Question about old UK Sheet Music Sales lists from Billboard

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Postby VelaLuka » Sun Oct 15, 2017 1:10 am

Hello,

For the pre-New Musical Express-period I have the "British Hit Singles"-book by Steve Waters and the "England's Top Twenty"-Sheet Music sales-lists.
The book by Steve Waters is really great, but I think that a lot of hits have been forgotten during the compiling of these weekly lists.
So, as an example, the "Hop Scotch Polka" is only listed as a B-side from the Tanner Sisters' "Jealous Heart" with peak-position 23.
But the most popular version by Guy Lombardo never reached the Top 30 in the book.

The same thing with "Dear Hearts and gentle People". Only listed as a B-side too from Bing Crosby's "Mule Train",
but Dinah Shore's version is not to be found in it.

The Billboards' "Sheet music chart" include many big titles in their Top Twenty, which are not to find in the book with Top 30-lists.

Is there a reference-book or a chance to find out which version of a song exactly was the most popular in UK, because very often there were five or more different record releases of a song. How to find out this?
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Postby Graham76man » Sun Oct 15, 2017 5:13 pm

The Steve Waters book is based on the returns of the music publishers. It's basically a list of what the shops ordered the most each week. Though it's probably more accurate as a guide to the sales than the later NME charts after 1952.
Sadly it has one drawback. It constantly lists the wrong side of the record. So most of the number ones are infact records what most people would not remember. It's a bit like listing nearly all the B sides of the 60's number ones!
You can check the records on the 45cat website.
http://www.45worlds.com/78rpm/

There is a listing also on another site that has a list of the various records that are covered by the sheet music charts.
http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/popmusichistory/
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Postby VelaLuka » Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:36 pm

Big thanks Graham!

So, this is exactly the problem in Steve Waters book.
I still have the other list, where all artists which performed a song are listed.
For the "Hop Scotch Polka" were three artists listed for the No.1-position
but how to find out which version was the most sold record in UK?
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Postby Graham76man » Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:43 pm

It's very difficult to find out the true sales of records before the later 1950's for the UK. The record industry just didn't keep accurate records. The problem with records shipped out to shops is that they were of course 78rpm types very easily broken. Sometimes there are indications of what records sold in the music press papers. But they are only in connection with the fact that a record had sold massively.
The industry was more concerned with Sheet Music sales rather than records. In fact until the New Musical Express charts proved very popular with record buyers and thus putting pressure on the Industry. It was hostile to charts based on record sales. The record shops themselves were also hostile to the idea of giving out sales information. For some that continued till the late 70's. They saw it as giving away sales information to competitors!
What you are likely to get information wise is the shipping figures for records. Very similar to those in that book. I and others have looked at the shipping figures featured in the book and clearly some stop when they would have continued. The strangest ones of course are the Christmas records. And the fact Bing Crosby is always top then falls out straight after Christmas. Of course what this shows is that the Bing record was ordered by the shops or sent out by the record company in vast numbers. But that doesn't mean it was even number one. Even if it was selling well it certainly would not have dropped out after Christmas. You will also see that the new hits all come in the first week or second of each month. Again this is when they were sent out by the record companies. There was no weekly release week like there are these days. Records were sent out mostly in the first week of each month. Of course the public had to buy the records and they probably started low and increased over the weeks. In some cases the distribution of the records seems to have stopped far too early. As the record would have very popular being top on the Sheet Music charts. The record company would have been unlikely to pull the plug on a record that is even mentioned on the sheet music number one!
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Postby VelaLuka » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:40 pm

Graham,
you're great! Thank you for that precisely informations.
I found your fantastic blog with the "Real Charts" from the years 1948 and 1949 and it really makes me happy.
Especially your corrections of the wrong taken record-sides which were in the Steve Waters-book.
But as your Real Charts are record-sale listings, can we say that the first song listed for an artists record were the real hits and the most popular or the songs of the B-side too?
As an example:
11. January 1948:
No.1 - Leslie A. Hutchinson - Peg o' my Heart / Now is the Hour

Was "Now is the Hour" a smash hit too?

I know that it's a hard work to compile the Real Charts, but do you think that maybe in future you can do a listing from the years 1950 to 1955 too like you did for 1948 and 1949?

