Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sixty Years Ago This Week

November 14 1952 was a red letter day in the history of popular music here in the U.K. It was on that day that the New Musical Express (NME) published its first singles chart. Al Martino singing 'Here In My Heart' was the first single to top the chart which in its first week was actually a Top Twelve, the original idea had come from an NME hack who phoned round local record shops to try and discover which song was selling the most. Al Martino was to stay at number one for the next eight weeks.

One of the stranger facts of that chart, and indeed an illustration of the time that people were living in, is that only one song was actually available in seven inch format that could be played at 45 rpm (by Mario Lanza somewhat ironically given the style of music he was famous for), all other records were released on 10 inch shellac discs which played at 78 rpm.

Us Brits have bought some 3.7 billion singles records since 1952 and there have been some 1,200 number ones. Of course the ultimate chart accolade, besides reaching number one,was to have a million selling single of which there have been 123 such singles ranging from the sublime 'Hey Jude' to the ridiculous 'Can We Fix It' by Bob The Builder, probably Neil Morrissey's finest work to date.

Listening to the charts on a Sunday afternoon/early evening was something that pretty much everybody I grew up with as a teenager did - football and concerts permitting. It was a ritual that only really ended with the emergence of the punk/new wave scene late in 1976 when charts seemed to be a little less vital. I had a friend who would sit and listen to the chart and write down each song of the Top Thirty in a notebook, complete with previous week position, weeks on chart etc.

What is interesting for music anoraks like myself is that since downloads became part of the process of collating music sales, in early 2004, nineteen songs originally released before 2000 have sold a million copies, these include Rod Stewarts 'Sailing' and Abba's 'Dancing Queen' . The most recent song to reach a million was Goyte's 'Somebody that I used to know' - which I happen to know has featured as a centre piece in the TV series Glee which no doubt help boost sales of the original - and to be honest it is one of the most original songs of recent years.

The days when the fade out of the Number One would give way to the seven o'clock 'pips', the end of Radio One's weekend broadcast and the start of 'Sing Something Simple' are as much of my DNA as West Ham and fish and chips and it was obviously something I passed down through my genes because until fairly recently the Sunday night Top 40 rundown was part of Nathalie's weekend 'ritual'.


A Northern Bloke said...

I was thinking, the other day, about whether or not football chants are the same as they used to be. Today I read your post that mentions "Sing Something Simple" : can you recall the football chant based on that song title?

As for the charts...'s a shame, I think, that they don't seem to have the role they used to have but things have changed so much in the course of our lifetimes I can't imagine they're the only "casualty".

A Northern Bloke said...

Everyone, I think, would have their own choice for both sublime and ridiculous No. 1's.

My "sublime" choice would be Bohemian Rhapsody and the "ridiculous" would be Shaddap ya Face. (or whatever it was called) This latter choice is down to how awful it is and the fact that it kept a fine song from the No.1 spot.

Paul said...

I can't remember the football chant based on 'Sing Something Simple' although I do know that there is a campaign to have Sloop John B banned as the base for chants as it has become so overused.

Ah Vienna - brings back so many memories of seeing Ultravox on tour when they first played that song the year before it got to number two.

Span Ows said...

Yes, number 2 for months! Or weeks at least all down to twat Joe Docci (or however you spell it to sound like Dolchy). Funny how ALL people of a certain age have the same opinions about some things!

The charts used to be so good and as you say was a ritual for most youths in the country, what interest me now if how often you hear a FANTASTIC record from the 70s/80s and afterwards they say "which got to number 36 (and higher!) in the charts, or sometimes higher, one last week was number 54 (!!) but now can't remember which tune it was!

Paul said...

You're right Span, the thing is we all have selective memories, I was listening to the Top 40 rundown from October 1976 the other week and most of it was dire.

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