World of Chig   


2006 hasn't been a good year for pop, or for us chart-watchers. We've lost Smash Hits, cd:uk and Top Of The Pops. (Whatever happened to cd:uk's move from ITV1 to five, which was supposed to happen in the Summer?) We've lost a plethora of popsters, from James Brown to half of Baccara, while Pete Doherty remains alive. Where's the (pop)justice?

Today sees the last ever singles chart, after 54 years. Today is in some ways as significant as the decision taken in 1952 to move from a sheet music chart to a chart counting the sales of vinyl.

From tomorrow, it will no longer be necessary to have a physical version of a song available in order to appear in the 'combined' chart, so the singles chart will become a songs chart instead. This means that album tracks will be able to chart in their own right, even if they haven't been released as singles. It raises the intriguing prospect of the chart being clogged up with many tracks by the same artist, but recent evidence suggests this will only happen lower down. In the last few weeks, a glance at the 'downloads only' chart, where this free-for-all is already happening, reveals handfuls of oasis and Westlife tracks from their recent albums, but only near the bottom of the Top 200 downloads.

Tracks which are already creating a buzz will be able to chart from next week, regardless of when record companies decide to 'release' them, so the record companies are actually surrendering a great deal of control over the market by agreeing to this move. (As an example, Take That's brilliant 'Shine', which will be their next single, is already 'doing significant business' and is loitering around the lower reaches of the download chart long before single release.)

Songs which feature in TV programmes and adverts, if they're available on legal download sites, will be able to register their sales immediately, without waiting for a record company to release the accompanying CD with an 'as featured in' sticker on the front.

More significantly, the huge lead time between songs being released to radio and the physical release of a CD will now be gone, which could see big singles charting immediately. Considering that some songs are on the radio two months before we can legally buy them at the moment, this is a huge change, but the biggest change will be next Christmas, when we will no longer have the ridiculous situation that we've had last year and this year, where Mariah Carey has had the biggest-selling Christmas song with an old track for two consecutive years, but it doesn't appear in the singles chart because it's not available in the shops. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, meanwhile, are also selling strongly without being released on CD this year, but they're allowed to chart again because the song was released on CD within the last 12 months. ('Fairytale of New York' was given special dispensation to remain in the chart last week when that twelve months was up, allowing it to be the Christmas no.6, when it should really have disappeared from the chart altogether.)

There are currently over 30 Christmas songs or old Christmas hits (such as Bohemian Rhapsody) in the Top 200 downloads chart!

There are some other changes from tomorrow, involving lengthening the time limit for chart-eligible CD singles to 25 minutes and allowing up to four tracks instead of three. However, if you examine CDs in the shops as much as I do, you'll be as confused as I am, as there are several recent releases which have had as many as five tracks plus a video on them, but seem to have been allowed into the singles chart regardless.

One of the worst things about all this is that, just as the chart becomes even more unpredictable and exciting, there are still no rumours of Radio 1 ending the disastrous JK and Joel experiment, so the Top 40 show will remain presented by idiots who know little or nothing about the music they're playing and are more interested in filling airtime with their inane chatter. They can't even manage to pronounce 'Siempre' properly, on the evidence of last week's album chart rundown, which I had the misfortune to hear, in a moment of Christmas Eve weakness. (I don't listen to the Radio 1 chart show any more, unless I find myself in the car. I just tune in at the end for the countdown.)

Radio 1, please give us back our chart show, with some decent presenters, because the chart is about to become interesting again and it would be nice to have it presented on a show that was listenable. Pretty please?

Happy New Year!

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Nearly forgot....

Happy Christmas! Better late than never. I've been a bit busy...

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Free Gift! Timely Christmas Download!

There are loads of songs about Christmas, and a few about New Year, but I don't think there are many songs about today, 17 December. Luckily, hunky Swede Magnus Carlsson - him on the left who used to be in Alcazar - has put that right, as he sings 'It's Christmas in a week and a day', which, according to my diary, is today (for those of us who celebrate on 25 December). He promises to wrap himself in paper as a Christmas present. Santa, is it too late to change my list? He'd be better than a Wii, any day, if you ask me.

