Official Charts History: The 80s

Compact Discs arrive, while Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2 and Band Aid rule the world.

1980 - The Pretenders' Brass In Pocket becomes the first new Number 1 single of the decade, as the band score a double top, as The Pretenders also tops the Official Albums Chart. 

1981 – in August, the Official Albums Chart is extended from a Top 75 to a Top 100.

1983 – one chart compilation era ends and new one begins, as Gallup ends BMRB’s 13-year tenure as chart compilation contractor. Gallup takes over the Official Singles Chart and Official Albums Chart from January 4, replacing a system reliant on hand-written diaries, motorcycle courier collection and manually-checked charts with a new computerised system which involved retrieval of data via phone lines and digital monitoring of sales to minimise hyping.

The new system introduces Top 200 singles and albums charts every week (only the Top 100 is available publically at that point via Music Week). Cassette sales are also incorporated into the albums charts, while separate cassette albums and 12 singles charts are produced. Gallup’s contract is now directly with the record labels’ association, the BPI, who supplies the broadcast and publishing rights to Music Week and the BBC.

The first Official Number 1s under Gallup are Renee & Renato’s Save Your Love single, and The John Lennon Collection album.

In March, New Order’s Blue Monday is released by Factory Records on 12-inch only, beginning a lifespan which will see it rack up 700,000 sales on the format to become the biggest selling 12 inch of all time.

In the autumn, the concept of chart rules are invented for the first time – the industry moves to bar releases sold with free gifts, following a flurry of free t-shirt giveaways with pop singles.

1984 – in December, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas sets new sales records for the UK business, topping 600,000 in its first week, another 810,000 in its second week and becoming the first single to Top 3 million sales. Another record breaker that week was Wham’s Last Christmas, which scored the biggest one-week sales tally without ever reaching Number 1, selling 500,000 copies… but losing out to Band Aid.

1985 – a 4-track version of Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms becomes the UK’s first Compact Disc single, although it is limited to just 400 copies.

Summer 1985 also saw US singer Madonna score her first UK Number 1 with Into The Groove, from the movie Desperately Seeking Susan. Still her best-selling single in the UK, it would be followed by 12 more chart-toppers, giving her more UK Number 1s than any other female artist.

BPI statistics indicate that sales of cassettes have surpassed vinyl albums for the first time, as a market dominated for many years by vinyl shifts to a cassette/CD/vinyl mix – 55 million cassettes sold, alongside 53 million vinyl albums and 3 million CDs.

1987 – in January, U2’s The Joshua Tree becomes the fastest-selling album in UK history at that point, selling 235,000 in its opening week – but it is usurped when Michael Jackson’s Bad records 350,000 sales in one week during September.

As the year moves on, Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits becomes the first album to sell 250,000 CDs and the first to sell 1 million cassettes. By year end it is also the first album to sell a total of 3 million copies
In June, the chart rules are further tightened up, including a limit to the duration of 20 minutes (anything longer is considered an album) and a bar on combining double pack singles with standard singles, and a bar on CD in the singles chart (this is subsequently lifted in December). A month later, a new contract is signed with Gallup, bringing a range of improvements including a doubling of the panel size to 500 retailers.

In October, the weekly chart announcement is moved from Tuesday lunchtime to Sunday afternoon, less than a day after the last sale has been counted – turning the UK’s chart into the fastest and most accurate in the world. BBC Radio 1’s chart show is thus fixed in its new slot, with DJ Bruno Brookes continuing at the helm.

1988 – in October, the top four places in the Official Albums Chart are occupied by new entries for the first time – U2’s Rattle & Hum (which sells 320,000 copies), the Pet Shop Boys Introspective, the Pasadenas’ To Whom It May Concern and Bananarama’s Greatest Hits.

1989 – Kylie & Jason’s Especially For You, Erasure’s Crackers International EP and Angry Anderson’s Suddenly give the UK it’s first all-independent Top 3 in the Official Albums Chart in the year’s first new chart.

A week later, the Official Albums Chart is split in two – a Top 150 Artist Albums Chart and a Top 50 Multi-Artist Compilations Chart. In time, the two charts become widely referred to (including within the database) as the “Official Albums Chart” and “Official Compilations Chart”.

Format shifts continue through the year – sales of CDs overtake vinyl albums for the first time, as BPI data registers a then albums market peak of 163 million units across the year. In turn, labels try to encourage sales of cassette singles by changing chart rules to allow them into the singles chart.

In December, Phil Collins’ …But Seriously becomes the first album to pass 1 million sales within its first five weeks of release. 

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