Pop music and hit parades

British 1956 Hit Parade record album

The first regular UK singles chart was published on this day, November 14, in 1952 by the New Musical Express, reminds the website On This Day. Someone has duly posted that on Twitter including even a scanned copy of the newspaper clipping “announcing the first record hit parade”. Yes, that’s what we called weekly lists of bestselling pop music records — “hit parades”.  

The New Musical Express launched the UK singles chart following the example of the Billboard magazine, which published the first music hit parade in America on January 4, 1936.

British 1956 Hit Parade record album
British 1956 Hit Parade record album

Anyone who loved pop music back in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s was likely to listen to the hit parades played on the radio. The BBC World Service had a slew of pop music programmes: The Top of the Pops, the UK Top 20, the Dave Symonds Show, and more.

I religiously listened to the Top 20 every week on the BBC World Service in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. It was exciting to listen to the deejay playing the new entries on the chart and ending the show with great fanfare with the No 1 song of the week. I was thrilled every time one of my favourites topped the chart. I recall the Beatles’ Hey Jude, Get Back, and The Ballad of John and Yoko all went No 1.

The Beatles were topping the charts long before I became a BBC World Service fan. The Fab Four had three No 1s (Please Please Me, She Loves You, and I Want to Hold Your Hand) on the New Musical Express singles chart in 1963, three more ( Can’t Buy Me Love, A Hard Day’s Night, and I Feel Fine ) in 1964, another three (Ticket to Ride, Help, Day Tripper/ We Can Work It Out) in 1965, and two (Paperback Writer, and Yellow Submarine/ Eleanor Rigby) in 1966 before releasing Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, probably the most written-about music album ever recorded.

Going through the music charts or hit parades of the 1960s, I am struck by the wealth of talent at the time. The Rolling Stones had three No 1 singles (The Last Time, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Get Off My Cloud) in 1965 and two (19th Nervous Breakdown, Paint It Black) in 1966, just like the Beatles.

Elvis Presley had five No 1s (Are You Lonesome Tonight, Wooden Heart, Surrender, Wild in the Country, His Latest Flame) in 1961 and three (Good Luck Charm, She’s Not You, and Return to Sender) in 1962.

The King stormed into the spotlight in the 1950s: All Shook Up was No 1 on the New Musical Express singles chart in 1957, Jailhouse Rock in 1958, and I Got Stung/ One Night and A Fool Such as I/ I Need Your Love Tonight in 1958).


I feel nostalgic going through the old charts and hit parades on Wikipedia. Seeing the titles of songs that ruled the airwaves once puts me in the mood for Spotify, classic radio stations and YouTube videos. I remember the Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Ricky Nelson, the Beach Boys, the Seekers, the Monkees and all the rest who made magic on the radio and the turntable in their time. It’s Yesterday Once More, to recall the Carpenters song.

When I was young
I’d listen to the radio
Waitin’ for my favourite songs
When they played I’d sing along
It made me smile.

Those were such happy times
And not so long ago
How I wondered where they’d gone
But they’re back again
Just like a long lost friend
All the songs I loved so well.

How can I thank Wikipedia, Spotify, YouTube, Twitter and all the other online havens which have preserved the past, where I can always relive the past whenever I want? The past is never completely gone now we have the internet, it’s just a click of the mouse or a tap on the phone away.

Anyone remembers the Archies? They topped the charts for several weeks in 1969 with Sugar, Sugar.

Pop music filled the charts, but surprises turned up, too. Like Hugo Montenegro and His Orchestra playing the theme music from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which topped the charts in 1968.. It was the first instrumental No 1 since 1963.

Twitter has a raft of tweets on chart-toppers. There seems to be a tradition of tweeting on anniversaries of famous songs topping the charts.


It seems there’s quite a bit of pop music history on Twitter. But nothing can beat listening to the songs themselves.

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