1 A DIFFERENT BEAT (Boyzone)
Get used to this. A frantic tussle for the top honours is about to begin as the Christmas records start to flood in. The Christmas chart is just three weeks away and every single between now and then will be hoping it has what it takes to become Christmas Number One. Leading the pack for the moment are Boyzone who crash straight in with the title track of their current album. It follows hot on the heels of Words which incredibly enough is still inside the Top 40, this week slipping to Number 34. This new single is an original composition and something of a slow grower, full of African drums and tribal chants. Leaving aside the simple naivety of the ecological lyric it is actually a very good single and a deserved Number One but the amount of quality product still to be released between now and the end of the month raises serious doubts as to whether it will still be ruling the roost, especially with the release this week of one of the most controversial charity records ever released, although more on that next week It is the 22nd record to top the charts this year, the highest total of the decade so far, indeed since 1980 when 24 discs reached the summit, and there is every chance that that total could be equalled before the month is out. Needless also to add that Boyzone are the sixth different act to have two Number One hits in 1996.
5 I FEEL YOU (Peter Andre)
The next few weeks are likely to see something of a merry-go-round for the Number One slot with the race to be top for Christmas as wide open as it has ever been. Inevitably it means that some of the bookmaker's favourites will become very bloody casualties. The first of the season is clearly Peter Andre, I Feel You making the most spectacular tumble of the year from the top of the charts. The single came close to becoming one of a select few to fall straight out of the Top 5 from the very top of the charts. Only 24 have ever done so, the last being Iron Maiden's Bring Your Daughter...To The Slaughter which fell from 1-9 in January 1991.
6 FOREVER (Damage)
The second hit single for Damage and an improvement on their first, the Number 12 Love II Love. If I pointed out that it is three weeks until Christmas and this is the second biggest new hit of the week, could you guess what this single sounds like?
7 AUSTRALIA (Manic Street Preachers)
No better way to round of the Manic Street Preachers' year than with yet another Top 10 hit. It is the fourth such hit from Everything Must Go and even improves slightly on the Number 9 peak of their last hit Kevin Carter. All one can do is hope that somewhere Richie James is in a position to see what he is missing.
8 DON'T MARRY HER (Beautiful South)
Don't Marry Her is the opening track on the Beautiful South's new album Blue Is The Colour. It sounds lovely, a gentle country-tinged ballad sung by Jaqueline Abbott. The lyrics are typical C&W fare, telling of a hopeless love for an unattainable gent - leading up to the chorus where she implores, "Don't Marry Her F*** Me". Of course it shocks, that is the whole point of the song, a sweet ballad expressing its anger through the profanity. It was inevitably an obvious choice for a single, but the lyrics made for the most radio-unfriendly track imaginable. As a result this single has been toned down, the song reduced to the far tamer "Don't Marry Her Have Me". Radio stations can play it, parents don't get upset and the single goes Top 10, but surely the point has now been lost. What was once a gloriously funny satire is now just a laid-back love ballad although the one other unremarked lyrical adjustment (Sandra Bullock's name being substituted for certain parts of the male anatomy) at least ensures the track retains a healthy sense of the bizarre.
9 LIVE LIKE HORSES (Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti)
There is nothing that Elton likes better than singing with other people. Proof of that comes by looking at his collaborations over the years which have seen him have hits with no less than 12 different sets of people. Collaboration Number 13 is a curious beast. A rather pedestrian Elton John song that would probably not be given the time of day normally is propelled into the Top 10 by virtue of the fact that his co-vocalist is one of the greatest singers currently walking the earth. For over 20 years Luciano Pavarotti carved out a niche as one of the world's finest operatic tenors until 1990 when the World Cup and Nessun Dorma thrust him into the public domain. Since then the number of mainstream pop artists he has collaborated with has grown ever steadily. Fellow Italian Zucchero was the first in 1992 with Miserere and then last year the big man made an enchanting cameo on the Passengers' single Miss Sarajevo which was surely one of the most spine-tingling moments of last year. Here lies the point, the presence of the maestro on a record is bound to transform it into something a little special, hence it is only logical that Elton John should want such a collaboration. Sad then that he should have chosen something like this, as there are far better outlets for his genius. [This single the subject of a memorable anecdote in the late Bob Monkhouse's book Over The Limit where he recounts separate conversations with both Elton and Pavarotti when they appeared on the National Lottery show. Each man believed the song to be awful but was under the impression the other one loved it and so promoted it with the required enthusiasm].
11 BETCHA BY GOLLY WOW (The Artist)
Mixed fortunes for the man who used to be Prince, the Emancipation album not exactly setting the charts alight but with his new single sending him back into the Top 20 following the deliberately under-performing Dinner With Delores which only reached Number 36 in the summer. For a man so famous for his songwriting the choice of single comes as a surprise, for the first time in his career he releases a cover version of somebody else's song, one of several on the new album, designed to show the world just where his musical influences lie. The love ballad was originally performed by the Stylistics, becoming their first ever hit single when it reached Number 13 in 1972. As you might expect, Prince treats a childhood favourite with the respect it deserves, a lovingly made cover version that for a change is a very worthy release.
