Merry Christmas Everyone!

1225It is usually described as “the coveted Christmas #1 spot” in the media, but why should it be so? Why the prestige of having the last chart-topping single of a year, more than, say, the first? A #1 at any time of the year is a good indication of an act’s current popularity, but the main reason seems to be simply cold, hard cash: more records are sold in the run-up to Christmas than at any other time of the year, so a #1 then is can genuinely be called one of the biggest hits of the year.

There are two types of track that do well at the end of the year: songs you can dance to and/or sing along to, and sentimental songs you can feel all warm and fuzzy to. The former came into their own in the 1970s, spurred by the likes of Slade: glam rock was ideal for the party season, with its brashness and colour. People planning parties had an instant soundtrack with that musical genre. Slade wrote Merry Xmas Everybody with the express purpose of making #1 by Christmas, deliberately releasing it on 7 December 1973 to give it the best chance. It worked, and it led to the 70s having the most Christmas-inspired Top 10 listings of any decade, although the chart toppers tended to be at the slushier end of the market, for example Boney M bringing Mary’s Boy Child in 1978.

That song had also been a Christmas #1 in 1957, on that occasion by Harry Belafonte. Songs that referenced Christmas itself weren’t often to be found at the top of the charts on the day in question. Belafonte’s hit was one of only two in the 1950s, the other being Dickie Valentine’s Christmas Alphabet in 1955 (although sales of Winifred Atwell’s 1954 Christmas #1 Let’s Have Another Party might have been influenced by the inclusion of some bars from When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along in her piano medley, the bird being a winter motif at least); there were none at all in the 1960s (The Beatles had four Christmas #1s, none of which was seasonally-geared); and the other two Christmas-themed #1s in 1970s were Mud’s Lonely This Christmas in 1974 and Johnny Mathis’s When A Child Is Born two years later. In the 1980s, as detailed below, three festive songs were at the top of the charts on Christmas Day. In the past 25 years, it has happened only twice: Saviour’s Day was the Christmas #1 in 1990 for Cliff Richard, and one of the 80s #1s, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, returned to the top in a different version in 2004.

Today, the Christmas #1 is major event in the music industry calendar, with acts holding back a song that can be released in the week prior to the day itself. This has paid off for ‘The X Factor’, the annual televised talent competition: the winning act will have her/his single released in the critical week. It has led to social media campaigns to get a different song – any other song – to the top instead, and this worked in 2009 when downloads of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name was the Christmas #1. (The campaign was no less cynical than Simon Cowell’s, of course.) But, as the list below (generally) shows, if you release a great song in the run-up to Christmas, you have every chance of being #1 on the day, regardless of the song’s theme or the marketing tools used.

1980
Christmas #1: There’s No One Quite Like Grandma, St Winifred’s School Choir
Runner up: (Just Like) Starting Over, John Lennon
Other hits in Top 10:
John Lennon’s death on 8 December 1980 led to three of his singles being in the Top 10 at Christmas that year. Indeed, his most recent single, (Just Like) Starting Over, had been #1 the week before. It had originally peaked at #8 and was on its way down the chart by December, then went back up to #1. Meanwhile, the title track of his 1971 album Imagine, which had previously been a single in 1975, was at #9, and his seasonal hit Merry Xmas (War Is Over) was at #4, matching its chart peak of 1972 when it had first been released. The chart compilers’ policy of not preparing a chart for publication between Christmas and New Year meant that whatever was at #1 at Christmas was automatically given a minimum two-week run there; the next chart (for the week ending 10 January 1981) showed Merry Xmas (War Is Over) at #2, denied the chance to be a #1 by Imagine, which was now at the top.

There was one other seasonably-themed song in the Christmas 1980 Top 10, Stop The Cavalry by Jona Lewie at #3.

1981
Christmas #1: Don’t You Want Me, The Human League
Runner up: Daddy’s Home, Cliff Richard
Other hits in Top 10:
Three acts who had singles in the Christmas Top 10 the previous year had different songs in the Top 10 this year: Abba, Adam and The Ants, and Madness – in neither year was any of these singles Christmas-themed. (The Police, who were also present in 1980, didn’t quite make it in 1981 – they were at #12.)

