You only have to look at the huge 62-year history of the Official Singles Chart to realise that us Brits love a novelty single – and we like it even better when they hit Number 1.
Songs about milkmen, being told to shut up, polka-dotted aliens, animated frogs and popular children’s TV builders have all made the top of the charts, thanks to the unique sense of humour of the UK’s pop-pickers. And today 20 years ago, a bunch of lovable hillbillies were ruling the top of the Official Singles Chart, holding off an altogether more serious songstress.
Despite their bluegrass leanings, Rednex hailed not from the wild frontier of the good ol’ US of A, but from, erm, Sweden. Starting out as something of a pop experiment, a group of producers got together to fuse good-old eurodance with more traditional elements of American music – the kind of tunes that would make you throw down at hoedown.
Using an actual old-school American country song called Cotton Eye Joe – which had been recorded by Nina Simone, among others – the Swedes had the basis for what was to be their biggest UK hit. All they needed was a thumping dance beat and a lineup to front the band.
As with many European hits, their first single Cotton Eye Joe was a huge holiday hit in Europe, with Rednex characters Mary Joe, Ken Tacky, Bobby Sue, Mup, and Billy Ray whipping up a storm on the continent. It was only a matter of time before they reached the UK and while the country was definitely not in holiday mood, Rednex brightened up a miserable January.
Cotton Eye Joe took five weeks to climb to the top spot, but climb it certainly did, and it remained there for three weeks – spending a second at the summit this very week in 1995.
Good news for them, of course, but less of a celebration for Celine Dion who had herself been on something of a slow ascent, taking ten weeks to reach Number 2, where, today in 1995, she now found herself for the second week running. It was a fourth Top 40 hit for the star, who was really starting to break the UK after an initial Top 10 in 1992 with Peabo Bryson on Beauty And The Beast from the Disney movie of the same name.
There was a third week at Number 2 ahead for Celine, but she would have the last laugh. She stormed Rednex’s barn dance once and for all to take up a residency that would last almost two months and grab her a million-seller, but we will definitely be coming back to that one in the future…
For Rednex, there would be just one more Top 40 hit in the UK. Old Pop In An Oak reached Number 12 later in the year. Despite an amusingly titled album called Sex And Violins (well, it made us laugh), there’d be no entries on the Official Albums Chart for the group.
The band have continued for over 20 years with more lineups than you can shake a contract at, even licensing the band name out to other acts in different countries, and continue to tour. Cotton Eye Joe was Number 1 for three weeks and has sold 650,000 copies in the UK.
So Celine and Rednex were having a scrap in the saloon at Numbers 1 and 2, but who else was bubbling under? Step right this way…
3: Boyzone – Love Me For A Reason
The Irish quintet’s debut hit had peaked at Number 2 and was the first of 17 consecutive Top 10s for the group! While they would go on to have six Number 1s, this song never made it for them. The original version, however, by the shiny-toothed brotherhood that was the Osmonds, did top the Official Singles Chart, staying there for three weeks in 1974. Boyzone’s version has sold 440,000 copies in the UK.
4: East 17 – Stay Another Day
A classic Christmas Number 1 that kept Mariah’s festive favourite from reaching the top, Stay Another Day was the Walthamstow lads’ only chart-topper. It spent five weeks at Number 1 and has sold over 840,000 copies.
5: Ini Kamoze – Here Comes the Hotstepper
Na-na-na-na-naaaa-na-na-na-naaa-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-naaah! A solid gold classic and a bonafide one-hit wonder, Ini Kamoze’s tune was taken from the star-studded movie Pret A Porter. While the movie wasn’t a hit with critics, this catchy number was a success with pop devotees, eventually peaking at Number 4 and selling over 410,000 copies.
6: N-Trance – Set You Free
7: Human League – Tell me When
8: Oasis – Whatever
9: Guns N Roses – Sympathy For The Devil
10: Zig & Zag – Them Girls Them Girls
This time last year…
Pharrell Williams was back for another go at the Number 1 spot with million-selling, chart record-matching Happy. Big climbers that week included Fuse ODG, Beyonce and Jay Z’s Drunk In Love, lady Gaga and R Kelly and Awolnation. Don’t just take our word for it, though – check out the entire Top 40 from today in 2014.