During the 20th and 21st centuries, a record chart was a ranking of recorded music according to popularity during a given period of time. Examples of prominent record charts include the NME Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100, which were compiled and published on a week-by-week basis by popular magazines.
This man has “loads of CDs”. Could he have been a chart compiler?
There were lots of different criteria used in different charts used to reflect popularity, commonly: sales of records, cassettes and compact discs; the amount of radio airplay; and, latterly, the number of downloads.
Some charts were specific to particular musical genres and most to a particular geographical location. The most common period of time covered by a chart was one week, with the chart being printed or broadcast at the end of this time. Summary charts for years and decades were then calculated from their component weekly charts. Prior to the event, component charts had become an increasingly important way to measure the commercial success of individual songs.
The New Metaphysical Enquirer record chart for the week ending 2nd October 2002.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the American Billboard magazine had maintained three independent charts ranking records separately by their sales, popularity on broadcast radio, and popularity on ‘jukebox’ systems. In 1955 these charts were adjoined by a Top 100 chart that led, three years later, to a national singles sales chart, the Hot 100. Meanwhile, the first British record chart was compiled and published in 1952 by Percy Dickins of East Ham, London, the co-founder of the New Musical Express.
One of the most significant aspirations for many musicians became the chart placing of their records. As chart were customarily listed in descending order of sales, the strongest-selling record of any given week would be the first entry on the chart. As such, to achieve the strongest sales was to achieve the accolade of “being Number One”.
The proud recipient of a British Number One. Note ceremonial robes.
A selection of British Number Ones.
Although many records and the majority of primary sources regarding record charts did not survive the event, some material has survived. We present a selection from our archives here.
Excerpt from The Manual: How To Have A Number One The Easy Way by “the Timelords” (19??)
“People equate a Number One with fame, endless wealth and easy sex – a myth that they want to believe and one that the popular press want to see continued. Along with the soap stars, sporting heroes and selected (however distant) members of the Royal Family, pop stars belong to a glittering world of showbiz parties, at one end of the scale, to illicit liaisons, at the other, where their lives are dragged up, dressed up, made up and ultimately destroyed. The celebrated, of course, are apt to fall into a world of drugs, drink, broken marriages and bankruptcy but even this is given the glamour treatment instead of the squalid misery that it is in reality.
“Basically, a Number One is seen as the ultimate accolade in pop music. Winning the Gold Medal. The crowning glory.
“The majority of Number One’s are achieved early on in the artist’s public career and before they have been able to establish reputations and build a solid fan base. Most artists are never able to recover from having one and it becomes the millstone around their necks to which all subsequent releases are compared. The fact that a record is Number One automatically means the track is in a very short period of time going to become over exposed and as worthless as last month’s catchphrase.
“Once or twice a decade an act will burst through with a Number One that hits a national nerve and the public’s appetite for the sound and packaging will not be satisfied with the one record. The formula will be untampered with and the success will be repeated a second, a third and sometimes even a fourth time. The prison is then complete; either the artist will be destroyed in their attempt to prove to the world that there are other facets to their creativity or they succumb willingly and spend the rest of their lives as a travelling freak show, peddling a nostalgia for those now far off, carefree days. These are the lucky few. Most never have the chance of a repeat performance and slide ungracefully into years of unpaid tax, desperately delaying all attempts to come to terms with the only rational thing to do – get a nine to five job.
“Even if the unsuspecting artiste doesn’t know the above, rest assured most of the record business does but for some lemming-like reason refuses to acknowledge it. They continue to view the act’s cheaply recorded, debut blockbuster as striking gold and will spend the next few years pumping fortunes into studio time, video budgets and tour support whilst praying for a repeat of the miracle and the volume album sales that bring in the real money.
“Of course there are those artists that have worked long and hard building personal artistic confidence, critical acclaim, a loyal following (all strong foundations) and then have a Number One, that is that crowning glory. But even then the disgruntled purists amongst the loyal following desert in disgust at having to share their private club with the unwashed masses.”
