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Sunday, 28 November, 1999, 18:42 GMT
Sir Cliff tops the charts
Sir Cliff sang his single for the BBC's Children in Need appeal

Sir Cliff Richard has defied the odds by hitting number one in the music charts with his single Millennium Prayer, despite being snubbed by radio stations and record companies.

The veteran star, 59, toppled The Wamdue Project's King Of My Castle from the coveted number one spot and also proved himself more popular than pop heart-throbs Boyzone.

A delighted Sir Cliff said: "I'm over the moon. It is quite hard to believe that I'm number one against all the odds.

"I will be celebrating with friends with a couple of glasses of champagne and pinching myself to believe that this is really happening."

The song entered the official singles chart last weekend at number two, but continued to have massive support this week. It was around 6,000 sales ahead of the Irish boy band in the midweek charts.
Sir Cliff's No 1 hits
Living Doll 1959
Please Don't Tease 1960
I Love You 1960
The Young Ones 1962
Bachelor Boy 1963
Summer Holiday 1963
The Minute You're Gone/Just Another Day 1965
Congratulations 1968
We Don't Talk Anymore 1979
Mistletoe and Wine 1988
Saviour's Day 1990
Millennium Prayer 1999

But it achieved notoriety when it became clear BBC Radio 2 and many other stations had refused to allow the song - which sets the words of The Lord's Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne - into playlists.

It was also ignored by other stations including Capital Gold in the south of England and the Magic network of oldies stations in the north of England and London.

Last year, Virgin Radio boss Chris Evans also blacklisted him for being too old.

When his record company EMI refused to release his latest single Sir Cliff announced he was taking the year 2000 off to travel across Australia.

Several papers described his decision as a "sulk".

For a song to climb to the top of the charts rather than enter at number one on the week of release has become increasingly unusual. And advance plays on radio stations often up to two months before the song is in the shops creates massive demand, mobilising fans to buy the single at the earliest chance.

Sir Cliff's career dates back to the 1960s
But the star has bucked that trend because the song has had little play and there was not the same groundswell in the first week.

The singer has spoken of his hurt at the snub, and said it was partly due to "ageism".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday he had been "astounded at the knives that have come out on a personal level", which he could not understand.

"I'm the one who's been dubbed the nice boy of pop, and suddenly I find myself hated, with people in television telling the public 'Don't buy it'," he said.

"And I'm thinking 'Gosh, this is for charity' - I'm just a pop singer and this is just a charity record."

Sir Cliff is now 8-1 third favourite with William Hill to score this year's Christmas number one.

Westlife are 5-4 favourite, with John Lennon on 2-1 and Charlotte Church 10-1.

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See also:
29 Nov 99 |  Talking Point
Sir Cliff - hero or zero?
29 Nov 99 |  UK
Cliff Richard: Peter Pan or lost boy?
27 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff 'hurt' at music snub
26 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff heads for the top
17 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff's Millennium hit
21 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff's prayer could be answered
08 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Christians call for Sir Cliff boycott
10 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Imagine Lennon as festive number one

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