Staff Top 10
Top 10 #41 Singles of the Past Eleven Years

number Ones are supposed to be cultural artifacts, that week's most popular record, an insight into the consciousness of the nation. In practice, they're often of questionable worth and probably half the sold copies are actually placed in the trunks of the producers' cars. The places below, though. A Number 2 is a near miss, a Number 10 is an arrival, comeback or a glorious accident, Numbers 23-27 are often overrated indie toss, and Number 40 is scraping in by the barest of margins (and can often also be overrated indie toss).

Number 41s, though. As good as you can get without getting in the top 40. An agonisingly close failure, or perhaps the last single before stardom. Back in the days, just missing out on a guaranteed play on the radio because of an arbitrary cut-off that has something to do with how "Top 40" sounds better than "Top 50" and the fact that the latter would probably go just a bit too long once you put some yammering twat of a DJ in between the songs to spoil everything.

There've been a few of them, and they're an interesting mix. Backfired comebacks, artists past their prime and songs that never lived up to their hype or, occasionally, quality.


They never made the top 40, but they came agonisingly close with this - notable for being basically two different songs - a slow, but pretty thing with some variety of weeping stringed instrument whose identity I should be able to identify but can't because I have an earache that has with two verses that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and then a completely incongruous second half in which they go on about how it's raining and other such things, except they do it in Welsh, and euphony completely trumps meaning, as it really should. They didn’t need to keep trying after this, because nothing else was as good and for once, the chart placings bore it out. Lovely, though.

9. DEAD PREZ - Hip Hop
MARCH 2000

Backpack’s last stand? Maybe. In context, this came a month after “Simon Says”, and Rawkus’ slow sink into insignificance whilst they tried to match the success of that titty-rubbing epic, whilst still pretending to be “underground” (remember Ripshop? No, me neither). So whilst all around were losing their heads, Dead Prez represented for those “sick of that fake thug RnB rap scenario all day on the radio”, and made a sweet enough noise for even those of us who like a bit of rap ‘n’ bullshit every now and then to tune in. Want proof this is a classic? In the five years since we’ve put up with Dead Prez recording some of the worst rap songs ever (“Be Healthy” and “Mind Sex” spring to mind), and also every single cretin with a few KRS-One albums in his collection getting up to “freestyle” over the instrumental of this at your local hip-hop club, and yet it still makes me want to cut a rug every time I hear it. Farting basslines = classic.

8. ICE CUBE - You Know How We Do It / Hand Of The Dead Body (with Scarface)
MARCH 1994/MARCH 1995

There was no telling when he was down for a jack move, and even less clues were given as to when he was going to have a chart single. Here we pay tribute to the porky jheri-curl model and his ability to just miss the top 40 by a few hundred sales not once, but twice during the course of 13 months. Firstly, “You Know How We Do It”, calmed down G-funk where Ice seems less concerned with that whole massed gang violence thing he was into a few years prior, and more concerned with listing the contents of his CD changer. And then he hooked up with Scarface for “Hand of the Dead Body”, which despite what the title suggests, thankfully isn’t horrorcore. Rather, Scarface posits the opinion that Matt Dillon is to blame for all gang violence, before Ice Cube turns up and kicks his own verse, on some Barbra Streisand/Celine Dion “they’ve obviously never met in their entire life” ish. Still, whilst two singles in a row at #41 may be an achievement, Cube’s been trumped. By...

7. PJ HARVEY - Good Fortune / This Is Love / Crawl Home (with Desert Sessions) / You Come Through

PJ had two Number 41s off the same album, quite a feat. Both of them probably deserved to do a bit better, especially when you consider that that snoozefest "The Letter" made Number 28 later on. “Good Fortune” in particular was as jangly and romantic as she’d ever get, and if it had been written by a man and released in 1996, would probably have charted at 24 and been enthused about by the NME and then forgotten, so she dodged a bullet there. “This Is Love” then proved that her going sultry was no more commercially viable. Unperterubed, she lent her considerable talents, and I'm not sure if I'm talking about her vocals or her gigantic jinx, to the Desert Sessions project, and they also made Number 41. As for "Crawl Home", I can only gasp in awe at this quote from this page: PJ Harvey + Josh Homme = Sexy. Like when you go down on someone and they orgasm and you go back up for the kiss - that kind of sexy. And to top things off, she grabbed her fourth Number 41 of the decade in 2004 with a song that few people outside her fan club could even hum the chorus of. She needs to mobilise that devoted fanbase, pronto.

So, PJ Harvey. Snowballing queen. Goddess of the Number 41s. The Ice Cube of the noughties.

