IF you’re reading this column I’m guessing that you must be a music fan.
IF you’re reading this column I’m guessing that you must be a music fan. Either that or you’ve taken a shine to my profile picture below (and who could blame you?).
As the second of those is highly unlikely, I’ll stick with the first and ask you what is the current Number One UK hit single? Until about a decade ago I’m confident I would have known in a shot and I’m guessing quite a few of you were the same.
A combination of a love of pop stats, pub quizzes and a weekly appointment with Top of the Pops, ensured I was always down with the kids to some extent, but these days I’ll admit I had to check (for those still wondering, it’s Robbie Williams, which is rather like finding out Friends is still being shown Channel 4).
Last week, exactly 60 years ago, NME ran its very first rundown of the UK’s biggest selling singles. For Robbie Williams, read Al Martino’s Here in my Heart, but bubbling just underneath were the likes of Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine and Max Bygraves’ Cowpuncher's Cantata.
Just like a football league table, various teams (and supporters) battled it out to overtake each other and reach the summit on a campaign that could last months (Celine Dion's Think Twice took 13 long weeks to climb to the top in 1995).
It’s hardly surprising that for a kid obsessed with lists, this ever changing chart of runners and riders proved fascinating. I did have form in this area: I was once given detention for spending a science lesson copying out football league tables from the 1930s. What did I then decide to do during those forbidden play times? Why write my own history of the First Division of course!
I also kept scrap books of the England cricket team’s disastrous foreign tours of the 1980s and once spent a whole summer transcribing a copy of Wisden because I was bored.
As sport began to be superseded by music (around the time I began to fancy Transvision Vamp’s Wendy James I think), the weekly chart rundown started to replace the Third Division (North) in my affections.
It’s a cliche, but I too was one of those of prepubescents crouching over his ghetto blaster with a C90 waiting for Bruno Brookes to announce that Then Jericho had fallen six places this week.
I’d love to have been able to afford a different tape each week but after listening to the recording over and over again, I would then simply tape over it with the next week’s chart.
This constant and studious analysis of the chart, clearly had quite an effect on my tastes as I began to search for my own musical identity. Around 1989, I remember hearing more and more dance records and although my initial scepticism about how Orbital’s Chime could possibly be better than The Mission’s Wasteland, I was soon won over. This was also the year that Bruno began introducing more and more songs with the words: “here is a new band from Manchester”.
I was instantly smitten after hearing both the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays on the run down and can remember actually cheering when listening to the news that The Charlatans had crashed into the top ten with The Only One I Know.
Moving on a few years and the charts still seemed incredibly important: the invasion of the upper reaches of the rundown by various Brit Poppers felt like the gate crashing of a rather bland school disco, while the Blur v Oasis battle for number one famously made the news headlines.
Tell that to the kids today and they won’t believe you but I’ve got a C90 that says different.