The conventional marketing wisdom in music is that singles sell fast, and albums sell slowly. The relative prices of each - one form is after all cheaper than the other and more of an impulse buy- means that the tactic is normally to see singles as having a short and spectacular shelf life but for albums to sell in large numbers over a long period of time - sometimes even decades. Just look at Michael Jackson's Thriller, widely acknowledged as the biggest selling record of all time. Its global sales of anything up to 110 million came largely over a period of 2-3 years, notwithstanding the steady numbers it has accumulated since. The famous album started its chart life at Number 29, did not go Top 10 until 11 weeks later and did not top the charts until three months after release.
Having said that, from the 1990s onwards the increasing ease of producing and distributing ever larger numbers of major new releases meant that the industry could more easily focus attention on satisfying a huge demand for a much anticipated new release and generate some easy headlines along the way. Back in 1991 I remember going along with a friend to a local record store on the day the U2 album Achtung Baby was released. He walked up to the counter to be greeted with the simple question: "album, cassette or CD?". There was no need to ask for the product, the assumption was that if you were in the store on that day there was only one thing you were interested in buying.
Hence most of the biggest sales headlines this week were not, contrary to wild speculation, generated by a certain group from the 1960s but instead five lads from the north west, reunited on record for the first time in fifteen years and who it seemed were on the verge of setting some brand new sales benchmarks. Ever since they reunited in 2006 Take That have demonstrated an uncanny ability to shift product in quite scary levels. Their comeback album Beautiful World sold 443,000 copies in Christmas week 2006 and 2008 collection The Circus shifted 432,000 upon release in December that year and a further 319,000 and 381,000 over the following two weeks. Now this week they beat even those totals with the release of full reunion album Progress, their first since 1995's Nobody Else to feature the "classic" five piece line-up with Robbie Williams along for the ride. The album's superb and widely reported start to the week continued until the weekend, with Progress shifting an astonishing 520,000 copies in the six days it was on sale.
To put this in some kind of context, no other album this century has shifted over half a million units in the space of a week. Before today, Coldplay held the post 2000 record with a sale of 464,000 for X and Y in June 2005. Take That's mammoth sale is only bettered in the modern sales era by the impressive 695,000 copies sold by Oasis in the first chart week of Be Here Now in August 1997 - a week that was actually just three days as the album was released on a Thursday.
Let's not kid ourselves that the presence in the shops of massive selling albums at the end of the year is enough to cover up the industry's wider malaise, the fact that they can't sell albums in this quantity to people at any other time of year is not a problem that is going to be wiped out overnight after all. Nonetheless in a time when theoretically people have got out of the habit of buying music albums, the fact that a group whose career dates back almost 20 years can set brand new sales benchmarks is something to savour and cheer.
This naturally all makes the singles chart a bit of an anti-climax, although it is far from bereft of action. Buoyed perhaps by the presence of its parent album, Take That's single The Flood maintains the runners up slot it landed last week, but even they could not hold back the tide of sales generated by JLS as they land their second Number One of 2010 and their fourth in total with new single Love You More. The track doubled as the official single of the BBC Children In Need appeal, the annual telethon having aired on Friday night, but in truth that matter is hardly relevant. JLS would have been Number One no matter what, their chart consistency echoing that of - yes - Take That back in their 1990s heyday.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the week is the failure of Ellie Goulding to climb any higher than Number 3 with her tender and enormously appealing cover of Elton John's Your Song. In its first full week on sale the single leaps 36 places up the chart to have the small consolation of becoming her biggest hit single to date, beating the Number 4 peak scaled by Starry Eyed back in March. Although unconnected with the show, it is entirely possible the track benefitted not only from its use in the John Lewis TV commercials but by the Elton John theme week on last week's X Factor, this in turn helping Elton's original 1971 hit version to Number 61 this week.
Ellie isn't the only artist to climb into the Top 10 from lower down either. Rocketing from 51-6 is Like A G6 from the Far East Movement, an electro and hip hop quartet from Los Angeles. The group have already made history back home as the first ever Asian-American act to have a Top 10 hit in America, going a stage further last month when Like A G6 ascended to the top of the Hot 100, a position it reclaimed just a few days ago.
