Race to top the charts a sales blur

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Blur and Oasis - the fiercest British pop music rivals for decades - are "neck and neck" in their race to become No 1 in the Top 40 singles chart on Sunday, record shops reported yesterday.

Peter Howard, manager of Sifter's records in Didsbury, Manchester, said that "Roll With It", the new offering by Mancunians Oasis, was "flying out" of the shop on its first day of release.

"Oasis are outselling Blur two-to-one and this single has done extremely well. They'll both enter the charts at One and Two but in which order I wouldn't like to say. Oh, all right then, Oasis at One. It might be a different story in the South..."

It was. At Time Records in Colchester, Essex, Blur's home town, their "Country House" single is selling double the Oasis tally. "It's going well for Blur here," said the manager, Duanne Taylor.

" 'Roll With It' is more instant but 'Country House' is more durable. I'm backing our boys to go to No 1."

Various Virgin, Our Price and Tower Records shops reported brisk sales of both. A Tower spokesman said: "Both have already charted, given the amount they've sold. Oasis are ahead at the moment."

A Virgin/Our Price spokesman reported: "We're selling bucketloads of both, but Blur will probably edge it as they're more mainstream."

And are the bands biting their nails as the chorus of tills grows louder? A Blur spokeswoman said: "They're not bothered. They've gone on holiday."