The Darkness fail in number one bid

DARK horse contenders Michael Andrews and Gary Jules squeezed ahead at the last minute last night to beat East Anglian rockers The Darkness to the coveted Christmas number one spot.

DARK horse contenders Michael Andrews and Gary Jules squeezed ahead at the last minute last night to beat East Anglian rockers The Darkness to the coveted Christmas number one spot.

Despite the East Anglian Daily Times and BBC Radio Suffolk's campaign to help make that final push and secure the top slot, the Lowestoft-based band's single Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End) was beaten by a narrow margin.

But last night Sandy Hawkins, mother of band frontman Justin Hawkins and Dan, said the rockers and their family were not too disappointed at coming in second.

"It's still a great number and you couldn't get a better Christmas song. I think every Christmas we will hear their one rather than the one that came in number one," she said.

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"I think they've sold more albums in the run up which is good so we're not disappointed about it.

"Justin predicted number two and they didn't expect to get to number one at all at the beginning.

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"It's wonderful to have the local support."

Andrews and Jules came from nowhere with their cover of the Tears For Fears song Mad World to triumph in one of the closest run and most fiercely fought festive chart battles for years.

In sales figures released on Thursday, The Darkness' Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) were ahead of their rivals by a tiny margin of just 3,000.

Mad World, featuring just piano and vocals, was initially an outsider for the number one.

But strong radioplay for the bleak track from the soundtrack of cult film Donnie Darko helped mobilise interest.

The bookie' favourite, a cover of the Plastic Ono Band's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by the Pop Idol finalists was largely snubbed by record buyers and limped into the charts at number five.

The Darkness has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame and adulation, selling a million copies of their debut album Permission to Land, and scoring a number two hit with the single I Believe In A Thing Called Love.

Mrs Hawkins said she was confident the band would be back next year with a new contender for the number one.

"You can't keep a new dog down," she added.

Ladbrokes were last nightreeling and have started paying out thousands of pounds following the announcement that Michael Andrews (featuring Gary Jules) is the Christmas Number One.

Bookies thought The Darkness were home and offered odds of 1/3 on the Lowestoft rockers going into the last Saturday of sales. Andrews and Jules were second favourites at 2/1 when the book closed, but their odds were 50/1 back in November.

Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush said: "We are in tears as our fears have been realised. The gamble on Mad World is the biggest we have seen on a Christmas Number One contender since the 1960s.

"We can't believe it, we really thought The Darkness would save us this time. Mad World was a 50/1 outsider back in November and early estimations are that the industry have lost £250,000. With "Michelle winning Pop Idol on Saturday, all we beg now is that it doesn't snow on Christmas Day."

"We should have seen it coming as we laid a number of three figure bets to record industry figures at odds of 8/1 this week."

"This isn't the first time The Darkness have let us down, we thought that they would win the Mercury Music Prize and they were pipped at the post."

"We thought a dark Christmas was on the cards but instead it is going to be a melancholy one. At least we can listen to Andrews and Jules when we drown our sorrows."

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