As the UK’s Official Singles Chart celebrates its 60th anniversary, the BBC will be broadcasting a range of special programmes - across television and radio - that will take a unique look back at this musical institution.
From the record industry’s involvement, to illegal music downloading and the effect this had on the sale of singles, to the 2006 surge in online music buying, Pop Charts Britannia: 60 Years Of The Top 10 (Friday, November 16, BBC Four) will provide a fascinating insight into the extraordinary history of the singles chart.
Since 1952 - the year the NME invented the British singles chart - music lovers have ritualised and shared the experience of the charts on radio and on TV. Whether sitting around the television set with the entire family discussing an edition of Top Of The Pops in the seventies or taping Dr Fox or Mark Goodier in the secrecy of their bedrooms, the charts was a part of growing up and made for weekly water-cooler moments.
For their part, the charts, as the ultimate expression of the consumer, have said more about British popular culture than the history books would care to admit. The charts show that the spirit of the age is sometimes better represented by the massively popular than the profound.
The programme features contributions from BBC broadcasters including David Jacobs, Pete Murray, Bob Harris, Paul Gambaccini and Reggie Yates, alongside pop legends like Sir Cliff Richard, pop fans and chart enthusiasts such as Grace Dent and music biz insiders Jon Webster and Rob Dickins.
The Joy Of The Single (Friday, November 23, BBC Four) is packed with startling memories, vivid images and penetrating insights into the enduring power of pop and rock’s first and most abiding artefact - the seven inch, vinyl 45 rpm record; a small, perfectly formed object that seemed to miraculously contain the hopes, fears, sounds and experiences of a generation.
Even the digital revolution has failed to kill it off. More than ever, downloaders are targeting single songs for their already cluttered MP3 players. At a time when physical objects are fast disappearing, we’re still thinking in terms of the form and length of the classic single. Why is that?
In the confident hands of a star-studded cast, The Joy Of The Single spins a tale of obsession, addiction, dedication and desire. Viewers will be invited on a journey of celebration: from the smell of vinyl to the delights of the record label; from the importance of the record shop to the bitter-sweet brevity of song itself; from stacking singles on a Dansette spindle to dropping the needle and thrilling to the intro. With a cast that includes Jack White, Norman Cook, Graham Gouldman, Richard Hawley, Neil Sedaka, Norah Jones, Mike Batt and many more.
Mark Cooper, Creative Head, BBC Music Entertainment and the Executive Producer of these docs says: “The singles chart and the single itself are the key drivers of pop, and while both documentaries suggest we are leaving one era of music-buying behind, hopefully these programmes celebrate the world we grew up in - record shops, vinyl, Top Of The Pops, the Radio 1 chart rundown - and also point to the future.”
On BBC Radio 2, Tony Blackburn will be presenting two special Pick Of The Pops (Saturday, November 10 and Saturday, November 17), programmes marking 60 years of the Official Singles Chart as we know it. As compiled by the Official Charts Company, Tony will be playing the bestselling song from each year in chronological order, from 1952 right up until 2012. In the first programme, he will be playing the bestselling songs from 1952 to 1985. Programme two will feature singles from 1986 to 2012.
Over on BBC Radio 6 Music, Steve Lamacq’s show (Monday-Thursday, November 12-16) has commissioned the Official Charts Company to produce bespoke charts for the station.
The singles chart and the single itself are the key drivers of pop and while both documentaries suggest we are leaving one era of music buying behind, hopefully these programmes celebrate the world we grew up in - record shops, vinyl, Top Of The Pops, the Radio 1 chart rundown - and also point to the future."