Feel free to download Magnus Carlsson's 'Wrap Myself In Paper' from here, or the link below (for a limited time only). It's fab!

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They're on the ball

Blimey! Respect is due to Sony BMG. At 00.01, I received this e-mail. I'm sure a few thousand other people on their mailing list did too, but I'm impressed. Congrats to the marketing department for mailing this at the very moment the download is officially released.

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Tonight's X Factor Final

It's Ray v. Leona.
It's North v. South.
It's male v. female.
It's Caucasian v. mixed race (with a controversial phone-in discussion on this very issue on Five Live yesterday).
It's the former Brooksider v. the Eastender.
It's the new Robbie v. the new Mariah.
(It's Simon Cowell v. Simon Cowell, unfortunately.)

But, after Leona being the favourite all the way through the live shows, it's too close to call because it's also The Entertainer v The Singer, and that's what makes it more exciting than I thought it would be.

Simon Cowell has often said that 'girls don't vote for girls', but I've seen some evidence that this is changing. The weekly 'instant reaction' polls at, in which I always vote, have consistently shown Leona in the lead, with a voting audience that is always around two-thirds female (amongst the self-selecting voters). At this very moment, with 62% of tonight's voters being female, Leona has 68% versus Ray's 32%, so she can definitely win this. It's also a myth that black artists don't win TV talent shows with public voting. Several years ago, a young, black, Bristolian woman called Celestine won the BBC's Search For A Star. (Goodness only knows what happened to her though.) Lenny Henry was considerably more successful after winning New Faces, but it was also a long time ago. I think Leona should win it, even if Jamelia's not keen, but you never know.

UPDATE after the first programme:

I'm an emotional wreck after watching that superb show! I thought that was all brilliant. I was quite choked after watching little Sean from Wigan (left) do a really good surprise performance and then I cried with laughter at the cacophony created by all the failed auditionees. Did you see that woman who had only one line to sing, and missed it? She'll be kicking herself for the rest of her life over that one! (Who was she anyway? I didn't recognise her.)

Most importantly, Ray and Leona produced six superb performances. They're wisely going for different audiences, but they have both performed to the best of their ability when it mattered tonight, which was great to watch. I was indignant when Westlife appeared to help Ray, but it all made sense when Take That appeared with Leona. Excellent idea, and great to see the boyband of the nineties on the same stage as the boys who took their place in the noughties.

My prediction? Kate will say it's very close, just to squeeze more money out of the punters.

I'm not voting, but I do hope Leona wins, for all sorts of reasons. I'll probably never buy anything she does apart from the forthcoming Christmas number one single, but for sheer talent she deserves to win. And if a fat Glaswegian woman can win a talent series, then a beautiful London woman certainly can. Not that I have anything against fat Glaswegian women in general, or Michelle McManus specifically, but some irrational people probably do and it didn't stop her winning Pop Idol against a good-looking cheeky chappie bloke (AKA Mark Rhodes), so there are parallels which can be made with tonight.

UPDATE after Ray and Leona both sing the single, A Moment Like This:
If it takes this last performance to swing it, then Leona has it in the bag. It's so obvious that this Kelly Clarkson song was picked with Leona in mind; it's so much more suited to her voice than Ray's. He gave it his best shot, but she has absolutely 'nailed it' and 'made it her own', to use two of the well-worn cliches of this series. You go girl!

UPDATE @22:20:

It's Leona! Hurrah! Bless you, Raymond Quinn, for being so pleased for her. You're a gent. Tonight, Leona sang with Take That. In eight days' time, she'll probably be knocking them off the number one spot on Christmas Eve. They've experienced this before. Leona is the new Mr Blobby!

Well done also to Gary Barlow, for publicly urging Simon Cowell to make the most of Leona's talents and to produce a worthwhile album with her. I couldn't help wondering if he was making a pitch for a share of the songwriter duties though.

