This week's Official UK Singles Chart

Oh well OK then, all attempts to stir up some uncertainty aside, right from the very minute the concept of a new version of Do They Know It's Christmas was mooted, the book was indeed truly closed on what would be the Christmas Number One. So it is that Band Aid 20 write themselves into the record books and follow the leads of the 1984 and 1989 versions. 'Do They Know It's Christmas' has the unique honour of becoming the first song to become Christmas Number One three times, claiming for itself a record it had held jointly with Bohemian Rhapsody and Mary's Boy Child since the early 1990s.

Of course, the more churlish observer will point out that although the world and his dog are regarding this weeks chart as the Christmas chart, there is, of course, one more week of sales to go before the big day itself. Next week's chart count sales from Sunday 18th through to Friday 24th of December and will be therefore slightly more representative of the final Christmas market. You may ask therefore why the chart to be published next week on the 26th is not the Christmas chart - and frankly so do I. This actually did happen back in 1988 when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday (the usual chart day). This resulted in the chart show being broadcast a day late on Monday 26th and with the industry agreeing that the crowning of Cliff Richard as that years Christmas Number One would take place then. It was an incredibly good idea, which may explain why the same trick wasn't repeated in 1993 and 1994 when Christmas Day fell at the end of the week - nor indeed this year. Ah well.

Finally, it is worth noting that Do They Know It's Christmas is the first festive chart-topper not to have been released in the week of the Xmas chart itself since 1995, when Michael Jackson's 'Earth Song' ruled the roost from the start of December onwards. Coincidentally 1995 was also the year the Christmas chart featured the last hit version of the song that has won the battle the bookmakers shifted their attention to once Band Aid become pretty much a shoo-in - the battle of course for the coveted Christmas Number 2 slot.

2004 actually marks the tenth anniversary of the chart debut of boy band Boyzone, five Irish lads of dubious musical talents assembled by impresario Louis Walsh as the Emerald Isle's answer to the Take That and East 17 duopoly which had dominated proceedings for the previous two years. Of course, at the time Boyzone's problem was that they really were also-rans in the boy band stakes. Take That ruled all, and if they were a bit too squeaky clean for you then the bad boys of East 17 were always there. Boyzone started out brightly enough with their cover of Love Me For A Reason hitting Number 2 in December 1994 but despite two other Top 3 hits in the shape of the now largely forgotten Key To My Life and the sparkling but sadly also swiftly forgotten So Good they really had yet to find the killer gimmick.

The breakthrough came in the shape of Father And Son', a sad ballad about a generation divide written by Cat Stevens (who had actually never charted with the song in his own right). The Boyzone version ultimately lost out to both Michael Jackson and Mike Flowers Pops at Christmas 1995 but was far and away their biggest selling single at the time. Within three months Take That would be no more and by the end of 1996 Ronan Keating and his bandmates had topped the charts several times and had the pop world at their feet.

So it is that lead singer Ronan Keating, now well established as a solo star, has chosen to mark his tenth anniversary as a chart star with a brand new version of the song that tipped the balance in Boyzone's favour. As an added bonus he has teamed up on the remake with the man who wrote the song in the first place - Cat Stevens himself, now, of course, going by his adopted Muslim name of Yusuf Islam. Father And Son thus charges to Number 2 and in the process gives Stevens/Islam his first chart single since 1977 and his first Top 10 single since school assembly favourite Morning Has Broken hit Number 9 in 1972. His biggest ever hit was Matthew And Son which hit Number 2 in 1967 and it is one of the more strange chart quirks is that his two most famous songs Father And Son and Wild World never became hits for their author, Maxi Priest having a Top 10 hit with the latter back in 1988 following Jimmy Cliff's 1970 smash rendition.

The second biggest new hit of the week is the second annual Bo Selecta Christmas hit, effectively the follow-up for Leigh 'Avid Merrion' Francis' Proper Chrimbo which hit Number 4 almost exactly a year ago. This year's offering sees the Translyvanian celebrity stalker team up with TV presenter Davina McCall and actress Patsy Kensit on a remake of Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe. The original topped the charts back in 1965 and the song was once again taken to the top in 1985 by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde (who spookily enough shares an ex-husband with Patsy Kensit). Needless to say, the Avid Merrion version has more in common with Cher's 1994 remake of her most famous hit which was done in "collaboration" with cartoon perverts Beavis and Butthead. The appearance of the record in the charts does at least return Patsy Kensit to the Top 10 for the first time since 1988 when as a member of Eighth Wonder she hit Number 7 with I'm Not Scared.