1982
Christmas #1: Save Your Love, Rene and Renato
Runner up: The Shakin Stevens EP, Shakin’ Stevens
Other hits in Top 10:
Seasonal hits came from David Bowie and Bing Crosby with Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy at #3, and David Essex at #7 with A Winter’s Tale. For the third year in a row, Madness also had a single in the Top 10.

1983
Christmas #1: Only You, The Flying Pickets
Runner up: My Oh My, Slade
Other hits in Top 10:
Culture Club were the only returning faces from previous Christmas Top 10 lists from the 1980s: they had also been present the previous year.

1984
Christmas #1: Do They Know It’s Christmas, Band Aid
Runner up: Last Christmas, Wham!
Other hits in Top 10:
The other yuletide hit in 1984’s Top 10 was Another Rock And Roll Christmas by Gary Glitter at #8. The only returning act this year was Paul Young, his second consecutive year in the list.

1984 was the first year where the chart compilers didn’t take a week off, there being separate charts for the weeks ending 23 December and 30 December. The listings revealed that the previous policy of repeating the Christmas chart for a second week was probably fair enough: there was very little movement in the Top 10, the top three singles the same, most of the others simply changing places with their neighbours, and only one new title that hadn’t been there before (Foreigner’s future #1, I Want To Know What Love Is, moving up one place from #11 to #10).

1985
Christmas #1: Merry Christmas Everyone, Shakin’ Stevens
Runner up: Saving All My Love For You, Whitney Houston
Other hits in Top 10:
Not only were there returning faces in 1985’s Top 10, there were returning singles: the #1 and #2 for the previous year were back in the Top 10 at #3 and #6 respectively, while a third returning act, Shakin’ Stevens, provided a Christmas-themed #1. Aled Jones’s Walking In The Air, at #5, made this the most festive Top 10 of the decade.

Wham! also had another single in the Top 10, I’m Your Man at #8.

1986
Christmas #1: Reet Petite, Jackie Wilson
Runner up: Caravan of Love, The Housemartins
Other hits in Top 10:
The Housemartins’ single was the closest to a Christmas single that there was in the Top 10 in 1986, with its allusions to Christianity. The familiar face in the Top 10 this time was Madonna, who had first featured the previous year.

1987
Christmas #1: Always On My Mind, Pet Shop Boys
Runner up: Fairytale of New York, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
Other hits in Top 10:
The #2 record has proved the most enduring, and has made regular returns to the chart since. The other seasonally-themed hit in the Top 10 was charity effort Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, #3 for Mel Smith and Kim Wilde. Once again, Shaky was back (What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For was at #10); chart toppers Pet Shop Boys had also been present in a 1980s Top 10 run down in 1985.

1988
Christmas #1: Mistletoe And Wine, Cliff Richard
Runner up: Especially For You, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan
Other hits in Top 10:
Bros had cut a version of Silent Night and put it out as a double A-side with their song Cat Among The Pigeons; they were at #8. In addition to Cliff Richard, Status Quo were returning faces in the Top 10, having previously made the 1983 list.

1989
Christmas #1: Do They Know It’s Christmas, Band Aid II
Runner up: Let’s Party, Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers
Other hits in Top 10:
A new recording of the 1984 #1 saw the decade out. Tina Turner, Jason Donovan, Madonna and Bros, who had all previously featured in Christmas Top 10s during the decade, were back this year – but the #1 was the only Christmas-themed single.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 25
No release scheduled for this date.

