[Then came the announcement which changed everything. Killing off the physical singles market almost at a stroke, and finally ushering for real in what these pages always refer to as the Digital Era]. At the end of last week, something big happened. A nondescript press release from the Official Charts Company announced that the final stage of the digital revolution will take place in the new year. From January 1st, 2007 the rule tying a downloaded single to its physical equivalent will vanish. If a track sells, the singles chart will rank it - effectively turning the UK chart into a "songs" listing in the same manner as the US Hot 100 is already. For the haters of the "one week before release and two weeks after deletion" rule which in the past year has led to Top 10 selling singles not actually appearing in the Top 10 it is very welcome news. It should also mean the singles chart becomes the most democratic it has ever been. For the first time, the record industry will not control what does and doesn't count as a "hit". In the past year, golden oldies from the likes of Mariah Carey and Kate Bush have charged into the iTunes Top 10 but did not register on the singles chart - a situation that will not exist next year. Keep counting the weeks until the new year. At that point, we're going to have to learn the singles market all over again.
As for the Top 40 chart itself this week, the old school rules gives us an impressive 14 new entries, three climbers and two non-movers.
The big story of the top end is the mini invasion of some good old fashioned dance music. Once considered the cutting edge of musical innovation and the dominating force in popular culture, dance music has pretty much vanished underground over the last six or seven years. The only club records that tend to sell in large numbers are either fun novelties, "looped house" remakes of old 80s pop hits or tracks propelled to mainstream attention by TV commercials. Hence it is actually quite refreshing to see the Top 2 singles being good old fashioned floor fillers, hard on the heels as well of the Top 3 run of Bob Sinclar's Rock This Party.
The big winner of the week is Fedde Le Grand who moves 2-1 with Put Your Hands Up For Detroit to becomes the first club hit to top the charts since Meck's Thunder In My Heart Again back in February. Yes, the stripping scientists video that accompanies the track can be credited with a large part of its success, but at the end of the day, it has also been what has given the track a toehold on the video jukebox channels which are all important for securing chart success. It gives tiny dance imprint Data records a fourth UK Number One hit, their first since Call On Me by Eric Prydz back in 2004.
The single is followed on the chart by the record which was actually widely expected to leapfrog it for the top spot. After reaching Number 11 on digital sales alone last week (itself an unusually strong showing for a club hit), Bodyrox and Luciana soar to Number 2 with Yeah Yeah. Radio support for the single has been extensive but what is perhaps most entertaining about the marketing of this single is that the "official site" for the duo is actually nothing more than a landing page that then redirects you straight to their MySpace profile. Big up to all their 3,500 friends (and counting).
As I mentioned last week, the release schedules for Monday 6th November are crammed with new singles from some very big name acts indeed. Most of them are such priority releases that they are set to hit both the online and high street stores simultaneously, leaving us playing guessing games as to just where they will all chart. This does mean that just for a change it is not safe to assume that the biggest selling download only single of the week will be an automatic Number One next week, although it would be a foolish man who rules it out.
As superstar collaborations go, they don't come much more mouthwatering than the combination of U2 and Green Day who land with a bang at Number 6 with The Saints Are Coming. The song dates back to 1978 when it appeared on the Skids album Scared To Dance. Released as a single, it crept to Number 48 and was ultimately overshadowed by the Top 10 success of the follow-up Into The Valley, the song for which the punk band are perhaps best remembered. Nonetheless, it remained an anthem of sorts, especially for the supporters of Dunfermline football club in Scotland who regularly serenade their team with the song. With lyrics laden with images of water and drowning, it seemed the perfect choice as a charity record to aid the rebuilding of the poorer areas of New Orleans that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Anticipation for its release has been intense ever since U2 and Green Day debuted the track at the Louisiana Superdome during an NFL game back in August. Its status as the must-have rock release of the month is cemented by this impressive chart debut and it is indeed only the level of competition in the market next week that is likely to prevent it from topping the chart. The single is set to form part of U2s latest Greatest Hits collection and becomes their first Top 40 hit in just over a year, the follow up effectively to All Because Of You which made Number 4 in October last year. Co-credited dance remakes aside, Green Day are the first act to appear alongside the Irishmen on record since BB King duetted with them on When Love Comes To Town, a Number 6 hit in 1989. For Green Day this is also their first hit since the end of last year. Their biggest hit to date was the Number 3 peak of American Idiot back in 2004. Is it possible that this one will end up even bigger?
As was widely expected, the chart-topping performance of McFly's Star Girl was nothing more than a flash in the pan, the single falling off the proverbial cliff with a 1-9 plummet this week. It is their third Number One in a row to charge straight out of the Top 5 after one week and beats the 1-8 tumble of I'll Be OK to give them their biggest fall so far.