This man was responsible for the Oyez Isles Crisis, whereby Elias O’Tolliver’s “Exploded Propagations Of Jane” officially remained Number One in the Oyez Isles from March 1976 to September 1983. Three hundred and nineteen people died.
This is the only surviving image of the record that was the most popular commercial release of the 20th century.
Stalgrove Brisby’s review of the UK singles chart for the week ending 27th April 2003
10/ Spread Your Love by The London
—“…like pie”, that is. Honkey consonance and diagrammable sorrow in a startling submersible deposit. Oddly it doesn’t include so much authentic transgression anyway. “More, which just in contrast / Ultimately drifted away”. Yes, please.
9/ Walrus by Fazed Cookies
—Mortal killer rendition of this exhausted clanger, best known in the Beatles rendition, although they ripped it off from Jimmy Page, who ripped off from Chatterton. It’s instantly a very nice alternative to all of the above, who are insufferable.
8/ In The Morning by Duty Cycle
—Half-baked, smacked-out and completely fantastic, special mention really to Stephen Street for this darkest of all psychedelic skull-knockers. Much-dismissed in their own time and re-released last week by mistake, this is sour and inert and can’t possibly disappoint you.
7/ Big Hits by Sensebedroom
—“Big hits / We all love them / Choose to be cold / Paint over yourself.” Yesssss!!! I’m now obliged to tell you about these people’s songs: big fistfuls of monstrous possession that make Bert Jansch sound like provocative and aggressive behaviour. I have a finite quantity of time to write this and this has been wilfully overextended already. It’s their fault. Get your Mum on it.
6/ Can’t Stand Me by Personaland
—Ladbroke Grove’s present instalment of those ’68 instincts can’t be thanked enough for this soft, callow prequel to what demonstrates every indication of being a marvellous album about an utterly deracinated relationship. “Authentically alone / Entitlement / I like you, but / I can’t stand me.”
5/ Disposition Time by Twanky
—This producer legend graphs at least three obnoxious freak-outs beneath what would otherwise be a blissed-out autumn lawn. Me: consistently disappointed approval. Any sense of possession drifts apart simply because he can’t be bothered. Seven years after ‘Sensational Tide’, he’s not even trying to engage. Very hard to dispel the prevailing ‘You have been watching:’-ness of it all.
4/ Any Expression Left? by Henry Manervous
—Henry dislikes confrontation, so Henry has carefully prepared. Henry coughs his way through full-volume denunciation like he’s been attending evening classes in it. Couldn’t pull my volume slider low enough for this helltantrum. Fear the man who can make rage this dull.
3/ Saturday Nights Down In Emerson by Kate Prisoner
—Should drag like a bastard, but as it turns out Kate-does-vaudeville is a bright and colossal assault on self-awareness. “Go doubt yourself,” she coos as beautifully dark ache collapses all over you, “because you don’t quite understand / Carry on, carry on”. And the beauty of it is that you don’t. I certainly don’t.
—But this is as ugly as a modern school and twice as important.
2/ Finest Walking by Alex
—Absolutely also explains the problem with violence, this one. Fraudulent shit when you look at it hard enough, but I’d love to meet him. I was level with this sort of coquettish disclosure a few years ago – Alex is sensitive, Alex is vain, Alex eliminates himself step by step as he crosses a great dark sandbank and treads confidently out into the sea – and if you think he’s singing about himself, you’re wrong.
—But the inescapable question really is yes, the walking dead assault anyone, we know this, so WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THAT EMOTIONAL VOLTAGE? Can we have it back?
—I’ll say this, though, lean back and soften your voice and on the strength of the keyboards alone it’s so beautiful it’s practically holy. Still lies, of course – resolution is what we want, what we all want, and we haven’t earned it. This is another lullaby that conceals a vicious leer. Dare we think otherwise?
