Our all-new OfficialCharts.com website has been designed with a brand new historic charts database at its heart – probably the most complete database of UK charts ever gathered together in one place.
It is a resource which holds more than 35,000 charts dating back to 1952 – a sum total of 3.4 million chart positions, with more than 2,500 new positions added every week, that's 130,000 every year.
To get the most out of this database, please leaf through our guided tour here. This will outline how to search through seven decades of singles rundowns (back to 1952) and albums charts (back to 1956), as well as compilation charts and genre charts dating back to 1994 – with Top 100s for more charts than we have ever gathered before.
It is the first time such a vast range of Official Charts has been gathered in one place and means we can offer a dizzying array of data, including the ability to view definitive weeks-on-chart tallies (whether you’re looking at the Top 10, 20, 40, 75 or 100), weeks at Number 1, full chart run histories (including the ability to click through to any chart in that run), plus much more.
The Official Charts lineage
It is important to outline which singles and albums charts we are defining as “official” for the purposes of this database. To start with, every one of our specialist genre and format charts (which cover the period from from 1994 to date) are 100% Official, extracted directly from the industry-standard Official Charts Online database which is managed by Millward Brown.
Even for the Official Singles and Albums Charts for the years since the late Sixties, there has been little dispute over this “lineage” – since BMRB was first commissioned by the BBC and Record Retailer in 1969, everyone has been in pretty much unanimous agreement.
But before this period, matters are less straightforward. In the early years of the UK’s charts (the Fifties and Sixties), there were a number of parallel charts published by various different magazines: at certain points, music papers such as the New Musical Express, Melody Maker, Disc, Record Mirror and Record Retailer (later renamed Record & Tape Retailer and then Music Week) all published their own music rundowns.
For the purposes of this database, we are following the most unanimously agreed lineage. Chart historians have long since agreed the NME published the pre-eminent singles chart from launch in November 1952 through to February 1960, when the Record Retailer took over as the chart of choice. As far as albums are concerned, the Record Mirror chart was the original (and most widely recognised) rundown, from July 1956 until March 1960, when the Record Retailer took over.
From this point in early 1960, Record Retailer unified the albums and singles charts, remaining the source of choice through until early 1969 when BMRB took over the reins. In January 1983, Gallup became the UK’s Official chart compiler, before Millward Brown in turn picked up the baton in February 1994. The only exception to this unbroken run of BMRB charts post-1969 was for the eight weeks comprising February and March 1971, when a postal strike meant that album chart publication by BMRB was sporadic at best. For this period our database reflects the charts published by Melody Maker – as is also agreed by many chart historians.
As an overview, this is the Official Charts lineage, in full:
Official Singles Chart:
Nov 14 1952 – Feb 1960 - NME Singles Chart.
March 1960 to Feb 1969 – Record Retailer Singles Chart.
Feb 1969 to Dec 1983 – Singles Chart, compiled by BMRB.
Jan 1983 to Feb 1994 – Singles Chart, compiled by Gallup.
Feb 1994 to present day – Singles Chart, compiled by Millward Brown.
Official Albums Chart:
July 28 1956 to March 1960 - Record Mirror Albums Chart
March 1960 to Feb 1969 – Record Retailer Albums Chart.
Feb 1969 to Dec 1983 – Albums Chart, compiled by BMRB.
[For the purpose of this database, we revert to the Melody Maker Chart for 8 weeks dated Feb 6 to Mar 27 1971, because BMRB charts were not published fully, owing to a UK Postal Strike]
Jan 1983 to Feb 1994 – Albums Chart, compiled by Gallup.
Feb 1994 to present day – Albums Chart, compiled by Millward Brown.
The length of the UK’s charts have also varied enormously over the years. Today, in an era of electronic data delivery and collection, the Official Singles and Official Albums charts are published to the business as Top 200s, but can be generated for the industry (in theory) at almost unlimited lengths. We have chosen to launch this new database with charts at Top 100 wherever possible.
But this wasn’t always possible. Famously, NME’s original singles chart launched with a Top 12 comprising 15 different releases, while Record Mirror’s first albums chart ran to just 5 positions. Through the following decade though, both charts grew to Top 20s, Top 30s, Top 40s right up to Top 75s and then Top 100s.
Wherever possible, we have taken the longest charts we can accurately source. In more recent years, this is relatively straightforward, meaning Top 100 charts right from the start of the Gallup era in 1983, through to the present day. Some will note, however, that for three years we revert back to a Singles Top 75, until the beginning of the Millward Brown era in February when The Top 100 returns.
The reason for this temporary return to Top 75 is down to the sources we have used to build this database. These sources took their charts from Record Mirror throughout the Eighties, a period during which the paper published full Top 100s, right up to its closure in April 1991. The good news for chart historians, is that we aim is to fill this gap in the charts, as soon as we are able.
