this track. Like her previous hit My Prerogative the single is taken from her Greatest Hits collection that was released before Christmas and thus appears in the shops for the sake of keeping her name in the charts more than anything else. Still, the single gives her another Top 10 hit (her 17th in total) and the task of promoting it has forced her to scrub back up for a change. For small mercies, we can at least be grateful.
Landing at Number 7 this week are an act who at the start of the year were widely tipped to be one of the discoveries of 2005 - and just for a change, all those wild predictions have turned out to be quite correct. New Yorkers The Bravery have been compared to the likes of The Cure and New Order and after forming in 2003 became the subject of something of a bidding war when they signed for a major label at the end of last year. Their debut Top 40 hit comes on the back of support slots for the likes of Interpol and The Libertines and whilst I don't personally see that it is much to rave about, it certainly goes a long way towards explaining just why they have been one of the biggest names to drop over the last few months. [Does it need saying? This was extroardinarily enough their only chart hit of note. A classic case of hype expectation leading nowhere].
For the next new entry of the week, we have to look as far down as Number 16 where Styles & Breeze crash in with Heartbeatz. The single is the second Top 20 hit in a row for the duo who also made Number 19 in July last year with Your Shining which features the vocal talents of Karen Danzig. Expect their debut album to follow shortly.
Just below them at Number 18 is the returning Moby with his first chart single in two and a half years. His forthcoming new album apparently features an eclectic mix of styles and Lift Me Up is certainly different, neatly riding the current electropop fad to sound like the best record Depeche Mode never made. In a way it is a huge shame it hasn't turned out to be one of his bigger hits, although it does at least return him to the Top 20 for the first time since We Are All Made Of Stars hit Number 11 back in 2002. With an illustrious chart career that dates right the way back to 1991 it is always a welcome sight to see Moby back on the chart, with even the potential millstone of 1999's smash hit Play album appearing not to weigh too heavily on his shoulders - although avoiding the temptation to try to catch lightning in a a bottle twice went a long way towards helping that.
The singles chart actually has an oddly retro feel to it this week with a whole slew of new singles arriving at the very bottom end. Of course whereas once most of these would go on a slow climb to the upper reaches, in this day and age it represents the almost certain peak of their achievements (and we await with interest the arrival of download sales to see what effect that has on the way songs behave in the charts). The first of these also rans is at Number 22 as MC Kano makes his chart debut. Kano comes from the clumsily titled Grime scene from which the likes of Dizzee Rascal also emerged. A product of East London, the genre mixes elements of rap and drum n' bass with the anyone can do it ethos of punk. Kano was easily one of the standout talents of the underground scene and it was only a matter of time before he was picked up by a label and propelled into the charts. A Number 22 entry is a solid start and you can expect bigger things from him as time wears on.
The bottom end of the Top 40 this week also contains new entries from acts more accustomed to better things. Take REM for example who suffer the indignity of one of their smaller hits of recent years with Electron Blue landing at a mere Number 26, a poor showing given that their last single Leaving New York was a Top 10 hit at the back end of last year. Having said that the single is actually following a strange trend with REM's last three albums all spawning two singles - one a Top 10 smash followed by another that struggles to make the Top 30. Electron Blue may be a disappointment in relative terms but given that All The Way To Reno and Animal had similar chart performances in 2001 and 2004 respectively, this Number 26 entry was actually oddly predictable.
Still spare a thought for Shania Twain who called her latest single Don't only to find that people didn't, the single landing at a poor Number 30 to become her smallest hit single ever in this country, only her second ever to miss the Top 20. Bjork too finds herself swimming at the bottom of the pool at Number 31 with Triumph Of A Heart although this is just another in a long line of low charting singles, Iceland's finest export having last made the Top 20 way back in 1996.