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  • Updated "CHART HISTORY"

    Here is my updated CHART HISTORY article - containing more data - particulary about MM chart-which in its 9 Feb 1963 edition the paper stated it recieved 245 `returns` from retailers and `Middlesex County Council` audited its chart!

    ãThe 50’s & 60’s Charts: A History. By Alan Smith

    This article will try to explain the way record charts in the 1950s, and 1960s, were compiled and their importance in the world of popular music. One particular misrepresentation over the years will be tackled in order to set the record straight over something that has been the most blatant falsehood in all of chart history.

    This `misrepresentation` is that which has been fostered by the original compilers of Guinness Book Of Hit Singles; namely that for the period1960-1969 only the chart produced by trade paper Record Retailer should be referred to for all chart statistics of the period.

    This has been a great distortion from the actual truth about which charts really mattered 1960 – 1969 and how artists and fans really saw which records topped the charts.

    Hopefully all will become clear as the article will show.

    History Of The 1950s – 1960s Charts.

    Today the official Top 40 charts as used by the BBC for radio and Top of the Pops (until it ceased in 2006) are compiled electronically on computerised tills and relayed to compilers Millward Brown. From 2007 the downloading of songs has been allowed to count as part of the chart process.

    These figures, from 4,700 retailers from a pool of 5,600, are processed into a full Top 75 chart used by publications such as Music Week magazine. The Top 40 of this chart is the most referred to and acknowledged as the ‘Official Chart’.

    However when record charts first began in Britain compiling methods were far slower and simpler and for many years there was no real official chart. So, how did charts begin? As with many musical innovations; the idea originated in the United States. The very first charts in the USA were compiled from sheet music sales which were paper sheets of the notated music which people could purchase in order to play at home on the piano and other instruments. The first chart of popularity of these songs was on the radio show Your Lucky Strike Hit Parade, which started on 20 April 1935. Following the lead of sheet music charts, eventually sales of 78 rpm shellac discs came into being, with the task of compilation undertaken by the US music trade paper Billboard published on 20 July 1940.

    One important difference between the method of compilation of American disc charts and their British counterparts was that US charts also took note of the amount of radio airplay of songs which would be calculated in their tally. British charts never applied this format, they were sales based only.

    The first British sheet music charts only appeared sporadically in the Jazz based music paper Melody Maker. This paper was established in January 1926 as a monthly publication catering mainly to jazz fans. It became a weekly within a year and the first sheet music list appeared under the title Top Tunes in 1935 as part of the Song Sheet page.

    It was by no means a regular feature at that time; sometimes disappearing for a few weeks. The first regular weekly chart commenced on 27 July 1946. One surprising feature of many of the early sheet music charts before 1946 was that many of them were only alphabetical lists, not sales based.

    The `N.M.E` chart debutes.

    By the early 1950s, similar to 1940s America, sales of 78rpm shellac discs started to grow. Shellac was still in short supply limiting the number of releases; hence those early charts were only Top 10 and 12 sizes for a couple of years. New Musical Express evolved from Accordion Times and Musical Express (1946-1948) Then Musical

    Express (1948-1952). The revamped New Musical Express as part of its new outlook began displaying Britain’s first ever Record chart for discs on 15 November 1952. (The papers publishing date was 14 November).The paper’s management contacted a number of record stores and gathered a master list of 53 establishments willing to supply returns. The compiling of the chart was undertaken by advertisement manager Percy Dickins, who took time out from his main duties of gathering advertising for the paper to phone between 15 - 25 record stores each Monday for their sales data.

    Dickins would vary the stores contacted week by week in order to use all of the 53 on his list over a period of time. The data gathered from the stores differed from today’s charts in one vital area. Though all record stores kept precise internal sales figures, only a list of their Top 10 selling titles was relayed as a list 1 to 10. It was deemed too time consuming for Dickins to have to tally up precise lists of sales figures. Far more convenient and time saving was the totting up of points per chart placing. For example ten points for a number one, down to one point for tenth place. This set a precedent for all early charts.

    Britain’s first chart from the New Musical Express was published on 14 November 1952. It was titled Hit Parade for the first chart. These early charts, though a Top 12 in size, could sometimes be rather larger due to the unusual tied position system. Instead of, for example a joint number 2 then number 4, the paper would go to number 3. This certainly expanded the chart but was soon amended. The immediate success of this list of best selling records led to the papers competitors starting up their own charts.

    Rival charts appear.

    Within three years a second chart would appear. This came from another popular music paper Record Mirror, which later in the 1950s, became Record And Show Mirror then back to Record Mirror then New Record Mirror in 1961 then eventually back to Record Mirror. On 22 January 1955 Record Mirror displayed a Top 10 chart. This was compiled from postal returns financed by the paper from record stores. Again, these were of Top 10 title listings. Record Mirror figures could be viewed as they published each stores list along with their address on its chart pages. This first chart was based on 24 stores returns. By 1956 Record Mirror was sampling over 60 record stores and as with New Musical Express they would rotate shops used from a larger pool. By 1956 sales of records were eclipsing sheet music, so record charts began to attain more prominence.

    Hence the first appearance on 7 April 1956 of Melody Makers’ first record charts, as part of its Song Sheet page along side the sheet music charts. The Melody Maker chart was a Top 20 and was based on 19 stores returns, these were gathered by phone. As with Record Mirror, Melody Maker would display a list of shops addresses, but it did not list individual Top 10s. Melody Maker was the first compiler to get returns from Northern Ireland making its sample a true UK sample. Interestingly, the official charts as used by the BBC only sampled Northern Ireland results when Gallup took over the franchise in 1984.

    The various compilers did try to verify that their charts were based on true figures. To this end they would send blue forms to all shops on their list, which would be signed by the manager of each store when sending in returns to verify figures were accurate. The next chart to appear was in the pop paper Disc. This paper differed slightly in that in 1959 it instigated, under the auspices of editor Gerald Marks, the awarding of gold and silver discs for records attaining sales of 1 million and 250,000 units respectively. Disc appeared on 1 February 1958 with its first chart, a Top 20 based on 25 phoned returns.

    The last major chart came from the trade magazine Record Retailer. The paper was produced in August 1959 by the pooled resources of the members of the Independent Record Retailers Association, a body of record stores not aligned to any record company. The paper was at first a monthly issue, but in March 1960 it changed to the weekly format with its first weekly issue dated 10 March 1960. From this date it displayed its first chart rundown. This chart differed from its predecessors in the popular papers in that it was a larger Top 50. Managing editor Roy Parker and Secretary Ann Smith undertook the task of phoning record shops for their lists of best sellers each Monday for Tuesday compilation, by staff member, Jeremy Wilder.

    Though a Top 50, it was still only based on the ludicrously low figure of 30 phone calls for a chart that size from a pool of 50. Compiling a Top 50 on so few returns meant that tied positions would litter the chart. To abolish

    such incidents a system of comparing the rate of sales change from the previous week was utilised. It was necessary for a large chart based on such an inadequately low number of returns.

    In January 1963 Record Retailers chart was audited by the firm of Chantrey, Button & Co, its chief auditor Mr Nigel Mundy. These audits weren’t infallible though as it turned out, due to organised attempts to `hype` records into the charts in the 1960s. Getting records unfairly into the charts was profitable if an artist could go on to bigger success. It probably started in the 1950s, and certainly was around in the 1960s. None of the 1950s, charts were taken too seriously by the music industry or the general media. They were looked on as fun guides to that section of the entertainment industry with both Record Mirror and Melody Maker printing addresses of their suppliers at that time. This is something that would have been unthinkable by the mid 1960s.

    By 1957 the new 45rpm 7” single disc made from less brittle vinyl was now succeeding the 12” shellac records, thus leading to higher production and sales figures by the early 1960s. Another barometer of sales that went hand in hand with the new 7” discs was jukebox plays now that the new format could be used on jukeboxes. Melody Maker published a Jukebox top twenty chart between 1957 and 1960 and a top 10 to September 8 1962. This chart (the top 20 one certainly!) was based on returns from 2,000 Jukeboxes across the country.

    An interesting facet of record sales in the late 1950s to early 60s was shops owned by certain record companies only selling that companies wares and no others! The most common throughout the nation were HMV and PYE shops, closely followed by DECCA. These stores only sold records produced or distributed by their parent label. With the high sales boost in sales due to the Beatles / Merseybeat boom, such shops had to start selling records by other labels, else risk losing many sales. An example would be PYE shops having to sell Beatles and other EMI records by 1964; otherwise they would be committing commercial suicide.

    The New Musical Express was seen as the premier chart of the 1950s, and by 1956 its compiling was handed over to a team from one of the opinion poll organisations and expanded to approximately 50 to 60 returns from a pool of about 80 and still completed by phone calling. The NME chart was taken up for publication in many regional newspapers; it was also used by Radio Luxembourg. Overseas, the NME chart was published in the important US trade magazine Billboard in the papers World Charts section. In the UK in the 1950s, the Record Mirror chart was taken up by many national newspapers. The paper claimed in 1958 that the majority of national and regional papers were displaying its charts. The Record Mirror postal returned sampling was as large as NMEs, phoning system; in fact it was probably larger in some weeks as it often ranged to more than 60 returns in the late 1950s.

    Meanwhile, Melody Maker in the 1950s was still focusing primarily on jazz and regarded its pop chart service as a sideline and hence did not put many resources into this new innovation. Melody Makers size of sample ranged from as low as 17 in 1957 shop returns up to a more respectable 33 in 1959. Even by 1960 it barely got much above 40, but that was soon to change radically. Disc did not gather more than 40 returns at any point during the 1950s. The day that most compilers set aside for their chart compiling was a Monday. New Musical Express, Melody Maker and Disc would phone their list of shops each Monday and then start compiling their charts. Record Mirror, when running its own chart, also compiled it on Mondays. The Record Retailer, when it began its chart in March 1960 phoned for returns on a Monday but did not compile the chart until Tuesday. Most papers were published on either Thursday or Friday (N.M.E & Melody Maker Fridays, Disc, Record Mirror & Record Retailer, Thursdays).

    `Pick of the Pops` chart.

    The country’s national broadcaster the BBC recognised the commerciality of popular music and on 4 October 1955, on its Light Programme, began broadcasting Pick Of The Pops. At first this was a random choice of popular songs of the day; but soon a method of having a continuous Top 20 chart was conceived. From March 1958 the BBC would calculate a Top 20 by using NME, Melody Maker, Disc and Record Mirror charts. They would give number 1 position 20 points; number 2 position 19 points and so on down to one point for number 20. This amalgamated chart would then be transmitted each week. This method produced some tied positions in the chart. Occasionally even a joint number one. However, this rundown did a lot to bring pop music and the concept of charts into focus for the general public. The BBC - Pick Of The Pops chart was often the final arbiter when confused fans were not sure what was the number 1 record due to the music and trade papers having differing chart toppers on some weeks.
    The American trade paper Cash Box also used the combined method to produce a British chart alongside some sampling as well, to add to its figures.

    Into the 1960s.

    The NME also kept enlarging its sample as the 1960s took hold. At this time, it reverted to using its own staff members for phone duties; this entailed four to five employees each phoning 20 to 25 shops for a sample of 80 to 100 retailers in the early part of this decade circa 1960-63. Disc did not have the resources that NME enjoyed, so its sample rose to the lesser figure of approximately 50 who were phoned during this period; its main compiler was Fred Zebadee.

    Record Mirror was still receiving postal returns varying between 40 and 60 plus postal returns circa 1960-61 but it was badly hit by the increase in postal charges from April 1961. Melody Maker was able to absorb these costs with its higher circulation and the massive resources of its publisher IPC. Record Mirror however had to start cutting back on costs. From 18 March 1961 the paper no longer printed the lists or addresses from stores, (Melody Maker had ceased this practice on 30 July 1960). To add to Record Mirrors problems many national newspapers started to use the Melody Maker charts in the early 1960s. On 24 March 1962, Record Mirror finally abandoned compiling its own lists. Instead, from that date onward it began publishing the Record Retailer Top 50.

    By 1963 both New Musical Express and Melody Maker were sampling over 100 stores with Disc sampling about 60 to 70. Only Record Retailer had kept to the same sized sample of 30 phoned. It was during 1963 that the rise of the Beatles sparked off a Mersey beat-led, sales boom. Pop music and the charts were very much in the public eye by the mid 1960s.

    Pirate Radio

    The advent of the pirate radio stations in early 1964 when Radio Caroline hit the air over the Easter 1964 holidays also helped to give pop music a high public profile. Some of these stations used `airplay` statistics for their charts. Radio Caroline from July 1964 used the Melody Maker Top 50 for its popular listings. Others such as Radio London would make up their charts from new releases, amount of airplay and even on many occasions, on the whim of the station managers choice of record placing.

    Sadly, some pirate radio stations accepted bribes for extra airplay and high chart placing for certain records. No pirate radio station ever undertook sampling via shop returns hence the brevity of this chapter.

    Larger samples, and expanding charts.

    By the end of the 1950s, record sales were on the increase, passing the 55 million production figure (excluding Long Players) by 1960. To reflect this New Musical Express expanded its size of published chart. The NME Top 12 became a Top 20 on 2 October 1954. It expanded to a 25 listing to catch the Christmas sales on 31 December 1955 and reverted back to the 20 format the following week. It then expanded to a Top 30 on 14 April 1956 staying at this size up until 14 May 1983 when it enlarged to a Top 50. Record Mirror expanded from a Top 10 to Top 20 on 8 October 1955. Melody Maker and Disc stayed unchanged in published size in this period. Throughout the 1950s it was the New Musical Express and Record Mirror charts that were based on the largest samples with the latter compiler largest most weeks as they ranged up to over 60 shops sampled quite a few times. The Melody Maker and Disc samples ranged at around 20 to 35 for the former and between 30 and 40 the latter.

    The first big change to the size and method of compiling a chart occurred on 30 July 1960. This took place at the Melody Maker. The paper changed from phoning its list of record stores, to combining with the phoned, significant number of postal returns. This was rather closer to the system that Record Mirror was using. A far larger pool of compliant stores was contacted and from these a rotated sample of about 110 stores returns was posted and phoned in each week. So, from a figure of 38 samples on 23 July 1960 the Melody Maker chart of 110
    returns from the following week onward became, at that point, the largest sample in operation. The paper displayed the fact that it sampled over 100 shops above each weekly chart. In its 9th February 1963 edition; the paper replied to criticisms of its chart from newspaper the `Daily Express` in reply it stated that it received data from 245 shops across the nation and that the chart was regularly scrutinised by auditors from Middlesex County Council.

    Melody Maker compiled its charts by 1964, with a team of staff who compiled the figures from sacks of mail using, in today’s terms, an old fashioned calculating machine. Editorial staff, Jack Hutton and Ray Coleman also helped compile the charts. On Monday 30 November 1964 the Daily Mirror sent reporter Patrick Doncaster to the Melody Maker offices to report on the way their chart was compiled. Assistant editor Ray Coleman fetched the first sack of postal returns from GPO headquarters by St Pauls to work from (in those days there was Sunday post). Roy Burchill, Alf Martin, Mike Benson, Jeff Stars assisted by editor Jack Hutton and Ray Coleman would produce lists from each of the 147 postal returns of the best sellers allotting 40 points for number 1, 39 points for number 2 and so on. Another 40 shops that could not get their postal returns in on time were phoned for their list of best selling titles, giving a total of shops providing returns to the Melody Maker for that week of 187.

    Secretaries Linda Leighton and Sandra Coleman now joined Burchell and Martin, using four mechanical calculators to collate the final Melody Maker Top 50 singles chart for that week. Also witnessing their work was guest Ringo Starr who was told the good news that the Beatles new release ‘I Feel Fine’ was straight in at number 1 on the Melody Maker chart. By 1966-67 Melody Maker was compiling its top 50 from approximately 250 sample returns.

    New Musical Express, by this time, had reached around 150 phoned, now with a staff of six, led by its chief chart compiler Fiona Foulgar. Sometimes extra staff members were available to help with phoning duties which meant on some weeks the NME could sample up to 200 stores in the 1964-67 era, which ran it a good second in size to the Melody Maker sample.

    Disc Weekly in its sampling managed to get up to 80 to 100 returns by phone. Record Retailer, realising that its phoned sample of 30 was far too low for the period, contacted both EMI and Decca’s distribution chains for a list of stores. Working from a master list of 100, the Retailer changed to postal returns commencing at the start of 1964 with 75 to 85 returns, rotated in the list. Staff member Jeremy Wilder spent all of Tuesday each week compiling the Top 50 from these returns. This increase still left the Record Retailer in fourth place for sample size of major charts and woefully short, still for compiling a Top 50 chart. This size of sample (75-80) stayed about the same until the new B.M.R.B chart replaced it in February 1969.

    Both Melody Maker and Disc increased the sizes of their published charts when record sales vastly increased in the early 60s. Melody Maker expanded from Top 20 to 30 on 14 April 1962 and soon followed this on 15 September 1962 by increasing again to a Top 50. Disc increased from a Top 20 to 30 on 6 October 1962 and increased to a Top 50 on 23 April 1966 when incorporating the failing pop magazine Music Echo into its title, becoming Disc And Music Echo. From this date (23 April 1966) Disc acquired its first LP chart. The B.B.C Pick Of The Pops chart increased to a Top 30 in April 1962.

    `Pop Weekly` and `Merseybeat/Music Echo`

    The big beat boom sparked off lots of short lived pop papers. Many, like Midland Beat from Birmingham, were regional. Two of the more prominent papers, which ran along with the premier magazines, were Mersey Beat (later titled Music Echo) and Pop Weekly. Mersey Beat started in Liverpool in July 1961 as a bi-weekly publication primarily concerned with reporting on the regional music scene and popular local artists.

