Saturday, September 3, 2011


I guess they still publish music-popularity charts -- USA TODAY prints a way-detailed weekly list based on sales & download numbers from Soundscan. But these charts R no longer about singles sales -- R there "singles" NEmore? Now it's all about downloads.
Bsides, the charts R way broken-down & categorized. There is no more "Top 40," hasn't bn 4 years. Now it's all Adult Contemporary & Modern Rock & Alternative & Hot Country & Urban & Whatever. Not like Back In My Day when Every1 KNEW what was Number 1.
But, as the folks at the PENGUIN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC say, when looked back on from a few years later, charts develop their own certain charm.
I Bcame aware of charts fairly early in my singles-buying period. By early 1971 I knew there were musical-popularity charts issued weekly, & every time I grabbed 2 or 3 of the latest 45's (at 77 cents each!) I made sure 2 score a copy of the latest chart.
In Tacoma, Wash., where I was at the time, these charts were issued on legal-lengthed lite-green-shaded sheets of paper. 1 side listed the current Top 100 hits, complete with title, artist's name, record label & serial number, current chart position, position the week earlier, & position 2 weeks ago. A lot of data.
The B-side had an alphabetical list of current hit albums -- 100+ of them, many by people I'd never heard of then, tho mosta the names quickly Bcame more familiar.
I can guarantee you that at least 1/2 the songs on that "Top 100" singles list I NEVER heard on the 2 best local AM stations, Tacoma's KTAC & Seattle's KJR. Some of the songs that made the Top 40 I never heard on the radio. When The Moody Blues' "The Story in Your Eyes" peaked at something like #39 locally, I'd heard it played on the radio 1nce. When The Buoys' silly-horror "Timothy" hit #1 locally, I'd never heard it played on local radio.
This sorta thing seemed 2 happen a lot. I often thot the charts failed 2 follow my musical reality. It got weirder when I discovered Casey Kasem's AMERICAN TOP 40 countdown, based on BILLBOARD magazine's official nationwide sales & airplay chart, & aired every Sun nite on KJR. I often didn't like BILLBOARD's official numbers -- Melanie's "Brand New Key" made #1?! By bumping off Don McLean's "American Pie"?! Sacrilege!
AT40 also played a lotta stuff I'd never heard B4 & couldn't really relate 2 at the time -- & a lot of it I never heard again. But the Good Stuff seemedta never climb HIGH enuf: Crabby Appleton's "Go Back" peaked at #31?! Dwight Twilley's "I'm On Fire" peaked at #17?! Who was compiling this data?
It got weirder when I moved back 2 Idaho & started looking at hometown-fave Top 40 station KFXD's charts. In late '73 their charts listed the top 40 hits, but also a bunch more stuff, broken down in2 sections labeled "Hot" (4 current big hits), "Moving" (Not-quite-so-hot hits), "Warm" (4 stuff that had cooled off), & "Night" (4 songs they only played at nite -- album trax & such). This made 4 a giant 3-part fold-out chart with tons of data on it.
It was only slowly that I realized no1 seemed 2 B proofreading this stuff or keeping track of the chart data. Songs would miraculously debut at #2, then vanish from the chart a week or 2 after dropping outta the top spot. Songs that got massive airplay at the time (Steely Dan's "My Old School," ELP's "Still You Turn Me On," Poco's "Here We Go Again," 10 C.C.'s "Rubber Bullets," Aerosmith's "Dream On," Ian Thomas's "Painted Ladies") would get only middling numbers on the charts, which were supposedly based on sales, requests & airplay. Uh huh....
This oddness continued at the end of '74 when Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You" (which never got played on XD when it was popular -- possibly cos it wasn't rock&roll?) swooped outta nowhere 2 Bcome XD's #1 song of '74 in their end-of-the-year countdown. What...?
A few years later XD put out a massive chart 2 celebrate the station's 20th Anniversary or something, & listed all the biggest hits of the previous 20 years. I'd previously heard the station play Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Do Unto Others" & announce it as "a Number 1 hit from the Summer of '67" (it was actually a B-side, but the Raiders were a hometown band). So I checked XD's anniversary list 2 C if it was there. & of course it wasn't, cos "Do Unto Others" never made #1 on NE chart in this universe. Instead, XD printed the titles of all the usual BILLBOARD-approved top hits you'd Xpect....
I was starting 2 wonder in what fantasy world these charts were compiled....
When I worked at the record store & started ordering 45's 4 the 4-store "chain," I found out how easily a single could make it on2 the local charts -- R selling 20 copies a week of "Another One Bites the Dust" was enuf 2 guarantee it the #1 spot. & 4 us 2 sell 20 copies a week of NE single was like an earthquake....
I kept grabbing copies of XD's weekly music survey (now a great deal simpler & more compact) thru at least the end of '79, but the music was boring & I was 2 close 2 the chart mechanics 2 get much fun out of it. I had a pretty good stack of those charts piled up, but I tossed them all around '80 or so -- I figured there was nothing left that they could teach me, & the new stuff was 2 dull 2 get much of NEthing from.
...The weird part is I'd pay (small) $$$ 2 get some of them back now -- especially the Washington charts & the early XD's. Now I feel like there's a lot I could learn from them, that a quick study might in some ways re-cast my musical memories from age 11 to 20. I probly didn't realize what I had -- that's usually the way it works 4 me.
Awhile back I found a website that posts some of this old chart info, they even had a few charts from KFXD, KTAC & KJR. But not enuf, or not from the right period. So if NEbody out there can hook me up in the intrests of more solid & realistic musical history....


R S Crabb said... Try this one for old Top Forty charts. Came across of it by accident and haven't checked it all out but it looks to be fun if as advertised! Cheers!

TAD said...

Crabby: Hey, pretty cool! I wish there was more, of course -- no charts posted yet 4 Washington or Idaho -- but I have bookmarked the site & will B Xploring it further. Some cool stuff from late '60s/early '70s, my time period. Thanx 4 the tip!