1/ All Over by Imperial Stooge
—Snowdrifts in Poland. Digging an actual socket for yourself. Washed up against a rotten piling. Like coming unstuck while rotting in a bathtub. Great moral ache, this one, dissipating in a long sulphate vapour trail across light years of the bastardised dead.
—My admiration for this band and what they do runs so deep it’s intravenous, but when they cheerfully derail all that listless sorting-machine powergrind in the second minute and briefly visit a place that’s so authentically charitable and hopeless you can smell the splinters and urine, commercial significance doesn’t seem terribly important anymore. Like the man said, “Dismissal’s easier than learning.”
Paul Morley’s write-up of the NME singles chart for the week ending 12th July 1982 (possibly w/e 19th July 1982)
10/ Paperlate by Genesis (Charisma)
—When people ask me what music I like, I don’t think too long about the answer. In 1982, it’s no use wasting time. I say, “everything!” — often just to get up the tight noses of unpleasant cool folk (you know the type: all they’re into these days is early Pop Group, one side of a Roland Krk LP and a special tape they’ve put together of the ‘best bits’ of ‘Sandinista’). What I mean when I say “everything!” is probably that I believe everything that goes on inside that pumping Chart: and it takes some believing, believe me. As a thinking individual I take great pleasure in being surprised and amazed — and I’m constantly amazed and surprised by what happens in The Charts, by what happens to The Charts. Does this mean I’m simple minded? I don’t think so — it means I’m not cool, thank God. Of course, I don’t really like ‘everything’. What kind of critic would I be then!? For instance, I can’t stand the Genesis single.
9/ I’ve Never Been To Me by Charlene (Motown)
—And I loathe the Charlene single, like I loathy milky coffee. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it, to hate things? I hate Peter Withe, I hate J.R.R. Tolkien, I hate Zandra Rhodes, and I hate the Beatles Movie Medley — there are plenty of things to really hate in The Charts (Adrian Gurvitz!), and that’s another reason why I love them. This isn’t preposterous.
8/ Only You by Yazoo (Mute)
—It doesn’t seem long ago that I was forever moaning in these pages — printed for lovers of impure escapism — that the pop groups who should have been having hit singles . . . weren’t having them. I wrote out long lists of the groups who should have Charted — why else make singles! Life’s too funny to make singles simply to sell 794. These were lists full of names like Altered Images, Human League, New Order, Simple Minds, ABC, Associates, Bow Wow Wow . . . These groups now regularly rise up The Charts, constantly joined by the unexpected like Yazoo or Fun Boy Three or Paul Haig (it’ll happen soon), and this is one of the reasons why The Charts are such a brilliant thing to watch. It used to be a distant world for the new pop groups: now it’s getting to be a first home. It’s getting to be that it doesn’t matter how mad or moody you are, there can be a place for you in this decidedly un-cool room.
—For me The Charts are something to take a wicked delight in: someone might call it a surrealist pleasure. There is so much to love, so much to hate, so much to pick at, so much to pick: so much for those cool folks who say that nothing is going on. The Charts have evolved over the last few years into a very particular genre — in a world of its own, a world pleasured by its own making, but not a deceitful alternative to reality, simply a strange arrangement of facts and fictions. One of the things that is happening in music is The Charts: such a small thing perhaps, but too mixed and active to add up to complacency. Even if The Charts is only good for a tipsy gossip then I’m not complaining.
7/ Mama Used To Pray by Junior (Mercury)
—Those who say this mythical ‘hard edge’ is missing from The Charts are generally the same sort of people who snort at the adventures of Cabaret Voltaire and A Certain Ratio and Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo. These people don’t really know what they want, apart from the demolishing of pop music, or perhaps something that relates to the ‘adult-shocking’ rock of the Stones and The Who as were . . . As far as I can see — and I can see for miles — a chart that can accommodate music as different and as marvellous as ‘I’m A Wonderful Thing’, ‘Club Country’, ‘I Want Candy’, ‘Look Of Love’, ‘Forget Me Not’, ‘Fireworks’, ‘Temptation’, ‘The Telephone Always Rings’ is not something to sneer at, unless you prefer celery to chocolate. (I also get a kick out of ‘Fantasy Island’ and ‘Girl Crazy’ and . . . but now it’s getting complicated.)