Today in 1986: The best-selling CDs

TwitterThe best-selling compact disc in the UK for the week ending 13 December was the collection The Whole Story from Kate Bush, which was the third highest selling long-player overall in the official album chart. Gallup, who compiled the album chart, did not include sales of CDs in their calculations at that time, but the format was becoming increasingly popular: sales increased by almost three times from 1985 to 1986, and would then nearly double over the next twelve months. By the end of ’86, most new album titles were being released on CD as well as the usual vinyl and cassette formats; the strongest selling album for w/e 13 December not available on CD was the #11 title, Reminiscing… by Foster And Allen. (But then, given it was released by a record company named Stylus, that is understandable.) Spotlight Research compiled the CD chart, which for the week in question had the following Top 20 (position on the main album in brackets):

LP CD Artist, title
(3) 1 Kate Bush, The Whole Story
(4) 2 The Police, Every Breath You Take The Singles
(-) 3 Various, Now That’s What I Call Music ‘86
(21) 4 Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms
(-) 5 Various, QCD
(2) 6 Various, Hits 5
(6) 7 Paul Simon, Graceland
(16) 8 Eurythmics, Revenge
(41) 9 Peter Gabriel, So
(45) 10 Supertramp, The Autobiography of Supertramp
(17) 11 Huey Lewis And The News, Fore!
(27) 12 Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, Live 1975-1985
(9) 13 Five Star, Silk And Steel
(18) 14 Spandau Ballet, Through The Barricades
(32) 15 Genesis, Invisible Touch
(82) 16 Elton John, Leather Jackets
(62) 17 Queen, Greatest Hit
(7) 18 Madonna, True Blue
(50) 19 Debbie Harry, Rockbird
(100) 20 China Crisis, What Price Paradise

With the hardware to play CDs still reasonably expensive, not everyone was looking to replace their turntables with a compact disc player at this time. Those who had invested in the technology did seem to be fans of 70s music: there were strong showings from former prog rockers like Supertramp, Genesis and Peter Gabriel and glam stars such as Queen and Elton John, even if – as in the case of the latter – the album wasn’t doing especially well in the general album chart. (See also China Crisis, whose album What Price Paradise, was barely on the album chart at all, but was still the 20th best-selling CD.) For the most part, the CD chart demonstrated what the grown-ups were buying, with its focus on “adult-oriented rock” (Huey Lewis, Bruce Springsteen; Dire Straits); fans of pop who had compact disc players were still favouring compilations, such as the CD-only collection Now That’s What I Call Music ‘86. But the presence of the current albums from acts like Spandau Ballet and Five Star showed that this was changing.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 13
No release scheduled for this date.

Today in 1986: American #1s that didn’t chart in Britain

TwitterIf You Were There’s article about the influence of UK artists on the US charts in the 1980s stated that the “second British invasion” ended in the autumn of 1986, and Peter Cetera’s The Next Time I Fall (duet with Amy Grant) is evidence of this. American artists were dominant in their domestic charts again, and the type of AOR music that had a strong following there was back to selling best. Cetera’s single, the Billboard #1 for the week ending 6 December 1986, wasn’t even a hit here. Meanwhile at #14 in the same week was Boston’s former #1 Amanda (it topped the Billboard chart for the week ending 8 November 1986), which was another that had failed to make the British Top 75.

Before the 1980s, a US #1 failing to chart in the UK was not unusual. But from the start of the decade until the autumn of 1986, it happened just once: Air Supply’s The One That You Love was the US #1 for the week ending 25 July 1981 but it flopped here. After that, the next 105 consecutive US #1 singles were also hits in the UK, right up until Boston broke the run, with Cetera following a month later. Both these singles almost made it here (Boston made #84, Cetera made #78), but these placings weren’t high enough for them to be considered hits. Following them were a further eleven US #1s that weren’t hits in the UK:

Billy Vera and The Beaters At This Moment (#1, w/e 24 January 1987) – no hits
Veteran singer with several bands since the early 1960s, whose song writing talent has subsidized lean periods in his own recording career when he has given away songs to others. By the 1970s, he was living in LA and had formed a backing band named The Beaters. At This Moment was on a 1981 album of theirs and was a minor hit single. When it featured several times in the US television show ‘Family Ties’ (starring Michael J Fox) in the mid-80s, it was re-issued.

Huey Lewis and The News Jacob’s Ladder (#1, w/e 14 March 1987)
The album that this single was taken from – Fore! – yielded plenty of hit singles in the UK. The British edition of the album even included a bonus hit not on the American track listing – The Power Of Love, from the ‘Back To The Future’ (Michael J Fox again) movie soundtrack, by far their biggest seller here. Jacob’s Ladder was extremely unusual in that the British record company chose not to issue it as a single here, despite it topping the Billboard charts. Instead, it turned up as a B-side.