It is also worth noting that, for the purposes of this database, we are generally choosing to take the charts which were available to the industry - and (as the industry did at the time) ignoring the titles which were "starred out" in the late Eighties and early Nineties. In this period (spanning the end of the Gallup era and beginning of the Millward Brown era), titles outside of the Singles Top 75 which had "fallen for two consecutive weeks and by more than 20% in the last week" (as the chart rules stipulated) were not given a chart position. We have decided to respect this chart rule.
Aside from the Official Singles and Official Albums Charts, we are also offering the longest possible listings for the Official Compilations Charts, the Official Video Charts, Official Download, Streaming, Physical and yearly charts for the past 20 years too. In addition to these core charts, our site offers music genre charts covering rock, urban, R&B, dance, jazz & blues, classical, christian/gospel, together with video genres including film, TV, children’s, music, sports/fitness and special interest – all dating back to 1994, or whenever such charts were first compiled.
Throughout the history of the UK's charts, it is important to note that the standards we all seek to adhere to today were very different in times passed. As the world has changed, chart rules have changed too. The result is one or two oddities which it is worth highlighting here.
In the Fifties, as Percy Dickins collated his weekly singles chart, it was the informal process of compiling his chart (based on spoken reporting over the phone) that resulted in a number of strange quirks. For instance, examine the charts during 1952 to 1954 and you will occasionally see two titles with the same catalogue number.
Essentially, these were opposite sides of the same disc – retailers would report to Dickins (and his successors) based on the popularity of specific tracks, first reporting the rise and fall of one side, before reporting the rise of the other side, before it too would drop down the chart. Examples include Nat King Cole’s Because You’re Mine in 1952 and Faith Can Move Mountains in early 1953 (both on the single with label and catalogue number Capitol CL 13811) and Doris Day & Johnnie Ray’s Ma Says Pa Says and Full Time Job (both on the disc with label and catalogue number Columbia DB 3242).
In turn, the Shangri-La’s Leader Of The Pack experienced a rather unusual chart history in 1976. The 1965 original was reissued by both the Charly and Contempo labels in June, so took two places in the chart at 47 and 43 – before the sales were combined the following week and it appeared under the joint label Charly / Contempo in position 21. It eventually peaked at number 7.
Another striking quirk is the handful of albums which appeared in the Singles Chart in the last weeks before the first albums chart was published by Record Mirror in July 1956. The NME had no albums chart, so took the decision to place such albums alongside the era's hit singles - the most notable examples of this were the South Pacific OST and Frank Sinatra's Songs For Swinging Lovers.
At various times through chart history, chart ties were treated differently too. In the early days, two titles on an equal number of sales resulted in a longer chart.
Famously, the NME’s first singles chart was a Top 12 with 15 titles in it, because of three ties – which meant that two singles at Number 7 (Forget Me Not by Vera Lynn and High Noon by Frankie Laine) were followed by the next single at number 8. In fact, there were another two which tied (Sugarbush by Doris Day & Frankie Laine and Blue Tango by Ray Martin), which were then followed by Vera Lynn’s The Homing Waltz at number 9 (even though it was the 11th single in the rundown). Confused? Check out the chart here, and you’ll see what we mean.
Of course, these were the early days of chart compilation. As the years wore on, more music retailers have fed into the UK’s charts, reducing the frequency of such ties. As the years wore on, the way ties have been represented has evolved too. In later years, two titles on an equal number of sales have seen the following chart entry taking its natural position in the chart - for instance, when Madness’s One Step Beyond and Girlschool’s Demolition tied for 34th place in the Official Albums Chart dated July 12 1980, the next title was Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark at number 36. Under the original rules, OMD would have been placed 35th, of course.
Unlike some databases, we have retained all of these ties – and not sought to reposition them (for instance placing two titles which originally tied at 33, in positions 33 and 34).
There are one-offs too, which are worth highlighting too. During October 1979, a change in the publication date of the album chart meant that two rundowns were published in one week, which results (naturally) in two number 1 albums – Blondie’s Eat To The Beat and The Police’s Regatta De Blanc. Contrary to some databases, we take the view that both charts are valid – so Eat To The Beat WAS a number 1, despite the fact that some histories indicate that it peaked at 2.
Broadly, too, we have opted to adhere to the contemporary rules which were applied at the time - our aim being to reflect the charts as they were published, read and experienced at the time. That being said, where we have been aware of errors in the charts published (and, on occasion, publications such as New Musical Express, Record Retailer and Music Week DID publish errors), we have corrected such errors where it has been possible and logical to do so.
We are aware that there is a huge amount of love for the Official Charts, their history and heritage, and the story they have told (and continue to tell, to music historians). We are immensely proud of our role as guardians of this legacy, as we hope that the love and care we have devoted to the creation of this database illustrates.
But we are fully aware that no database of this size and complexity can be 100% perfect. If you spot any glitches or errors (or would simply like to let us know what you think of our new database) please get in touch via our feedback email here: firstname.lastname@example.org.