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I started a thread on this about a year ago, but it was lost in the Great Crash. What's promted me to start a new one is the bizarre state of the UK singles chart this week. Before I start on this week, though, let me cast your minds back to a year ago...

 

The announcement that all legal downloads would count towards the UK singles chart started off the speculation that golden oldies and popular album tracks could become unexpected hits. In the first chart of 2007, Billie Piper found herself in the Top 20 thanks to the efforts of Radio 1's Chris Moyles. As the year progressed, we did indeed see a few oldies (David Bowie's Life On Mars?, Elton John's Rocket Man - both as a result of being featured in the BBC's Life On Mars TV show), album tracks (Mika) and even some B-sides (Arctic Monkeys, Leona Lewis) enter the weekly chart. There was even speculation that the Beatles would return to the top of the chart as their back catalogue was made available to legal downloaders... it still might happen.

 

A month ago, Led Zeppelin acheived 3 chart entries as Stairway To Heaven made the Top 40, Whole Lotta Love made the Top 75, and Kashmir was in the Top 100.

 

However, a week ago, it became obvious that things were starting to get silly. There were no less that 12 "oldies" in the Top 100 - 9 of them being Christmas songs. This week (as you may know, as the tabloids have woken up to an easy story), there are no less than 12 old Christmas songs in the Top 75 (and if the Official Charts Company ever get around to updating their on-line chart - as opposed to just the date - I will be able to check out the next 25 places). As well as those 12, there are also 3 other tracks that are more than 20 years old in the Top 75.

 

8 Mariah Carey

12 Pogues & Kirsty MacColl

13 Elvis Presley (Burning Love)

23 Wham!

25 Andy Williams

27 Wizzard

33 Shakin' Stevens

36 Phil Collins (In The Air Tonight)

37 Slade

38 Band Aid

43 Ernie K-Doe (Here Come The Girls)

51 Chris Rea

60 John & Yoko

61 Bing Crosby

71 Perry Como

 

Of those, 4 (numbers 25, 36, 43 and 71) are charting as a result of being featured in TV advertising campaigns. Bing's is the oldest recording (circa 1942, as I recall), Andy is the oldest (he's 80), Perry is getting his first hit for 33 years, and Ernie last appeared in the UK chart in 1961!

 

With 2 further charts between now and Christmas, who knows what might happen! One result of all this, though, is that Engelbert Humperdinck's record - which has stood for almost 40 years - of having the longest continous chart run on the "official" chart (which nowadays means the Top 75) - remains intact. Release Me clocked up 53 consecutive weeks in the UK charts in 1967/68, but this was looking like a record about to be broken as Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars clocked up its 48th week last week. All these oldies, however, have resulted in the single slipping out of the Top 75 this week.

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I don't normally listen to Radio One's Chart Show these days, but a long car journey home last night had me listening for the first time in ages - and I really enjoyed that the Christmas favourites were up there with the new releases. If that's what people are listening to, why not?

 

I did wonder if the inclusion of music downloads might save us from the otherwise boring inevitability of the next X Factor winner being the Christmas Number One. Call me a Grumpy Old Man if you like, but this used to be a real event in my childhood, not a offered on a platter to the reality show with the biggest marketing budget. :(

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A story on BBC Breakfast last week suggested that Christmas songs are going to reappear regularly from now on as people look for songs to download for parties, etc. I, personally don't think it is a big deal. it is quite nice to see seasonal songs in the charts at this time of year. I don't like the fact that recently (the last 10 years or so) the Christmas No. 1 hasn't usually been an Xmas song.

 

What I do find interseting is that songs that are featured in TV programmes or adverts fidn their way into the charts. This, of course, is only a little bit different to the days of old singles being re-released when featured in adverts. Remember the esrly Levi's ads? For the record companies it is great. They don't have to re-release the songs, people will just go and search for them instead.

 

I think we just have to accept that the singles charts are no longer the same as they were and perhaps not really relevent. And don't get me started on the playlists that Radio 1 and the commercial stations insist on sticking with.

 

Personally as long as Planet Rock and Arrow keep going I'll be happy. :P

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I'm not sure it can be called a "UK singles chart" any more if it features Led Zepplin.