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam Head To Toe (#1, w/e 20 June 1987)
This group were produced by R&B/funk collective Full Force and was one of a pair of US #1s, Head To Toe being the first. The other, Lost In Emotion, was a hit for Lisa Lisa here. Full Force also had hits here with Samantha Fox, but their own single Alice I Want You Just For Me! made the Top 10 in 1986 – neither with Lisa Lisa nor Fox was their work as successful.

Bob Seger Shakedown (#1, w/e 1 August 1987)
Another rock veteran, playing with various bands from the early 60s onwards. This was a solo offering, made famous by its inclusion in the soundtrack to the movie ‘Beverley Hills Cop II’.

Expose Seasons Change (#1, w/e 20 February 1988)
See the article about tips for the top from Smash Hits on 19 December for details about this group.

Cheap Trick The Flame (#1, w/e 9 July 1988)
Rock band formed in the early 1970s; three of the current four members have been with the band continuously since 1974, one took a break in the early 1980s but was back in time for this hit. They were signed to Epic in the UK from the late 70s to the 80s, and they had a handful of minor hits.

Richard Marx Hold On To The Nights (#1, w/e 23 July 1988)
Marx was on regular on the US charts from 1987 until 1994. His first seven singles all reached the Top 4, including among them three consecutive #1s of which this was the first. Most of his singles were minor hits here (and a couple were big hits: 1992’s Hazard was a bigger hit here than in America), although this was one that got away. He has written and/or produced numerous hits for other artists, but has had only occasional appearances in the charts with his own recordings in the past twenty years. Last year’s album <Beautiful Goodbye returned him to the US Top 40.

The Escape Club Wild Wild West (reached #1, w/e 12 November 1988)
Highly unusual – this was a British band with a US #1 single that flopped in their home country. In fact, they never had a hit single here.

Chicago Look Away (reached #1, w/e 10 December 1988)
Band originating in the 1960s with many years of American hits, but only a handful here. Peter Cetera was lead singer on their UK #1, If You Leave Me Now and remained with them until starting his solo career in 1985. Personnel on Look Away included guitarist Dawayne Bailey of Bob Seger’s former Silver Bullet Band.

Sheriff When I’m With You (reached #1, w/e 4 February 1989)
Canadian band who released one self-titled album in 1982, on which this track appeared. It was a minor hit when first released as a single, the band split up soon afterwards, and it looked like that was the end of the story. When it became popular with New York DJs in 1988 and other radio stations started following suit, the record company reissued it.

Michael Damian Rock On (reached #1, w/e 3 June 1989)
Born 1962, a soap opera actor (‘The Young And The Restless’), movie script writer and director, and singer and songwriter. His fame in America in the 80s and 90s was probably equivalent to that of Jason Donovan in the UK; in 1993, he took the role of Joseph in the musical Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and appeared on Broadway with it. He had made nearly a dozen albums and last appeared in ‘The Young And The Restless’ two years ago.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 6
No release scheduled for this date.

Released today in 1986: Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain)

Mercury INXS7

Mercury INXS7

From 1980 to 1985 INXS issued around a dozen singles in their native Australia, but only a handful of them saw release here in the UK. None of the British releases made our charts, while in their home country INXS were becoming one of the biggest bands of the decade. They had had three Top 10 hits on the official ‘Kent Music Report’ singles charts there, and a #1 album with 1984’s The Swing. The follow-up to that album, Listen Like Thieves, gave them their second at the end of 1985. It was also their breakthrough album here, although their British record company promoted it differently.

In Australia, INXS were signed with WEA, who launched the album in September 1985 with the release of the first of four singles taken from it, What You Need. It went to #2 and the album went one place better shortly afterwards. Here in the UK, the band’s label Mercury chose to wait until the beginning of 1986 and led with This Time instead, which was the second single in Australia and was in the charts there (on its way to #19) at the time of its UK release. It didn’t quite give them a hit here, as it only made it to #79, but when What You Need was issued as the second single they finally became a hit act in Britain: it reached #51.