6. TORI AMOS - A Sorta Fairytale

Tori fans… I’m coming home. Despite my previous statements on this site, I’ve got nothing but love for the tight-skinned ginger mentalist, and this was the last time she sent me back a love letter letting me know that my devotion was appreciated. It was the last time that old Myra Ellen was worth a damn, but, man, what a damn. Seriously, if you can listen to this song without every hair on your body standing up, then you must have alopecia. A narration of what we all assumed happens after “The Graduate” ends: two people who think they’re in love take a lengthy journey with each other, only to find that they’re totally unsuitable, and then Tori finishes matters off by giving Oliver Stone a clip around the ear (it’s all in the lyrics!). She’s had a number one single, you know?

5. JEWEL - Hands

Though hardly a force to be reckoned with as far as the UK Charts go, the law that states that the second album usually contains the highest-charting hit regardless of quality due to accumulating fanbase and the attendant expectations probably means the only thing that kept the first single off the second album from an established artist out of the charts was the fact that it was a piece of meaningless rubbish. Which it was. Her hands are hers, they are not yours, they are her own. There may have been raining in the video clip, in keeping the fact that there was some tinkly piano all over the folky strummings of this particular song. She would go on to show off her boobs in a wet shirt for a video while charting at #52 some years later, proving that the toothy-mouthed folkstress was arguably selling off charm for some time before it ran out.

4. OLIVE - Miracle
MARCH 1997 and NOVEMBER 1997

Notable for making Number 41 not just once but twice, once before "You're Not Alone" became possibly the least remarkable Number 1 single of 1997 (though none the worse for it), and once some months later. It actually got released three times in all with nothing more than a Guinness Book Of Hit Singles entry or three to show for it, though it actually seemed quite lovely at the time. A re-listen to it has revealed it to be a bit plodding in that vaguely ethereal way that was appealing to many a lapsing-indie youngster who hadn’t actually developed taste at that point and was just looking for something to soothe the head after all those horrible tuneless indie rackets that were so popular at the time. Still, as a testament to persistence, it deserves recognition, though sometimes persistence leads to people like Morcheeba having Top 10 albums, so one must give moderate praise on this occasion.

3. BELLE AND SEBASTIAN - Lazy Line Painter Jane

The majority of singles on this list come from acts who were on the wane of their commercial powers (Olive, Tori Amos) or acts who were never feasibly going to launch a sustain attack on the charts anyway (Dead Prez, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci). “Lazy Line Painter Jane” was different. It was B&S;’s last failed effort to make the top 40 before “3, 6, 9 Seconds of Light” made it to #37 a few months later. And from them on, the twee-kids galvanised behind them, Pete Waterman got pissed off at them, and now they’ve had seven top 40s, including 3 top 20s. Savour the past though. Savour how they nearly managed to sneak into the top 40 (songs that did go top 40 that month: North and South- “Tarantino’s New Star”, The Levellers- “What A Beautiful Day”, Reef- “Yer Old”) with one of the wussiest songs from the wussiest of bands, lifted along by Monica Queen’s Carol Decker impression. Maybe a cautionary tale about sexually immorality, maybe a celebration of carnal liberation in the face of small-town pettiness, definitely a classic. Possibly the most successful song about thrush ever (Barclay James Harvest excluded).

MARCH 2004

The debut single from the most important woman in rock - no, really - collaborating with Linda Perry, who has a Midas touch as far as chart hits go. Surprisingly, a grand piece of guitar rock confection with hooks and balls to spare. Yet the woman who can tease out a hook when there isn't even a tune by sheer force of charisma found her one failing: she couldn't find enough single buyers in the UK who weren't complete dithering morons who wouldn't know a great rock song if it bashed them repeatedly in the face with a mike stand. How many times does this woman have to save rock'n'roll - or die (figuratively) trying before she is given due respect? Whatever, she'll keep trying and it will continue to be great and piss off male rock critics who have insecurities about their wangs. Men who hate Courtney Love have no penises.

1. CLIPSE - When The Last Time b/w Grindin'

Number one for two reasons. Firstly, because of all the songs in this top ten, “Grindin’” is easily the most surprising, because it doesn’t even sound like it’d scrape the UK top 75, let alone be just on the outskirts of the top 40 (Pusha T and Malice’s only other UK chart action, apart from their Timberlake flanking, was when “Ma, I Don’t Love Her” got to #38 three months later). So we like to pay tribute to the underdog in these situations. And, secondly… it’s a great song. The lyrics? Eleven puns, of ranging awfulness (“From the days when I wasn’t able their was always ‘caine” sticks out), one can only assume that Richard Whiteley’s death two years later wasn’t due to him realising that Clipse had moved onto his territory and dominated it. Nuclear holocaust sparse beats? Pharrell groaning like the bitch he is?

It charted no higher in the charts than "Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja" by Lostprophets, or "I Can Dream" by Skunk Anansie.

Clipse. As popular as Skunk Anansie when they weren't popular. And it seems like an achievement. #41? With a fucking bullet.

By: Dom Passantino/Edward Oculicz
Published on: 2005-07-15
Comments (5)

Today on Stylus
October 31st, 2007
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews