Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Kent Music Report

When a young David Kent first became interested in popular music, there was no such thing as an Australian Top 100. In fact, it would be a few years before any sort of music tracking was available to him, having to make do with radio "Hit Parades" which counted down a handful of popular songs each the week. David's interest lead to his collecting as many of these hit parades as possible, later becoming an invaluable history of Australia's early chart history.

In 1958, Sydney radio station, 2UE, publish its first giveaway chart available at record stores as a promotional tool for the radio station. It detailed the most popular songs into a Top 40 list much the same as the now established Billboard charts in America. Gradually, radio stations from all corners of the country had their own charts available giving David the chance the tabulate them into one overall national chart. However, that was quite a few years away from where we are at the moment.

David Kent had previously worked with record companies EMI and Phonogram records, creating his Top 100 lists as a hobby, but with the impending collapse of the Go-Set charts, David's first commercially released Australian chart was released in July 1974.

The Kent Music Report was recognized as Australia's national chart until 1988. During this time David took the time to "retro-calculate" the charts previous to 1974 via the lists he had collected in his younger days. His reputation also allowed many radio stations to provide him with plenty of vintage information that lead him to dig all the way back to 1940 when Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and The Andrews Sisters reigned supreme.

The Australian Top 1000 (of everything) picks up from 1955, a year which celebrated the arrival of the 7" single. It was also a pinnacle year in the course of popular music with the arrival of Rock and Roll, which sporadically enjoyed chart success until the 1960's where it became the norm.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Top 1000 Is Born!

It's hard to imagine a world without popular music. Conceived around the 18th and 19th century's via sheet music, it has become an important influence on almost every lifestyle in almost every corner of the world.

Popular music is simply music for the masses, displaying wide appeal that provides a living for those who excel. And what a living it has turned out to be. Wealth, fame, power. The glory of the industry is something we all fantasise about. Who hasn't mimed in front of the mirror or picked up a karaoke microphone with delusions that we too can be part of the dream.

The publishing and printing of sheet music in the late 18th century allowed popular music to be available for public purchase, making way for what could have been the first pop charts. But it wasn't until the 1900's that the tabulation of music sales properly came into effect. The American Billboard charts published its first hit parade on January 4, 1936 with a Music Popularity Chart calculated in July 1940. It was 18 years later in 1958 when an official Hot 100 was released, a form which continues to this day. Billboard has since exploded into over 100 different genres of singles and album charts including Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Hip Hop, Christian, Latin, Country, Rock, Dance and Jazz. There are charts highlighting songs that just missed the Top 100, and even a tabulation of songs available on ringtone - but that's quite a few years away from where we are now.

The Australian Charts found an official beginning via the Melbourne publication, Go-Set. The weekly "pop music bible" was released on February 2, 1966 and within a year, featured a National Top 40 singles chart highlighting the musical trends of major radio stations in all capital cities of Australia. The demise of Go-Set came just as the Kent Music Report found its footing. Compiled by David Kent, the report became the new National Chart until it was bought up by ARIA, which continued to publish under the banner, Australian Music Report, until 1988. David Kent's reputation allowed him to delve into past playlists from those major radio stations to backtrack a National Chart going back to 1940. It's with the these Kent Charts that we begin our journey today.

The Australian Charts Top 1000 has formed from years and years (and years) of chart tracking by myself, forming my own calculation to come up with a definitive list of the biggest singles, albums and artists on the Australian charts. It's a mammoth task! I have tried (and failed) presenting this sort of thing before, but new interest in the Albums charts has opened another can of worms that stalled my initial progress. I've been fortunate enough to dig out all charting singles and albums information from the Kent Charts, Go-Set National Top 40, Australian Music Report and ARIA via subscription, internet, and some very generous chart-lovers themselves. With this, the Top 1000 Biggest Singles, Albums and Artists will be counted down - and a warning - it WILL take years.

But it's not complete yet. A long way off, in fact. This list has to be properly born, so a year by year analysis of the charts will pave the way and build the excitement of this giant project. So it's with this that I welcome you to enjoy the voyage to the top.