POP / Secrets of staying single: Why has an old Troggs tune been No 1 for three months? Nicholas Barber reports

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The Independent Culture
HOW PROPHETIC those lyrics seem: 'There's no beginning, there'll be no end.' Today we find out if Wet Wet Wet's 'Love is All Around' is at No 1 for the 15th week running. Already it's been there so long that people are starting to think it's the signature tune of Top of the Pops. Another week and it will equal Bryan Adams's '(Everything I Do) I Do It for You' as the single with the most consecutive weeks at No 1 in the British chart. The inevitable question is, Why why why? What makes a record a record-breaker?

Wet Wet Wet declined to comment: they're too busy recording their next album; and, one suspects, sick and tired of being asked about a track they intended as a throwaway B-side.

'Love is All Around' was first around in October 1967, a No 5 hit for the Troggs. In 1994, the Summer of Woodstock II, what could be more marketable than a feelgood free-love ballad, sung by Marti Pellow in faux-hippie attire? Sixties nostalgia is big money.

A decent proportion of that money is going to Reg Presley, Troggs frontman, songwriter and crop-circle investigator. Some have mocked him for his UFO obsession - he has the Close Encounters leitmotif on his answering machine - but not only is he hero-worshipped by the likes of Sting and REM, he is now one of the world's most successful songwriters.

Modestly, he consigns all credit to Wet Wet Wet. 'Their version of it is absolutely superb,' he says in his deep West Country burr. 'I first heard it in May. I was making a cup of tea, and it popped through the letterbox. When I heard those big chords at the start, I wondered what they'd done to it, because ours started off nice and gentle. Then when his voice came in I thought, wow. I loved it.'

Tim Rice, walking pop encyclopaedia and writer of a few No 1s himself, also gushes praise for Wet Wet Wet. 'They already had a big following and two No 1s,' he says. 'This one is a terrifically well-made pop record. If people are honest, it's very hard not to like it. It's sung superbly and it's a terribly positive upbeat love song, just like the Bryan Adams single and Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You' (see table, below).'

These songs owe much of their success to the films from which they came. Four Weddings and a Funeral has acted as a travelling promotional campaign for 'Love is All Around'. 'It's reached an audience that doesn't normally buy singles and that is unaware of what else is going on,' Rice says. 'Most records are bought in the first week of release, but with this one people can take time to find it as the film does the rounds.'

It worked for Adams and Houston, and it may well have helped Slim Whitman. He held the record for the most durable No 1 from 1955 until Adams broke it in 1991. The song was 'Rose Marie', from the musical of the same name by Friml, Stothart, Harbach and Hammerstein, which was filmed in 1954. Is it a 'terrifically well-made pop record'? Four decades on, it is hard to say. It consists of an utterly basic piano vamp, a drunken violin glissando, and Whitman yodelling: 'Oh Rose Marie, I love you / I'm always dreaming of you / No matter what I do I can't forget you / Sometimes I wish that I had never met you.' What's surprising is how much it sounds like Adams and Wet Wet Wet.

'Love is All Around' was suggested as the Four Weddings theme song by Alan Pell, an A&R man at Phonogram (which also distributed the film). If you can ignore the whiff of nepotism, it is a perfect choice. It plays over the closing credits, just after the stars' last snog, and it seems to be made for that finale. The song is by Wet Wet Wet, the dialogue is soggy, and Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell are soaked by a chance downpour. There's an organic unity here which would make Aristotle proud. Now the single is so popular that it is being used to advertise the film, rather than the other way round.

Unlike Bryan Adams' song, which was available on his latest LP and on his greatest-hits collection, 'Love is All Around' is on no album bar the Four Weddings soundtrack. Wet Wet Wet fans who don't want the tracks by Elton John, Barry White, Gloria Gaynor and the rest have no alternative but to purchase the single.

So let's total up the selling points that have given 'Love is All Around' sales of more than 1.2 million, not to mention the No 1 spot in six other countries: it's a rosy romantic ballad by an unthreatening band, it's a movie theme, it's a Sixties cover version, and, arguably, it's quite good. Film producers take note. If you need a soundtrack, give the Troggs a call. 'I'd love to see a laid-back reggae version of 'With a Girl Like You' done by UB40,' says Presley. 'And 'I Can't Control Myself' by Right Said Fred. They'd make a great job of that.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- THE LONGEST-LASTING No 1s ----------------------------------------------------------------- (Everything I Do) I Do it for You. . .16 wks Bryan Adams (1991) Love is all Around. . . . . . . . . . 14 wks so far Wet Wet Wet (1994) Rose Marie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 wks Slim Whitman (1955) Cara Mia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 wks David Whitfield (1954) I Will Always Love You. . . . . . . . 10 wks Whitney Houston (1992-93) Here in My Heart. . . . . . . . . . . .9 wks Al Martino (1952-53) I Believe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 wks Frankie Laine (1953) Oh Mein Papa. . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 wks Eddie Calvert (1954) Diana. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 wks Paul Anka (1957) Bohemian Rhapsody. . . . . . . . . . . 9 wks Queen (1975-76) Mull of Kintyre/Girls' School. . . . . 9 wks Wings (1977-78) You're the One that I Want. . . . . . .9 wks John Travolta/ Olivia Newton-John (1978) Two Tribes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 wks Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984) -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photographs omitted)

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