Anniversaries are quite the thing at the moment, I hear. We spent the summer celebrating the Queen's Jubilee (just in the nick of time as it turned out), and as I write the festivities are in full swing for the BBC's own 100th birthday retrospective.
But November will also mark another particular milestone - the 70th anniversary of the singles chart in the UK, as dated back to the inception of the NME Charts in their November 14th 1952 issue.
Official Charts in their various forms have celebrated several ten-year anniversaries in the past. Although the 40th birthday in 1992 was largely driven by the NME itself, the 50th anniversary in 2002 marked a kind of watershed, the first time the newly rebranded Official UK Charts Company had positioned itself in any sort of consumer space, launching a proper website for the first time and setting itself up as a brand to represent the British music industry.
2012's 60th birthday stepped things up a gear still further with special radio shows and branded publications, most notably the "Million Sellers - The UK's Greatest Hits" book which was published that year (and which meant to my amusement at the time that they had to hold off announcing new million-selling singles for several months just to ensure the book didn't date the moment it hit the shelves).
Which brings us neatly to this coming month. November 2022 will mark the 70th anniversary of the British charts. Thanks to the hard and often far too unsung work of Lauren and Helen from the Official Charts brand and marketing team they are, to say the least, going to town to celebrate.
For chart fans (and music fans of any vintage) worldwide, this is the full list of celebratory activity coming your way:
The UK’s Official Most Streamed Songs
BBC Radio 2 will broadcast a bespoke chart, compiled by Official Charts with additional research by the BPI, featuring the most-streamed song released in each year since 1952. The chart will be available on BBC Sounds from Friday 4 November as a BBC Sounds collection called The UK’s Official Most Streamed Songs.
On air, Radio 2 will broadcast the rundown for 1960-1999 during a succession of Sounds Of The 60s/70s/80s/90s shows on Saturday / Sunday 11 and 12 November, alongside a one-off BBC Sounds programme hosted by Paul Gambaccini - Most Streamed Songs of the 50s - showcasing the tracks from 1952-1959.
Meanwhile, on BBC Radio 1, Jack Saunders will reveal the most-streamed songs released between 2000-2022.
I was having conversations with those in the know about just how this is intended to work given the inevitable skew towards Christmas songs in many years. Apparently, this is to be taken into account in some way. I also learned that the "release year" of a song is considered to be the date its parent album came out. Fascinatingly that means Don't Look Back In Anger by Oasis won't qualify as the most-streamed hit of 1996 (as it is on Spotify). The identity of the real biggest song of 1996 may well come as a shock - but I won't spoil it.
BBC Radio 2 – The Listeners Chart
Steve Wright (he's back already!) will present The Listeners’ Chart, telling the story of the UK's affinity with the charts over the past seven decades; the part they played in the listeners’ childhoods, the teen years and as a connection for friends and family, gathering together to listen every week.
Following a request for stories, listeners have sent in their own memories and stories about the charts including big chart battles including those between The Beatles and Rolling Stones, Blur and Oasis, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Victoria Beckham. The show will be available on BBC Sounds from Friday 4 November.
Relax, I'm not on it.
In addition, Greatest Hits Radio will broadcast a special week-long chart countdown – their biggest to date. The UK’s Top 300 Most Streamed Songs of the 70s, 80s and 90s, compiled by the Official Charts Company, kicks off at 11am this coming Monday (24th) on Mark Goodier’s mid-morning show. The Number 1 will be revealed on the station on the afternoon of Friday 28th October just ahead of Simon Mayo’s Drivetime Show.
The radio network has done a number of these in the past couple of years, and they can make for some awkward listening - particularly when they have to play Nirvana tracks at 10am on a Saturday morning. Oh yes, that happened.
British Music Experience - 70 Years of the Official Singles Chart
The UK’s Museum of Popular Music, British Music Experience (BME) in Liverpool, is hosting an exhibition celebrating 70 years of the Official Singles Chart with a particular focus on Number 1s - from legendary chart battles to Christmas hits, record breakers, novelty records, one-hit wonders and more. 70 Years of the Official Singles Chart runs at the British Music Experience in Liverpool’s Cunard Building from 16 November 2022 until 5 March 2023.
To launch the exhibition, BME will host a special evening in conversation with Peter Hooton and Keith Mullin from The Farm – they will discuss their heroes and influences, as well as their own singles successes including the 2012 Christmas Number 1 with the Justice Collective, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Tickets for the launch event on 17 November are £8 each and went on sale last Friday (14th October). You can still grab them from www.britishmusicexperience.com.
The Official Charts’ Music Quiz Book
The Official Charts’ Music Quiz Book: Put Your Chart Music Knowledge to the Test! has been compiled using the Official Charts Company’s definitive music database and will test readers’ knowledge of seven decades of music history, from the most successful artists of all time to one-hit wonders and everything in between (it says here)
Featuring a foreword by BBC Radio 1's Official Chart host Jack Saunders and afterword by former chart host Mark Goodier, the book contains hundreds of quizzes dedicated to specific genres, artists, Christmas Number 1s and more, and is packed with challenges for pop music lovers and chart nerds alike.
The Official Charts' Music Quiz Book: Put Your Chart Music Knowledge to the Test! has been lovingly piut together by my good friend Lee Thompson (the master of music industry quiz nights). It hits the shelves for real on October 27th, but you can click below to pre-order.
Record Collector Magazine
November’s Record Collector Magazine celebrates 70 years of the Official Singles Chart with an 18-page cover feature journeying through 70 landmark singles from the last 70 years, while reflecting the culture and events happening at the time. Written by pop history expert, Saint Etienne mainstay (and my own great mate) Bob Stanley, the feature also includes contributions from producer/artist Trevor Horn, 10CC mainstay Graham Gouldman and Official Charts chief executive Martin Talbot.
The November 2022 edition of Record Collector Magazine is available on news stands now or from recordcollectormag.com.
NOW That’s What I Call Music! have unveiled NOW #1s, a 5-CD TV-advertised compilation featuring 100 of the greatest chart-toppers from the past seven decades.
From Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to Olivia Rodrigo’s Drivers License, Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize to Girls Aloud’s The Promise and everything in between, this really could be the best playlist you’ll ever have.
The powers that be are quite proud of the work that has gone into this one, the album featuring several tracks that are notoriously almost impossible to compile. The album is due for release on November 11th, but once more you can order it below.
This is the bit that may cost me money.
Official Charts will be making available a personalised limited edition Number 1 Award just for fans, to commemorate 70 years of the Official Singles Chart. The fan awards are exclusive replicas of the world-famous Official Number 1 award which, until recently, had only been available to artists who achieve an Official UK Number 1 single or album.
The awards are cast from polished, plated aluminium, exclusively numbered and delivered with a presentation box & stand – and are available for pre-order on November 1 from shop.officialcharts.com, and released on November 14.
Yes, I'm getting one. Try to stop me.
And there's still more to come. Official Charts has been working with media production company Livid Gorilla to compile a bespoke chart celebrating the best that British music has to offer, for broadcast across international audiences.
The show will be a dedicated weekly radio, podcast and video show featuring the Top 30 songs by British artists each week, to promote British music across the world in primarily English-speaking territories as well as some non-English countries, with translated versions of the show also to be produced. More information including launch date will be confirmed in the coming months.
Now, that's what I call an anniversary celebration.