Mercury also reversed the order of the third and fourth singles from the album. The title track was the third single in the UK (#46) and the fourth in Australia (#28). Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain) made #15 in Australia when it was released there in March 1986 and #54 here when it appeared in the summer. Meanwhile, Listen Like Thieves the album first charted here in February and returned on two further occasions, the most successful of which would see it reach #48 during the promotion of the Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain) single.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Aug. 18
1986
INXS Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain) (Mercury INXS7)

Released today in 1980: The Robots Dance

ESP ES1

ESP ES1

Sal Solo was one of the few people to appear on the cover of Smash Hits during the 1980s without having a Top 10 single in the UK. The closest he came was #11 with the Classix Nouveau single Is It A Dream. The other acts who didn’t make the Top 10 were:

Highest
position
reached
Name of
cover
star
11 The Alarm
Fuzzbox
12 Max Headroom (with The Art Of Noise)
14 The Power Station
Steve Lambert (with Roman Holliday)
15 Peter Murphy (as Bauhaus)
16 Derek B
17 Marie Brennan (with Clannad and Bono)
18 Derek Dunbar (with Jimmy The Hoover)
22 Department S
27 Philip Schofield (achieved in the 1990s)
43 The Professionals
50 Matt Fretton
62 Michaela

Edna1Just one recording artist appeared on the cover of Smash Hits in the 1980s without having a hit single at all: Dame Edna Everage. Despite what the hype sticker on a limited edition gift box version of her lone 1980s single declared, ‘Theme From Neighbours’ was not in fact her “historic debut single” as she had tried and failed to chart a couple of times already in the late ‘70s. In fact, Edna’s “manager” Barry Humphries had been a recording artist in the 1950s, and one of his other creations, Sir Les Patterson, had also released a single in 1987 called G’Day. Edna herself had released Every Mother Wants A Boy Like Elton in 1978, and Disco Matilda the following year.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Aug. 15
1980
The ASSOCIATES The Affectionate Punch (Fiction FICS11)
CLASSIX NOUVEAUX (Sal Solo) The Robots Dance (ESP ES1)
The JAM Start! (Polydor 2059266)
Gary NUMAN I Die: You Die (Beggars Banquet BEG46)
1983
CLASSIX NOUVEAUX (Sal Solo) Forever And A Day (Liberty BP419)
HEAVEN 17 Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry (Virgin VS628)
1988
A-HA Touchy! (Warner Bros W7749)
BOMB THE BASS (Tim Simenon) Megablast (Rhythm King DOOD2)
DEAD OR ALIVE (Pete Burns) Turn Around And Count 2 Ten (Epic BURNS4)
HEAVEN 17 The Ballad Of Go Go Brown (Virgin VS1113)
Kevin ROWLAND Tonight (Mercury ROW1)
SADE (Sade Adu) Nothing Can Come Between Us (Epic SADE3)

Released today in 1982: Hungry Like The Wolf

EMI EMI5295

EMI EMI5295

Not all the Smash Hits cover stars who were successful in the 1980s made it in the US too. “Breaking America” was sometimes seen as the ultimate test for a British act as it was not easy to duplicate a winning formula in the UK on the other side of the Atlantic. For reasons of geography alone tour plans had to be quite different to have a similar impact, and the viewing and listening habits of audiences in one US state might be quite different from another on the other side of the country: with multiple television channels and radio stations, it wasn’t as easy as getting a video on ‘Top Of The Pops’ or a song on Radio 1 to reach the whole target audience in the territory at once. One of the biggest acts at the start of the decade here was Adam & The Ants, who had no hits in the US at all; when Adam Ant went solo he made the American Billboard Hot 100 chart with a few singles, but never the Top 10. At the other end of the 80s Bros also failed to make much impact stateside despite rarely being off the TV and radio here. But the person with the most starkly different profile on the UK and US singles charts in the 1980s is Paul Weller. He charted here every year during the decade, with 36 different singles: 9 were new hits with The Jam which included two imports that weren’t even released in this country; 9 were The Jam’s first 9 singles from the 1970s which all charted again at least once each in the 80s; and 18 were with The Style Council. Not one of them made the Billboard chart. In fact, he is still yet to have a charting single in the US, despite a 25-year solo career that has offered up numerous hits over here.