    By 1963 it became nationally distributed, buoyed by the tremendous boom generated by the regions biggest sensation, the Beatles. The paper had started publishing a Top 20 in 1962, though also bi-weekly, it is impossible to correlate it to other charts of the time. Only from 24 April 1964 did Merseybeat become a weekly chart. Significantly, by 3 December of that year when Beatles manager Brian Epstein bought a major shareholding in the publication, Mersey Beat began publishing the nation’s first Top 100. Though Epstein injected some funding the paper still did not equal the financial resources of either NME or Melody Maker so it is unlikely that this chart was based on more than 50 to 80 returns at best.
    By 6 March 1965, with signs of a slowdown in Beat music, the paper changed its title to Music Echo in order to carry a wider spectrum of music, but still carried on with its Top 100 chart, plus the countries first Top 50 LP rundown from May 1965. In 1966 sales were slipping badly and the singles chart returned to a Top 50. Music Echo ceased publication on 16 April 1966 and on the following week it was absorbed into Disc becoming Disc And Music Echo.

    Pop Weekly, formerly Top 10 Monthly, became a weekly issue from 1 September 1962. It was smaller in its dimensions than the other magazines, at about A5 size. It was edited by Albert Hand who ran the Elvis Presley fan club. The paper ran a Top 30 chart as well as ‘write in’ polls for artists. Pop Weekly’s chart was compiled by averaging out the charts of New Musical Express, Melody Maker, Disc and Record Retailer in similar mode to the BBC method. However Pop Weekly also received advance sales figures from record companies and sampled around 20 to 30 stores to get its chart. The Pop Weekly chart ran to 6 November 1965 when it reduced to a Top 10. Finally on 27 November the last sales chart appeared and until the paper’s demise on 12 February 1966 a Popularity Top 20 of reader’s favourite songs was displayed. Affected by the slowdown in the market on 12 February 1966 Pop Weekly published its last issue. It was then merged with sister paper Pop Shop becoming Pop Shop Monthly.

    Enter `Guinness Hit Singles`

    The variety of charts in the mid 1960s did cause confusion as to what records were number 1 when the charts differed. By and large, people accepted that this was the way things were, usually going by what was top of the BBC Pick Of The Pops charts. There has been much controversy over the years as to what was the ‘best’ chart for this purpose. When the Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles was first published in 1977 it made what is deemed by many chart fans a catastrophic decision in selecting the Record Retailer chart for the purposes of recording 1960s chart statistics.

    The new book’s authors, Tim Rice, Jonathan Rice, Paul Gambaccini and Mike Read started logically by choosing the New Musical Express chart from 14 November 1952 up to 10 March 1960. However, in a decision that would be questioned by many pop `pundits` over the intervening years they then changed to the debuting Record Retailer chart and retrospectively gave it a vastly inflated prominence it now enjoys. This decision was largely down to the longevity of Record Retailer’s run as a Top 50. It was the biggest outside of the Merseybeat / Music Echo Top 100, and longest running rundown of the decade. It was also due to the Record Retailer abandoning its own sampling (which was seen as inadequate) and coming on board the proposed set up for a new `official` chart.

    The Record Retailer chart had never come close to being accepted as the ‘most prominent chart’ throughout the 1960s for the following reasons.

    Shortcomings Of The Record Retailer Chart.

    When considering the size of chart sample Record Retailer fares very badly indeed in comparison with its major competitors. From March 1960 to December 1963 the extraordinarily low figure of just 30 stores were phoned for sales figures. In that period both NME and Melody Maker were sampling over 100, and Disc was certainly over 50. By 1964 Record Retailer was getting regular postal returns from approximately 75 to 85 dealers, which left it a little way short of Discs, size of sample. It still trailed a long way behind NMEs, 150 to 200, and Melody Makers, 200 plus around 1965 –67.

    The Record Retailer, published as a magazine only for the benefit of its members, was not on commercial sale to the general public at the time. It could be accessed via public libraries and those record shops which in supplying returns would display the chart on the wall of their stores. Many other record shops not supplying returns to any compiler also displayed this chart, while others displayed the NME or Melody Maker rundowns. Charts would also be audited with the NME regulated by the paper’s accountant Ted Hull.

    The Record Retailer chart suffered many volatile chart movements due to its paucity of sample. Quite often records would shoot up from the 40s to the edge of the Top 10, only to collapse back down again the following week. Many charts between 1960 and 1963 were littered with very strange chart movements that were not
    reflected in other papers, charts. In July 1967, due to the change in publication at the start of the month from Thursday to a Wednesday, hardly any returns got in on time precipitating hurried phone calls to dealers. This disruption very much affected the Top 50 until things settled down by the end of July when all dealers were familiar with the change of day.

    Record Retailers chart; unlike Record Mirror’s 1950s lists, was never used by national or regional newspapers. It was only included for the BBC Pick Of The Pops compiled chart from 31 March 1962 when it was utilised by Record Mirror from 24 March 1962. Even then it was not on a regular basis due to late arrival at the BBC on some weeks and Derek Chinnery’s decision to omit it on the first week of chart entry for Beatles singles.

    By 1966 the Retailer chart was more established within the trade and sections of the industry (Due to the takeover by US trade paper Billboard who pumped finance into the paper). The chart also supplanted that of the New Musical Express from October 1966 in the US Billboard trade paper, but it never succeeded in becoming the full UK record industry chart. Record Retailer was set up by independent record shops, not aligned to the record companies and had no funding from the record companies, only from surplus subscription funds to the Record Retailer itself. The paper was a very small affair in its early years with nowhere near the vast resources of the NME or Melody Maker.

    It is a sad testament to chart history that what was by every criterion easily the least accurate and least authoritative of the major charts compiled in the 1960s, should have had the `honour` to be chosen for the Guinness Hit Singles books. This calamitous state of affairs has warped chart history and contradicted the true recollections of artists and fans of who was number 1 at certain dates and why no Beatles singles entered at number one until the Record Retailer chart was abandoned in February 1969. (Get Back entered at number 1 in the new BRMB `Official` chart ). There is also the strange absence of the vast majority of E.P (Extended Play) discs missing in all Guinness listings because the Record Retailer ran a separate E.P chart from March 1960 to December 1967. The Guinness franchise never got the copy write to publish these –so, in essence, successful E.Ps such as Beatles `Twist and Shout`; a top five place on all other charts, has no `official` chart placing.

    The Case of `Please Please Me`, and `19th Nervous Breakdown`.

    No two better examples of the way chart history has been altered by Record Retailers choice by the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles, are `Please Please Me`, by the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones `19th Nervous Breakdown`.

    In late February 1963 the Beatles were performing before their faithful Liverpool fans at the Cavern. Local DJ Bob Wooler interrupted between songs with a telegram from Brian Epstein who had just been told by the New Musical Express that the group’s `Please Please Me` single had hit number 1 on the NME chart. It was joint top with Frank Ifield’s `The Wayward Wind` on the week ending 23rd February 1963. It was sole number 1 the following week of 2 March 1963. There were some celebrations of the groups first chart topper by those fans happy for the group to be accepted nationwide, though other fans realised they would be losing their idols to national fame.

    Not only was the record top of the NME chart, but it had also hit top spot on the Disc charts. The week of March 2 1963 saw `Please Please Me` heading the NME, Disc, Pop Weekly and Melody Maker charts. It was two weeks top on all. It also headed the BBCs, compilation Pick Of The Pops chart for three weeks, the final week joint top with Cliff Richard’s `Summer Holiday`. Only on the Record Retailer chart did `Please Please Me` fail to reach top position. But no one was worried, the Retailer chart was of such little merit to artists and fans then it hardly mattered at all the record only making second position on the RR listing. It was the NME, Melody Maker and Pick Of The Pops charts that counted back then. For the group and George Martin (their record producer) to have this achievement taken away by compilers of a book over a decade later is an injustice that cries out for redress.

    Similarly, the Rolling Stones `19th Nervous Breakdown` suffered this `re writing` of music history. `19th Nervous Breakdown` hit number 1 for the last two weeks of February and the first week of March 1966 on the NME, Melody Maker and Disc charts. It topped the Music Echo chart for one week too. More important was the record not only topping the Pick Of The Pops charts for those three weeks, but being played as the nation’s number 1 record on the BBC Top Of The Pops music programme which had commenced on BBC1 on 1st January 1964.
    Again, this achievement is supposed to have never happened because the Record Retailer chart dictates that it is only a number 2 hit. As with `Please Please Me’ a true number 1 record that the major charts and the BBC fully accepted as chart toppers has to be denied for the sake of Guinness Hit Singles adherence to the one chart (Record Retailer) that was so out of step with every other listing.

    The `New Musical Express` Chart.

    Inside the entertainment industry, particularly for artists and management, it was the New Musical Express charts that were scanned to see if their songs had made the chart. In many ways the NME chart was the most highly regarded of the 1960s. It was already in use by Radio Luxembourg plus some print coverage in the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Evening News and regional papers in Wolverhampton, Sheffield, Glasgow, and Birmingham. In terms of music paper sales, more people than all the other music papers combined read NME charts. At its peak
    for two years from 1964 to 1966 its circulation was at just under 300,000. Only the Melody Maker chart was seen as a competitor for influence in this arena.

