Top critical review
There was no "official" chart before Feb 1969, they chose the wrong chart to represent the 60s
on 17 January 2017
Good book, buy it, and have fun fun fun! I love chart books, they help me remember the songs of my youth, and inform me how popular songs were relative to each other, by peak chart position and number of weeks on the chart. That said, there is one flaw to this book, and that is there was no “official” chart prior to Feb 1969. Rather there were 5 major independent charts (NME, Record Mirror, Melody Maker, Disc, Record Retailer) plus the BBC average chart (Pick of the Pops on radio, Top of the Pops on TV), over different overlapping time periods, that sampled a different number of record shops to produce their weekly charts. But to fill in the historical blanks prior to Feb 1969, decades after the fact the Official Charts Co. (and the previous Guinness books) declared the NME chart to be the “official” chart of the 50s (no problem with that since this was a good choice), and the Record Retailer (RR) chart to be “official” for the 60s (a horrendous and worst possible decision).
RR was the least accurate chart of the 60s, had the most problems getting their weekly data in on time, had the highest volatility in lower chart positions week to week, had the smallest circulation and visibility, and sampled the fewest number of record shops. Almost no one who followed pop music in the 60s knew that the RR chart even existed. It is a brazen rewrite of history to suggest RR was the “official” chart of the 60s. It would have been much better to go with either NME, Melody Maker, or the BBC.
One can say that all the charts basically agreed with each other, the same records were in the same general chart position vicinity across all the charts, they mostly only differed on exact positions. The biggest problem thus occurs when someone or something (books, magazines, contests) claims such-and-such a record of the 60s was or was not #1 on the charts, and they are using the RR/Official charts to base that claim. Here are the 2 most famous reasons why RR is inaccurate. In 1963, The Beatles “Please Please Me” reached #1 on the NME, Melody Maker, and Disc charts for 2 weeks, based on 270 record shops, and 3 weeks on the BBC average chart. It only reached #2 on the RR chart, based on 30 record shops. Which is more correct, 270 or 30? Unfortunately, PPM is being denied its true historical #1 position decades after the fact because of 30 record shops. What is even more outrageous is that The Beatles own record company left “Please Please Me” off their “1” CD, now denying that it was a #1 smash. Totally unbelievable, and total rubbish! The other reason, the same thing happened to The Rolling Stones “19th Nervous Breakdown” in 1966. #1 on the NME, MM, Disc, and BBC average charts for 3 weeks each, but only peaked at #2 on RR. The Official Charts Co says actual history is wrong, that it was instead only a #2 hit. Ugh...
What’s the solution to this dilemma? 2 parts. One: prior to the start of the official charts in Feb 1969, a record’s peak should be credited as the highest peak it received across all 5 of the major UK independent charts. No qualifiers. If a record hit #1 on any of the 5 charts, then it was a #1 hit, period. Two: the Official Charts Co should take the NME weekly charts (since they were the first, starting in 1952), and add the corresponding chart positions of all the other charts for each record, off to the right. So each record would display between 3 and 5 chart positions on each weekly chart. You could see right there in black and white the differences across all the charts. And throw in the BBC chart positions for extra measure, as this was the chart that most of the UK lived thru and followed each week as it was on radio and TV, you couldn’t get away from it.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how things were 1952 to Feb 1969. What the Official Charts Co claims as history prior to Feb 1969 is not true and factual, it flat out did not happen. But don’t take my word for it, do an internet search for “UKMix updated chart history” and you’ll find an article by UK chart historian and expert Alan Smith, who literally spent years in tracking down this information on the true history of the UK charts. Let me add I don’t intend to dismiss the RR chart flat out, it did represent about 13% of UK record shops 1962-69 (NME 30%, MM 40%, Disc 17%). It just did not represent 100% of them, and to assume so is completely wrong. For extreme chart nuts, you can also track down used copies of NME and Record Mirror chart books. I haven’t seen any Melody Maker or Disc chart books though. But all charts are also out there in internet land somewhere. Also beware that a lot of UK chart books and websites don’t give you the source of their data. Most are using the so-called “official” charts, i.e., NME for the 50s, Record Retailer for the 60s, and the Official charts after Feb 1969. The easy way to tell, if “Please Please Me” and “19th Nervous Breakdown” are listed as #2 hits, then it’s the so-called “official” charts. Just keep that in mind. Now buy this book and have fun fun fun!! (Please forgive the 3 star rating, I only did this to make my review stand out a little more so that people would discover the relevant information above)