Official Charts History: The 70s

The decade of punk, disco, 8-tracks and cassettes - as singles become more popular than ever.

1971 – a postal strike results in no Official Albums Charts being circulated from February through to April. (As a result, the definitive chart archive database reflects the Melody Maker album charts for this period. The Official Singles Chart is limited to a Top 40 for the same period too).

1972 – now named Record & Tape Retailer, the UK’s key trade magazine (and stakeholder in the Official Charts) is renamed Music Week.

1974 – it is the peak year for the 8-track cartridge, with 6.2m million units sold – although this amounts to just 6% of the 109 million albums sold.

1975 – the Official Albums Chart expands from Top 50 to Top 60 in July.

1976 – the 12-inch single reaches the UK for the first time, in the form of a re-issue of The Who’s Substitute. By 1990, the 12inch single accounts for 32% of all singles bought in the UK.

1977 – in June, the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen becomes one of chart history’s most high profile Number 2 singles, when it is pipped by Rod Stewart’s double A-side I Don’t Want To Talk About It / The First Cut Is The Deepest in the week of the Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. Conspiracy theories claiming that GSTQ was actually the week’s biggest seller, but was kept off the top of the chart to prevent embarrassment to the BBC (who had banned the song) and the establishment have never been proven.

In November, the first edition of the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles is published to coincide with the Official Chart’s 25th anniversary. Sales of the book top 62 million copies. Over the next 30 years, it will updated 19 different times, as well as merging with the Guinness Book Of British Hit Albums.

1978 – in May, the Official Singles Chart is extended from Top 50 to Top 75 for the first time.  The Official Album Charts increases from Top 60 to Top 75 in December.

Paul McCartney & Wings’ single Mull Of Kintyre becomes the first single to pass 2 million singles sales in the UK, in a year which sees five other singles pass the million mark. It remains one of only four singles to sell 2 million copies – the others are Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas and Elton John’s Candle In The Wind ’97.

The Cars’ My Best Friend’s Girl reaches Number 3 in November, becoming the first contemporary title featuring a picture disc to reach the Top 10. Picture discs had existed in the 1930s and 1940s, but had become obsolete since the chart / rock / pop era.

1978 becomes the biggest year on record at that point in history for singles with 88.8 million units sold (based on BPI trade delivery figures), but only until the following year…

1979 – after a new singles mark was set in 1978, 1979 beats it straight away. The 89.1 million units is a pre-digital total which is never beaten.  The year’s biggest hits include Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall (Part II), Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes, Village People’s YMCA, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Ian Dury & The Blockheads’ Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and Blondie’s Heart Of Glass.

In October, Music Week moves from publishing its albums chart a week in arrears by publishing two charts in the same week – so, for a week, both Blondie’s Eat The Beat and The Police’s Regatta De Blanc share the Number 1 spot.

The UK’s first cassette single is released by Cherry Red Records in February, The Tights’ Howards Hughes. The first cassette single to become a chart hit follows in 1980, Bow Wow Wow’s C-30, C-60, C-90. 

1960s history

1980s history