For a while, it seemed that Duran Duran were to be denied success in the US too: they had two years of hits in the UK before Hungry Like The Wolf finally brought them fame in America. Released on 7 June 1982 in America, initially the song failed to chart; it was only over six months later, helped by the expensive-looking video clip shot in Sri Lanka, that it made the Hot 100 and kick-started a run of ten Top 20 hits. In addition to Hungry Like The Wolf, two other tracks from the 1982 album it was taken from, Rio, also charted: the title track (Spring 1983) and Save A Prayer in 1985. The latter was chosen as a single to accompany the live album Arena and featured the original studio recording on the A-side and the live version on the B-side. The first of Duran’s two #1s in the States came in the summer of 1984 with The Reflex; the second was their Bond movie theme, A View To A Kill, in 1985. Thereafter, their US career would follow a similar pattern to their UK one, with peaks and troughs.

NEW SINGLES on sale from May. 4
1982
DURAN DURAN Hungry Like The Wolf (EMI EMI5295)
1984
The CULT (Ian Astbury) Spirit Walker (Situation Two SIT33)
INXS (Michael Hutchence) I Send A Message (Mercury PH2)
ORANGE JUICE (Edwyn Collins) What Presence? (Polydor OJ6)
1987
Nick KAMEN Nobody Else (WEA YZ122)

Today in 1986

Die-cut 7" sleeveIn addition to the UK national singles chart, compiled for much of the 1980s by Gallup, Record Mirror published a number of ‘specialist’ charts that looked at the performance of singles released in particular musical genres. The need for these was due to sales of these records often being via mail order, concert venues or independent record stores that weren’t surveyed by Gallup – to the extent that it might appear some weeks that there was no market in Britain for, for instance, reggae music, due to the poor showing of those artists in the chart as broadcast on the BBC’s Top Of The Tops and Radio1. So, in honour of these lesser celebrated acts of the 1980s, below are the #1 singles in the RM specialist charts for the week ending 8 March 1986:

Disco singles: (Nothing Serious) Just Buggin’ by Whistle (position in Gallup chart in same week: #14)

The debut single from this long-forgotten hip hop/R&B trio, (Nothing Serious) Just Buggin’ would eventually make the Top 10 in the UK in the national chart but it was the group’s only success in this country. In their native US, they survived into the 1990s with some line-up changes, and their musical style became more focussed on R&B following the departure of founding member Kool Doobie – in the American R&B charts they regularly had (fairly minor) hits through to 1992.

Eurobeat singles: Love’s Gone Mad by Seventh Avenue (position in Gallup chart in same week: did not chart)

The term ‘Eurobeat’ was a British nomenclature inspired by producer Ian Levine, who will forever be associated with this sub-genre of Hi-NRG (high energy) upbeat pop music, which was linked to dance clubs in continental Europe; the name was derived from the Eastbound Expressway single You’re A Beat, which Levine co-produced. The differentiator between Hi-NRG and Eurobeat is the number of beats per minute in the track: around 124 to 138 bpm for the former and about 108 to 120 bpm for the latter.

RM’s detailed coverage of the club scene included James Hamilton’s reviews of the singles which would carefully detail the bpm of each new release. It was Hamilton, together with RM’s resident chart expert Alan Jones, who compiled the Eurobeat chart for the magazine, using not just physical sales data but the views of club DJs on the popularity of the records (i.e. which tracks were filling, and which were clearing, dance floors, etc). Accordingly, this Seventh Avenue single was already #1 on the Eurobeat chart before its commercial release: on the strength of the ‘white label’ (promotional copies) sent out to DJs in early January 1986, the song was already “big in clubs” as the saying went. Levine comments in his introductory text for the video to the song on YouTube that “I find it amazing that this classic High Energy anthem sold fifty thousand copies without ever showing in the charts” – it didn’t record a single week on the Gallup Top 100.