UPDATE @ 23:14

Simon Cowell says that Leona's single, which isn't officially available for download until midnight (or it would be eligible for tomorrow's chart, which they don't want) has sold 20,000 in five minutes, making it the fastest selling download ever, ever, ever. (I'm presuming you can pay by text message before midnight, then download after?)

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Easily distracted homosexual

Tonight, whilst kidding myself that I have been doing 'online Christmas shopping', I have stumbled across three bargainous music DVDs for a fiver each and bought them all for myself. I have bought nothing for anyone else.

I've treated myself to:

Pet Shop Boys - Somewhere: Live At The Savoy Theatre (HMV £4.99)

Soft Cell - Tainted Live (HMV £4.99)

Kylie - Fever 2002 - Live In Manchester (BangCD £4.99)

Yes, that's Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell and Kylie. How gay can you get?

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Today is the fourth anniversary of the death of my Gran, something which was very much on my mind today, especially when I spoke to my Mum earlier. We both said that we were intending to watch the Victoria Wood wartime drama on ITV1 tonight, Housewife, 49. What I didn’t realise beforehand was that it was set around Barrow-in-Furness, with mentions in the script of the munitions factory there. This was quite spooky, because during the war my gran and grandad, along with his sister and her husband, moved up from Coventry so that they could work in that very munitions factory. That’s the reason my Mum was born in 1943 in Ulverston, just down the road. Of all the days this drama could have been on…it was very poignant. Gran would have loved it, as I did too. Victoria Wood was perfect in the title rôle, as was David Threlfall, playing her uptight husband. He was only recognisable from Shameless by his voice. He looked like a completely different person.

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You Don’t Have To Be Royal To Win This…But It Helps

Congratulations to Zara Phillips for winning the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award this evening, at the NEC, here in Birmingham. (I would have gone, but the tickets sold out in an hour, for this first, bigger, public event, after 50 years of it being held in a TV studio.) Zara's Mum won the same award 35 years ago. It’s been a funny year for the Sports Personality award, as there hasn’t been an obvious winner, due in no small part to the coincidental low points which the England football, rugby and cricket teams are all suffering this year. (I am aware that there are other countries in the UK, but you get my point.)

Darren Clarke, the golfer, came second, which should please him as he said he didn’t want to win it on a wave of sympathy after his wife died just before he and a few others won the Ryder Cup. Our champion gymnast Beth Tweddle came third. Overall, good results, I think, showing that the public does sometimes know how to vote for achievement over celebrity. Zara Phillips is the current three day eventing world champion. Princess Anne was only the European champion in the same sport when she won the award, so daughter Zara has gone one better, which may compensate slightly for her Mum forbidding her from ever being made a princess.

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Conway Twitty

Here's the new video from The Conways; a pumping, discotastic version of The Nick Straker Band's only hit, 'A Walk In The Park' from 1980. Blimey, have these Conway sisters lost their inhibitions since last year's X Factor, or what?!

What's that? Oh, different Conways, you say? This is actually Daz Sampson, you say, under yet another pseudonym? That explains everything. Fabulosa.

(Via Popjustice.)

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Tomorrow's X Factor

Remember last year's X Factor? When it came down to three acts, it was the final. Journey South went home after the early bit, then Andy Abrahams and Shayne Ward battled it out for the 1% of the votes that eventually split them. This year, they're dragging it out for another week, apparently so they can rob the final of Strictly Come Dancing of viewers next week, so we go from three down to two tomorrow.

If there's any justice, Ray will be off, but Ben's previous presence in the bottom two means he can't take things (like votes) for granted, even when he performs brilliantly. Raymondo is a great performer, but a singing lightweight compared to Ben and Leona. Does anyone think Ray can actually win this competition?

The special guest is a special Gest by the name of David, freshly scrubbed from the jungle and his appearance on 8 Out Of 10 Cats tonight. In a break with X Factor tradition, David Gest doesn't appear to have an album out on Monday. Come on Simon, you haven't had your Angelis group on yet! They have an album out! What are you playing at?

