War! Huh! What is it good for? Record sales! On the 20th anniversary of Blur and Oasis launching the greatest chart battle in the history of UK rock by releasing ‘Country House’ and ‘Roll With It’ on the same day, here’s another five legendary chart battles…
1. KANYE VS FIDDY, 2007
When cocky young pretender Kanye West decided to put his third album ‘Graduation’ on sale on the same day as reigning rap champ 50 Cent’s ‘Curtis’ in 2007 it seemed like such a David vs Goliath sort of deal that Fiddy claimed he’d stop making music if he lost. That statement alone ensured Kanye’s victory. After going head-to-head on a TV hip hop show, Kanye romped to Number One by a whopping margin of 250,000 albums. Unfortunately, 50 Cent turned out to be such a turncoat he could lead the Liberal Democrat Party – he released another album just two years later.
2. RAGE VS COWELL, 2009
Fucked right off with the annual Xmas chart race being ruined by The X Factor’s crushing pre-Chrimbo publicity assault, the public rose up against this cultural genocide after four years of Cowell’s footsoldiers occupying Christmas Number One. Picking RATM’s 1992 “fuck”-fest ‘Killing In The Name’ as their anthem of revolt, a Facebook campaign group rallied the record-buying public to oust baron Cowell and his evil gnome sidekick Joe McElderry from the top spot. RATM performed a Finsbury Park show to celebrate. Bolstered by its success, Facebook tried again in subsequent years, but the nation’s anti-Cowell feeling was never going to be rallied behind John Cage’s silent ‘4’33″‘ in 2010.
3. ENGELBERT HUMBERDINCK VS THE BEATLES, 1967
Now who would be cruel, foolhardy and devious enough to try to keep the best single ever made off of Number One? That’d have to be the panto villain of pop stars, right? Step forward Engelbert Humperdinck, who scuppered The Beatles’ four-year record of consistently releasing Number One songs when his cover of ‘Release Me’ kept ‘Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane’ at Number Two for three weeks. Macca was sanguine about the result though: “It’s fine if you’re kept from being number one by a record like ‘Release Me’, because you’re not trying to do the same kind of thing,” he said. “That’s a completely different scene altogether.”
4. ROD STEWART VS THE SEX PISTOLS, 1977
This one was played out in the Radio One control room. In Silver Jubilee year, The Sex Pistols went all out to piss on Her Maj’s diamond-encrusted chips by recording the anti-Royalist anthem ‘God Save The Queen’ and playing it on a boat float past the Houses Of Parliament. Despite the song being banned from Radio One playlists and chain stores, it was a sweeping success and looked to top the chart. But, it’s been persistently alleged, a message arrived at the station ahead of that week’s chart run-down. The missive was apparently from the Palace, insisting that Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ be that week’s chart-topper instead. Was there anything the BBC wouldn’t cover up in the 70s?
5. DING DONG VS DUKE DUMONT
“We will laugh on the day that Thatcher dies,” sang Hefner back in 2000, but that was before the days of internet campaigns. Instead we all bought the Wizard Of Oz classic ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ to mark the long overdue 2013 passing of this foulest of political hellhounds. Ultimately, though, Maggie pulled some strings in the underworld and the song was held at Number Two by famed Satan’s imp Duke Dumont and A*M*E. Considered one of the most controversial chart battles of all time, the song wasn’t even played on the chart rundown that week; instead the presenter threw to Newsbeat host Jameela Jamil who explained to younger listeners why the song was in the charts at all.