    The New Musical Express chart did have some aspects that set it apart from most of its competitors. Firstly, for many years, the paper’s charts would list `B` sides to some popular records by well known artists such as Elvis Presley or Cliff Richard. This would be due to the title being asked for in shops returning to NME. Particularly affected were Double `A` sides where sales could be split quite evenly per title, thus sometimes affecting peak positions in NMEs, chart. The most notable instance was Elvis Presley’s `Rocka, Hula Baby / Can’t Help Falling in Love`. This was a number 1 in all other charts for at least a month but in NME due to the split sales when both titles entered the chart, neither made the top, only making number 2 and number 3, respectively. Because fans asked for “The New Beatles Record” when the singles were released none of the Beatles double ‘A ‘sides were split by the paper, but many others were, the last known examples being the Rolling Stones `Let’s Spend the Night Together / Ruby Tuesday` in February 1967 and Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood with `You Only Live Twice-Jackson` in July 1967.

    What was not unique to the NME chart, one that it shared with both Disc, Pop Weekly, Music Echo and the BBC Pick Of The Pops charts was the inclusion of LPs in the singles charts. Disc And Music Echo ceased this practice when commencing running LP charts, but the NME singles chart continued including LPs even when it started an LP chart on 1 June 1962. The NME carried on up to late 1968, with the Beatles eponymous titled double album entering the singles lists in December 1968. It is not known exactly when the NME ended the practice, but obviously with the boom in LP sales by the early 1970s it had to cease; otherwise more LPs than singles would have been in the chart.

    `Hyping` The Charts.

    `Hype` was the word preferred by chart commentators and those indulging in it, to describe the various methods of cheating regarding getting records into the charts by unfair means. Now that pop music was seen to be big business, a lot of chart hyping began in earnest. It wasn’t purely a feature of the 1960s; the process had affected some records in 1950s, charts. One ex-Pye records employee Dave McAleer was pretty certain that Josh McRae’s `Talkin’ Army Blues had been unfairly assisted into some charts, in one of the earliest suspected cases of `chart hyping`.

    Three main methods were employed with the ablest architects of hype being pop managers Andrew Oldham and Don Arden. They would hire teams of young girls to visit by taxi as many `chart shops` as possible, buying as many copies of the particular record desired to enter the charts. Teams of shoppers were hired to buy a particular record at what were deemed to be chart return stores. This systematic process is well documented in Johnny Rogan’s extremely well researched book Starmakers And Svengalis and also explained in detail in Simon Napier-Bell’s Black Vinyl, White Powder.

    A second method employed by Tony Calder, an associate of Oldham’s, was to bribe a member of staff of one of the chart shops to list a record with false sales. This method once actually listed a record in the charts before the actual record had been pressed!

    A third `ploy` was to get a friendly member of one of the music paper chart compiling team to give false points to a particular title. The worst alleged example of this was when a member of the New Musical Express staff was allegedly involved in the manipulations affecting their chart. Even though the NME chart was still a Top 30, the lower placements were still affected on a couple of occasions.

    The `Melody Maker` Chart.

    The Melody Maker had, by the mid-1960s, a chart based on more returns from dealers (close to 250 circa 1966-67) than any of its competitors. By then it had gained publication in many national newspapers, such as the Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Herald (later to become the `Sun`) Daily Sketch, News of the World, the Sunday Mirror and The People. It was also published in a number of regional newspapers, though not as many as the `New Musical Express`. Pirate radio station Radio Caroline as stated earlier also ran the Melody Maker charts from July 1964 onwards. The Melody Maker chart service was also used extensively in overseas newspapers, particularly those in the United States of America.

    The copyright from these publications enabled Melody Maker to put a lot of finance into its chart processing, resulting that through the 1960s from July 30th 1960 the chart was based on a bigger amount of shop returns than its competitors. When the M.M sample was joined by that of Disc from 19th August 1967, the combined sample came close to 300 returns! Though the B.M.R.B chart from February 14th 1969 was theoretically the largest sample, at 300 returns: in practise it was nowhere as large due to problems getting returns in on time; so that even into the mid-late 70s even when it reduced its returns to 200 from May 1971, the Melody Maker chart was `still` based on the largest sample.

    Along with the NME chart, the Melody Maker listing was extremely influential in the 1960s and the focus for chart hyping. The Melody Maker record charts received as much, if not more, media coverage than main competitor New Musical Express throughout the middle and late 1960s. The Record Retailer chart may not have been so targeted, (though it is arguable that attempts were made at getting unfairly in its listings) but only because the Retailer chart was of very minimum importance to chart `hypers` in comparison to getting a `hit` in the NME or Melody Maker charts.

    How chart shops were discovered by those wishing to hype records is not known for certain, but it was obviously not that difficult. What did not help things though was one music paper, namely the Melody Maker inadvertently disclosing details of what were certainly some of its chart shops on three occasions.

    Firstly, on 21st November 1964 the paper replied to media confusion over the Rolling Stones record “Little Red Rooster” which had leaped in at No 1 on the New Musical Express chart, but was only in at No 21 on Melody Makers. The MM stated that its charts were based only on `sales across the counter` and not `advance order` figures as in the case of the NME chart. In explaining this, the paper disclosed details on record shop sales in various parts of the country. Just over a year later on 11th December 1965 the Melody Maker headline was the Beatles `Day Tripper` / `We Can Work It Out` new release only entering the paper’s Top 50 chart at number 3. A livid Brian Epstein complained about this. The paper then again produced sales quotes from shop managers at locations across the country. The exact addresses were not disclosed, but certainly enough location details were given that any determined chart hyper could use to deduce what were likely Melody Maker chart return shops.

    If this were not bad enough Melody Maker yet again later repeated such disclosures on 15th October 1966 when reporting the lower than expected sales on the Rolling Stones, `Have You Seen Your Mother Baby: Standing In The Shadows`. Many more shop locations were disclosed compounding the earlier errors.

    So rife was the problem that an `expose` of record chart fixing was ran by the Daily Mail newspaper in January 1967. It highlighted how the Melody Maker chart had been targeted but that the paper was doing all it could to address the problem. Quickly following this, an ITV documentary also concerning the `fixing` of record charts
    was aired in early 1967. In one scene Melody Maker Editor Jack Hutton explained to the reporter how the chart staff tried to look out for unusual record sales and carefully scrutinised the returns concerning new entries to its chart. Ironically one record mentioned in the documentary was the debut Jimi Hendrix single, `Hey Joe` which had just been `aided` into the Melody Maker chart.

    The Melody Maker, which after such disclosures and scrutiny by the media, had to no one’s surprise, almost certainly suffered from chart tampering. Part of the reason was that by having the largest set of returns, it was mathematically more likely a M.M chart shop would be `hit`. As their chart was especially vulnerable in the bottom 20 positions, the paper decided to try and check attempts at manipulating records into this region of the chart.

    On 1 April 1967 the paper, in a front-page announcement, declared it knew what was going on and was aware of some of the people involved. It declared that from that date it was cutting its published chart to a Top 30, though it would still compile a 50 in order to check suspicious movements. The Melody Maker Top 50 was later published in the trade paper Music Business Weekly from 20 September 1969 to 27 March 1971. Disc similarly cut down its Top 50 on 1 April 1967 taking its lead from Melody Maker. The bottom twenty positions of the Record Retailer chart were far easier to target due to the extraordinarily low figures needed to get into such a low sampled chart. It possibly had less to fear due to the fact in the 1960s, that Retailers chart was so insignificant in comparison to the New Musical Express and Melody Maker charts.

    So, there is a possible argument that the lower sections of Record Retailer and Disc were less at risk of anomalies due to their lesser importance within the pop world, and therefore less interest to chart riggers; but no chart in the mid 1960s was completely safe from such machinations. The NME and Melody Maker were targeted more due to their far higher authority within the industry, thus both charts being carefully scrutinised by their compilers for signs of interference.

    Ironically, the ways and means that virtually all major record companies manipulated and marketed record releases in the late 1980s, and early 1990s, left the 1960s, manipulators in comparison, nowhere nearly as effective in mass chart rigging.

    Comparing The Charts.

    As mentioned, Record Retailer was very much out of step with every other chart of the time in the lack of records that entered its chart straight at number 1. Up to 1969, when Record Retailer stopped compiling its own chart, the paper only registered two records entering straight at the top spot. This was well out of step with all other major charts for that period. The NME achieved 14, Melody Maker 10, Disc 11 and Record Mirror in the 1955 to 1962 period registered five. The Record Retailer chart never registered any Beatles title instantly at number 1, unlike NME, Melody Maker and Disc who respectively placed 8, 8, and 7 of their singles as instant chart toppers. The lesser charts such as Pop Weekly and Music Echo also registered Beatles records as instant chart toppers. Without doubt the Record Retailer chart was very much out of step with many chart placements and completely at odds with all other charts of the period.

    There was one difference in how figures were gauged: both NME and Disc would accept advance order figures when compiling their charts, whereas Record Retailer and Melody Maker would only accept actual sales over the counter. However, with Record Retailers chart being compiled on a different day, it is possible this affected their chart in comparison with others. The difference between chart positions based on advance figures and actual sales is clear when taking the Rolling Stones, `Little Red Rooster` into account. In the NME and Disc charts it entered straight at number 1(NME) and 9 (Disc). In Record Retailer and Melody Maker it entered at 24 (Record Retailer) and 21 (Melody Maker).