These are tomorrow's songs:

Sharon's soloist:

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2, #6 in 1987)
(Everything I Do) I Do It For You (#1 for most of 1991 for Bryan Adams.)

Simon's pair:

I Have Nothing (Whitney Houston, #3 in 1993, from ‘The Bodyguard’)
Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Judy Garland or Eva Cassidy or Shayne Ward, depending on your age, but none of them have had a hit with it. The only person who ever has is Cliff Richard!)

Smile (Nat ‘King’ Cole, #2 in 1954. The song Ray performed for Simon and Sinitta at the Miami boot camp.)
You’ll Never Walk Alone (Liverpool FC perennial, originally from ‘Carousel’ and number one twice, for Gerry & The Pacemakers and The Crowd. Also a #21 hit for Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti with Mehta in 1998.)

Louis's function: unknown.

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If you watch Hollyoaks, you'll be interested to know that Max Cunningham currently looks exactly how I've felt for most of the last two months. Worryingly, I have a horrible feeling he's going to die in the next few days (and I'm currently resisting the temptation to look ahead at the TV listings). This is not good (for either of us).

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What Would You Do? Part 1

Some people have been sacked for writing about their work on their blogs. In cases like the flight attendant and the Edinburgh bookshop bloke, this was a very bad thing indeed, but Chig is not stupid. That’s why, in the five years of this blog, he has never done any more than obliquely allude to the day job and would never write anything more specific about it.

Good. Glad we’ve clarified that.

Now, let’s play a little game! It’s rôleplay time. I’m going to set the scene and then give you three purely hypothetical situations. What I’d like you to do is tell me what you would do in each case. There is no prize, other than the immensely gratifying thought that you may have saved the sanity of a hypothetical person or persons whose identity/identities cannot be revealed (because they're not real).

Setting the scene:

Imagine, if you will, that you’ve been out of the office for about six weeks, perhaps due to illness. When you return to work, still feeling like death warmed up, still waiting for the get well card from your colleagues that must have been lost in the post and still feeling ever-so-slightly anti-social, unable to breathe properly due to ten weeks of sinusitis (and a hospital appointment still a month away) and unable to stay alert because you’re still not on a high enough dosage of thyroxine, you find that some things have changed. The radical ‘upgrade’ of the computer software that forms the core of your working day has ‘gone live’ in your absence and your colleagues seem resigned to the fact that it’s made many things worse instead of better. Someone has also been moving the office furniture around… Now, let’s play ‘What Would You Do?’

Scenario 1: The sexist language.

When you were involved in the testing of the ‘upgraded’ software before it ‘went live’, you noticed that a new phrase had been introduced to label certain jobs. Work which requires two people to complete, perhaps because it involves climbing onto a rooftop or up a pylon, or requires heavy machinery, was now labelled ‘two man job’. This concept never existed before. You pointed out to your manager that the phrase ‘two man job’ was perhaps ill-advised in this enlightened day and age, especially when not all of the technicians who would be doing said jobs are male and when your massive, pan-international company has a policy of non-sexist language. You suggested that it may even be illegal to specify which gender should do a job that can be done by any human being, regardless of penis or vagina presence. You suggested that it be changed to ‘two person job’ or just ‘two techs’ for the sake of brevity. Two months later, the system is now in use and the label is still there, looking down at you from your screen as you work, niggling you every day. What would you do?

(a) Just ignore it. It’s political correctness gone mad! Everyone knows what it means, so stop being such a pedant. What are ladies doing climbing pylons anyway? They may smudge their make-up. Now where’s my Daily Mail gone?
(b) Mention it once more, then grin and bear it. It’s annoying, but some of your managers are so stuck in the 1970s that it’s impossible trying to reason with them.
(c) Get all your colleagues on your side, then mention ‘company policy’, ‘sexism’ and ‘legislation’ in a team meeting in an attempt to embarrass your managers into getting it changed, quick smart!
(d) Take the direct route to the senior managers who you rarely meet and the HR people who are a bit more socially aware, suggest to them that this is surely against company policy and insist that your chauvinist manager be disciplined, preferably in front of everyone else.
(e) Something else.