—The ‘hard edge’ — I’ve never believed in this mythical ‘hard edge’, as the only difference philosophically between the avid Haircut 100 fan and the raving Killing Joke fan is that one is more bad tempered than the other — makes me think of a room full of Theatre Of Hate and The Clash, which in turn doesn’t make me think of a liberation of imagination but that accursed coolness. Of course I wouldn’t want a Chart oozing with Haircut 100s, but certainly they can have 1/10th of it. Today’s Chart pumps so healthily because of its variety. I can’t even begrudge Iron Maiden and The Mood having 1/10th. Like I say, The Charts must never completely please you — there is nothing like a moan, and I don’t mind an […..] too. I like everything, but I hate both versions of ‘Iko Iko’: both give me toe-ache in fact. That’s the world for you — a piece of pleasure, or an aching toe. And that’s the chart for you.
6/ Hungry Like A Wolf by Duran Duran (EMI)
—Of course when Duran Duran nick 1/10th it can worry you . . .
5/ Fantasy Island by Tight Fit (Jive)
— . . . but then Tight Fit can chase those fears away. Duran Duran are ridiculously bland, and belong to a mid-’70s chart: Tight Fit are a ridiculous blend and do their tart bit to contribute to The Charts’ tricky interior. The 12″ of ‘Fantasy Island’ is actually better than ‘Led Zeppelin III’.
4/ The Look Of Love by ABC (Neutron)
—Well, what can an emotional Chart Lover say but: if a single as lovingly crafted, as lovely, as brilliant as ‘Look Of Love’ can fail to get onebecause of the Bizarre, CBS, Stiff competition then you just know that it’s a booming time inside The Charts. As far as it goes for ABC — and it shoots to the moon — life’s too serious to make singles simply to sell 250,000. Why else make singles but to reach the number one? The Charts breathe because of such splendid reasoning.
3/ Torch by Soft Cell (Some Bizzare)
—I’ve never got used to Scell . . . they made me write one of the worst pieces of my life, The Curse Of Stevo. Did you know that In The Beginning Scritti Politti used to cover a Chelsea song, and Marc Almond who was in the audience shouted out, “Do your own stuff!!” I wish it was Scritti at number three.
2/ House Of Fun by Madness (Stiff)
—The good feeling, or even thrill, that all sorts of people felt when Madness reached number one says a lot about the irresistible pull of The Charts. So much more than a pile of dried up and unlovely statistics: so much less than the world’s tallest building. The Charts — some thinsg to some people. Well, it’s something to talk about.
1/ Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant (CBS)
—I like this, but then I like ‘Pinky Blue’ by Altered Images and to be a ‘rock critic’ and like Altered Images at the moment is asking for the sack . . . (mmm). Of course, I know some people’s favourite singles just now will be Duran Duran, Genesis, Blondie, Nicole, Diana Ross, Spandau Ballet, Echo And The Bunnymen, whereas mine are Adam, Madness, ABC, Associates, Kid Creole, Fun Boy Three, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie And The Banshees, New Order . . . those people are not ace like me, merely stupid — but at least they’re not cool. Cool people don’t like The Charts — just the odd single, and oh wasn’t it good that Pigbag did so well (Why?) . . . Be ace and be stupid: that’s The Charts. Don’t be cool: that’s Chartless.