The next biggest new hit of the week is a download only single that marks one of the most anticipated comebacks of the year. Female foursome All Saints first hit the charts in September 1997. Coming at the height of Spice Girls mania they were at first regarded as the first in a long line of famous five clones, a notion that was quickly dispelled by singles of quite breathtaking quality. In Shaznay Lewis they had a songwriter of rare class and coupled with some well-chosen production choices and a neat line in clever cover versions they ran up 8 consecutive Top 10 singles before disintegrating in rows over which jackets to wear in 2001. With the split coming just as the solo Spice Girls' careers verged on the ludicrous, the chances of the individual members of All Saints finding a niche as solo artists were very slim indeed. Now five years on and with bygones being bygones, the four girls are ready for the world once more.
For all that it is a shame then that the reception to Rock Steady has been so lukewarm. As lushly produced and well crafted as it is, the record is more or less interchangeable with anything from the last Sugababes album. The 1990s All Saints offered something new and exciting and it is almost as if the 21st-century model can't do anything more than serve up something we already have elsewhere. At a paltry 2:45 the single is over before it even gets going leaving you wondering what the point of the exercise is. Still, let us not write it off altogether. Number 11 on downloads for an act who haven't released a record for five years is pretty good going and at the very least the physical release next week should give them another comfortable Top 10 hit. I remain to be convinced as to whether this will wind up as the triumphant comeback everyone was expecting.
The remainder of the Top 30 is almost frantically busy this week, so let's rattle through the main movers and shakers. Simon Webbe soars 50-12 on combined sales with his latest single Coming Around Again. It is the first track to be taken from his second solo album Grace and as such can be considered a slight disappointment given that the first two singles from his last long player were both easy Top 10 hits. More soulful and with a better voice than your average former boy band member, he doesn't deserve to be written off just yet but he has some work still to do to become the mainstream adult star he wants to be.
Also appearing on the chart on combined sales are Depeche Mode whose new single Martyr arrives at Number 13. Their third Top 20 hit of the year, the single is a previously unheard new track that didn't quite make it onto their last album Playing The Angel but which will now take pride of place on their obligatory Greatest Hits collection due to hit the shops for the festive market. The one-time synthesiser pioneers are pretty much caught in the same trap as fellow 80s relics the Pet Shop Boys, releasing serviceable and well received singles which sell to their ever loyal band of fans without ever once tickling the mainstream consciousness. Ignoring the December 04 chart entry of Something To Do (which was part of a limited edition package of remixes), their latest single is their 10th straight Top 20 hit single, a run which reaches back to the 1998 release of Only When I Lose Myself (itself taken from a Hits collection). In spite of thi, you'd be hard pressed to remember the last Depeche Mode single which made people care.
New in at Number 17 are Babyshambles with Janie Jones (Strummerville), oddly enough the second punk era cover to chart this week having originally been recorded by The Clash. It is the first hit single for Doherty and his men in over a year and marks a return to the charts after some tedious record company issues. Number 17 is something of a comedown for them following three straight Top 10 hits with their last releases, but then again the group are more about their live concerts and tabloid attention for their tortured lead singer than they are about the detail of actually selling records. With another EP release pencilled in for the start of December, maybe it is for the best that Janie Jones has a brief chart life.
Also new in on combined sales are Jamiroquai who hit Number 18 with Runaway, a Number 72 download only hit seven days ago. The new single is taken from their own forthcoming Greatest Hits collection which neatly marks the transition between their original record deal, signed all the way back in 1993 to a brand new one with Columbia records. It seems almost astounding to note that Jay Kay et al have been having hits consistently for 12 years now and whilst commercially they may never quite reach the dizzy heights they scaled in the mid-90s, their music remains well received and innovates enough each time to ensure that a new audience is always just around the corner. Runaway possibly deserved to be a bigger hit but a hits collection from the group is very much overdue.
Also stuck in mid-table are Keane whose third single of the year Nothing In My Way made a non-canon Number 93 this week and so makes an official entry at Number 19 this week. In doing so it places one rung higher than its predecessor Crystal Ball. Indeed the rest of the Top 30 is rammed with singles that sold in small numbers online last week but this week find their CD sales give them enough of a boost to make the chart for real. After a gap of four years, Jack Black's pisstake rockers Tenacious D return to the singles chart with Pod which rises to Number 24. Taken from their new film of the same name it is only their second ever chart hit and a big improvement on the sadly overlooked Wonderboy which made Number 34 in November 2002. Emo-wonders Panic! At The Disco clock up their third hit of the year with I Write Sins Not Tragedies at Number 25, not quite their biggest hit to date but at the very least their second Top 30 hit. They must be looking at the success of MCR and wondering just how they do it. And just to prove that even the biggest names aren't guaranteed hits every time, just check out the rather miserable performance of The Game (Number 26 with It's Okay) and Sean Paul (Number 31 with (When You Gonna) Give It Up To Me).
The final word this week though has to go to the Number 22 single Herculean which arrives courtesy of the mysteriously named The Good The Bad And The Queen. The single is the first release from Damon Albarn's brand new project, a supergroup of sorts featuring Paul Simonon (ex of the Clash), Simon Tong (ex of The Verve and sometime member of Gorillaz) and Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen. Herculean is destined for a short chart life having been both released and deleted on Monday, a move which may possibly have backfired given the rather understated chart entry the single made for its one and only week on CD. Expect the Dangermouse-produced album sometime in the new year.