1 WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKEN HEARTED (Robson and Jerome)
It was back in 1963 that Gerry and the Pacemakers set the standard by which all future acts would be judged when starting their careers. Even in those fledgling days of the charts, their feat of reaching Number One with their first three singles was considered phenomenal and something that was unlikely ever to be repeated. 21 years later the phenomenal became reality once more as Frankie Goes To Hollywood swept all before them to notch up a hattrick of Number One hits. Similarly (albeit less memorably so) in 1989 Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers reached the very top with their first three releases to carve their names as one of the legends of chart history. Now it is the turn of Robson and Jerome, perhaps inevitably, as their third release follows the lead of the previous two and charges straight in to the top of the British charts.
In May last year Robson Green and Jerome Flynn were actors, stars of the TV show "Soldier Soldier". When they sang a fairly straightforward version of Unchained Melody on the show the demand was such that they were snapped up for a recording contract and the single itself was an instant Number One, selling in such quantities that it became one of the best selling singles of all time in this country. Similarly stratospheric sales resulted for their album and their last single, version of Frankie Laine's I Believe. Now the bandwagon rolls on with another album of classic covers due in time for Christmas and a brand new single, this time their pleasantly crooned version of Jimmy Ruffin's Motown classic from 1966
There is a temptation to regard the phenomenal sales of the duo's singles as a blip, a seasonal aberration that operates outside the normal definitions of what is going to make a hit single. To do so would be a little unfair, the fact that this single alone has sold close to half a million copies inside a week [no idea where that came from, my records indicate it shifted 'just' 196,000 to top the charts that week] suggests that their audience is not merely confined to hormonally charged housewives. The truth is that they have tapped into a popular appeal that first manifested itself in America around the time of Natalie Cole's Unforgettable album, a desire by people to cut through high powered pop productions and tuneless dance music and hear a classic song sung by a classic voice. That is what Robson and Jerome provide, nothing more, nothing less and the fact that they can do so and outsell every other act around at the moment speaks volumes.
2 SAY YOU'LL BE THERE (Spice Girls)
After two weeks the Spice Girls are unsurprisingly deposed from the chart summit. It is hardly likely to bother them unduly with their debut album released today (Monday) and set to become the pop album of the year. Meanwhile their publicity bandwagon rolls on with what is now such unstoppable speed that the image makers have little control over the skeletons that are suddenly emerging from the girls' closets. This week it has been the turn of Geri, the Redheaded one whose portfolio of nude photos from her modelling days has found its way into the newspapers - although you get the feeling such exposure (if you'll pardon the expression) will do them more good than harm...
4 ANGEL (Simply Red)
Undoubtedly one of the biggest albums of the forthcoming Christmas period will be Simply Red's Greatest Hits collection. Curiously enough since its release four weeks ago the album has been selling slowly but surely rather than spectacularly, a reflection of just how popular Mick Hucknall's band are, most people already owning all their albums and thus the singles already. Such a fate has not befallen Angel, the new track recorded for the project and now charting to justify its inclusion alongside hits such as Money's Too Tight To Mention and Fairground. Angel proves once again that Mick Hucknall has many strings to his bow, the new single being a glorious soul/hip-hop hybrid thanks to the widely acknowledged but uncredited presence of the Fugees on the single who lend the track their own distinctive touch. It is the band's 24th chart hit in a career that stretches back to 1985 and which has included six Top 10 hits.
6 I BELONG TO YOU (Gina G)
Chart history is littered with acts who have tried to use Eurovision as a springboard for a successful chart career. Normally it doesn't work. Aside from already established acts such as Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw and Lulu the only acts to have successfully developed a hitmaking career after representing their country at the annual songfest are people like Abba, Bucks Fizz Brotherhood of Man and, at a pinch, Celine Dion. Many congratulations therefore to Gina G who follows up the Number One Ooh Aah.. Just A Little Bit with this new single. I Belong To You follows the same path as her previous release, a bubbly, bouncy Eurobeat pop record that comes as almost as much of a breath of fresh air as her first single. Quite how long a career she will sustain following this formula remains to be seen but she is the first British Eurovision entry to successfully follow-up that tie-in hit since Michael Ball in 1992.
10 DON'T MAKE ME WAIT (911)
The appeal of the boy band continues. As one of a number of acts jostling for position behind the current Kings Boyzone, 911 are slowly but surely making a name for themselves. Their third hit to date is the biggest so far, sailing past the Number 21 peak of Love Sensation back in August.
