The BBC Radio 1 ‘Top 40 Chart Show’ in some form or the other has existed since 1955. That’ll be 60 years.
Yes, ok, it’s not strictly just been on Radio 1, but it was on the Light Programme before Radio 1 existed, and it wasn’t always just about counting down the top 40, 30, 20, or 10. But its origins are back in 1955.
For its most famous early era it was known as ‘Pick of the Pops’ hosted by the legendary Alan Freeman. Not ‘Arf.
I became aware of it as a child when Radio 1 and Radio 2 regularly joined together on a Sunday evening. My parents, as anybody over the age of 30, listened to Radio 2. The half-hour before the chart rundown started was a programme called ‘Sing Something Simple’ which was a collection of prehistoric songs being resung or crooned by the Cliff Adams Singers. After their melodic massacring of songs from four hundred years before, suddenly there’d be the time signal pips and – pow – the show containing the charts begun. And a lot of the charts were young people’s music. Yay!
It always seemed to finish at 7pm, but for many years started at 5pm before settling as a three hour show running every Sunday from 4pm.
A succession of presenters came and went. No doubt somebody has the ultimate list of them all.
For me the Chart Show was always a must listen. I’d try to make sure I didn’t miss it. This was probably because for decades the charts were really important, and probably were until ‘the internet’ arrived in people’s homes during the late 1990s.
Then the ‘charts’ started to dilute. There wasn’t just one chart, but a dance chart, a rock chart, a country music chart, and more. Then it wasn’t just physical purchases, but downloads and then the tracks people had streamed. And some new genres of music weren’t even being included in the charts despite having massive followings and getting lots of airplay on alternative stations or (Radio 1) shows.
Yep it all got a bit confused, and with the addition of live or near live instant updates on how a song was doing, the importance of a dramatically revealed sales chart for individual songs became non-existent. Indeed, the need to spend thousands going around the country and, ehem, ‘buying’ singles in order to hype a song into the charts disappeared too (Some say this is what The X Factor was invented to replace).
Radio 1 has always tried to reflect the needs and habits of its target audience – those under the age of 30 – and to them the chart is irrelevant. Hence why it’s gone.
The older audiences that listen to commercial radio will still get fed a ‘pretend’ chart on Sundays. By ‘pretend’ I mean it is mainly based on airplay and what ‘fits’ not what’s actually selling. Authenticity is irrelevant to commercial radio listeners after all.
The Chart is still ‘revealed’ on Radio 1, but on a Friday between 4pm and 5:45pm as part of the regular drive time show presented by Greg James. In other words, it’s much lower key, and it’s presented on the actual day that new songs are released in the UK, across Europe and across the planet. Sundays are now the ‘mid-week’ in the actual selling statistics, so having a chart show then is silly.
Finding a replacement for a 60 year old chart rundown how has been difficult. Hence why CBBC’s Cel Spellman is there with an interactive new music show, partly also on the telly, hopefully pulling across to radio da yoof that normally watch him. True, it includes a sort of top 10 recap as a kind of lip service to that which is defunct much in the same way that Nick Grimshaw’s breakfast show opens with a ‘theme tune’ as an echo of his predecessor Chris Moyles breakfast show that opened with a ‘theme tune’ (and continued to play it for hour after hour after hour).
I don’t expect Cel’s show will make any big waves radio audience wise, but it is the correct way to go. Good luck to him. I don’t expect him or his show to last a year though.