22 THE MAN DON'T GIVE A FUCK (Super Furry Animals)
Here is a contrast if ever there was one. Near the more glamorous end of the charts lie the Beautiful South with a song that contained a notorious profanity in its original version and has now been toned down and sweetened up for its singles chart debut. 14 places below it lies a totally different record, one that wears its obscenity on its sleeve. They don't want any radio airplay for this track and are unlikely to get it, Super Furry Animals claiming that the song is the most obscene ever to make the British charts, the f-word count reaching well over 50 - a fact that is trumpeted on the sleeve of the record. To make any further comment would be to miss the point I suspect, suffice it to say that this is only the third single ever to reach the British charts with that most blush-inducing of epithets in its title. The last was W.A.S.P.'s Wild Animal (F**k Like A Beast) in 1987 which coyly had the asterisks on the record label, no such problems for the Dead Kennedy's whose legendary Too Drunk To Fuck reached Number 36 in 1981.
26 WHEN I FALL IN LOVE (Ant and Dec)
Just to prove that there is never such a thing as an irreversible trend, Ant and Dec's hit, having already peaked at Number 12 four weeks ago finds its downward slide dramatically arrested and it shoots five places up the chart. Expect a number of moves of this nature over the next few weeks as the record-buying demographic of the nation changes and singles are purchased by people who would never normally contemplate visiting a record shop - giving new leases of life to apparently dying singles.
28 I'M NOT GIVING YOU UP (Gloria Estefan)
A third hit in 1996 for Gloria Estefan but none of these have exactly set the charts alight, the biggest being the Olympic anthem Reach which made Number 15 back in May. She hasn't had a Top 10 hit since the Miami Hit Mix made Number 8 for Christmas 1992.
29 ELECTROLITE (R.E.M.)
The third single from Adventures In Hi-Fi but the chart placings slip ever lower, this single in danger of becoming their smallest since the limited edition Find The River made Number 54 in December 1993.
30 IT'S IN YOUR EYES (Phil Collins)
Oh dear. Phil is middle aged yet Phil is in love once more. Nothing wrong with that and I'm sure most people will be very happy for him. The problem is that Phil wants to tell the world that he is in love and has made a record to do so. Phil Collins has written some extremely beautiful love songs in the past but sadly this goes down totally the wrong path, a rather half-hearted attempt at an uptempo pop song that is spoiled partly by the subject matter and partly by the fact that Mr Collins' pop sensibilities have been dulled over the last few years as musical tastes have progressed. The first single from his current album Dance Into The Light fared well at Number 9 but it was by no means classic Phil. Airplay for this new hit has been minimal and it is in danger of becoming one of his smallest ever Top 40 hits - which for a second single is quite worrying. Still, consolation comes from knowing that Phil singing about being in love is only marginally less painful than Phil complaining that his wife has left him.
36 PUMP UP THE JAM 96 (Technotronic)
If it is the bottom end of the chart then there must be space for some dance reissues. Interestingly the two that chart this week are not recent 90's classics but genuine benchmarks of the 1980s. Technotronic were the brains of Belgian producer Jo Bogaert who came up with the concept of pop-rap hits set to a thumping, almost Teutonic beat. Upon its release in Autumn 1989, Pump Up The Jam became a worldwide smash, reaching Number 2 in this country and most astonishingly enough the same position in America, one of the first Eurodisco hits ever to cross over to the Hot 100. At the time the rap on the track was credited to a model called Felly who also appeared in the video but by the time of the release of the second single it had emerged that Felly was just a front and that the performance belonged to Ya Kid K. The new mixes are a rather curious affair, with the original track (Teutonic thump and all) being all but replaced by a new backing, so much so that but for the recognisable rap you would be hard pressed to tell that it was the same record at all.
38 KOOTCHI (Neneh Cherry)
The second hit single for Neneh Cherry, following on from her dramatic comeback with the Number 9 hit Woman. This new single has less of the impact and less of the following of its predecessor, hence this rather weak looking chart entry. The track is as raw and passionate as you are likely to get from the lady, rather more typical of her output as a whole and clearly destined for the bargain bins inside a fortnight.
40 LOVE CAN'T TURN AROUND (Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk)
As yet another entry in the long list of reactivated dance hits, this new entry may not seem all that significant but believe it or not this is not so much an old dance record as a significant part of musical history. The story is this: before the mid-1980s there was no such thing as 'dance music' as such. Virtually everything that you danced to came from a commercial pop background as well, whether it was the electropop sound of America or the New Romantic boy bands of England. True, there was rap, but that was the domain of black people, MTV never played it unless it was in the sanitised, commercial form of people like Run DMC so for most people it just did not exist. It was the Chicago scene that changed this. Producers such as Steve 'Silk' Hurley and Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk emerged from the underground club scene and started to combine the street rhythms of rap and funk music with a more commercial feel. Love Can't Turn Around was one such record and is seen by most as the first ever crossover House Music hit. Released in August 1986, it reached Number 10 on the back of support from clubs and discos who could not get enough of this insistent, piano-driven sound. The rest of course is history, further Chicago hits ensued, inspiring UK producers such as Coldcut and Tim Simenon to make their own House tracks and creating a dance music culture in this country that was to ultimately spread across the whole of Europe. Funny then that nobody had thought of re-releasing the song sooner. Inevitably remixed but for the most part the original track is left well alone, after all this is one of the most important dance records ever made and it would take a bold man to ruin it too much.