One of the most closely-fought races ever for the U.K.'s coveted Christmas No. 1 title was ended yesterday (Dec. 21) with a dramatic victory by a demo recording made two years ago for $50. The dark ho

One of the most closely-fought races ever for the U.K.'s coveted Christmas No. 1 title was ended yesterday (Dec. 21) with a dramatic victory by a demo recording made two years ago for $50. The dark horse contender, "Mad World" by Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules (Sanctuary/Adventure), overtook what had become the favorite for the title, "Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)" by the Darkness (Must Destroy/Atlantic). That cut opened at No. 2.

On Friday morning, sales of the Darkness' typically larger-than-life festive offering were still 3,000 units ahead of Andrews' stark, piano-led cover of Tears For Fears' 1982 debut British hit. High-profile TV performances that day on "All New Top of the Pops" and media personality Jonathan Ross' BBC1 chat show helped Andrews and Jules assume the lead, eventually pulling clear by some 15,000 copies.

Andrews and Jules, two previously little-known musicians from San Diego, made the recording as an intended demo for the soundtrack to "Donnie Darko" in 2001, but found their sparse original chosen for the score. After much championing on British radio over the last three months, the song emerged as a seasonal contender when indie labels Sanctuary and Adventure agreed to a joint venture for its release.

One of the earlier favorites for the Christmas No. 1, a remake of John Lennon & Yoko Ono's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" (S/BMG) by the Idols (the finalists on this year's "Pop Idol" series), came in at No. 5. It was beaten at No. 4 by the Yuletide novelty "Proper Crimbo" (BMG) by Bo Selecta, aka TV comic Avid Merrion. Also arriving in the festive top-10 were Atomic Kitten's "Ladies Night" (Innocent/Virgin) at No. 8 and "Too Lost in You" by Sugababes (Universal) at No. 10.

There was less good news for regular hitmaking act Blue, whose cover of "Signed Sealed Delivered" featuring Stevie Wonder and Angie Stone (Innocent/Virgin) ended its run of eight consecutive top-10 hits by debuting at No. 11. Scottish rock quartet Travis had an unpleasant shock as "The Beautiful Occupation" (Independiente) opened at No. 48, ending a sequence of 14 top-40 hits in a row dating back to 1997.

All was quiet on the album chart, where Dido's "Life for Rent" (Cheeky/Arista) maintained the top spot in an unchanged top three ahead of Will Young's "Friday's Child" (S/BMG) and Michael Jackson's "Number Ones" (Epic). Dido also leads the European Top 100 Albums chart for an 11th straight week, while Black Eyed Peas' "Shut Up" (A&M) heads the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles survey for a second week.

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