Saturday, January 05, 2008

Number 1s of 2007: March

"Shine" by Take That (4 to 18 March, two weeks). I already wrote about Take That a few months back, so we can skip over this one fairly quickly. It's a good record, which cemented their comeback album as a legitimate success. It didn't chart in America, but the ever-useful Wikipedia informs me that it was a top ten hit in Ireland and Italy, and got to number one in the prestigious Bulgarian Airplay Chart.

Until 2007, the story of Take That had ended on an ironic note. The band were formed as a vehicle for songwriter Gary Barlow, but his solo career had faltered while Robbie Williams had gone on to international stardom. But last year, everything went right for Gary Barlow, while Robbie was... well, still shilling his "Rudebox" album, which the public has not taken to. And frankly, can you blame them?

The Sugababes vs Girls Aloud, "Walk This Way." (18 to 25 March, one week.) Oh dear.

Comic Relief is a charity telethon that airs on BBC1 every two years. It features an awkward combination of comedy laughs, starving African children, and Lenny Henry yelling at you to donate money. In fairness, it's a lot more watchable than "Children in Need." And of course, it does a lot of good. I'm all for Comic Relief.

Every time, they stick out an official Comic Relief tie-in charity single, which people are invited to buy as a sign of support. They're usually dreadful, but when you combine the forces of novelty records AND charity records in one unholy union, what do you expect?

More recently, they've done two singles. The first will be a more-or-less straight single by an established act, with a comedy video featuring B-list stars of BBC television. The second will be some comedy segment from the telethon itself, "spontaneously" released due to public demand. So, in 2005, we had boy band McFly's "All About You" (actually not bad) as the "official" single, and Peter Kay miming to "Show Me The Way To Amarillo" as the "comedy" release. Both did well.

This year's official lead-in single was Girls Aloud and the Sugababes teaming up to massacre "Walk This Way." Yes, it's a charity record, yes, it's raising money for worthwhile causes... but dear god. Girls Aloud are usually good. So are the Sugababes (in all their many rosters).

But there's no defending this one, except on the grounds of charity. "Walk This Way" is a classic. It's practically sacred. You don't cover it as badly as this - even for charity.

This atrocity only spent four weeks in the chart, perhaps because Comic Relief offered an alternative single that people actually wanted to buy. Then again, it actually made the top ten in Croatia, Poland and Greece. I honestly can't imagine why.

And so... you can probably guess what's coming next.

"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by Brian Potter, Andy Pipkin and the Proclaimers (March 25 to April 13, three weeks - yes, THREE WEEKS). The original version of this got to number 3 in America in 1993, so I'm going to assume you know it. Suffice to say that Brian Potter is Peter Kay doing his character from Phoenix Nights, and Andy Pipkin is Matt Lucas doing one of the characters from Little Britain, and I'm not sure any further explanation would assist overseas readers.

The Proclaimers were one-hit wonders in America, and even English audiences tend to regard them as slightly nerdy anachronisms with alarmingly strident regional accents, who haven't had a hit in years. But the Scots love them, and the Scots are right. "Letter From America" was a great single. "Sunshine on Leith" is beautiful. (It wasn't even a hit in Britain, but as you can imagine, it gets played a lot in Edinburgh.)

Irritatingly, the novelty remake of "Letter From America" will now go down as the biggest hit of the Proclaimers' career - not that they're complaining, I'm sure. On the strength purely of spontaneous downloads from their Greatest Hits album, the original DID re-enter the charts as well, making number 26. Still, it just feels wrong.

So, March - not an especially great month. What about America? Well, they got through three number ones that month- "What Goes Around Comes Around" by Justin Timberlake, "This is Why I'm Hot" by MIMS, and "Glamorous" by Fergie. UK chart positions: 4, 18 and 6 respectively. And MIMS was lucky to get that high, if you ask me...