Elvis is alive and well, uh-huh. Which is more than can be said for the charts

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The Independent Culture

It is a milestone fit for The King. Shortly before 7pm today, Elvis Presley, arguably the most important figure in the development of rock and pop, will claim the landmark 1,000th No 1 single with the track "One Night".

It is a milestone fit for The King. Shortly before 7pm today, Elvis Presley, arguably the most important figure in the development of rock and pop, will claim the landmark 1,000th No 1 single with the track "One Night".

But as the icon beds in for a lengthy residency in the top 10 over coming weeks, many believe he is driving home the final nail in the coffin for the credibility of the chart.

Figures who made their living from the chart say the weekly countdown is now in such a dire state, it is openly susceptible to the slick marketing ploy that has propelled Presley to the top. Elvis's sales are actually being fuelled by collectors who are snapping up a "limited edition" set of re-releases of his No 1s on CD and 10-inch vinyl.

It has nothing to do with the popularity of the singles, which are receiving barely any radio play, and more to do with completing the full set that many people see as an investment, the critics say.

Record label Sony BMG is issuing each of his 18 No 1s on CD and 10-inch vinyl, week by week. A collectors' box to house them was also on sale last week. Such is the appetite among collectors that many stores sold out of "One Night" at the start of the week.

Many of Elvis's recordings will fall out of copyright over the coming months because they are protected for 50 years only. This may prompt a rash of re-releases as record companies wring profits from back catalogues while they can. But labels are not the only ones cashing in. Boxes that were issued during the first week of the campaign are now on sale on the auction website eBay for upwards of £45, and copies of "One Night", which was only released on Monday, are being advertised for similar figures.

The virtual collapse of the singles market means that last week the first release in the sequence, "Jailhouse Rock", became the 999th No 1 with a record low of about 21,000 sales. A No 1 can routinely sell just 30,000 copies or under, where once it would have to achieve more than 100,000 sales.

Chris Cowey, the former producer of the chart-based TV show Top of the Pops, said: "I think there's a real need for a drastic shake-up of the charts. It is not an accurate barometer of the popularity of songs among the public. The notion of the single as such is now obsolete. You can't look at singles just in isolation, you get so many different formats - people like me who are still partial to vinyl, but I'm also downloading things like it's going out of fashion.

"They need to come up with a list which reflects what is most popular, whether it is on sheet music or eight-track cartridge."

In the final week of 2004, internet downloads of tracks outstripped singles sales for the first time, with 312,000 bought from online stores against 282,000 singles bought from shops. A download chart was launched last year, which will eventually be incorporated into the main singles chart - but the Elvis situation has prompted calls for it to be introduced as soon as possible.

Former Radio 1 DJ Nicky Campbell, who now presents the Radio 5 Live breakfast show, said the singles chart was "moribund". "It is totally and utterly irrelevant. I think this has exposed the chart as being very vulnerable, more so now than it ever has been," he said.

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