60 years of the UK singles chart: they are getting more volatile


It is the 60th anniversary of the UK singles chart this year. The charts launched in 1952. A couple of years ago I spent some time looking back through a list of UK no. 1 songs. It’s a really interesting historical document. What I thought was particularly interesting was how it showed the way that music cultures had accelerated over time. What was noticeable was that the number of No. 1s per year massively increased as the decades passed. In the early years of the chart it was typical to have much fewer No.1s in a year, with songs hanging around at no.1 for much longer (and sometimes even returning to number one later in the year). The as we move through to the 2000s the number of no.1s in a year increased with songs typically only lasting a week or two (with the occasional exception of course). But the increase in the number of no.1s per year was very noticeable, suggesting that these music cultures are moving more quickly and that they are reporting on more fragmented musical tastes. The result is that music charts are much more volatile now. I hope to write up my study of the music charts soon.

To celebrate the anniversary there is an interactive best ever UK no.1s site here. And here is a related article I wrote a while ago about the end of the music chart show Top of the Pops.

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