1. To compile the UK’s first ever Top 10 for publication on 14th November 1952, New Musical Express staff phoned 53 record stores in London and other major cities to collect their sales data. Today, the barcode of every record bought in 5,600 traditional shops (as well as online stores) is downloaded direct to Millward Brown, the research agency that acts for The Official UK Charts Company, which now manages the charts. Charts compiled from this data form the basis of Radio 1’s Official UK Top 40 show and the Top of the Pops Top 20.
2. There were actually 12 records in the first Top 10. Former bricklayer Al Martino was the first UK chart-topper with Here In My Heart. At number 2 was Jo Stafford with You Belong To My Heart; at 3 was Nat King Cole with Somewhere Along The Way; 4 was Bing Crosby with Isle of Innisfree; 5 was Guy Mitchell with Feet Up; 6 was Rosemary Clooney with Half As Much; joint 7th were Vera Lynn with Forget Me Not and Frankie Laine with High Noon; joint 8th were Doris Day and Frankie Laine with Sugar Bush and Ray Martin with Blue Tango; 9 was Vera Lynn with Homing Waltz; and 10 was Vera again with Auf Wiedersehen Sweetheart.
3. After starting as a Top 10 in 1952, the UK singles chart became a Top 20 in 1954, Top 30 in 1956, Top 50 in 1960, Top 75 in 1978 and finally a Top 100 in 1983.
The Official UK Charts Company now has the technology to produce a Top 1,000.
4. There was no chart on Pick of the Pops when the long-running BBC radio programme was launched in 1955. Its gentlemanly, 47-year-old presenter, Franklin Engelmann, just played popular records, as did the first two of his successors, Alan Dell and David Jacobs. It wasn’t until breezy DJ Alan Freeman took over in 1962 that the show’s famous Top 10 countdown was introduced.
5. Bill Haley and his Comets significantly lowered the average age of record-buyers with their hit Rock Around The Clock in 1955. Haley started his professional career as a yodelling cowboy.
6. Elvis Presley has spent more time in the UK hit parade than any other artist. Elvis has spent 1,192 weeks in the charts. Run together, that’s almost 23 years. Second to Elvis in the longevity stakes is Sir Cliff Richard, who has spent 1,152 weeks in the charts so far.
7. Sunday has been the traditional day for radio chart shows ever since Pete Murray presented the granddaddy of them all on Radio Luxembourg in the Fifties. At the BBC, Pick Of The Pops was originally broadcast on Sundays, and it is still the day that Radio 1’s Official UK Top 40 is broadcast.
8. Although the Beatles scored three Number Ones in a row in 1963, and She Loves You held the title of bestselling single for the next 14 years, it was fellow Liverpudlians Gerry and the Pacemakers who, in the same year, became the first act to score three number ones with their first three singles. These were How Do You Do It?, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone. The Beatles eventually notched up 17 Number Ones, a total now topped by Elvis’ 18.
9. The Beatles had six records in the Top 20 when Top Of The Pops, BBC TV’s first chart-based programme, was launched on New Year’s Day 1964. But the first act to appear on the show was the Rolling Stones, performing a Lennon and McCartney song, I Wanna Be Your Man, then at Number 13 in the chart.
10. The first Top Of The Pops was filmed in a converted church in Manchester. The show, commissioned by Bill Cotton, head of BBC TV Variety, was originally only planned to run for six programmes with an option for a further six shows.
11. Louis Armstrong is the oldest solo act to have reached Number One. The jazz veteran was 67 years and 10 months old when What a Wonderful World hit the top in 1968. The youngest, at nine years and eight months old, was Little Jimmy Osmond with Long Haired Lover from Liverpool in 1972.
12. Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg hit Number One in October 1969 with Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus, even though the song was banned by the BBC because of its suggestive heavy breathing and moaning. Gainsborough had originally recorded the song with Brigitte Bardot but she refused to allow that version to be released because, according to Gainsbourg, “she thought it was too erotic and she was married”.
13. Top of the Pops has had more theme tunes than most people realise. The list includes Percussion Piece by John Stewart and Harry Rabonowitz, sung by Bobby Midgely; CCS’s version of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, which scored a Top 20 hit in its own right in 1970; Yellow Pearl by Phil Lynott; The Wizard by Paul Hardcastle; Get Out of That by Tony Gibber and, in the late 1990s, a remix of CCS’s Whole Lotta Love.
14. Cliff Richard has scored 64 Top 10 singles to date, but Madonna’s tally of 54 is not that far off Elvis’ 59, and is the highest total for a female artist.
15. Like Gerry and the Pacemakers in the 1960s, Frankie Goes to Hollywood scored three consecutive Number Ones in the 1980s with their first three singles: Relax, Two Tribes, and The Power of Love. But the Spice Girls outdid them both in 1996-97 as the first act to reach Number One with each of their first six records: Wannabe, Say You’ll Be There, 2 Become 1, Mama/Who Do You Think You Are, Spice Up Your Life and Too Much.
16. There were 26 million-sellers in the 1990s, the decade that also boasted the biggest-selling single of all time, Elton John’s 1997 version of Candle In The Wind, which sold 4,864,611 copies. There were three million-sellers in the 1950s and 14 per decade in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. There were no million-sellers in 2000 or this year to date, but three per year in 2001 and 2002.
17. Frankie Laine’s I Believe topped the charts for 18 weeks back in 1953. More recent songs to endure are Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, which stayed at the top for 16 weeks in 1991, and Wet Wet Wet’s Love Is All Around for 15 weeks in 1994.
18. Pop Idol winner Will Young’s Evergreen/Anything is Possible sold 1.1 million records in six days, making it the fastest-selling UK debut Number One of all time.
19. Eighties classic Vienna by Ultravox never reached Number One. It was kept off the top spot in February 1981 by Joe Dolce’s novelty song Shaddap You Face
20. The biggest-selling single (so far) of 2003 is Black Eyed Peas’ Where Is The Love?, which shifted 610,000 copies. It has also spent the longest time at Number One this year, at six weeks.