It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

60 years of the UK singles charts? Well yes, it is an important milestone all things considered and there is still a good chance I’ll be popping up on TV next week in connection with the event. But as it happens there is another anniversary going on here.

November 9th 1992 was the date I logged on to a computer terminal wired in to the central computer system at Lancaster University and fired out to the rec.music.misc newsgroup the first ever edition of “James Masterton’s Chart Analysis” as I’d elected to call it.

20 years later, with just the occasional break (Summer 1994 after I graduated, June 1995 during a copyright shutdown and the launching of the original dotmusic site and September 2011 when Yahoo! Music shut down and before About.com stepped in to host the columns) I’m still here – churning out either words of wisdom or pontificating cluelessly on the music events of the week as they pertain to the charts. I’ve seen usenet give way to Dotmusic, that site change hands from Music Week to BT to Yahoo!, the brand eventually folding into Yahoo! Music itself before that site was shuttered, since when I’ve been pleased to be writing for the “Top40” section of internet knowledge repository About.com

As for how it all began, well I’ve written a handful of retrospective pieces in the past about the origins of the column, so for the full background I would recommend this piece from five years ago marking the 15th anniversary of the column, and a bad tempered piece from April 2010 where I recount the circumstances that led me to go in one fell swoop from alleged copyright pirate to official internet spokesperson for the UK charts, under the protective wing of Music Week magazine and their brand new website.

It would however be wrong not to mark the occasion with something fresh and this anniversary seems as good a moment as any for a tiny bit of navel-gazing, so over the course of the next 24 hours I’ll be pleased to bring you:

  • The first publicly available reproduction in some time of the very first ever column from November 1992.
  • Selected highlights from the first ten years of columns.
  • A suspiciously similar companion piece with bleeding chunks ripped from the second half of the archive.

In the meantime it would be remiss of me not to point out that my latest work is available for both reading and listening, hence the handy presence in the sidebar of links to both the latest chart commentary on About.com plus the feed of the (almost) weekly podcast.

Finally, watch out this weekend for something I’ve never had the ability to try before but which should tie in nicely for what is, let’s face it, the most important anniversary of the week. Happy 60th birthday UK Singles Chart. It’s been my privilege to leech off your celebrity for the past two decades of my online life. My friend, TV Cream’s Steve Williams has often commented that there seem to be an inordinate amount of people who are these days just fans of the charts, obsessed with the statistics behind it all and without regard for the music which makes it up in the first place. I can only hope I never fall into that trap myself. A lifelong love of pop music and just what makes it special as a cultural reference point is what fuels my love of the account of which song is more popular than any other at any given moment. Long may it all continue.

3 Comments

  1. I have read your chart commentary since the Dotmusic days. I read it every week. I hope you manage to keep it going in one shape or form for another 20 years too!

  2. I’m probably one of those sad geeks who loves the chart stats as much as the music. I fell out of love with chart music for the first time in the late eighties, and although there have been many many wonderful pop songs in the interim, I’m still generally of the opinion that it’s mainly guff, and since I’ve not listened to Radio 1 in twenty years, it’s really difficult to actually keep up with a lot of the interesting stuff going on in the charts, and indeed to the music itself.

    Is there a way to follow chart music without missing out on the joys of e.g. 6Music?

    If this is me now, think how gnarled and grumpy I’ll be when I get into my forties in a few years’ time…

  3. Pingback: Now We Are 25 - James Masterton

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