After relaunching the website a few weeks ago I’ve been concentrating on updating the database that creates the ChartBookWeekly and the associated books and that’s what I want to talk about now.
When I began to collect the UK charts (and it was the UK as I didn’t know about Billboard back then) it was on 28 August 1999. Geri Halliwell was number 1 (new at the top of course as almost all of them where at that point) but that wasn’t the reason I listened to the chart. I listened because I was bored.
I was 14. School holidays. Sunday afternoons dragged. I don’t play sports (sorry to those for whom it is but football isn’t my thing at all) and there was nothing to do. I was playing with dads old typewriter (I love Star Wars and for the special edition in 1997 they released script books of the films. I was a school librarian, convinced them to get the books and then borrowed them for the summer break to learn it all – read copy on dads old typewriter – I can still recite almost all the dialogue from each of the original three films). I got fed up typing Star Wars (on page 2…) and put Radio 1 on.
I heard Mark Goodier. I heard Groove Armada “At The River” (down five places to number 40) and was hooked. S Club 7. Steps. Shania Twain. ATB. Travis. Five. Ricky Martin. Texas. I loved the songs. Still do. But then you never forget your first time you get hooked on something.
And I typed it all down.
At first the collection was hand written. Then it became hand written in massive notebooks a page for each week. And then I got my own desktop computer. I discovered Excel. Then in about 2001 I discovered Access databases. I haven’t looked back since.
I am self taught on Access, largely because we did not have internet until 2003 at home (when I started University). I copied charts from the internet (some amazing posters on forums helped a lot in sharing) and trips to London followed to look at the original paper copies as printed in the British Library.
The British Library is amazing. A copy of everything printed and all free to access. I devoured the issues of Music Week, NME, Disc, Billboard. All went in the database. I wanted timings, producers, composers, b-sides, all to make the most of the database. Then for albums I wanted tracks. Nobody was doing a book with album tracks. Guinness stopped the Hit Singles / Hit Albums books (the internet almost killing factual books of that sort) and I wanted to replace and do it better.
Now you can argue the merits of each book and some like one and some like the other but look at Joel Whitburn. His books for the US charts are the gold standard. Why doesn’t the UK have something equally as good?
I was explaining to my wife why I collect charts and she listened and then asked why I didn’t make books like Whitburn if I could. I thought. I wrote some code. I wrote some tables. I made a book. And that’s the first of the Decade Series if books. But after 18 months the database wasn’t up to it. So I needed a new one and that’s largely why no new books for a long time.
The new database was built with export in mind so that I can create the books here and also other things to share the collection. Over the years I’ve sunk a lot of money into the charts. Mostly to get full chart scans of each week so I can verify that the data is correct. It’s amazing how many errors creep in when data is copied from other books or positions are transposed. Either way mine are the most accurate (which is my goal) so hopefully that’s the case.
But it all began on a lazy Sunday afternoon. (Queue the Kinks)