The final Top 10 new entry this week goes to the man who spent 2004 making one of the most well-received comebacks in recent memory - Morrissey. The controversially titled I Have Forgiven Jesus is his fourth of the year and follows the previous three straight into the Top 10. Only once before has he managed four Top 10 hits in a row - and that was right at the very beginning of his solo career when Suedehead, Everyday Is Like Sunday, Last Of The Famous International Playboys and Interesting Drug all sailed into the upper reaches. This is only the third time he has had a single in the Christmas Top 40, sneaking in at the bottom end in 1992 with Certain People I Know and also in 1987 with the last ever Smiths single Last Night I Dreamed That Somebody Loved Me.

There is a chart cliche which says that Christmas isn't Christmas without Cliff Richard, a cliche which doesn't actually totally ring true but nonetheless over the years the living legend has made a regular habit of making sure he has a record out for the holiday, a tactic which reached his zenith in the late 80s when he cracked the Christmas Number One slot in both 1988 (Mistletoe And Wine) and 1990 (Saviours Day) - not forgetting of course his falling at the final hurdle in 1999 when The Millennium Prayer was deposed at the last moment by Westlife. This year marks the second year running he has made a play for the Christmas chart, I Cannot Give You My Love a rather more generic single than last years Top 5 hit Santas List. Although the single doesn't give him a third successive Top 10 hit he can at least now claim three Top 20 singles in a row - his best chart run incidentally since the mid-1990s.

Fascinating fact of the week: Queen's 1984 classic Radio Ga-Ga was never an enormous hit in the states (it made #16 on the Hot 100) and so consequently when Electric Six selected it as a surprise cover version to launch their second album they claimed to have no idea that their tongue in cheek reworking would raise so many eyebrows over here. Still, this is the act that gave us flashing crotches in their debut single Danger High Voltage and the still to this day memorable two and a half minutes that is Gay Bar. Did we really expect anything less than the image of Freddie Mercury rising from his own grave in the video? Radio Ga-Ga is the fourth Top 40 hit for Electric Six and restores their chart fortunes somewhat after their last single Dance Commander made a rather disappointing Number 40 in October last year. The new single has suffered somewhat from being released in Christmas week. One presumes their hope is that it survives the new year shakeout of the more mushy offerings to rise higher - except of course that singles don't behave like that on the chart any more, do they?

Just below are Goldie Lookin' Chain with their fourth chart single of the year, the quickly released follow-up to Your Mother's Got A Penis which made its charming way to Number 14. Despite all that is written about them, with trendy writers falling over themselves to cover them in glory, I cannot see GLC as anything special. Maybe it is because I get the joke, when in reality we are supposed to pretend that we don't.

Onto better things now and at Number 27 is a long overdue second hit single for Damien Rice. The folk singer has only had one other hit single to date but the record in question has become one of the chart legends of 2004 - a consistent evergreen. Love ballad Cannonball first hit the chart in November last year, peaking at Number 32. Constant radio airplay (and a surprisingly well received set at Glastonbury) led to its re-release in the summer, whereupon the single charged up to Number 19, fell out of the Top 75 a few weeks later only to reappear at Number 40 towards the end of August. Sadly The Blowers Daughter eschews the plaintive beauty of his first love song for a rather more strained and whiny tone. OK so Cannonball was a grower in the classic sense but if this one ever grows on me I'll be fearing for my mental health.

Just below is a kind of celebrity producers amalgam. 100 Percent consists of Mike Cave (best known for his work producing The Coral), Gary Wilkinson (ditto Badly Drawn Boy) and vocal coach Jennifer John, currently receiving exposure on the TV show Can't Sing Singers. The track Just Can't Wait (Saturday) has a pedigree as long as your arm, starting life as a track on Chic singer Norma Jean's 1978 solo album and although it was never a hit it has held a fascination for dance producers ever since. The song first made the UK charts in 1997 in a version by East 57th Street which made Number 29. A 2000 remake by Joey Negro bombed out at Number 41 which thus gives 100 Percent the strange honour of having the highest charting version to date of the disco classic.

With that we've reached the bottom end of the Christmas chart, minor hits for (sadly) Blink 182 and The Zutons sneak in at the bottom but most bizarrely of all are The Skandi Girls, as the name suggests four Scandinavian girls spotted by Blue's manager and who make their UK chart debut with a vocal version of the can-can. A play for the Christmas party market of course but as far as quality is concerned - well it makes me want to re-evaluate the Nadia single. Let's just leave it at that.

And So That Was Christmas, to coin a phrase. I'll be back next week of course with a look at the chart that in truth should have been considered the Christmas chart. Band Aid will, of course, remain top (and should this week chalk up its millionth sale) but there are still a handful of singles being released this week, and watching where they land should prove to be very interesting indeed. Happy Christmas.

[For reasons that escape me, probably something to do with the new year chart coming out on Christmas weekend, Launch did not update over the holiday so this was the final commentary posted in 2004. We resume in 2005 as the X Factor era kicks off. In a surprisingly low key manner].