Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Virgin Book Of TOP 40 CHARTS by DAVID McALEER - A Review by Mark Barry of the 2009 Reference Book...





Amazon UK link Above - Amazon USA Link Below


“…Me…I’m Just A Lawnmower…You Can Tell By The Way I Walk…” 

When I got this brill November 2009 1053-page paperback (with an introduction by compiler DAVID McALEER) - I hardly knew where to start...the detail is gargantuan. It contains every Top 40 UK Singles chart beginning at 10 March 1960 and ending at 3 January 2009 (US customers should note this is ONLY the charts for UK 7” singles).

“The Virgin Book Of TOP 40 CHARTS” breaks down like this… To the far left is the chart position (1, 2, 3 etc), then to the right of that is a column that gives you 'last week's chart position' - which allows you to trace back when the record first showed up on the charts. The title of the song is in BLOCK CAPITOLS while the artist is standard print so you can differentiate quickly and easily which is which. It then gives you the label (Capitol, HMV, RAK, Bell, Polydor etc), but unfortunately not the catalogue number (you need the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles for that). It is updated to 2009 - which the Guinness one isn't. 

Another real ace is a track-by-track index in the rear; say you want to check on "Give Me The Night" by GEORGE BENSON - it tells you look at the week ending 2/8/80 which is when it first charted - you know exactly where to locate it - very handy. The final column to the far right gives you the number of weeks it’s been on chart (3, 7 etc).

Browsing through the years if of course half the fun. You notice stuff. There were an awful lot of Number 1’s that were truly awful – and seemed to stay there for an eternity. It’s also interesting to notice that despite having actually lived when "Ride A White Swan" by T.REX first hit the charts in October 1970 - there are titles in that week and the subsequent weeks that I don't remember at all (and some you'd rather forget). 

I then figured I'd try to set up some of these Top Forty lists in iTunes on my computer. I chose a week from 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973 - and I found to my astonishment that even with 46,000 songs at my disposal (don't ask!), I only had about half in each list. Many are elusive on CD still.

Downsides - there's no pictures at all to break the monotony - and all those dry lists have little to accompany them by way of text on the changing face of music and the charts - like the Guinness books do (there are a few pages at the beginning on Chart statistics). But it’s still a fantastic reference source. And long overdue too.


I got my copy for just under seven on-line - despite its official twenty-pound price tag. A very, very good reference source and a great fun-trip down our music's 50 Year Memory Lane…

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