Official Charts History: The 90s

Bryan Adams, Wet Wet Wet and Whitney score marathon Number 1s, while Elton John earns the biggest single ever.

1990 - The first new Number 1 single of the decade is New Kids On The Block's Hangin' Tough, while The Christians' Colour is the first new chart-topping album.

In January, the chart panel comprises 900 stores. In April, chart rules limit the number of formats to contribute to any Official Singles Chart position to a total of five.

A new chart contract is signed by Gallup in July with Chart Information Network (CIN), a company set up by Music Week, in co-operation with the BBC and retailers association Bard. The BPI joins a year later as a 50:50 joint venture partner with MW.

In December, Madonna hits package The Immaculate Collection sells 330,000 copies in a week, the second highest weekly total on record.

The Very Best Of Elton John also sells 270,000 in the same week, while In Concert by Carreras/ Domingo/ Pavarotti becomes the first million-selling classical album and Lady & The Tramp becomes the first video release to sell 1.5 million in the UK – all making it a bumper Christmas for entertainment sales.

1991 – Michael Jackson’s Bad becomes the second album to pass  3 million sales in the UIK, after Dire Straits Brothers In Arms. By year-end, three other albums have followed suit – The Beatles’ 1967 title Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1981’s first volume of Queen’s Greatest Hits and Michael Jackson’s 1982 title Thriller.

Chart rules are amended in June to reduce the number of formats which can contribute to a singles chart position to four. Later in the year, the rules on singles duration are revised in the wake of growing demand for dance singles. The new rules allow singles comprising entirely different mixes of the same title to run for up to 40 minutes – singles featuring four different tracks are now allowed to last up to 25 minutes (up from 20).

In the autumn, Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You racks up 16 consecutive week at Number 1, breaking the 1955 record set by Slim Whitman’s 11-week chart-topper Rose Marie. Everything I do is also the biggest selling cassette single of all time.
Guns N’ Roses capture Number 1 and 2 in the Official Albums Chart during September with Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, a first for the UK. Bruce Springsteen achieves the same feat in April the next year with Human Touch and Lucky Town.

Disney’s Fantasia becomes the first video to sell 2 million copies in the UK, during December.

Following the shock death of Freddie Mercury, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (this time coupled in a double a-side with These Are The Days Of Our Lives) also becomes the first single to top the Official Singles Chart on two totally separate occasions and in four different years (November / December 1975 & January 1976, and December 1991 & January 1992).

1992 - in March, BBC Radio 1 extends its chart show to a 4pm to 7pm programme.

As the market shifts further away from vinyl, Neil Diamond’s double CD/cassette set The Greatest hits 1966-1992 becomes the first non-vinyl Number 1 album. CD is now the premier album format, with sales overtaking those of cassette.

In December, Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You becomes the biggest-selling CD single in UK history – in so doing holding on at Number 1 for 10 weeks and becoming 1992’s Christmas Number 1.

1994 – from February 1, Millward Brown (now named Kantar) takes over the chart compilation contract from Gallup, extending use of state-of-the-art, automated electronic point of sale terminals and drawing data from a panel of 1,000 stores. The market research company (which remains the Official Charts research contractor to this day) is commissioned by CIN.

Within six months, Wet Wet Wet takes over at the top of the Official Singles Chart with Love Is All Around, staying at the summit for 15 weeks until the band decided to stop manufacturing copies of the single – deliberately preventing it from matching Bryan Adams’ record of 16 weeks from 1991. It sells 1.9m copies to become the biggest-selling non-charity release of the Nineties.

In another chart first, Danish singer Whigfield breaks new ground with her first UK single, Saturday Night, becoming the first debut single to enter at the top of the Official Singles Chart.

1995 – in one of the most memorable races for Number 1 of all time, Britpop rivals Blur and Oasis battle it out for the top spot with brand new singles Country House and Roll With It going head-to-head for the Official Number 1 spot. It is Blur who win out; Country House selling 274,000 copies to Roll With It’s 216,000. The contest has the effect of helping increase singles sales for the week by 40%.

1996 – making their first impact on the Official Charts in 1996 are the Spice Girls, with debut hit Wannabe (coupled with a striking, one-take promo video) spends 7 weeks at Number 1. The girls would go on to have six consecutive Number 1s, nine altogether, including 3 Christmas Number 1s.

By year-end, UK album sales have topped 200 million units for the first time.

1997 – released in August, Oasis’s Be Here Now album becomes the fastest-seller of all time – selling 350,000 on its first day and 696,000 in its first week. It goes on to become the biggest-selling album of the Nineties, topping 4.6 million copies in the UK.

Following the tragic death of Diana, Princess Of Wales, Elton John’s Candle In The Wind 1997 becomes the biggest selling single of all time in the UK. Coupled with Something About The Way You Look Tonight as a double A-side, the release sells 1.55 million in its first week in the UK. All proceeds benefit the Diana, Princess Of Wales Memorial Fund.

In total, 1997 ends with 87 million singles sold in the UK, the highest market total since the halcyon years of 1978 and 1979.

1998 – a new joint venture is set up by the BPI and ERA (formerly Bard) in July to take over ownership of the UK’s Official Charts. Initially named Music Information Chart Services, the business is rebranded as the Official Charts Company three years later in October 2001.

Cher mounts a dramatic chart return, her new single Believe spending seven weeks at Number 1 and selling more than 1.5 millions copies following its release in November. It ends the year as the best-selling single of 1998 and becomes the biggest selling single by a female artist of all time in the UK.

1999 – for the first time in its history, the Official Singles Chart takes on a sponsor for the first time, with online music start up signing up to a two-year deal.

Shania Twain's Come On Over is the final Official Number 1 Album of the Millennium, while Westlife's I Have A Dream / Seasons In The Sun is the final Official Number 1 Single. 

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