In accounting for this, in addition to the fact that sales of the single were often via the aforementioned independent outlets that Gallup didn’t survey, there were also some peculiarities in the rules for the Gallup charts that might have affected the record’s chart chances. The Top 75 singles were of course the 75 best-selling singles of the week in the shops Gallup surveyed. Positions 76 – 100 though, were not necessarily the next twenty-five highest selling: the published chart included a disclaimer in the small print saying “Records which would have appeared between positions 76-100 have been excluded if their sales have fallen in two consecutive weeks and if their sales fell by 20% compared with last week.” Accordingly some versions of the published chart didn’t assign a position number to these records, the chart ending at #75 and the rest of the so-called Top 100 being referred to as “the next twenty-five”, to draw attention that the seventy-sixth single listed was maybe not genuinely the seventy-sixth biggest selling.

Indie singles: Stripped by Depeche Mode (position in Gallup chart in same week: #22)

‘Indie’ refers to independent – i.e. the acts featured on the Indie chart were not signed to a major record label. The first Indie chart appeared in 1980 and compiled the best-sellers from artists signed to labels not distributed through the biggest channels at the start of the decade: CBS, EMI, PolyGram, Pye, RCA, Selecta and WEA. The need for an Indie chart was to represent the proliferation of punk and new wave acts active at the time who stood little chance of making the national charts when they were often on start-up labels sold through specialist shops. Labels such as Probe and Rough Trade were associated with shops of the same name, where the product could be easily obtained; it was more difficult to purchase some of these discs in high street chain stores.

The independent labels did start to organize themselves more effectively during the 1980s, in order that their artists could compete with those signed to the majors. Pinnacle was as effective as getting its product on to the shelves of the chain stores as any other distributor by the mid-1980s, and the formation of The Cartel – a pooling of the resources of several small companies, including Rough Trade – meant that acts such as The Smiths had access to the same national shipping support as the majors.

Reggae singles: One Dance Won’t Do by Audrey Hall (position in Gallup chart in same week: #20)

One Dance Won’t Do was an ‘answer song’: Audrey Hall wrote it in response to Beres Hammond’s What One Dance Can Do – and ended up scoring a bigger hit with it than his was.

Sources on the internet today suggest that Hall was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but in interviews at the time the single was in the charts she stated that she was born in London, England and moved to Jamaica as a child, returning to Britain to complete her education in her mid-teens. None of these interviews mentioned her early recording career: from 1968 to 1971 she was signed to Down Town records in the UK, a subsidiary of Trojan set up to market the work of the hugely prolific Dandy Livingstone. (The first eighty-odd singles on Down Town were written by or produced by or performed by Livingstone – usually all three.) As Dandy and Audrey, the two released a string of singles and a couple of albums, and it was a match made in heaven – Dandy’s smooth-as-velvet vocals blending perfectly with Audrey’s sweet-as-honey voice. Audrey also released solo singles (produced by Dandy) or recorded with Down Town label mates The Dreamers. But when Dandy returned to Jamaica in the early 1970s after around 15 years living and working in the UK, Down Town came to an end and so it seemed did Audrey’s recording career: she started to tour Europe with other reggae bands soon after, then moved to the US where she started a career as a session singer, often with her sister Pam; both sisters released solo singles of their own.

By the 1980s, Audrey was back in Jamaica and working for Donovan Germain’s Revolutionary Sounds label. One Dance Won’t Do was originally the flip side of veteran reggae artist Owen Gray’s Revolutionary Sounds single I’m Standing In His Way in Jamaica, but Audrey’s song was released in its own right in the UK where the label was known simply as Germain. Audrey remained with Germain for the rest of the 1980s, releasing a couple of albums including Eight Little Notes, which included a mixture of her own songs, songs written for her (including one by sister Pam) and covers of contemporary rock hits given her special reggae twist. A notable achievement was with her follow-up to One Dance Won’t Do, the delightful Smile: she was the first female reggae artist to have Top 20 hit singles in the UK with consecutive releases.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Mar. 8
No release scheduled for this date.