 

Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars clocked up its 48th week last week

 

Didn't Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood manage 48 weeks striaght as well? I remember it had a longer than usual top 40 run due to the notoriety given to it by the BBC ban, but it also seemed to hang around the lower reaches of the chart for months. Anyone know if there any way to check this online?

 

While I don't follow the singles chart any more, I like the idea that it is not just what the record companies are pushing that can make it into the top 75 these days, even if it does lead to some anomolies

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Of course, the other reason why so many old songs come back into the chart is that virtually no one under the age of 30 actually pays for legal downloads, and the people most likely to pay are over 40.

 

I used to be obsessed with the charts when I was young, but it's some years since I paid them any attention. I agree that the changes had to happen, but it's like rugby union - if you change the rules too many times, then the breaking of chart records becomes meaningless.

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I used to make my own compilation tapes from the chart show (didn't everybody!). It was quite a trick to hit the pause button before Bruno Brookes started talking over the outro.

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MarkC - I think you are right, FGTH did manage 48 weeks, but I don't recall if they were consecutive. I'll see what I can dig up.

 

whatnot - you can tell someone's age by the name of the DJ they associate with the Sunday chart show. I'm on the cusp of Alan Freeman and Tom Browne!

 

And without wishing to get tagesmann started, I've just finished reading Tony Blackburn's autobiography, in which he refers to the restrictive rules around what can and can't be played on the radio. It's probably the only issue on which every UK radio DJ autobiography that I've read has agreed!

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Now that the OCC have updated their site, I can confirm that the "oldies" on this week's UK Top 100 are:-

 

8 Mariah Carey

12 Pogues & Kirsty MacColl

13 Elvis Presley (Burning Love)

23 Wham!

25 Andy Williams

27 Wizzard

33 Shakin' Stevens

36 Phil Collins (In The Air Tonight)

37 Slade

38 Band Aid

43 Ernie K-Doe (Here Come The Girls)

51 Chris Rea

60 John & Yoko

61 Bing Crosby

71 Perry Como

77 Paul McCartney

82 Elton John

86 Cliff Richard (Mistletoe & Wine)

90 Aled Jones

98 Led Zeppelin (Stairway To Heaven)

100 Dean Martin (Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow)

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Burning Love is the final single in a sequence of around 16 that have been released, one a week, over the last 4 months. Every one has charted sin the "teens" which means that Elvis (having had a similar sequence several years ago) has now had more than 30 Top 20 singles in the noughties.

 

What is worth noting is that other record companies have latched onto this idea in recent years. Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, T Rex and the Sex Pistols have all had their singles catalogue dusted off in this way. Although all 4 will be listed in the next edition of British Hit Singles and Albums as having charted, only Jackson managed to dent the Top 40 each week. The others made very minor places on the Top 75 once each, as I recall.

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Rather than spend my lunch hour writing my own piece on this, I reproduce below this week's chart commentary by James Masterton. If you're interested in how the charts have changed in recent years, it's a fascinating article.

 

CHART COMMENTARY from JAMES MASTERTON 17/12/07

 

With little to look forward to other than a Christmas chart-topper from the one X Factor finalist that couldn't actually hold a tune properly, the chart this week ran the risk of being little more than an anticlimax. Instead we have something quite extraordinary and which was expected by absolutely nobody.

 

First a short lesson in consumer economics. A major factor in the astounding sales levels that music, and CD singles in particular, were achieving around ten years ago was the presence of industry product on the shelves of major supermarkets. Having been persuaded that there was a ready market for them, the likes of Asda and Tesco were only too happy to devote shelf space to the latest music releases, and they were rewarded with healthy sales - buoyed of course by the presence at the time of kid-friendly acts such as the Spice Girls and Steps. The CD single was a mass-market, mainstream consumer product and arranged in such a way that it was an impulse buy, something cheap to grab hold of when it happened to catch your eye.

 

It is no coincidence that the near overnight drop-off in music sales happened to coincide with a change in policy by the big shopping chains who decided that the shelf space set aside for music would be more profitably deployed elsewhere, the CD single in particular something that was no longer worth stocking. Ever since the record industry has been flailing around dealing with the demise of their biggest marketing tool as a mass market product and waiting for the digital download to somehow take its place.