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What Would You Do? Part 2

Scenario 2: The illiterate rubbish.

In a similar vein to the imaginary scenario above, imagine that another thing you mentioned during the system testing has also ‘gone live’, despite you pointing out several problems with it two months ago. In the olden days (ie. for the last four years), everyone in your team created their own fax template for the faxes which they send to external companies every day. You always thought this was a ridiculous situation, but it just evolved because your manager refuses to care about the quality of documents that go out of the building. Some people’s faxes were good, some were okay and some were shockingly bad, but at least they all had the company logo on, and you were confident that the version you created was probably the best of the bunch as you had taken care to almost imitate the company font and you knew how to use the spellchecker, which other colleagues seem unable to locate. When you were told that the new system would ‘auto-complete’ these fax forms, with minimal input from individuals, you were overjoyed! It would force people to produce decent looking documents. However, the ‘test version’ which looks like some kind of crap thrown together by a five year old has inexplicably found its way onto the new system. Your senior manager told you two months ago that this version wouldn’t be used, when you told him it was ‘crap’. He seemed grateful when you handed him the version where you had circled over thirty mistakes in red pen, including a missing digit in the office phone number, an illegal claim and a version of the company logo that someone in the office has decided to redesign, badly, all by themselves. You are told that there are higher priorities to fix on the new system, but you suspect that some people think this travesty is actually okay to use. You now wonder what the people in corporate branding would say about this dog’s dinner of a document, and you wonder why some of your colleagues are dragging the company name into the dirt by actually sending out this embarrassing shite. But what would you do?

(a) Grit your teeth and use the new fax template, knowing it’s rubbish, but thinking ‘well, it’s the company that’s looking bad, not me – I wash my hands of the whole thing.’
(b) Mention it once more to the senior manager, telling them that you’re embarrassed to put your name to this drivel, but will do so if they insist.
(c) Say nothing, but keep on secretly using your own, much better, version, in which you do at least have some pride, until one day you’re spotted with it by the fax machine and you have a great big, albeit satisfying, row about the whole thing.
(d) Go on strike and refuse to liaise with outside companies by fax until this is resolved. Ensure that the people who are paid thousands of pounds in the ‘corporate branding’ and marketing departments mysteriously receive copies of the shoddy new fax in the internal mail. Sit back and await fallout.
(e) Something else.

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What Would You Do? Part 3

Scenario 3: The right to light.

Imagine that, just before you went off sick, your ‘office manager’ spent a lot of time one day emptying one of the big stationery cupboards by the wall while you exchanged quizzical looks with your colleagues, before she huffed and puffed and pushed it across the office to the other side, then refilled it. That’s the side of the office which is the only one with windows. In fact, it is a window, from floor to just above head height, and is your only source of natural light. She left the cupboard there, in the way, without asking anyone if it was okay. You later moaned to a colleague that it was blocking the light and your view of the (admittedly not very scenic) road and trees outside. He was similarly annoyed about it, but you went off sick soon after that and forgot about it. Six weeks later, you returned to find that, not only was cupboard number one still blocking the window, but now a second big cupboard had been moved next to it, leaving one end of the office very gloomy indeed. A third unit, of shelves this time, had been placed next to them, mercifully unfilled at this time and not obstructing too much light as it’s backless, but the threat was there. You discovered that your colleagues had been moaning amongst themselves about the windows being blocked, but no one had said anything to the two people who matter. (Having seen the way your manager shouted at a colleague who dared to ask about the office radio during the team meeting on your second day back, you are not surprised that they have been so timid.) There is now only six inches of blind visible above these cupboards. Astoundingly, the first morning that you go to pull up these blinds to at least let in the little light that’s available, your manager asks you not to, as the cords are apparently getting in the way of the cupboards. You suggest that the cords wouldn’t be in the way of the cupboards if the cupboards weren’t there. He asks if it’s worth you pulling up six inches of blind and you reply that you are trying to ‘maximise the natural light’. He scoffs, but you do it anyway and shut up, despite the fact that you are shaking with rage by this point.