Also breaching the glass ceiling, as inevitably we thought it would, is The Time (Dirty Bit) from the Black Eyed Peas which moves 11-7. Their own unique take on the classic Dirty Dancing track (I've Had) The Time Of My Life, the Black Eyed Peas currently nestle in the middle of the two peaks the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes version scaled during its chart runs at the end of the 1980s. First time around in 1987 the single peaked at Number 6, returning to the chart two years later to grab a slot at Number 8 after it was re-released to opportunistically take advantage of the TV premiere of the film.
Remember when Westlife used to be a dead cert for the top of the charts? Not any more it seems. Their now annual chart reappearance ahead of the inevitable Christmastime album is with the single Safe which can only manage a rather weak Number 10 entry. Yes, it is enough to continue their unbroken run of officially released Top 10 hits but it is easily their lowest charting single release ever and a far cry from the Number 2 position they hit just over a year ago with What About Now. It is now four years since Westlife had a Number One single, the longest they have gone without since their chart debut in 1999. Incidentally, I stress the word "official" when talking in terms of their run of Top 10 hits (now totalling 24) as they did chart as low down as Number 62 in December 2007 with the album track I'm Already There but this was a cherry picked album cut and not an officially released single.
The presence of the Take That album in the stores and in the charts has rather cast a shadow over some of the other big releases of the week, which in many ways is a bit of a shame. Mention must be made of Rihanna who charts at Number 2 with brand new album Loud, home to current hit single Only Girl (In The World) which dips to Number 4 after two weeks at the top. The star can boast two tracks from the album in the Top 20 as the lead single is joined this week by What's My Name which sees the star duetting with Drake on a track which has actually proved to be the more popular release in the United States, having been knocked off Number One this week by the Far East Movement single. Not scheduled for promotion as a single here until the new year, the track is already a Number 18 hit and you suspect it is set to take up residency in or around the Top 20 until at least early January. Rihanna also lands herself a Number 55 hit with S&M, another cut from Loud and which is slated to become its third single at some point in the future.
Tinchy Stryder appears to be burning through singles like there is no tomorrow. Barely a fortnight after hitting Number 22 alongside Taio Cruz on Second Chance he is back again, coincidentally at the very same position with 'Game Over', his second Top 30 hit inside a month. The cause of this rapid chart return is the release of his album Third Strike (a rather understated Number 48 entry this week), with most of the attention clearly being focused on this all-star collaboration. The track features vocal contributions from Giggs, Professor Green, Tinie Tempah, Devlin, Example and Chipmunk - not all of whom there is room to list on the singles chart itself. Strange as it may seem, the back to back releases of the two singles appears to have been a deliberate plan by the artist and his label. The video for Game Over was available to view and the track play-listed by radio stations even before Second Chance had made it into the shops at the start of the month.
The final chart story of the week I guess centres around something that didn't actually happen. The release of the entire Beatles back catalogue online has been such a long time coming that the event has developed its own mythology over time, bold predictions being made from many quarters as to just how big a chart domination we would see when the work of the Fab Four finally entered the digital age. Well you will look in vain for the fabled "all Beatles Top 10" that even senior industry figures were ludicrously predicting. Whilst the arrival on iTunes of the Beatles catalogue did indeed spark a surge of interest in their music, in the final analysis the 40-48 year old tracks have barely caused a chart ripple.
Leading the way was Hey Jude which is the only Beatles track to make the Top 40 this week, and even then barely just as it lands at Number 40. Just three others litter the lower end of the Top 75 - Let It Be at Number 46, Twist And Shout at Number 48 and Here Comes The Sun at Number 64. A more random selection from their repertoire you could not hope to select. Still for the record, the peak of Hey Jude does at least mark the Beatles' first appearance in the Top 40 since March 1996 when the newly recorded single Real Love from the Anthology project made Number 4, their third Top 10 hit in the space of 12 months. The last of their "classic" 1960s tracks to reach the Top 40 was From Me To You which also sneaked in at Number 40 after its release as part of a programme of re-issues of all their singles on the 20th anniversary of the official release of each. To that end this is the first chart appearance of Hey Jude since September 1988 when it charted at Number 52 as part of that programme. The single was originally a Number 1 hit in 1968 and was at the time the longest single ever to top the charts.
With the X Factor contestants having taking it in turns to murder the Beatles (and occasional John Lennon) song of their choice this weekend just gone, the new availability of the songs online means there is a chance there could be a further Beatles bump next week, but I'm afraid any talk of these tracks blowing the sales of all other contemporary releases out of the water the moment they went online was to attach a significance to these songs that they just don't have in 2010, whatever their long term historical significance.