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'.