At home, you do some research on the internet and discover, as you suspected, that there is UK legislation about natural light in offices. The five websites you look at all seem to suggest that it has been illegal since 1996 to obscure natural light. More specifically, it seems employers are obliged to ‘maximise available natural light’ and make sure that furniture is not placed in such a way that natural light is obscured. You cut and paste information from these websites into a document that you then e-mail to yourself at work, but haven’t yet plucked up the courage to confront your manager about it. So, what would you do?

(a) Nothing. Who wants to see trees, cars and the outside world anyway? I’m far too busy working to look out of the window. Anyway, I work in an underground bunker, lit only by flickering neon tubes. You should think yourself lucky.
(b) Nothing specific, except sit and make snidey comments like ‘it’s a bit gloomy in here today, isn’t it?’ You hope that one of your colleagues will mention the cupboards and tell yourself that, if they do, you will back them up, but you know deep down that no one ever will.
(c) Print out your brilliant document on ‘light law’ and leave it anonymously on your manager’s desk, highlighting the bit about ‘liability’ and prosecution by the Health & Safety Executive.
(d) Mention it for the first time at the next team meeting, producing your document at the same time, causing maximum embarrassment to your line manager and office manager and asking who wants to help you move the cupboards back to the other wall.
(e) Something else.

It’s all purely hypothetical, of course, but, in the interests of research, Chig is interested in hearing your opinions, especially if you have found yourself in anything similar to these outrageously made up situations. I thank you.

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Well, well, well. It shows what you can achieve by eating a kangaroo's anus on prime time TV. (It wasn't still attached to the kangaroo, I feel I should point out, for those who didn't watch.) The artist formerly known as Matty Jay, 'the one who keeps dropping his trousers in Busted', now Matt Willis, performed this disgusting act on the final show of I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! tonight and managed to turn the top three upside-down, pushing Jason Donovan into third, while FHM and Loaded readers voted in their millions to secure second place and a few more bikini photoshoots for Myleene Klass.

The trials producer for this series is one of my sister's best friends. (That's my excuse for watching it every day. What's yours?!) I couldn't resist sending a text to her in Australia tonight after Myleene's 'Scary-oake' Bushtucker Trial. As Myleene sang her way through various songs, while having unpleasant substances and creatures dropped onto her, I thought the final track would surely be 'Pure And Simple', which would have been hilarious. However, as I texted to our friend on set in Australia, they missed a trick. They went for Britney over Hear'say.

After going through his final trial tonight, where Matt Willis ate live mealworms, a live witchetty grub (check the amusing link!), a crocodile eye, a kangaroo anus and a substantial bite of a crocodile's penis, I really think he deserved to win. The surge of votes must have been enormous. I even considered voting for him myself, then remembered that Michael Grade doesn't need my 50p. I've also enjoyed Matt's 'bush telegraph' pieces to camera over the last three weeks, where he's been very perceptive and occasionally illuminating about the other contestants and very entertaining with some of his one liners. Well done Matt!

Matt Willis's debut solo album (left), which has a crappily forgettable title and a cover which makes him look like Hitler trying to hide his moustache, was released last week.. It dribbled into the album chart at #66 on Sunday. Poor boy.

Jason Donovan's repackaged Greatest Hits album (left) is out next week; Monday 4 December. It has exactly the same thirteen tracks on as the 1991 Greatest Hits (right), but with 'Any Dream Will Do' added, and the 1991 bonus track 'Fool Such As I' removed. And a different cover.

Myleene Klass, as far as we know, doesn't have any 'product' out soon, apart from the photoshoots. Her solo album from three years ago is still available though, and you can probably find the second Hear'say album in the bargain bin at Woolies for about 99p.

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World AIDS Day