Gareth's chart record

Teenage star Gareth Gates was celebrating today after he became the youngest British male solo star to notch up a number one, dislodging Pop Idol rival Will Young from the top.

The 17-year-old from Bradford took the track Unchained Melody to the chart's prime slot - the only song to have made it to number one for four different artists.

Gareth had been the favourite to win ITV1 talent hunt Pop Idol but was beaten to the title by a narrow margin in a live TV phone poll by Will.

But he had the last laugh as he saw his track rack up astonishing sales after many shops were besieged by fans in a wave of Garethmania.

Last night he was performing at Birmingham's NEC along with the rest of the Pop Idol finalists as part of a national tour and Will handed over a special award from Guinness World Records, which compiles the book of British Hit Singles, to mark his number one.

However there was misery for George Michael in the chart as his comeback single Freeek! managed a lowly number seven, behind new entries from shock rocker Marilyn Manson and Blue.

Michael had earlier this week said how he expected to be at number three behind Gareth and Will, whose Anything Is Possible/Evergreen single dropped to number two after three weeks at the top.

Freeek! was his first solo single for more than three years, but he has done little in the way of promotion apart from a Radio 1 interview and a raunchy video whose content has meant it has picked up few TV screenings.

David Roberts, editor of the Guinness book, said: "This is not just a terrific achievement for Gareth, becoming the youngest British male solo artist to have a number one single, but also an astonishing accolade for Unchained Melody.

"According to the British Hit Singles book, it is now the only song to have been taken to number one by four different artists on four separate occasions - and Simon Cowell has been behind two of them with Robson and Jerome in 1995 and now Gareth Gates."

Cowell is the Pop Idol judge who signed Gareth to his BMG record label.

The other stars to have number one hits with Unchained Melody are Sir Jimmy Young in 1955 and the Righteous Brothers in 1990 when the song - originally a hit for them in 1965 - was reissued after featuring in the movie Ghost.

As Gareth performed his chart-topping single at the NEC last night he told the audience of 12,500 screaming fans: "It has always been my dream to have a number 1 hit."

Will told him: "I wanted to be the first person to congratulate you on your number one tonight. There's absolutely no-one who I'd rather pass the chart position on to. Well done, you've given us the perfect excuse for a celebration."

And Gareth said: "I am so proud of everything Will has achieved. It has always been my dream to have a number one hit and to be living it here, on stage, in front of some of the people who have made it possible, as well as all the other Pop Idol finalists, is an amazing feeling.

"Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart."

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