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John Andrew reports for BBC News
"For record buyers, the Christmas market has rarely been so crowded"
 real 28k

Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 10:46 GMT
Jingle hell for singles

The race is on for the christmas no.1

By the BBC's Chris Charles

Hang on to your silly paper hats and stock up on earplugs, folks, 'tis the season for Christmas turkeys.

Experience your own personal jingle hell with a collection of festive offerings that make you wonder exactly which century we are about to enter.

This year there's added spice for the Christmas number one contenders, with the chance to grab the first top spot of the millennium - roughly translated as extra cheese and a large helping of rotten tomatoes.

Hamster dance: The new Christmas party craze
Leading the way in the silly stakes are the Cuban Boys. Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia was meant as a joke, they say (no, really?) after they stumbled across, wait for it, a website dedicated to dancing hamsters.

And no doubt they'll see the funny side if their yodelling bundles of fur propel them to the top of the charts - in fact they'll be laughing all the way to the bank. Odds: 6/1.

Not far behind in the "if I hear that once more I'm going to hurt someone" stakes come those novelty masters The KLF.

This time they're trading under the name of Solid Gold Chartbusters, with the mobile phone-sampling I Wanna 1-2-1 With You.

Redeemed only by the thought of 1,000 City traders scrambling frantically in their suit pockets every time it's played in an upmarket wine bar, this is destined to do for handsets what Hannibal Lecter did for Chianti sales (100/1).

Boyzone's Ronan Keating lends a hand on It's Only Rock'n'Roll
The Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock 'n' Roll gets the Perfect Day treatment and bookmakers William Hill have already stopped taking bets.

Reading like a Who's Who of pop music, it features among others Mick 'n' Keef, Iggy Pop, James Brown, The Spice Girls (yawn), Mary J Blige and, bizarrely, Monty Python's Eric Idle.

Of course it's not a patch on the original - these things never are - but it is for the Children's Promise charity, so there ends the argument.

Second favourites Westlife bid for their fourth successive chart-topper with painful renditions of Abba's I Have A Dream and Terry Jacks's Seasons In The Sun.

The Jacks classic - one of the saddest songs ever (and one that should remain wholly uncovered) - undergoes liposuction as every last droplet of emotion is sucked out by the clean-cut crew, who try their hardest to look sincere, while making sure the camera catches their good side. Enough to drive anyone to drink (1/2).

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without dear old Cliff - or so we're led to believe.

Back again: Sir Cliff
Having already hogged the top of the charts for what seems like an eternity with The Millennium Prayer (The Lord's Prayer set to Auld Lang Syne for those who have been holidaying on Mars), he's the one they all have to beat.

Fair play to him for scaling the summit while effectively "banned", but this is a truly awful record. I can't wait for next year's entry - the 12 days of Christmas set to Smells Like Teen Spirit, perhaps? (7/2)

John Lennon is this year's sentimental offering and the only credible alternative in a sea of troubled waters.

Nineteen years after his untimely death, Imagine is re-released (again), unmixed, with no frills and the added bonus tracks of Happy Xmas (War Is Over) and Give Peace A Chance.

It's a timeless classic that everyone should own - but, come to think of it, they probably do, so who's going to buy it? (7/2).

Of the rest, Steps' Say You'll Mine (50/1) deserves a mention (and no more), S Club 7's Two In A Millionaire (also 40/1) has a puncher's chance and South Park's Mr Hanky's Xmas Poo (50/1) is literally too full of the brown stuff to stand an earthly chance.

The re-released Power Of Love by Holly Johnson (150/1) is too good to get anywhere near the top three, Charlotte Church (80/1) will get the grannies' vote and if Europe's The Final Countdown even dares to grace the top 40, I'm leaving on a jet plane, as someone once said.

So there you have it. Expect no surprises - if you really want a flutter, stick a few quid on the likelihood that the charts will be dominated by unlistenable claptrap as we head into our brave new world. No change there, then.

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See also:
10 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
The Cuban invaders
10 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Michael brands Cliff campaign 'vile'
10 Dec 99 |  Talking Point
Are the music charts a joke?
06 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff 'bigger than the Pope'
08 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Singing hamsters threaten Sir Cliff
10 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Stones cover enters festive race

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