 

So under normal circumstances the one-off release of a new Katie Melua single would not have been all that significant, despite the novelty of having her vocals expertly spliced with those of the late Eva Cassidy to create a dream duet that would otherwise never have been possible. However this was no ordinary single release. Instead the charity single (all proceeds to the Red Cross) was signed as an exclusive release through Tesco stores. Shops such as HMV and Zavvi and even iTunes and Napster were shut out of the loop completely. The only way to purchase 'What A Wonderful World' was to either go to your local Tesco (where it was arranged prominently in racks the moment you stepped through the door) or purchase it via the Tesco Direct website. What might ordinarily have been the kind of restriction that would have limited sales of the single instead became the most inspired marketing decision of the year, the track outselling the competition to become the most unexpected out of the blue Number One single for, well, decades.

 

Marketing aside the record is of course a chart triumph for both women. Prior to today Katie Melua's highest chart placing was the Number 5 peak of 'Nine Million Bicycles' from October 1995. Her last single 'If You Were A Sailboat' could only reach Number 23 and it would not have been unfair to regard her as an album artist. For Eva Cassidy it is an even greater triumph. A complete unknown when she died in 1996 at the tragically young age of 33, the singer with the heartbreakingly pure voice became a musical phenomenon in 2001 when thanks to Radio 2 airplay a collection of her recordings topped the UK charts. Until today she has never had a Top 40 single, her only chart entries being 'You Take My Breath Away' which made Number 54 in 2003 and most famously the track which brought her to popular attention, a version of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' which danced in and out of the singles chart during 2001, never climbing higher than Number 42.

 

The new version of 'What A Wonderful World' is masterfully produced, the new vocals from Katie Melua blended neatly with those of Eva Cassidy to create a record that is as spellbinding and compelling as the concept would suggest. It is the second version of the song to top the UK charts, Louis Armstrong's version hitting the top in 1968. By a strange coincidence the last version of the song to chart was that by Cliff Richard who released it in a medley with 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow', the single reaching Number 11 in December 2001.

 

Eva Cassidy is now the 13th act to have a posthumous Number One single, the first to be added to the list since Notorious BIG hit the top in early 2006. No other singer has had a larger gap between physical death and chart triumph, Cassidy having passed away on November 2nd 1996, a full 11 years and one month ago. Elvis Presley was last on top of the charts on February 5th 2005, almost 18 years after his death but he had previously had a posthumous Number One hit just weeks after he died.

 

All of this has of course blown the Christmas chart race wide open. Whilst of course it is still more or less a foregone conclusion that 'When You Believe' by Leon The Tuneless will be at Number One next week (the CD single hitting the shops from Wednesday) it is now anyone's guess as to what will occupy the runners up slot behind him. Whilst logic would suggest that Eva and Katie won't be able to sustain their sales in the face of other opposition, logic also suggested that restricting their record to just one chain of stores would not give them enough sales to top the chart, and look where that got us.

 

The big new sales winner of the week is Souja Boy Tell'Em who leaps 10-3 with the long awaited physical release of 'Crank That (Soulja Boy)'. Hard on his heels though is Mariah Carey whose 1994 single 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' consolidates its status as the nation's favourite seasonal track and rises 8-4, effectively in prime position to occupy the runners up slot it had exactly 13 years ago.

 

Meanwhile the march of the Christmas favourites continues. 'Fairytale Of New York' does indeed make it three years in a row in the Top 10 with a 12-8 rise. 'Last Christmas' from Wham is at Number, 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' at Number 16, the highest the single has placed since its original 1973 release. Andy Williams' 'It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year' moves 25-21 following a physical release and he is swiftly followed by seasonal favourites from Slade (23), Shakin' Stevens (24) and Band Aid (27). At Number 35 Chris Rea's 'Driving Home For Christmas' becomes a Top 40 hit for the first time ever whilst 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' arrives at Number 40, its first chart appearance since 2003. I could go on, suffice it to say that you can pick pretty much any track at random from one of the "Now That's The Best Number One Christmas Hits Collection Ever" albums and stand a good chance of finding it somewhere in the Top 75.

