Top of the pops II: Liam and Damon square up again

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The Independent Culture

Industry sources suggest that Albarn's current band, Gorillaz, is poised to snatch the number one position from Oasis, although it is still too close to call. According to the midweek chart data, which remains a closely guarded industry secret, "Dare", the new release from the Gorillaz is just 300 sales ahead of Oasis's "The Importance of Being Idle".

But this re-heated Britpop party could be gatecrashed by the 17-year-old singing star Rihanna, whose club hit, "Pon De Replay", broke into the charts at number two last week, just behind Oasis. She is outselling the Gallagher brothers, but the gap between the two acts is said to be as little as a dozen copies.

This is a crucial week for the UK singles chart. Two of the biggest retailers, HMV and Virgin, are preparing to launch their new digital download services on Monday. After a decade of steady decline, the singles chart has been revitalised by the emergence of music downloading technology, which has doubled the volume of tracks sold.

It was a different market in 1995. The battle between Blur's "Country House" and Oasis's "Roll With It" marked the opening salvo in a new type of marketing campaign which promoted singles through pre-release radio and cable television promotion.

Blur won the battle that week, outselling Oasis two to one. But it may have had less to do with their stereotypically middle-class, southern fanbase proving more loyal than the northern working-class support of their rivals, than first appeared. Blur's record company, Food, cleverly engineered excitement about the single by moving the release date to coincide with "Roll With It", and offered retailers heavy discounts. This allowed them to sell Blur at £1 cheaper than Oasis, often next to each other in the record stores. Blur also had the advantage of an award-winning video directed by Turner Prize-winning artist Damien Hirst and featuring Keith Allen and Matt Lucas.

In the following years, record companies successfully raised the profile of the number one slot. And as the excitement over Britpop died down, executives sold millions of Spice Girls, Robbie Williams, Boyzone and Westlife records.

But with the hype came a generation of other hits that crashed into the charts at number one only to sink like a stone the following week. Gennaro Castaldo of HMV Stores, said: "Downloading will keep sales up in the two to three weeks that follow release and could make the chart more like that of the 70s and 80s when singles hung around for a lot longer."

At the end of the day Oasis won the war against Blur, even if they lost the battle of August 1995. Their album of that year (What's the Story) Morning Glory outsold Blur's The Great Escape.

1995: That was then

* January Serial killer Fred West hangs himself

* February Collapse of Barings Bank after their broker Nick Leeson racks up $1.4bn losses

* March Sarin gas attack on Tokyo subway leaves 12 dead

* April Oklahoma City bombing kills 168

* May Gedhun Choekyi Nyima declared reincarnation of the Panchen Lama

*June Shell abandons controversial plan to sink Brent Spar oil rig at sea

* July John Major defeats Tory leadership challenge

* August Death of the mountain climber Alison Hargreaves on K2

* September Trial of former Italian prime minister Guilo Andreotti over alleged Mafia connections begins. Convicted but later won appeal

* October O J Simpson found not guilty of murdering former wife and her male friend

* November The human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa is hanged in Nigeria

* December Dayton peace agreement signed in Paris ends war in Yugoslavia