Top 40 chart is once again an important barometer

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As we’ve all been excitedly celebrating 60 years of the Queen being on the throne, we’ve forgotten another diamond jubilee – the charts.

On November 14, 1952, the New Musical Express published the first sales chart which placed Al Martino’s Here In My Heart as the first-ever No 1.

It was very rudimentary. Only 20 shops were called to report their 12 best-selling songs. Talk about a small representation of what the British public were buying! But it was a start.

You may have watched the fascinating BBC4 documentary on the history of the charts. The programme plotted their development and increasing importance in the public psyche.

For example, three different charts were published in the 1960s and chart positions varied hugely. One example was Please, Please Me by The Beatles. This was No 1 on two of the three charts, but as official chart books today list the third charts figures, they placed the song at No 2.

Things changed in 1969 when the British Market Research Bureau was created to publish one official chart – and the rest is history.

Another interesting detail this programme highlighted was that the BBC has always been behind the times!

Pirate and then commercial radio have been the innovators, with stuffy old Auntie Beeb being slow to catch up.

Pirate stations such as Radios Luxembourg, London and Caroline forced the BBC’s hand into launching Radio 1. It’s been playing catch-up ever since.

Even the trusty old Top 40 countdown has had to move with the times. The current style of the show features more personality-based presentation, similar to what commercial radio has been doing for the past 20 years.

But as downloads are now included in the single sales chart, the Top 40 is once again an accurate and important barometer of what we’re buying. The days when Peter Andre could sell 23,000 copies and get to No 1 are gone. Now you need around 130,000. We’re back to figures similar to those of 1984.

One thing has sadly changed though. Kids don’t sit by their radios with the cassette player and pause/record button!