 

Of the more modern day recording stars, Michael Buble is one of the biggest winners of the week. His recent UK concerts, plus a high profile mentoring role on X Factor has sent sales of his recent single 'Lost' soaring. Released in late November, the track could only make Number 51 first time around and had dropped out of the Top 75, resting at Number 79 last week. Now it surges back up the rankings and re-enters the char t at Number 19 to give the crooner his biggest UK hit ever. Meanwhile his signature tune 'Home' also charges back onto the chart to rest at Number 45, its highest chart placing ever. Westlife's cover version is still hanging around of course, down at Number 17 this week.

 

New at Number 20 is a track that in early December was a potential contender for a Top 3 place at Christmas. 'Life's A Treat' is the theme tune to the animated children's series Shaun The Sheep and big things were expected of its single release. To be fair it wasn't such a long shot, given the way children's TV has produced December chart-toppers from the likes of Bob The Builder and the Teletubbies in the past. However this was of course in the days when pester-power could inspire singles purchases in supermarkets and those days are long gone. Never mind the fact that Lazy Town had a Top 5 hit one year ago, Shaun The Sheep has been reduced to little more than a chart also-ran.

 

At the very least our fleecy friend has performed better than some other physical releases this week. Amy MacDonald creeps to Number 28 with 'This Is The Life', the Stereophonics to a mere Number 32 with 'My Friends' whilst even unremitting tabloid coverage of her continuing meltdown fails to help Amy Winehouse to more than Number 46 with 'Love Is A Losing Game'. Meanwhile one new year release is making waves already. Rihanna's next single 'Don't Stop The Music' doesn't reach the shops until February but makes its Top 40 debut this week at Number 37.

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I decided to revive this thread because the Christmas phenomenon of old records appearing in the charts is beginning to look like an all-year event. If you only pay attention to the Top 40, you won't be aware, but in the lower reaches of the UK charts this week, there are no less than ten records that are more than 10 years old. In most cases, there are good reasons behind the re-appearance of these hits from the past, and in some cases the reasons are less obvious (to me!).

 

55 Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd (from 1974)

75 Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve (1997)

76 I Don't Want To Miss A Thing - Aerosmith (1998)

80 Don't Stop Me Now - Queen

81 Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi (1986)

86 Mamma Mia - Abba (1975)

90 Dancing Queen - Abba (1976)

92 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton (1981)

94 Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond (1970)

99 Paint It, Black - Rolling Stones (1966)

 

Incidentally, I see that the book previously known as the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles and Albums is due out soon under its new title of the Virgin Book of British Hit Singles. Presumably there will be a separate volume covering albums next year (and if so, let's hope that Virgin will aspire to the standards set by the far superior US equivalent which lists every track on every album (and for the Singles, every B-side)).

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Well... it's December, and this week's UK Top 100 features the following seasonal sounds.

 

37 Mariah Carey

44 Pogues / Kirsty MacColl

67 Wham!

76 Shakin' Stevens

94 Slade

97 Perry Como

 

As well as those, there are also entries from Kevin Rudolph and Bob The Builder which may or may not be Christmassy. I'm sure Wizzard will be in the next week!

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This week's Top 100 includes the following seasonal hits...

 

17 - Mariah Carey

19 - Pogues / Kirsty MacColl

36 - Wham!

41 - Basshunter (Jingle Bells)

44 - Shakin' Stevens

48 - Wizzard

49 - Slade

63 - Perry Como

64 - Band Aid

66 - Gabriella Cilmi (Warm This Winter)

70 - Chris Rea

80 - Andy Williams

83 - Macy Gray

94 - Brenda Lee

95 - Glasvegas (A Snowflake Fell)

100 - John & Yoko

 

That's 16 in total, and there Christmas chart is still 2 weeks away. Last year's total was 17 seasonal hits in the Christmas chart. Nice to see 3 new hits this year (titles in brackets above).

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Next week's chart will, of course, be the Christmas one. This week, there are no less than 21 seasonal hits on the UK Top 100.