    On television both NME and Melody Maker charts were the charts referred to at this time. Pop TV researcher Keith Badman has revealed that NME chart positions were referred to in the more popular type of programmes such as Ready Steady Go and Thank Your Lucky Stars .The Melody Maker chart was used by the more in depth pop profiles such as news reports that examined the social aspect of the pop boom. NME also had Radio

    Luxembourg using its chart for their Top 20 chart rundown. When Top Of The Pops took to the screens on 1 January 1964 it, like Pick Of The Pops, used the combination of NME, Melody Maker, Disc and Record Retailer
    to compile its Top 20. For many people the BBC compilation chart as used by Pick Of The Pops and Top Of The Pops was the chart they referred to.

    By 1967 both Melody Maker and Disc were now owned by publishers IPC, who had also bought a controlling interest in the New Musical Express. Both Melody Maker and Disc were based at the same offices in Fleet Street. It was deemed unnecessary to have the expense of compiling two charts; so Disc cut their compiling to 30 to 50 phone calls which main compiler Fred Zebedee would combine with Melody Makers, 200 plus postal sample to make a combined chart of approximately 250-280 postal and phoned returns. New Musical Express however, still compiled its own charts, even though it was part of the I.P.C set up by 1967. (It was based in different offices which meant it was far more removed from Melody Maker and Disc).

    `Top Pops/Music Now`.

    There was yet another chart to come on the scene. This was from a paper that began life titled Top Pops. It was set up by MP Woodrow Wilson and edited by author Colin Bostock-Smith. It debuted in May 1967. At first the magazine appeared only every three to four weeks. It formed an arrangement with WH Smith & Son. In exchange for advertising space, the firm would supply a national chart based on sales returns from branches across the country. The first chart appeared in issue 23 dated 25 May 1968. Two issues later date 22 June 1968 both paper and chart became weekly. WH Smith no longer keep records of how many stores were used but Colin Bostock-Smith who compiled the chart confirmed the sample was only about a dozen branches of WH Smith stores. He received by post each store’s Top 30 selling records on Monday and Tuesday and would also use the points system to gauge each records place. Top Pops changed its title to Music Now on 21 March 1970, and finally ceased in March 1971. In its chart positions it tended to be closer to New Musical Express and Melody Maker than Record Retailer-BMRB.

    For the main bulk of the 1960s even though the NME, Melody Maker and Pick Of The Pops charts were by far the most influential and referred to listings; sections of the trade and industry were thinking of setting up what would be seen as a fully `official` chart for all to use. The Record Retailer was the most vociferous in this call for a new chart, possibly due to the fact that its own chart had so little prominence.

    Choosing An `Official` Chart.

    This situation of no `official` chart being universally accepted was a problem the BBC also wanted to resolve, particularly when, on 31 August 1968, they had three records all sharing the top spot on their compiled Pick / Top Of The Pops listings. The Bee Gees `I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You`, the Beach Boys `Do It Again` and Herb Alpert’s `This Guys In Love With You` all had to be played as the joint number.1 on Top Of The Pops.

    This situation was seen as untenable by Derek Chinnery and Denys Jones who compiled the BBC charts, so a series of meetings were set up by the BBC, those retailers and record companies that made up the Gramophone Record Retailers Association and Billboard Publications who were owner of Record Retailer. These were attended by such luminaries as Derek Chinnery from the BBC, Graeme Andrews (Record Retailer) and Peter Meneer of the British Market Research Bureau. Details of a new chart operation evolved. Maurice Kinn, now the chairman at the New Musical Express and Jack Hutton who was the editor of Melody Maker were both invited to come into the scheme. They declined this invitation as they were happy enough with their own charts.

    The BMRB had first been asked to investigate chart anomalies back in 1966 following a Sunday Times `expose` which concerned a version of The Sound of Music LP. This was out on the EMI Music For Pleasure label; but in spite of what EMI insisted were robust sales it had not registered in the three main LP charts of 1966 (NME, Melody Maker & Record Retailer) The BMRB were asked to look into the matter.

    A solution to the chart difficulties was close at hand. At a cost of approximately £52,000 the opinion poll organisation British Market Research Bureau would contact a rolling panel of 250 major record stores plus phone calls to a further 50 shops. The prime 250 would change each week with shops entering from a pool of 50 reserves. This was similar to the `rolling pools` of the music papers. Shops were randomly chosen from any of Britain’s 6,000 plus record retailers. The shops supplying figures would enter point of sales figures into diary’s which would then be posted at close of sales on Saturday to arrive on Monday mornings, (there was still Sunday post then) at the BMRB offices. Each diary’s total would be translated to punch card data which would then be fed to a computer which would calculate the Top 50 positions. The chart would be sent to the BBC to arrive on Tuesday morning ready for broadcasting on the early afternoon chart show. Commencing on 15 February 1969 the new BMRB chart was broadcast on BBC’s Top Of The Pops with a Top 30 which was also used by Radio 1. It was also carried by Record Mirror and Record Retailer who published the full Top 50 positions; and from 10th October 1970 in the new music paper Sounds that also published the Top 30 positions.

    This system was called `Bars` by the BMRB meaning “British Analysis of Record Sales”. The chart did find difficulty in getting aired in the newspaper chains, as these were still very happy with NME and Melody Maker charts. By and large though, the new chart was seen as the official national chart and accepted by the industry. It is this acceptance that ironically was to be one of its drawbacks.

    The problem of having the new BMRB chart announced as an official listing, sadly concentrated the practice of getting records into the new chart by any means possible, including dishonest methods. The list of chart shops was supposed to be secret but, as Melody Maker had discovered to its cost, determined operators managed to uncover their locations. Record companies in order to plug their records put BBC Radio 1 disc jockeys under much pressure. Not helping matters was a feature in the `Radio One` book published in early 1969 where details of how the new chart was regulated were disclosed. It is very possible that too much information was given in the feature which might help unscrupulous `chart hypers` to circumvent the `policing` methods of the new chart. Certainly, some of this lobbying applied to Producers and Disc Jockeys at Radio One could be perceived as not quite one 100 per-cent above board. Over the years more and more stories, some greatly exaggerated, ran in the newspapers about the chart being rigged. The side effect of this concentration on the new chart rather ironically benefited the NME and Melody Maker charts making them now far less targeted and affected by chart hype.

    When the BMRB chart became established by the early 1970s, both New Musical Express and Melody Maker cut back their chart samples to 100 for NME and 200 for Melody Maker. Both papers were aiming now at the `serious` rock market audience of the early 1970s and were less concerned with the singles charts or as `teeny bop` orientated as they had been in the 1960s.

    Problems with the B.M.R.B Chart.

    Though supposed to be thoroughly efficient, the BMRB chart was having difficulty getting its diaries in on time and filled out correctly. Melody Maker had little trouble with postal returns as they had built up a loyal retinue of chart shops, but for the BMRB chart the early returns barely got past 20 per cent of the 300 supposed returns. Many of the early BMRB charts from February to July 1969 suffered many tied positions with up to five records sharing one position in one instance. This is something which should have been a virtual impossibility on a sales based chart. Also, postal strikes affected this system badly. No album charts could be compiled for February – March 1971 during the national postal strike, and while some phoning was done to get a Top 40 singles chart, it was deemed inadequate for a national chart.

    After more postal strikes hit the charts in 1973 the BMRB turned to a more reliable method of gathering data with motor cycle couriers collecting the diaries. Unfortunately this method proved to be quite expensive. According to Michael Cable’s The Pop Industry Inside Out, even by May 1976 only 158 out of a sample of 299 were getting in on time. Despite all of the problems the BMRB chart became the accepted rundown by the mid 1970s.

    When Gallup won the franchise in 1983 they brought in computerised tills, which speeded up the returns figures so that Christmas charts could be produced (from 1969 to 1983 the BMRB charts had a two-week break at Christmas). Both NME and Melody Maker stopped doing their own chart listings on 14 May 1988 and started using the rival to BMRB, the Music Research Information Bureau (MRIB) lists. Advanced technology was about
    to create a stable platform for a single official chart accepted by the vast majority of retailers, customers and the media.

    In Conclusion.

    It had taken a long while to get only one chart listing accepted, not only by the music trade and industry, but record buyers and the general listening public. The truth about the situation in the 1960s, was there wasn’t such unanimity on which chart was supreme. The NME and Melody Maker were by far the `big two` and the BBC Pick Of The Pops chart was extremely important. By comparison, Record Retailer and Disc were well behind in influence or importance. It may upset all those pundits who think everything should be in black or white, like so many dubious quiz programmes, but that is the true picture of the 1950s and 1960s record charts. There was no single chart ever accepted as official in that period, which did lead to confusion at times as to what was number 1 when the various charts differed. But that is how things really were.

    To take any one chart in the manner that Guinness Hit Singles did, just distorted the truth of the period. Ideally, it would suit many chart historians to have just one chart to represent the 1960s, but any one chart chosen would have certain number 1 records not believed as true chart toppers. Even the BBC amalgamated Pick Of The Pops chart would have `oddities` in its listings; for example, the Rolling Stones `It’s All Over Now` and `Little Red Rooster` did not make it to the top on the POTP chart, something many pop fans would now find hard to accept. Similarly, Elvis Presley fans would surely be angered at 1963’s `Devil in Disguise` relegation to number 2 on the BBC chart.

