diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 14, 2002

50 years of the pop charts

It's exactly 50 years ago today since someone first had the bright idea of sticking the UK's favourite records in order every week and publishing the results. The charts began in the NME on 14th November 1952 as a Top 12, evolving from previous weekly listings of top-selling sheet music. Today the singles charts are everywhere; on the radio, in the news and at the heart of a multi-million pound record industry. They're also a fascinating source of in-depth statistical trivia - or is that just me? Seems not. Anyway, hang on while I get my anorak...

1952: The UK's first official Number 1 record is Here In My Heart by Al Martino, a nine-week chart-topper from November 1952 until the following January, and therefore the only record ever to have been number 1 for a whole year.
1953: Frankie Laine manages a never-to-be-broken-not-even-by-Bryan-Adams chart record of 18 weeks at number 1. His song I Believe is later murdered by Robson and Jerome, who keep Oasis's Wonderwall off the top of the charts in 1995.
1954: The Top 12 is extended to a Top 20, featuring such classic artists as Max Bygraves, Jimmy Young, Vera Lynn and Winifred Attwell.
1955: In January Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley creeps into the charts at number 17. It returns to top the charts in November, and things will never be the same again...
1956: The Top 20 is extended to a Top 30, just in time for the arrival of a debut single called Heartbreak Hotel. See, I told you things would never be the same again.
1957: Elvis Presley is the most successful chart act of the year with ten hits, seven of them in the chart simultaneously in early November. The music world is All Shook Up.
1958: Cliff Richard's Move It kick starts an unprecedented chart career, with number 1's in the 50s (Living Doll, ...), 60s (Summer Holiday, ...), 70s (We Don't Talk Any More), 80s (Mistletoe and Wine, ...), 90s (Saviour's Day, ...) and so nearly the 00s (The Millennium Prayer missed by a fortnight).
1959: Buddy Holly's It Doesn't Matter Any More becomes the first record to reach number 1 after his death. It won't be the last. In 2002 Aaliyah and George Harrison will have two consecutive posthumous number 1s.
1960: The Top 30 is extended to a Top 50. In the first week of December, seven of the records between 31 and 40 are instrumentals. Only chart anoraks notice things like that, of course.
1961: Jolly pianist Mrs Mills is the first chart act to include her own name in the title of her Christmas class Mrs Mills Medley. One day all the top mixing DJs will follow her example.
1962: Love Me Do is the very first hit by the Beatles, the most record-breaking chart-record-breaking band of all time...
1963: From Me To You starts the Beatles' unequalled string of eleven consecutive number 1s, which will falter only when Englebert Humperdink keeps Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields stuck at number 2 four years later.
1964: Top of the Pops begins, hosted by Jimmy Saville live from an old church in Manchester. The Beatles appear at number 1 and number 3, and the legendary Singing Nun holds firm at number 7 (but she doesn't sing on the show).
1965: Tom Jones has the number 1 record on the day I'm born. It's Not Unusual? He's so very wrong...
1966: For three consecutive weeks in March, the record at number 4 falls to number 7 and the record at number 12 drops to number 17. My chart anorak has a fur-lined hood, you know.
1967: In the second week of June, during the so-called Summer of Love, there are two tube stations in the Top 20 - Waterloo Sunset and Finchley Central. Meanwhile a new entry from Petula Clark at number 34 advises us Don't Sleep In The Subway.
1968: Louis Armstrong is the oldest artist ever to reach number 1, at the age of 66, with the wonderful It's A Wonderful World.
1969: Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg is the first number 1 to be banned by the BBC. Relax, it won't be the last.
1970: The first number 1 of the 1970s is Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris. This rather sets the seal on the decade to come...
1971: ... Clive Dunn takes Grandad to the top of the charts. See, I told you so.
1972: Little Jimmy Osmond is the youngest solo artist ever to reach number 1, four months shy of his tenth birthday, though he seems a little young to be singing about long-haired lovers. Worryingly, Jonathan King is in the charts at the time singing Shag.
1973: Four records go straight in at number 1 during 1973 - the greatest total until this became commonplace in the mid 1990s. Three of them are by dyslexia-afflicted Slade (Cum On Feel The Noize, Skweeze Me Pleeze Me and Merry Xmas Everybody) and the other is by Gary Glitter (I Love You Love Me Love).
1974: The Faces' number 12 hit You Can Make Me Dance Sing Or Anything (Even Take The Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board, Or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings) has a record-breaking 115 letters. Meanwhile the group with the most weeks on the chart in this year is the immortal Wombles.
1975: Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody reaches the top for the first time, destined to be the British public's favourite record for the rest of time...
1976: ... unless of course Yesterday by the Beatles is the British public's favourite record of all time. Unbelievably the song was first released as a single as late as 1976 and only reached number 8 in the charts. Far more believably, Paul McCartney first wrote the song using the lyrics Scrambled Eggs.
1977: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac starts a record-breaking 477-week run on the album charts although Dreams, the highest charting single from the album, only reaches number 24.
1978: The Top 50 is extended to a Top 75. Three of the top 10 best selling records of all time in the UK are from this year - two by Boney M (Brown Girl In The Ring is 5th and Mary's Boy Child is 10th) and one by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John (You're The One That I Want is 6th).