 

3 Band Aged (i.e. Terry Wogan and Aled Jones, both shaking off their "one-hit wonder" tags)

12 Mariah carey

13 Pogues & kirsty

26 Wham!

29 Gabriella Cilmi

31 Wizzard

32 Slade

36 Shakey

38 Basshunter

40 Status Quo (It's Christmas Time)

47 Perry Como

53 Chris Rea

54 band Aid

63 Andy Williams

67 John & Yoko

76 Brenda Lee

79 Macey Gray

81 East 17

90 The Darkness

91 Bruce Springsteen

92 Eartha Kitt

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any chance your unlimited music knowledge spreads as far as knowing what the names of these songs are or at least what adverts they come from?! i need to download them and i dont have a clue which ones it is that i like just from the artist names... :)

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Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah will be a new entry at No. 3 this week. Apparently.

 

It's been in and out of the charts over the last few months, and is currently at number 30, so it won't be a new entry. It is, however, at 3 in the iTunes chart with the X-factor version at 1.

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Thank you for the link there... I now have a wonderfully new selection of songs downloading so I don't have to listen to anymore Wizzard!

 

I do think it is about time that classics such as what are we gonna get for 'er in doors make an appearance in the charts though!!

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It's been in and out of the charts over the last few months, and is currently at number 30, so it won't be a new entry. It is, however, at 3 in the iTunes chart with the X-factor version at 1.

 

Even Leonard Cohen's version is now on iTunes' Top 30. And Jeff Buckley appears 3 times on the iTunes chart (full version from Grace, full version from a compilation, and an edited version).

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So, Alexandra Burke predictably wins the battle for Christmas No 1, with Jeff Buckley's vastly superior version at No2, and Leonard Cohen's orginal at 36. The week's top seasonal hits are as follows:-

 

5 - Geraldine (Once Upon a Christmas Song)

12 - Pogues & Kirsty

13 - Band Aged

17 - Mariah Carey

22 - Gabriella Cilmi

27 - Wham!

33 - Wizzard

35 - Basshunter

41 - Slade

42 - Shakin' Stevens

49 - Wombats (Is This Christmas)

53 - Perry Como

58 - Band Aid

59 - Chris Rea

61 - Status Quo

71 - Andy Williams

76 - Macy Gray

78 - John & Yoko

81 - East 17

82 - Brenda Lee

84 - Eartha Kitt

89 - Darkness

92 - Bruce Springsteen

 

23 seasonal songs in the Top 100, of which 17 are "oldies." There are also a number of other non-seasonal oldies in the chart (a fairly regular phenomenon these days):-

 

2 - Jeff Buckley

24 - Guru Josh (admittedly a remix)

36 - Leonard Cohen

73 - Rick Astley (Never Gonna Give You Up)

77 - Sash! (another remix)

 

Next week should see most of the Christmas hits disappear (indeed, a number are already on their way down). We will, however, see the re-appearance of a few more "established hits" (possibly one or two oldies as well) as the effect of Christmas MP3 players and tokens as gifts have their annual effect.

 

Sanity and normality are still a couple of weeks away, as the music indusrty doesn't bother releasing new product until we are all back at work.

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I don't normally look at this thread as I'm a fogey. But I was drawn in when I saw on the news that Hallelujah was at No 1 and No 2 in the charts, with Chen himself also in the top 40. Amazing! After all the stick I have taken over the years for listening to Leonard Cohen. I still think John Cale did the definitive Hallelujah, though - and Bono's version doesn't deserve the stick it's been getting.

 

Never heard [of] the Jeff Buckley version until today.

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So, Alexandra Burke predictably wins the battle for Christmas No 1, with Jeff Buckley's vastly superior version at No2, and Leonard Cohen's orginal at 36.

From BBC news

"Sunday's single chart is the first time in almost 52 years that the same song has been at numbers one and two, according to the OCC.

"That was when Tommy Steele and Guy Mitchell held the top two spots with Singing The Blues in January 1957, it said."

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I'm intrigued to know if it's really true, but Aled Jones was claiming on Radio 2 this afternoon that if the chart was based on CD sales (ignoring the downloads) then Drummer Boy was this years run away No. 1 with 30,000 sales (???). It makes sense as stereotypically "Terry's Old Geezers" wouldn't want this new fangled technology!

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