The Top Ten Timeline

Well, this was a stupid idea…


It’s safe to say I’ve had much more sensible ideas than this.

At the start of 2013, I was 38 years old and had recently finished a fourteen year stint writing music reviews for the local ‘paper. Naturally, after fourteen years of listening to The Latest Chart SoundsTM you’d think I could do with never listening to another pop song again. However, I am an idiot, and one morning I wondered how long it would take to listen to every single that had reached the Top Ten during my lifetime. This seemed to me to be an interesting idea and one worth trying out, just out of curiosity. I’d listen to the Top Ten for the week I was born (the week ending 27 July 1974, in case you were wondering which you probably weren’t), write down some notes and if I thought it was a go-er, I’d listen to the songs from August and September 1974 and see if there was maybe something in this lark.

So. I listened to that first week, liked the idea and then did something very silly. I told people what I was planning to do. The thing is, when you do something like that you sort of commit yourself to giving it a proper go. I’d listened to ten songs… and there were roughly 6,000 more to go if I was going to go all the way up to my 40th birthday. Well done, Simon. You great, steaming pillock.

Anyway, over the course of the next eighteen months, to my great surprise I actually stuck to the task and even overshot by a month – I extended the run to August 2014 because that would finish the original count on exactly 6,000 and a list as big as that deserves to finish on a round number, don’t you think? I put the whole lot online and forgot about the project FOREVER. It. Was. Done.

Yeah. About that…

People say that forever has no end, but on this occasion I have to disagree. For me, “forever” lasted for around four months. This is because, as I have previously mentioned, I am an idiot.

See, even while I was going through the original project and subjecting myself to every Top Ten single from 1974 to 2014, I couldn’t help thinking that it wasn’t really a complete list. The singles chart began in November 1952 – if I was starting off in 1974 that would be nearly 22 years’ worth of Top Tenners missing. Nearly all the Beatles’ stuff, all the Rolling Stones’ good singles, the Who, the Kinks, even (God help us) Engelbert Bloody Humperdinck wasn’t showing up on my list. And then I thought about it some more (and this is usually where things go very badly for me) and came to the conclusion that as I’d already done 40 years and there was less than 22 remaining, would it really be such a chore to finish the job?

The fact that this is a complete list of every Top Ten single from November 1952 to December 2014 should give you a pretty good idea as to how successfully I shot that idea down. Perhaps “idiot” isn’t quite a strong enough word.

So, the rules. No, honestly, there were some. Had to be. The first Top Ten was dated 14 November 1952, so that’s where I started. I then went through every single hit parade until I reached the present day, except I didn’t – I started at July 1974, went through to August 2014, stopped for a bit, went back to November 1952, filled in the gaps up to July 1974 and then brought the whole bloody lot up to date at the end. I followed the Guinness British Hit Singles method of doing this (oh yes, that should annoy the purists), so that meant going by the New Musical Express charts from 1952 to March 1960 and Record Retailer / Music Week from that point on. Yeah, I know the NME and Melody Maker charts were supposed to be more accurate, but I couldn’t be dealing with all that. If I looked at every singles chart that was running in the sixties I’d never get finished – even Top Of The Pops did its own rundown, for crying out loud! Nah, sod all that. NME and Music Week, that did the job for me. Besides, the first Music Week chart corresponds neatly with the last NME chart and if that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.

That was the main rule, but there were others…

1. I will only listen to a song once, no matter how many times it visits the Top Ten – however, any songs that were re-issued between 1974 and 2014 that were covered during the first run-through were listened to again when I did 1952-74, this time at their proper place in time (there were 35 of those, in case you’re wondering).
2. That said, if a substantially different version appears (live recording, remix, cover version etc.) chances are I’ll cover that too. Remixes in the 1960s? Yeah, right. That’s likely to happen, isn’t it? Cover versions though, oh yes, there will be a few of those.
3. Each update will cover a month at a time. If I did this on a weekly basis, there’d be over 1,000 individual pages to get through. COBBLERS TO THAT.
4. As before, updates will go online as and when I feel like it. I want to do this because I’m enjoying it, not because I feel obligated to do it, so there will be breaks between updates (at one point, I didn’t update the website for eight months and ended up chucking something like fifteen years’ worth of text online in one go. Oops).
5. You will disagree with things I say, mainly because you’re not me. You should thank your lucky stars.

Right then, those were the rules, and if you look at the archive list (the one with loads of months going back to the fifties), there are the songs… Alternatively, if there’s a specific tune you’re looking for, there’s an alphabetical list of every song to reach the Top Ten so far. You might be surprised to see some songs that made it onto the list… and to find out that some you might’ve expected to be there aren’t…