—It’s better to like “everything” than be cool.
p.s. Hey. ** Scunnard, Thanks, J! ** David Ehrenstein, Pretty seminal, that Tinguely, yep. Thanks, I’ll go sample his lyric-ing abilities. ** Bzzt, Hey! I love the story/fiction piece. Super sharp, compelling from first sentence to last. Excellent work, man, a real pleasure. And the combo with Brendan really did work beautifully in an even subtle way. I think I’m in the process of psyching myself to buckle down, which is start enough. Happy Friday. ** Kaley Gott, Hi, Kaley. It’s very nice to meet you. Oh, wow, that’s awesome that your class is covering ‘Frisk’. I’m honored. The question is complicated, and this is a tough context to really be able to answer it well because I tend to kind of zoom along when I’m doing the p.s. I can give you a brief, sort of general answer here, but you can write to me at my email: email@example.com, and I can answer in a more detailed way there. (Also, I need to find a copy of the novel in my boxes of books, which I will do.) If you like, I could Zoom or Skype with you or some students or even with the class if you want and if we can work out the timing between you and me in Paris. Anyway, I named the narrator/character Dennis because I felt it was important to take responsibility for the extremity of the book’s content, to acknowledge clearly that the book’s imagination is mine. It’s not auto-fiction. I did live in Amsterdam, and some of the characters and incidents are based on real people and things that happened — Julian was based on a real person, my first boyfriend — but I didn’t pretend to be committing murders or try to persuade him or anyone that I was. That was more of a formal device because I wanted to see what the effect would be if I described the fictional violent/sex acts in a pornographic way and framed them as real while the reader was reading that section. The idea was that once the letter was revealed as fiction at the end, the reader would thereby have to confront what they felt and imagined while believing it was true. I was trying to make the reader acknowledge that Dennis’s imagination and fantasies were not completely foreign and repellent, etc, if that makes sense. When I wrote ‘Frisk’ I was doing a lot of research and studying of serial killers, and I used what I learned in creating the novel and ‘Dennis’, but what happens in the novel isn’t based on any real killers or crimes. They are imaginative but maybe backed up by whatever understanding I gained. Oh, I see you’re suggest a video chat. As I said, yes, I would be happy to. That would be very interesting. Just write to me, and we can set it up. I’m in COVID quarantine over here, so I have lots of free available time. Thank you so much! It’s a thrill that you’re looking closely at my work. I really appreciate it, and, yes, hopefully we can video chat and speak more very soon. Take care, Kaley. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Oh, sure, the only reason I didn’t include that Gonzalez-Torres piece is because I’ve had his work in some recent thematic posts. It’s a wonderful piece, yeah. He was a sublime artist. ** Sypha, Ha ha. Oh, you knew of that artwork but revised it into a monk? Or is there a monk version too? Good old Siouxie. ** Daniel, Hi, Daniel! Excellent pick there, sir, obviously, and thank you! Hugs. ** Brendan, The new Batman and Robin, or vice versa, or … The show looks unbelievable! I’ll write to you. I’m a bit hazed over. With me, there’s also Dennis M. Cooper the Harmoniac. And a guy named Dennis Cooper who hosts some cult podcast called ‘Culpable’. And the main character in ‘Jabberwocky’. Love, me. ** Brian O’Connell, Top of the morning, Brian. Thanks, so glad you like the post. I believe that is a real tongue. It sure looks real and rotting. It is nice to keep up with friends on social media, especially when I live way over here far from my US friends, but I think I mainly use Facebook to keep up on cultural stuff — new books, events, films, art, etc. Or that’s mostly what seems to slow down my scrolling. Thanks about our good news. Yeah, once it’s all in writing and stuff, I can spill, although it’s not so wildly exciting from the outside really, I guess. Perky beginning to your weekend. ** Bill, Hey, B. Thanks, yeah, the breakthrough is a relief. Everything is dependent on the whole COVID thing, but, assuming next year will be the upswinging part, yeah. Always happy when a thing enters that exclusive ‘near and dear’ VIP area around your heart. ** Okay. I realised that I have, until recently, been kind of neglecting the restoration of posts from my murdered blog, and there are still a ton worth salvaging, so that’s why you’ve gotten three this week, including the lovely and odd post today devised by the much missed and very creative former d.l. of this blog The Dreadful Flying Glove. Have fun with it. See you tomorrow.