Chart Errors

Chart errors. Some are genuine mistakes and so can be fixed easily. Some are more annoying as they can’t. I’m going to pick out a one in particular, of the annoying variety, and talk about that, but really there are hundreds over the years.

March 1969

The UK Album Charts are the second class citizen of the music industry. Okay, a sweeping statement, so let me put that into context and make clear my meaning. The charts first began (in both the UK and USA) as Single Sales charts, measuring how many records where sold per week from various outlets. Singles where cheap (in comparison to albums – still the case today as you can get an iTunes track for 59p at its cheapest while an album is £4.99.) Now, obviously you get more with an album, and if you like the artist your going to buy the album (which is why Abbey Road by the Beatles entered at number 1 in October 1969). But suppose you just like this one song?

That’s what I did when I first started buying music in 1999 – I didn’t like (and still don’t entirely) dance music. Now, some dance music is very, very good, but some (personally) annoys me as its a dull repetitive thud with nothing much to redeem it. That’s largely the beauty of the charts because nobody will like all of it. But, thats beside the point – I do not like dance music, and yet I bought Alice Deejay and ‘Better Off Alone’ in 1999. I liked the song. Can’t stand the full album, but the song was nice so I bought the song.

Singles allow you to buy the song you like. And that’s largely why, particularly up until the 1970’s really, Albums always sold less than singles. In 2008 more albums where sold than singles (My source for that is here) but only just.

But it is important to realise that Singles sold more than Albums in the 1960’s, particularly for the chart error about to be discussed.

History – The charts in February 1969

Tag from the first chart in Record Retailer, 12 Feb 1969 (Authors collection)

The Official UK Album Chart, as compiled by British Market Research Bureau, began on 15 February 1969. Record Retailer and Record Mirror published the same chart, and the BBC counted down the same on the radio and on Top Of The Pops. The chart carried a legend “CHART compiled for RR and BBC by British Market Research Bureau”., as shown above. The Album chart was a Top 15, with tied places, and a Top 15 Breakers, ranked A-O, in alphabetical order. Breakers were sometimes more or less than a Top 15, but in general, for the first few months, thats what the Album chart consisted of. Singles consisted of a Top 50, as had been the case before, but Albums was a reduction from a Top 40 plus 5 or 6 breakers. An additional chart, described as “Top Budget LP’s” was also printed, again a Top 15 with 15 Breakers, labelled A-O, also published.

What the British Market Research Bureau did was create a Top 120 chart of all price albums and supplied this to the BBC and others. Record Retailer separated this out and published the Full Price albums as the main chart and kept others with a defined dealer price as Budget releases. In so doing, Record Retailer was activity reducing the size of the chart available and the only reason for this would be accuracy. In late 1971 Record Retailer started to print a Top 50 albums and a section called ‘The Next Fifty’, supplied from the full Top 120 created from 300 record shops sales returns. The chart carries the legend ‘Because of the small variations in sales in the bottom 50 of the Top 100 albums, these are listed alphabetically. Because of small differences in sales among the records in the lower sections of the chart, the positions below 20 are approximate.’ This would be removed in 1972, although the chart would remain a Top 120, at least compiled as such according to Music Week, through to at least 1978. (That said the chart became a Top 100 by 1973 and Music Week forgot to update the text). I’ve seen copies of the sales figures for a week in 1973 and five albums sold 50 copies through the shops supplying returns to BMRB – the albums appeared between positions 82 and 86. The number 50 sold 70 copies, the number 100 sold 44 and so their idea of alphabetically listing was a good one.

8 March 1969

No chart published. Previous weeks have duplicated.

That’s what most of the chart books say, and the above comment is not strictly true, as a chart was published in Record Retailer, comprising the Top 30 of the Top 120 supplied by British Market Research Bureau with no splitting into the usual Budget and Full Price charts. This chart comprised no week counts (as Record Retailer usually supplied) and listed last week positions that did not correspond to either of the two printed charts in the previous edition.

The supposition is to what happened is as follows:- British Market Research Bureau had to manually tally the diaries for both singles and albums. Their staff where unable to accurately compile both charts by the Tuesday deadline, instigated because the BBC counted down the new chart on a Tuesday lunchtime and Record Retailer was published on a Thursday and so needed the chart by Tuesday for typesetting and then Wednesday printing. The album chart was of secondary importance to the singles chart and so was compiled afterwards. The supposition is that it was compiled on Wednesdays, although this is pure conjecture and may not be the case. The Singles chart was always the chart which was published for the immediately preceding week, while, from this point forward, the album chart was always for the week before the same Singles chart. Thus if an issue contained the Singles chart dated week ending 22 Mar and cover a sales period for 9-15 Mar, diaries posted 16 Mar, received 17 Mar, compiled 18 Mar and published 20 Mar, then the Album in the same issue would be dated week ending 22 Mar but cover a period for 2-8 Mar, diaries posted 9-11 Mar, compiled from 13 or 14 Mar. This would be apparent from 1973 onwards when Music Week, as the publication became renamed, when the Album chart carried the legend “Charts cover week ending xxx” after them. Thus in the issue for 24 November 1973 the charts covering week ending 10 November were published, together with singles charts for week ending 17 November (the date being the end of the sales period at this time). It would be October 1979 before the charts where again for the same period.

So what happened on 8 March 1969? Well, again conjecture but informed conjecture, leads to the belief that after three weeks of compiling the charts each week had led to a fraught situation at BMRB and so the singles chart was prioritised and the album chart arrived, in week 4, too late to be split by the Record Retailer chart manager. As such, it was carried un-edited.

The following weeks chart is identical to this weeks chart, but correctly split into “Top Albums” and “Budget LPs”. It can be seen in the published magazine as the week counts are simply one more than the chart of 1 March which supports this theory.

Guinness Hit’s Of The Sixties used the original 8 March chart in their book, leading to the odd situation of the album “Four And Only Seekers” having an entire chart career consisting of 1 week at the top of the chart and then nothing else.

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5 Comments

  1. Very interesting. Yes, I want more of these posts. If album sold 50 copies in the chart return shops, how many would be for the total market?

    1. Yes, thats true. Do you mean edit the comment or my blog post? If its edit my blog post then just comment on the correction and I’ll edit.

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