1979: January is a big month for costumed heroes, with the Village People at number 1 with YMCA, and smaller hits for the theme from Superman, the theme from Dr Who, Sarah Brightman losing her heart to a Starship Trooper, and not forgetting Elton John.
1980: Going Underground by the Jam is only the tenth record in the history of the chart to go straight in at number 1. From 1995 onwards, there isn't a year when less than ten records enter the charts at the top.
1981: Abba's Lay All Your Love On Me reaches number 7 in the charts, giving them a chart career with singles peaked at every number from 1 to 7. Later in the 1980s the Eurythmics will manage exactly one single peaking at every number from 1 to 10 except 7.
1982: The biggest ever jump to number 1 inside the Top 40 is made by Happy Talk from Captain Sensible, shooting straight to the top from number 33, back in the days when an appearance on Top of the Pops actually meant something.
1983: In 1983 Prince first releases the song 1999 (number 25), then re-releases it in 1985 (number 2), re-releases it again in January 1999 (number 10), and re-releases the earlier re-release in December 1999 (number 51).
1984: Wham's Last Christmas sells a million copies but fails to reach number 1 because Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas is there instead. This year also sees three consecutive million-selling number 1s from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, George Michael and Stevie Wonder.
1985: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive takes 15 weeks to climb the Top 75 to the number 1 position. Later in the year Jennifer Rush takes one week longer to get there with The Power Of Love.
1986: A Levi's commercial helps Reet Petite by Jackie Wilson to the number 1 slot, a record-breaking 29 years and 6 weeks after it was first released in 1957.
1987: From 4th October the Top 40 is now announced live on Sunday evening's Radio 1 chart rundown, rather than being released on the following Tuesday. By topping the charts either side of this change, Pump Up The Volume by M|A|R|R|S becomes the only record ever to spend exactly twelve days at number 1.
1988: In January AC/DC reach number 12 with Heatseeker, their highest ever chart placing. No other act has had as many as 27 hits with ever achieving a Top 10 record.
1989: Jive Bunny become only the third act to reach number 1 with their first three singles, following in the footsteps of Gerry And The Pacemakers and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. This record is later demolished by Westlife, whose first seven singles all debut at number 1.
1990: In September, the chart compilers are unable to separate the Steve Miller Band and Deee-Lite for the number 1 position based on identical weekly sales. They apply an obscure rule placing The Joker above Groove Is In The Heart because it has had the greatest increase in sales, although this rule is later revoked to allow records to hold equal chart positions in future.
1991: Everything I do (I do it for you) by Bryan Adams spends a record-breaking sixteen consecutive weeks at number 1. During those 16 weeks I leave my job, apply for a mortgage, attempt to buy a new flat 50 miles away, which falls through, then buy another flat next door, and move in. Yes, it felt like Bryan was number 1 forever.
1992: Indie band The Wedding Present release one hit record each month through the year, equalling Elvis's 1957 record of 12 hit singles in a year.
1993: Mr Blobby is the first chart act to have a number 1 with an eponymous single. Four months later Doop repeat the feat. Both records also share the feat of being 100% rubbish.
1994: Wet Wet Wet spend 15 consecutive weeks at number 1 with Love Is all Around, one week short of Bryan Adams' record. They are knocked off the top spot by Whigfield with Saturday Night, the first ever debut hit by an artist to enter the chart at number 1.
1995: Robson and Jerome become the third act to take Unchained Melody to number 1, following Jimmy Young and the Righteous Brothers, and followed by Gareth Gates seven years later. The two Soldier Soldier boys achieve the ninth best selling single of all time (...and, be very afraid, Gareth's mate Will Young is currently 12th in that list with Evergreen)
1996: During the World Cup, the Fugees and Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds take it in turns to replace each other at number 1. First Killing Me Softly replaces Three Lions, then Three Lions returns to the summit, and finally Killing Me Softly wrestles the title back again. Three Lions will be back for a further three weeks at the top two years later.
1997: Candle In the Wind 97 is the best selling single of all time. Performed live by Elton John only twice, it sold 4.86 million copies in the UK and 37 million worldwide.
1998: The Spice Girls say Goodbye to a brief but meteoric chart career. The most successful all-girl group of all time achieve eight number one records in less than three years, while their only other hit (Stop) is a number 2.
1999: One-hit wonders The Wamdue Project have a hit with the longest chart title not to repeat any letters - the 14 different letters of King Of My Castle. Is this anorakky enough for you?
2000: From 24th June to 9th September, every week sees a new record top the chart. This 12-week stretch is the longest of such instances in chart history. This year also holds the record for the most number 1s in a year, all 42 of them (or 43 if you count Westlife's Christmas offering which dribbled across two millennia).
2001: Pure And Simple by Hear'say is the fastest selling single ever released by a group, shipping over half a million copies in its first week. The group later spontaneously combust and can probably now be found cleaning floors in burger restaurants.
2002: Elvis overtakes the Beatles as the act with the most number 1 records (18) and then, just this week, Westlife move into fourth place in that list behind Cliff Richard. It seems particularly appropriate that the 50th anniversary number 1 is as bland and sugary a ballad as was Al Martino's first. Here in my heart and Unbreakable - sounds like the perfect description of the pop charts to me.


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