It's the new!
On Radio 1
For the first thirty years or so of Radio One's life, the station was driven by the charts. Not every programme, of course. Even so, the programmes which weren't built on an obsession with what records would go up, which would go down, which wouldn't make the cut, even these were defined as much by their lack of interest in the charts.
It's less marked now, of course, because the chart is less important nationally, and for those that still have an interest, there are many places where you can find the data. But back when the list of best-selling singles had some pull, its importance was such that it would get no less than four reveals.
The computers of the chart compilers - BRMB, then Gallup - used to run much slower, and the lack of computery-based instant data meant that although sales were still closed off at the weekend (Saturday nights, because no shops opened on Sundays selling records), the chart was never ready until Tuesday lunchtimes. They used to telex it across to Radio One - which, young people, was blooding exciting new technology, albeit so old you were getting the news that KajaGooGoo were at number one in the same way that they arrested Crippen - where it would get its big reveal after Newsbeat.
Of course, only office workers, kids who'd smuggled transistors into school and invalids would be aware of the shape of the new chart, so it would get another run-out at teatime. Peter Powell's show, for a very long time, got this honour.
The next day, the Breakfast Show would repeat the information, in only a slightly truncated form: the numbers up, the numbers down; playing the highest new entry, the biggest climber and the number one.
Then, Sunday nights, and the whole thing would be worked through with forensic detail. All forty records, complete with a summary of that week's performance: their progress on the chart measured in the SI unit of sales data, "the big Top 40 place". So you might have gone down ten big Top 40 places, or up seven big Top 40 places. Of course, by Sunday, everyone who was interested - which, in the 1980s, was pretty much everyone under the age of 40 - knew what number one was, but surprise wasn't the point of the programme. This existed in relation to the Tuesday run-down in the way the Classified Football Results related to the Grandstand teleprinter; the definitive against the breaking. Blackburn or Vance or Brookes counting down the "only chart that counts" was always the last word, never the first report, and it was when the shift in technology allowed the Sunday nights to be the reveal that it all started to go wrong. Listening to the charts on Sunday nights was a solitary affair, packing schoolbags or making packed lunches, whereas the Tuesday lunchtime rundown was enjoyed with friends, or colleagues, or the big boy from the fifth year who'd stolen your radio. In a bid to make the charts more of an 'event', Radio One inadvertently helped kill them off.
[Radio One More Time]
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
It's the new!