When the Charts were King

Embarking on some modest annual early Spring cleaning, I hit upon this, and many more like it. Look at the care with which I have preserved this chart from nearly 55 years ago. Why did I underline certain songs? No idea, except that from about 1957 to 1962 (aged 14-19) I started compiling a chart analysis which could readily have led to me being the instigator of the Guinness Hit Singles series! This was the day when the NME was THE paper to read (though when a copy from that period comes my way now I realise that it was largely snippets of news, reviews and gossip and virtually no proper interviews or features). Still, Percy Dickins, NME’s advertising manager and father to Barry and Rob, had come up with the idea of introducing a Top 30 chart for Pop Singles in the UK, based on the Billboard version for America. It also was alleged to have been a good money-making venture as, for an undisclosed sum, the record company could slip a single in at No.30!

Note too the Top 24 Sheet Music Sales. Sheet music had had its own chart for some years before record sales merited special attention. Remember, this was the era of ballrooms – every town had one and every ballroom had its resident orchestra. To attract a younger crowd, brought on by the advent of rock’n’roll a couple of years earlier, the orchestras had to play the current hits, and you’ll notice the sheet music chart petty much mirrors the record sales.

It’s a fascinating musical melange, American rock’n’roll (this was all pre-Cliff, Marty, Billy, etc. and Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan must have been between singles) two by Elvis plus the end of the Jailhouse Rock EP, Danny & Juniors, Crickets and Buddy Holly in that strange period where these were both the same, Jerry Lee, Little Richard, Johnny Otis with Marie Adams and the Two Tons of Joy, and Larry Williams….plus two instrumentals – Raunchy and Mandy. Note that the American “Raunchy” original by Bill Justis sits there not far above Ken Mackintosh’s UK cover version. Note Ronnie Hilton’s cover of Magic Moments – Perry is there at the top, but there are still people wanting one of the several British versions available. The British A&R elite would anxiously await the latest transatlantic shipment of the latest releases from RCA and Columbia in America, and would be desperate to “cover’ the latest hit ballad. So you’ll also find Frankie Vaughan doing “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” (an American hit on Dot for Jimmie Rodgers, released here by Columbia and sitting a couple of place below).

Alongside come the balladeers, new and old…two by Sinatra, Michael Holliday, Petula Clark, Alma Cogan, Marion Ryan, Malcolm Vaughan (no relation!), Tony Brent, David Whitfield, King Brothers, and new American balladeers pretending to be part of rock’n’roll – Paul Anka and Pat Boone.

Finally, a glance at the American Top 20 and see those who failed to make any chart impact here-Silhouettes, Royal Teens, Crescendos, Roy Hamilton, Diamonds and Billy & Lillie. Also, only Perry Como and Frank Sinatra represent the old school, showing how America led the way in the teenage music revolution.

Looking again at the underlined songs – I have to guess that these were the ones I’d bought, thought why red or blue is lost in time.  One chart – so many memories.

NME chart March 1958

About dhvinyl

Lifelong obsession with music, 33 years in the music business, 40 years immersed in selling old records, 18 years retired!
This entry was posted in A Life in Music - random memories and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to When the Charts were King

  1. You’ve been lying to me about your age, Hughes! 😉

    Seriously, thanks for this – good stuff. And did you know you have a letter in Record Collector this month?


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