12 THIS IS FOR THE LOVER IN YOU (Babyface)
It is clearly the year of the Shalamar revival. The famous soul act last had a Top 40 hit in 1983 but so far this year two of their songs have re-charted in versions by other artists. First of all it was 911 with their version of A Night To Remember and now it is legendary producer Babyface who has assembled an all-star cast, included members of Shalamar themselves to guest on his remake of their classic track. Despite a string of writing and production credits on just about every classic R&B track of the last ten years (his most recent notable work being the soundtrack of Waiting To Exhale) he has always struggled as a solo artist in this country. Prior to this single he has only had one Top 40 hit - When Can I See You which made Number 35 in October 1994.
[Although the three Shalamar singers (Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniels and Howard Hewett) appeared in the video for the song their contributions were recorded separately. It was only in a performance specially shot for Top Of The Pops that they were reunited for the first time in over a decade].
13 POSSIBLY MAYBE (Bjork)
A new single for Bjork, who seems hardly to have been out of the newspapers during the year, be it as a result of attacking TV reporters in the Far East or having potentially lethal parcel bombs sent to her by deranged fans. Her first single since Hyperballad back in February is a typically surreal Bjork affair but has a rather more important motive behind it. Possibly Maybe is her contribution to a new charity compilation celebrating the tenth anniversary of Childline, the free telephone helpline for children in trouble or danger. It is by no means the first time the charity has benefitted from the release of a single, back in 1988 Wet Wet Wet took a cover of With A Little Help From My Friends to Number One on behalf of the charity whilst in 1990 Big Fun and Sonia reached the Top 20 with You've Got A Friend.
15 1ST OF THA MONTH (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony)
It may not have had quite as spectacular a chart performance as it did in America but Crossroads did enough over here to become quite a sizable hit single, reaching Number 8 and taking nine weeks to vanish from the Top 40. On the back of this Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's first British hit is reactivated. First released exactly a year ago, it reached Number 32 but now sails past that peak to give the rappers their second Top 20 hit.
22 PEARL'S GIRL (Underworld)
In a similar manner to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's hit Underworld score with a single that has been reissued on the back of a breakthrough performance from their previous hit. Largely thanks to its appearance in "Trainspotting", Born Slippy has become one of the biggest selling dance hits of the year, having reached Number 2 when first released back in July it spent six weeks inside the Top 10 and no less than 14 weeks in the Top 40. Pearl's Girl was first released back in May when it reached Number 24 and having now been reactivated just beats that original peak.
25 DON'T DREAM IT'S OVER (Crowded House)
As far as we know, this will be the last Crowded House single ever. Appropriate then that their last should be a fond memory of their first, the single that started it all off. Don't Dream It's Over was first released in June 1987. Complete with beautiful harmonies and an organ solo that conjured up memories of A Whiter Shade Of Pale it was clear that it was something special. At least to those of us that noticed it, the single making a lowly Number 27. Although it was a full four years until the band had another hit the song still proved popular, Paul Young releasing a cover version in 1991 which reached Number 20. It finally gets a second airing, released as the bands swan song and proving that they were never destined for massive single success. Despite 13 Top 40 hits only one single, Weather With You ever made the Top 10.
26 BLUE SKIES (BT featuring Tori Amos)
Suddenly Tori Amos is transformed from the doe-eyed singer of left-of-centre songs to the remixers favourite friend. It began in August when her record company sanctioned the release of Professional Widow, a remix of an album track that made her sound like no single of hers had before. [I'd forgotten that detail, I have to confess. The Armand Van Helden mix had charted months before it actually became a hit] The Tori goes Techno bandwagon now continues with this collaboration with BT, best known for Loving You More which reached Number 14 when re-released back in February. It gives Tori her fourth Top 30 hit of the year, the best chart run of her career so far.
30 WANNABE (Spice Girls)
For no apparent reason the Spice Girls' first single, deleted for the past month and having been on the chart for 17 weeks, takes a turn for the better and marches back up the chart in such spectacular style that it becomes the only Top 40 single this week to be awarded a bullet. It is likely to be little more than a temporary blip but be warned - their next single is favourite to be Christmas Number One.
34 SPARKLE (My Life Story)
The second hit single for the largest collection of musicians currently charting. My Life Story are led by Jake Shillingford who fronts no less than 11 group members who play just about every instrument imaginable (string section and kitchen sink to boot). They first charted back in August with the Number 32 hit 12 Reasons Why I Love Her and now comes this new hit in a similar, sweeping dramatic style. A slightly lower chart placing this time around but their moment will surely come.
36 CHRISTIANSANDS (Tricky)
The second hit single of the year for Tricky, this time performing under his own name following the single release from the Nearly God project Poems which made Number 28 back in April. His biggest hit to date remains The Hell EP which made Number 12 back in August.