One BMG-signed "Pop Idol" replaced another at the top of the U.K. singles chart yesterday (March 24), as Gareth Gates went straight to No. 1 with his version of "Unchained Melody." The 17-year-old Gat

One BMG-signed "Pop Idol" replaced another at the top of the U.K. singles chart yesterday (March 24), as Gareth Gates went straight to No. 1 with his version of "Unchained Melody." The 17-year-old Gates, the runner-up in the recent hugely popular TV talent show, replaced "Pop Idol" winner Will Young's "Evergreen"/"Anything Is Possible," which had been No. 1 for three weeks.

Despite an initial shipment of 1.3 million copies, even higher than Young's 1.2 million, Gates was unable to match his competitor's first week sales tally of 1.1 million. The single wound up selling 850,000 units, good enough to give him the second-biggest first-week sales figure on U.K. record, ahead of Band Aid's 750,000 for "Do They Know It's Christmas." Elton John's 1,546,688 for "Candle in the Wind 1997" was technically a second-week tally for a single released at the end of the previous chart week.

It's the fourth time that the widely covered "Unchained Melody," published by Paul McCartney's MPL Communications and written by Alex North and Hy Zaret, has topped the U.K. chart. Crooner Jimmy Young, now a veteran BBC Radio 2 broadcaster, took the song to No. 1 in 1955. Although the famous Righteous Brothers version only reached No. 14 in Britain in 1965, it hit the top in 1990 after appearing in the hit film "Ghost." Another favorite small-screen act, actor/singers Robson & Jerome (also on BMG) topped the U.K. chart for seven weeks with their 1995 version.

The major surprise in the top-10 was not Gates' much-anticipated debut, but the relative failure of George Michael's Polydor single "Freeeek!," which had been expected to enter the chart at No. 2 or at worst, No. 3. In the end, "Freeek!" could only manage a No. 7 showing, behind Marilyn Manson's cover of "Tainted Love" at No. 5 (London/WEA) and pop quartet Blue's "Fly By II" (Innocent/Virgin) at No. 6. Manson's single is his first British top-10 hit, covering the song first made as a Northern soul favorite by Gloria Jones and then taken to No. 1 in the U.K. by Soft Cell in 1981. Former Savage Garden member Darren Hayes debuted at No. 8 with "Insatiable" (Columbia).

Nickelback retained the top place on the U.K. album chart with "Silver Side Up" (Roadrunner). The battle of the remix albums between Sony labelmates Jennifer Lopez and Destiny's Child was won easily by Lopez, as "J to Tha Lo" (Epic) entered at No. 4 while "This Is The Remix" (Columbia) could only manage No. 25. British modern rockers Gomez came in at No. 8 with "In Our Gun" (Hut/Virgin).

Another Sony star, Shakira, rules Music & Media's pan-European sales charts, as "Whenever Wherever" begins a fourth week atop the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles tally and "Laundry Service" (Epic) moves 2-1 in its 17th week on the European Top 100 Albums chart.

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