As it’s the 60th birthday of the charts today, here’s a super-special bonus post. The singles chart was invented by the NME in 1962 when they rang around a few shops to ask what was selling, compiling the answers into a top 12. I say invented not because it was an original idea, but more because in the early days the numbers might not have always been entirely spot on. Four times in the 1950s the number one spot was shared by two songs, which seems fairly unlikely, and something that hasn’t happened since. Not that later charts were entirely flawless: sales reps from the record labels would happily try to bribe stores into recording more sales than they’d actually made, or give away free singles that the store could then sell at a discount. Or maybe the store would casually let the rep enter whatever sales he needed into the sales log in exchange for the odd freebie or two. All of which would have been news to me and millions of other kids who grew up listening to the radio on a Sunday evening, finger poised over the pause button, ready to record the weeks risers and fallers. And would I have cared? Not much, as long as they were hyping the right songs.
Featuring an unprecedented and since unmatched 12 new entries in those positions, the first chart was topped by Al Martino, with the glitch/post-dubstep/math rock/hauntology number “Here in My Heart”, which held the top spot for an impressive first 9 weeks of the chart.
60 years on, Robbie Williams is number one with some rubbish called “Candy”, and bisecting the two, number one 30 years ago, was Eddy Grant, with “I Don’t Wanna Dance”. On a linear scales it doesn’t exactly seem like a true mid-point, though: there’s no denying Grant’s single seems much closer to Williams’ than to Martino’s, which truly belongs to another era.