Kind regards
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Postby Graham76man » Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:12 am

I am glad you like the Real Charts, I was reluctant to mention them on this site as some members here do not appreciate them.
The charts are sales of single A or double AA side records, so the Leslie A Hutchinson record was a double sided record. Generally speaking if both sides are listed then they were being asked for a lot by the public. If the other side of the record is not listed, even though it might contain a tune that is featured on Sheet Music charts, then the public rarely asked for that side of the record. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are down to space reasons on my part for listing records on the charts.
Not all 78 records list a side designation also, but generally nearly all the Brunswick records do. However the Real Chart, doesn't list Record Labels as the chart lists ALL sales, even those sold in the UK, from other countries.
Though it is my intention to continue with the 1950's records at some point, my current intention is to continue with the 1966 charts and later with the 1985 charts, when BBC Four get round to showing 1985 TOTP next year hopefully.
Though it is slightly quicker to sort out the the top 40 charts than it is to do a top 100, they all take time to do. Some of the problem is to do with sorting out release date information. For example the 45 Cat site search results are restricted to only 100 records. And as the numbers of records released goes up in later years more than 100 records are issued each month, breaking the limit of the search results. Certainly by 1954 I would think that more than 100 records are released each month and that system doesn't end till about 1963, when the weekly one comes in. Even after that date it is not till 1965 that enough records are listed weekly on the 45 Cat site to get a full selection to use for the charts sorting out. This year I tried to sort out the new releases for 1964, but had to give up as far too many are listed only down to the month.
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Postby VelaLuka » Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:36 am

Hello Graham,
for me it doesn't matter if other users appreciate these lists or not. I can tell you that they are fantastic!
If other people think that for their historical UK-charts they better took the lists in which 5 or 6 artists for a song were listed at the same time, let them take it.
And as there were no real charts for the period before 1952, your created "Real charts" are better than nothing.
If we would take the "England's Sheet Top Twenty" from Billboard it's not a real overview of what was really popular and to create Top 20-lists with artists shown it would be very complicated too and I would not put Eddy Howard, Charlie Spivak, Gracie Fields and Gordon Jenkins together with Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" at the No.1-position. The same thing which would be wrong is to list only Bing Crosby's version at No. 1 but not to give a chart-position to the other artists which versions were very popular too, but not enough for the No. 1-position. This is the biggest problem if we would try to create chart-lists from the Sheet music-lists, because every title is listed at only one position.
So, for me you have done a fantastic work and you made my day when I found your lists.
I am from Germany and maybe you heard that the oldest German chart-lists began in April 1954. For the period before nothing exists. No Best Seller-lists, no Juke Box-charts and no Sheet music sales-lists. I became from a music historian precisely created weekly Top 20-lists which will go back to the 1920's.
A lot of chart-collectors do not appreciate these lists too, but for me they are golden. Better this than nothing!
So, I can tell you again, your lists are fantastic!
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Postby MrTibbs » Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:58 pm

Graham is actually spot on, on all he says above. Sometimes there are no answers to what we want to know in bygone years. For example many chart enthusiasts, including myself, have argued at to which chart was the most respected before February 1969 when the first 'Official' chart was launched in the UK by the BMRB.
But the fact is that there is no chart record anywhere of which versions were the biggest sellers on record prior to November 1952. History is History. The best we have to live with is versions available against songs in the Sheet Music Chart that were available at the time.
Remember that The Sheet Music Chart and like Graham said Sheet Music ruled at this time. Not records. Indeed more UK households had pianos than record players back then. In a way records have gone the same way now ironically, as streaming and downloading have largely replaced physical sales. It irks me to still heat the chart referred to as a singles chart when it has actually now reverted to being a song chart. The wheel goes full circle.
Also from the late forties when Radio Luxembourg broadcast the Top Twenty Show on a Sunday night they used the Top Twenty Sheet Music chart and broadcast different versions of songs available each week. That was the time and that was the chart that was accepted.
Also although the NME introduced the first record chart back in November 1952 this was very much seen as a novelty against the accepted and much more accurately compiled sheet music chart. It would be around 1955 before the record chart overtook the sheet music chart in respect of being the dominant chart.
I also agree with Graham on the Hit Singles book being littered with wrong sides. Don't get me wrong it's a useful resource for what shops were stocking but at best it just a guide and certainly no indicator as to what and by whom was selling weekly.
But without such mysteries and debate this site would be much less interesting and Graham and many others here have amassed huge amounts of relevant information which they kindly share here and we should be grateful for that.
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Postby CatoFur » Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:35 pm

Agree wholeheartedly with Mr Tibbs. And like VelaLuka, I enjoy Graham's Real Charts for what they are.

Oh, and if VelaLuka is doing German charts back into the twenties, I for one would be very interested.

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