    The Largest sample (Melody Makers) in the 1960s was barely 5% of shops available, and Record Retailer’s did not even cover 2%. To try to base official figures on such small samples is ludicrous. Today (2013) 90% of record retailing stores can be sampled, giving an accurate (if very boring) chart. No one can represent any single 1960s sample in the same degree of accuracy as Guinness Hit Singles erroneously attempted because the sampling was so small.

    The 1950s, and 1960s, had a range of competing charts. It may be unpleasant for those who want everything neat and orderly, but that is the fact of that period. To try and enforce just one chart taken from that era and put it forward as `official` is to change pop history and give an untrue picture. To have given the weakest of the major 1960s charts Record Retailers such undeserved prominence is one of the greatest errors in chart history. This article has tried to redress this.

    Is there a solution? I would venture that in the interests of fairness that all major chart compilers count as equal. If a record reaches No 1 on one of these-in my view it is No 1! I recommend New Musical Express 1952 to 1969, Record Mirror 1955 to 1962, Melody Maker 1956 to 1969, Record Retailer 1960 to 1969 and Disc 1958 to 1967. Any chart placing in these –is official in my opinion. Personally, I still regard N.M.E & M. Maker charts as valid to the close of the 1970s.

    Many thanks are due to those former staff members from the music and trade papers who kindly assisted with factual data for my research. These are Peter Jones and Norman Joplin (ex Record Mirror), Nigel Hunter, Norman Bates, Graeme Andrews, Michael Clare and Jeremy Wilder (ex Record Retailer), Colin Bostock-Smith and Roger St Pierre (ex Top Pops), the late Penny Valentine and David Hughes (ex Disc and Music Echo), Chris Welch, Chris Charlesworth and Richard Williams (ex Melody Maker), Fred Dellar and Derek Johnson (ex New Musical Express) and Karen Walter who is still at NME!.

    Thanks to Nigel Mundy and Peter Cox (ex Chantry, Button & Co), Derek Chinnery and Jeff Walden of the B.B.C, Paul Clifford from the Official Charts Company. Thanks are due to author Johnny Rogan for his help in advising me on the formatting of this article. Also, thanks are due to record shop managers such as Max Millwards of Wednesfield, John Hawkes and Mal at `Memory lane Music`, Oldbury, Jim and Morris Hunting of the `Diskery` in Birmingham. These three and others have provided useful data, contacts and insights from the seller’s perspective.

    Thanks are also forthcoming to the staff of the British Library branches at Euston and Colindale. Many thanks indeed to Andrew Tipple who is the son of Harry Tipple, the founder of the Record Retailers association for his documents outlining the setting up of the association. Finally, thanks are due to Graham Appleyard care of UK MIX for his data regarding Jukeboxes and Record Label `only` shops`

    ©Alan Smith September 2005. (Revised March 2014)

  • #2
    Allan - may I be the first to thank you for updating your comprehensive, and possibly unique, investigation into the rights and wrongs of the various 1950s and '60s chart possibilities. As I wasn't sure which bits had been revised I decided to re-read the whole thing and it was just as engrossing as when I first caught sight of it when joining this site eight years ago. Well done once more on compiling such a widely-researched authoritative account on a much-misunderstood era.

    If I were to nit-pick, I would say perhaps rein-in the closing statements about the gross injustice of Guinness adopting the RR chart in retrospect as if it were somehow 'official'! You're entirely correct to ensure readers hold on to that thought and spare some for NME, MM and Disc, especially given the prevalence of pop publications seen through the prism of the clearly-restricted RR version of events, but to coin a phrase, maybe 'change the record' a bit at the end!!

    All this just creates more frustration really - the eras that many care so much about as the formative and some say strongest years of pop and the single format per se are the ones we'll never have a definitive picture of. For 20 years we have enjoyed a perfectly complete and accurate weekly listing of bestsellers, to the last unit sale, yet it all feels like it's been done before, and the Top 200 can sometimes resemble the basic monotonic sound of 200 barrel-bottoms being scraped.

    The lesson I suppose us pop and chart buffs must learn is that it is relatively pointless seeking a conclusive picture of sales chart performance, probably right up to the 1990s although certainly pre-1980s. Even periods some of us thought were reasonably unchallengable have been shown to be just the opposite, given the debates on the 'Record Business' thread. The solution, as you suggest, can only be to take account of multiple credible sources and methods until we reach the stage where a singular chart of record can be relied upon.


    • #3
      You might find these pdf files interesting for your history of the charts.
      About Woolworths doing returns and why some shops wouldn't!
      About the difference between the Gallup and MIRB charts and how they are put together.
      Rock File pages from the book with an explanation about how the BMRB put together the chart.
      Education for anyone aged 12 to 16 has made a mess of the world!


      • #4
        Graham! I'm afraid I cannot get acess to any of those! What are they about please?

        Gambo! Reading through my article-yes! It is rather over-emotive! I have `toned things` down abit! Mind you- compared to Johnny Rogan- I was very gentle on RR chart-but I think you have a point and I have mellowed some of my comment


        • #5
          Allan: It definitely reads in a more measured, professional tone now!

          Graham: Finding these links really interesting snapshots of chart compilation through the years. Thanks for posting them.


          • #6
            Sadly- I can't acess those links-but I used to have the `Rock File` series (All five) Michael Cable's book, "The Pop Industry Inside Out" is the finest and most informative on how charts were compiled in my opinion.

            I have an very liberally illustrated version of my article with lots of photos of old Music Papers and their charts! Sadly, when I try to transfer it to this site, only the text pastes! Oh dear!!


            • #7
              Originally posted by asm
              Sadly- I can't acess those links-but I used to have the `Rock File` series (All five) Michael Cable's book, "The Pop Industry Inside Out" is the finest and most informative on how charts were compiled in my opinion.

              I have an very liberally illustrated version of my article with lots of photos of old Music Papers and their charts! Sadly, when I try to transfer it to this site, only the text pastes! Oh dear!!
              I don't understand how you can't access when Gambo and others can?
              I know there's a problem with Internet Explorer 11 playing up on some sites, so try a different browser.
              PDF Archive where the files are stored is a free site anyway so you shouldn't need permission to see them.

              Also if you convert the articles you have written, to PDF files you can upload them there yourself. You only need a e-mail address to post documents there. If your software won't allow you to export the file as a PDF, then you can get free software that will do it. All you need do with it then is instead of printing the file with a printer, you print it as a PDF. The software for it is called PDF24 search the net for it.
              Education for anyone aged 12 to 16 has made a mess of the world!


              • #8
                I'm on Yahoo which has already caused me trouble with `Attachments` Sadly- I just cannot crack it! I'll have to miss out it seems! Was there anything on charts before the BMRB `Official` listing of Feb 1969 please?


                • #9
                  Alan, thank you for your excellent article and revisions over the years, I greatly appreciate your research in getting out the truth. I entirely agree, as should most, that the OCC / Record Retailer rewrite of 60s history is a sham, and have been informing folks on various websites about it every chance I get, referring them back to your article.

                  I like to look at the simple argument concerning Please Please Me. Easy to explain, the facts are these, from your article:

                  1. prior to Feb 1969, there was no official chart
                  2. in Feb / March 1963, 3 of the 4 major charts (NME, MM, Disc) were sampling about 270 total record shops, they said Please Please Me was #1 for 2 weeks (and 3 weeks at the BBC)
                  3. the other chart (RR) was sampling 30 record shops, they said PPM peaked at #2
                  4. in Feb 1969, BMRB started the official charts
                  5. in 1977, Guinness began publishing their chart books, using RR charts for their 60s data
                  6. in 1997, CIN acquired the rights to compile the official charts, using RR charts for their 60s historical charts. They soon changed their name to The Official Charts Co (OCC), thus declaring by fiat that RR charts were the "official" charts of the 60s, deceiving (most) everyone into believing that PPM "officially" peaked at #2
                  7. 270 averaged shops said PPM was #1, 30 said #2, 34 years after the fact OCC goes along with #2. The OCC is wrong…

                  Who could argue that the OCC / RR charts for the 60s are official after reading this? It further angers me that EMI went with this sham and didn't include Please Please Me on The Beatles "1" CD. Their chance to refute the OCC / RR and they didn't take it !!

                  I personally wish that someone would construct new weekly composite charts for the 60s, all 520 of them, using the 5 major charts as you discuss (NME, MM, Disc, RM, RR), but weight them according to the number of record shops each one sampled. If the BBC had been doing this from the beginning, there wouldn't have been a need to go with the BMRB in Feb 1969, although eventually a national sales chart would had to have come into being.

                  And I vote for keeping it as simple as possible. Yes, there are issues with separately listed b-sides, EPs and LPs, different end-of-chart-week days, etc., but try to take the simplest path. And I would want every record from every weekly chart listed on this composite chart, not minding if the total number of records fluctuated week to week. The main point being to get all the history recorded for every week, not leaving out anything.


                  • #10
                    I recently got specific data (In the 9th Feb 1963 Melody Maker) that Melody Maker was using 245 shops for chart data at that time. The thing is- the number of shops used each week often changed as all chart compilers would rotate the shops used in their `Master Pool` Often things such as postal delays or incorrect forms would affect size of samples.

                    Sadly, it is impossible to know exactly-week-by-week, the number of shops used by each collator! It took me years of research to get the data in my article. There is no way such weekly data of number of stores sampled would be kept! I should know- i've searched for years!!


                    • #11
                      I forgot to say that - personally, I hold to reflecting the true state of the charts in the 1960s and sad as it is-there was no `official` chart! You can't `backdate` things in the way `Guinness` tried to make out that only the `Record Retailer` chart counted back then- it did not! No chart was truly representative as samples were so small in relation to the number of record shops there were in the 1960s! A number 1 in any/all of them counts for me!


                      • #12
                        Robin, in a personal E.Mail to me-mentioned that Dave Taylor had gleaned some information about the `Record Retailer` charts, i.e about "Please Please Me" and "19th Nervous Breakdown" having `tied` positions in their respective chart runs-and how both were demoted! Also there was mentioned some mix up with Small Faces "Sha-la-la-la-lee" and Nancy Sinatra "Boots were made for walking" having placements juxtaposed which meant that Small Faces were really a No 1 on R.R chart with that record!

                        Now-as much as I would dearly love this to be so! I need to know who Dave contacted for this data! In my own chart research (back in 1999-2002) I contacted both the compiler of R.R chart- Jeremy Wilder, and ex staff (Greame Andrews, Michael Clare) plus the sucessors of `Chantry, Button & Co` who were the auditors 1963-66 of RR chart! It would be great if Dave Taylor (If he is on this board) could contact me to let me know how he gleaned his `data`.


                        • #13
                          Hi asm

                          I've sent Dave an email, hopefully he will be able to answer your query.


                          • #14
                            Thanks Rob! Getting hold of verifiable data is certainly very difficult! What Knowledge I have gleaned from the days of `Record Retailer` only came after extensive searches that led me to Norman Charles Bates, Jeremy Wilder, Michael Clare, Graeme Andrews (all ex `Retailer` staff - and Nigel Munday who worked at `Chantry, Button & Co` the auditors for the R.R chart 1963-66! If Dave has made another contact- i'd love to know!


                            • #15
                              I agree with you, Alan, in principle that history cannot be recreated, and that all 5 major UK charts did indeed represent in various form true history (plus I’d want to throw in the BBC, too). But there is also something to be said for having a better approximate history than to rely on bogus and flawed assertions. Almost any attempt to back calculate a composite chart would be more accurate than using RR for the 60s, even if the exact number of weekly record shops is not known. So in that light, the composite charts could be created using the best guess of record shops per Alan’s data. Perfect? No. Better than RR? Yes, most definitely. If composite charts cannot be accepted as some part of “official” history, at least they would be out there for the masses to learn about, and compare to the bogus “official” history. Multiple ideas should be welcome into the arena of ideas, we should not be forced to feed on false revisionist history.

                              And the composite charts could be created with a noted exception, that they are subject to revision as more accurate numbers of record shops data are uncovered, if they ever are. A living, breathing document, if you will. Put the data into a vast spreadsheet, simply change the number of record shops as needed, and presto, new results are quickly calculated. Republish the book every X number of years as needed.

                              Also please consider some statistical analysis. It’s possible that using an approximate number of record shops to create a composite chart would yield the same data as an exact number of record shops, within certain boundaries; it all depends on the relative numbers one chart to another. I.e., NME & MM would always weight the most, in the hundreds of record shops each; and RM, Disc, & RR would always weight the least, at less than a hundred shops each. It could be that the 2 or 3 smaller charts would seldom affect the upper chart positions at all. It could be they would only come into play when charts 2, 3, and 4 agreed on a record’s chart position differently than chart 1 AND the sum of record shops for charts 2+3+4 was greater than chart 1. How often would that even occur? It would thus seem that the smaller charts would only affect the lower chart positions that the larger charts did not provide positions for.

                              You can say there are 2 separate issues here, peak positions, and weekly charts. For me, the ultimate 60s and 50s chart book would list peak position and number of weeks for each single for each of the 5 major charts. Plus I’d throw in the BBC data for good measure. All this is actual chart fact history. It did happen!! This could be done very easily, there are websites out there with this info.

                              But of course I would prefer someone to go the extra mile and create weekly composite charts of the 60s (and/or 50s) weighted by Alan’s best guess number of record shops, and add composite peak positions to this super book. Think of all the publicity and arguments that would be generated!!

                              Which brings up an interesting question. I see that the UK copyright on recordings was just extended to 70 years since initial issue. What is the copyright on books and UK chart data? We are 45 years past 1969, 62 years past 1952. Of course I would want the various chart entities to participate in a joint book project, but if they won’t, could this super book be published free of paying copyright royalties?

                              Seeing how the UK has been brainwashed with revisionist history by the OCC / Guinness / RR by publishing books, maybe the best way to fight them is to indeed publish a new book as outlined above. Maybe that would be more effective than launching an information campaign to the industry, DJs, writers, magazines, or approaching / infiltrating the OCC?

                              Although creating composite charts weighted by record shops would be my preference at trying to create a new official chart for the 60s, there is a another possibly good alternative. And that would be to pick the best chart for positions 1 to 30, then pick the best chart for positions 31 to 50, making a minor adjustment for when a given record appeared in both.

                              I have to say I still get rather peeved when reading an article in a music magazine, and they quote bogus chart positions. 60’s artist X only had a Y number of # 1’s, and they quote it as fact without stating their source, almost always the OCC / RR. I see it all the time, and I fume each time I read it !!


                              • #16
                                Robin. My view is that I accept the way things were in the 50s-60s. I do not think your method would ever work-who judges what UK stores would be used? Woolworths never did records till mid 70s. W.H smiths only supplied `Top Pops` and many UK independent stores varied greatly in size and types of records stocked. Some sold ten times amounts of records than others! You need the receipts to gauge the sales flow.

                                My aim was to find out as much as I could about how each chart compiler of the period operated. My aim was to see if `Guinness Hit singles` (Early editions) were based on the best chart for the 60s. My research points heavily `NO!!`The BBC used weighted mathematical averages- but there was no accepted `Official` chart of the period. The first `Official` chart, that by B.M.R.B from 13 Feb 1969 turned out to be bedeviled by faults and easy to get into by notorious `chart-fixers`.

                                I am happy to accept UK charts of the 1960s -that's how it was then! I don't believe it estimates no matter how well worked out. If any one could magic up every sales receipt of `every` UK record retailer 1950s-60s I'd be most interested- but I doubt that will happen!


                                • #17
                                  But can you compare any of the charts with each other during this period - surely they would have to be consistent?

                                  I don't think they all compiled on the same day and covered the same period i.e. Tuesday- Monday, Friday - Thursday etc. This could have an effect on positions.


                                  • #18
                                    ALL charts bar Record Retailers were compiled on Monday mornings. The R.R chart was compiled by Jeremy Wilder on each Tuesday morning! Music papers published either Thursday or friday. Retailer changed from Thursday to Wednesdays in July 1967; which is why the Retailer top 50 became very `unstable` for that short period mid/late July 67!


                                    • #19
                                      I know I've harped on about this before, but it bears a reminder when discussions arise around establishing which of a range of UK charts were most accurate and which, if any, can be considered 'official' in retrospect. Basically, naturally keen though we are as chart and music fans to have a singular reliable source for chart history, we're after a Holy Grail that sadly doesn't exist, or only partially-so through gradual step-changes made over the decades. There have been limitations and policies around chart compilation that even in the 'official chart' era have conspired to compromise its ultimate accuracy and completeness when presented to the public as a matter of record. So, let's look at the history of the 'official era':

                                      - Before February 1969: a singular reliable source doesn't exist at all. The RR chart could only possibly be considered as 'official' from when the BMRB took over; prior to that it's a best-guess across 5 sources as Allan has described.
                                      - February 1969 until January 1983: dubious manual diary-completion and only part-computerisation hampered the BMRB era, plus certain major stores still not providing data conspired to render the 'official' chart liable to being a partial picture, affected by hyping and compilation errors.
                                      - July 1975 to May 1978: sales restriction rules applied to positions 41 to 50 which produced a skewed picture of performance in that range. These were removed with the arrival of a Top 75 but the problems above still persisted, albeit to a lesser degree.
                                      - January 1983 to February 1994: full computerisation via EPOS from a larger sample including all major chains vastly-improved accuracy and resisted hyping more effectively, but concerns about chart position validity and total sales figures during the Gallup era persist as during some periods it is questionable whether an appropriate multiplier was being applied to scale up sample data accurately. Plus, although expanded to a Top 200, positions 76 to 200 were subject to restrictions skewing the picture of what were the actual bestsellers in that range.
                                      - February 1994 to (?) 1997: further improvements made and sample size gradually increased under the Millward Brown regime, but variations in sales reports still exist for this period as some sources cite the data derived from the old multiplier system and some the newly-developed 'defined universe' methodology, which wasn't fully-adopted for 3 years. Oh, and the 76 to 200 range was still compressed by restrictions.
                                      - 1997 to 2003: MB's approach bedded-in and arguably produced the most accurate charts yet, although the unpublished 76 to 200 positions remained subject to restrictions as always. And of course, by then the way singles behaved in the chart had altered significantly because of the industry's marketing muscle that manipulated consumers into conforming with a 'front-loaded' first-week of release strategy to maximise entry position!
                                      - 2003 to April 2005: Minor restrictions were also applied to positions 41 to 75 as well as below 75, again potentially skewing the 'real' picture of the official rankings (first time affected higher than 75 since 1978!).
                                      April 2005 to March 2006: the rapidly-rising legal digital download was integrated into the singles chart, and unwelcome obfuscations from previous sales restrictions 41 to 200 were removed. But the integration was only partial, with digital sales only being counted for singles with a physical release available, so again, we do not have a complete picture available in published 'official' charts of sales of both products.
                                      March 2006 to December 2006: download sales rules were relaxed on one hand to allow them to count a week before a physical version was released, but tightened on the other as they could only count for 2 weeks after the physical counterpart was deleted, thereby causing possibly the most unforgivable skew in published charts in recent years, as singles were suddenly starred-out of the rankings even if still selling very well!
                                      January 2007 to present: download and physical sales fully-combined irrespective of whether both available or just the former. Finally we had a Top 200 that more or less reflected the actual true ranking of singles by how much they'd sold, according to data from 99% of the marketplace. But even now there remain some eligibility rules that some might say occasionally still skew the positions; the 'instant grat' rules for example - in the chart for this very week we have a track that shifted over 31K copies to rank at No 7, yet it doesn't appear in the published 'official' table....

                                      This quick analysis shows that for the true singles chart puritan who only wants a ranking of which singles sold the most copies in descending order on all formats across all available platforms week-by-week, arguably we didn't really have anything approaching that luxury until as late as 2007 (and even now it's open to debate - increasingly as streaming takes off as the newest means of consuming tracks and starts to challenge the dominance of the download!). Accuracy and scope gets regressively more narrow the further one goes back through the milestones - 2005, 1997, 1983, 1969. So, the stat books can use a single chart from 1969 to the present, but as long as we remember that throughout almost all of those years, it was subject to either accidental or deliberate interference that meant we as consumers didn't quite get the full picture.

                                      Strangely, grasping this might make the lack of a singular 'official' source for the 1950s and '60s easier to bear?!


                                      • #20
                                        Good summary Gambo.

                                        The situation regarding the top 200 charts from May 1978 to December 1982, not mentioned in your excellent summary, is the most intriguing. BMRB compiled a full top 200 in this period but positions 76 to 200 were never published in full which means we can never find out what was in the majority of those positions. If you recall what I posted a few years ago, each record label was given information about where the titles released on their label stood in the top 200 in positions below number 75 but they were never given the positions of any record released on any other label. If you recall, Alan Jones compiled and published in Record Mirror a 76-100 in February 1980 for one week based on information he had received from a number of sources and titles that appeared in those positions showed that the BMRB weren't applying any exclusion rules. Like the similarly not published 51-100 from February 1969 to April 1978 it would be wonderful if anyone could ever get access to the full charts that were compiled back then. Sadly, it is a forlorn hope as the information is most likely lost forever.

                                        Those full charts (from 1969-1982) are like the Holy Grail of charts and if anyone does have the full top 100 / 200 they would be in possession of the most valuable piece of chart history. The full top 200, based purely on sales, from 1983 onwards is available (albeit for many years within this period no longer to the public) as every chart report produced by either Gallup or Millward Brown has included titles which were "starred out" and because of this it is easy enough to compile a full top 200 based purely on sales as if no exclusion rules were being applied.


                                        • #21
                                          It perhaps should be noted that any company employed to produce anything that has the potential to make someone money could be infiltrated by certain persons from outside it and those working inside it can also be "corrupted" to alter data or give insider information to those that should not have it.
                                          Even in the very early days of the charts, Colin Brown, whose recent collection of charts from prior to 1952 has just been published, spoke openly of the NME charts of the 1950's as being made up by the girls in the office. He must have had access to the distributors' sales figures after the cut off period of his charts to state that the NME charts were totally "made up" to back up this claim, which his early charts are based on. As yet the OCC won't accept these early charts as part of the "cannon" of the charts.
                                          Though it might be that no evidence is available or has been found, the possibility of one or more of the chart producing companies own effects on the producing of the charts is great. This could range from the deliberate manipulation of the chart, to the working practices that would slant the chart in a different direction, that have not been disclosed or is being kept hidden. Even the corruption element can't be ruled out.
                                          Deliberate acts might include supplying information as to which shops took part in the survey, even down to making certain that certain stores would be included. Supplying security information to persons to gain access to computer sales information figures. None deliberate acts would include leaving out data which should have been included, generally to save money or costs, or keep to schedule. Plus other measures on these lines to keep costs lower, but showing up in the accounts as being done.
                                          It should also be pointed out that none of the companies did it for free and the charts were commissioned by the music industry and even now are not independent of it. Something that is apparent even today with the use of the rules on "instant grat" where the record company decides which tracks qualify and which don't.
                                          Indeed the rules of the charts are set out by the music industry itself, which some people would state to be a conflict of interest.
                                          Stores taking part in the survey were paid a fee to do so. This meant that such stores themselves could have altered the chart sales to clear unsellable stock. Prior to the download era records had to be supplied to the shops. Since it wasn't to difficult for a record company to find out which of these stores could be a chart shops it paid them to keep these well stocked. But none chart shops, might have sold no copies of the single in the chart due to it being out of stock, whilst it could be number one in the survey sample, it could be much lower in sales due to the lower stock level in none chart shops.
                                          In a recent BBC documentary it was pointed out the EPOS bar code system was easily fixed by multi scans of the same single. The record industry was also able to fix sales by offering record stores a special price on singles. This meant that if a shop agreed to the deal they could sell CD singles at prices ranging from 99p to 1,99p, instead of 3.99p. They could only do this if the agreed to sell some of the stock at full price, or should I say give the record company the full cost. If they couldn't sell them they had to loose money on them in the bargain bin section. This resulted in many singles entering the top 10 and falling rapidly the following week.
                                          Any computer system itself can of course be "hacked". I read in a computer magazine in the 1990's that several IT students had hacked into some major systems (including defence ones). They had been caught, but the judge (even though they had been found guilty) gave them only a ticking off, on the grounds it would "damage" their future careers in the IT world!... It just goes to prove that any computer based system can be tricked or tampered with.
                                          Lastly the computer based system to collect data is a software program. Due to the nature of collecting data from a multitude of different sources the software has to be developed to deal with any problems the system can chuck at it. For example if a store data was lost or not supplied. Rather than leaving the data out, the system can generate the "sales" based on a formula as if the data had been supplied. There was an occasion when this system detected an error due to stores closing on Christmas Day that had to be corrected. Another time the code for a packet of KP Salted Peanuts got detected by the chart computer and the Peanuts were going to be a new entry on the charts till just a few hours before it was about to produce the weekly chart, when someone spotted the error and removed the Peanuts from the system.
                                          Education for anyone aged 12 to 16 has made a mess of the world!


                                          • #22
                                            Graham - all perfectly valid points and worth remembering when assessing relative validity of our charts at any point in time, including right now. I thought that 'peanuts' story was apocryphal but maybe not?! I do hope it actually happened, if only to remind ourselves that sometimes it's better not to take chart compilation too seriously!

                                            Robbie - thanks for the comments. Yes, I do recall the March '80 Alan Jones 'full' Top 100 and that this seems to have been derived from contacting various labels to establish positions of their releases as disclosed by BMRB. I agree that these fuller tables from the 1969-'82 years are probably now lost to us forever, but then a few years back who'd have imagined that any sort of systematic data about UK singles sales prior to 1952 would emerge? So, you never quite know what someone might unearth from a long-since disused garage somewhere.

                                            Despite all the observations above, there's still much value in obtaining fuller charts wherever possible, and it was looking like this could at least become a reality for January '83 onwards courtesy of the Gallup reports being kept by the BPI. But just as people started to investigate around 2009, they closed their doors! It's more frustrating to know that information is definitely out there, but it isn't accessible. It would've been a mammoth task to work through, but I reckon by now, determination and diligence of a few UKMixers would've ensured that we'd have had a good number of those reports retrieved, copied, processed and posted...


                                            • #23
                                              Yes! The period 1952-69 is an `annoyance` for chartologists who want everything in `Black & White` but I have always believed in reporting the era-just how it was! `No single chart was "Prime/Official" et al! Even after 13 Feb 1969 the BMRB chart wasn't immediatly recognised by all sections of the market & Industry. The BMRB chart NEVER got in anywhere close to its proposed 300 returns for its chart! It endured countless tied positions on what was a full sales calculated chart-the maths of this point to only %10 -25 of returns availible or valid to use! Even by May 1976 the BMRB only got in 156 out of the 300 to use- this figure comes from Michael Cable's book "The Pop Industry Inside Out".


                                              • #24
                                                OOPS! Apologies- the BMRB figure for May 76 was 159 from a sample of 299. I really should read my own article more!!


                                                • #25
                                                  Hi Alan. Is the book "The Pop Music Industry Inside Out" worth buying? Amazon have a few sellers selling the book from £5 upwards and I'm wondering if it's worth buying? I notice the book was published in 1977 - does it analyse the charts from back then in depth or is the size of the BMRB sample just mentioned in passing?