Chart for stowaways – October 2020

Both charts in October was dominated by the return of The Future Sound of London, with Cascade 2020 holding the top spot on the album chart for the whole month, and the single Cascade finally knocking Pet Shop BoysWest End girls off the top of the singles half way through the month.

There was some back catalogue drama on the albums meanwhile, as demonstrated by this top ten from October 24th:

  1. The Future Sound of London – Cascade 2020
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  3. The Beloved – Happiness
  4. The Beloved – Where it Is
  5. Kraftwerk – Die Mensch-Maschine
  6. Various Artists – The Best of “O” Records, Vol. 1
  7. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest
  8. Various Artists – The Best of “O” Records, Vol. 2
  9. Kraftwerk – Computerwelt
  10. Kraftwerk – Techno Pop

Chart for stowaways – August 2020

August saw flashbacks to 1990, with the return of The Beloved to the charts with their debut studio album Happiness. From a humble re-entry at number 4 at the start of the month, it climbed gradually to the top spot, sitting there for the latter half of the month. For the final week, their 1989 single Your Love Takes Me Higher finally climbed up to the top spot on both the Singles and Catalogue Singles charts, finally deposing Pet Shop Boys‘ latest recreation of West End girls from both charts after eight weeks. Meanwhile, Sparks continued their domination of all the charts, with three previous chart-toppers remaining in the top ten for the whole month.

Here’s the album chart for the final week of the month:

  1. The Beloved – Happiness
  2. Erasure – The Neon
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  4. The Beloved – Where it Is
  5. Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  6. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  7. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  8. Erasure – Hits! The Very Best of
  9. Erasure – Total Pop! The First 40 Hits
  10. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest

Chart for stowaways – July 2020

July was a quiet month for the chart for stowaways. Pet Shop Boys sat on top of both the Singles and Catalogue Singles charts for the whole month with their recent lockdown version of West End girls, while recent single I don’t wanna and the My beautiful laundrette soundtrack hovered near the top of the Singles. After a quiet start on the album charts, Sparks‘ latest A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip finally re-entered at number 2 at the start of the month, and jumped to the top spot the following week, while various of their older albums hovered around too.

Here’s the album chart for 18th July:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  3. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  4. The Beloved – Where it Is
  5. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  6. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest
  7. Human League – The Essential
  8. Saint Etienne – Words and Music by Saint Etienne
  9. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  10. Sparks – Hippopotamus

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020

I don’t often write about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, mainly because I don’t entirely understand what it is. I posted previously about one of this year’s potential “inductees” (whatever the heck that word actually means) and gave it some coverage previously here, but that’s literally it.

But now we have confirmation: as of 2020, that little plinky plonky synthpop group (as, amazingly, they still continue to be known in their native UK) Depeche Mode got indicted in the “performer” category, alongside The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., T. Rex. Meanwhile, the Ahmet Ertegun Award was given to Jon Landau and Irving Azoff.

Since I haven’t covered it for a few years, it’s maybe worth mentioning that 2019 saw new indulgences The Cure and Radiohead, while 2014 saw Peter Gabriel industrialised, and that’s about all that I can see of interest.

There are more details at the official website here.

Chart for stowaways – March 2020

With the start of the lockdown, March was a quiet month, with Pet Shop Boys solidifying their grasp on the upper reaches of the charts. Hotspot held onto the top of the album chart for the whole month, and Monkey business, Will-o-the-wisp, Musik, Dreamland, and Happy people all performed well on the single chart. Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money) even poked its head onto the Catalogue Singles chart briefly.

The Beloved continued to perform well too, with Where it Is following at number 2 for the whole month, a firm grip onto the top end of the Catalogue Singles with Forever Dancing and If Only, and Grin even grabbing the number one spot on the singles chart for a couple of weeks.

Other than that, things were really very quiet, with Depeche Mode and Air throwing occasional re-entries into the lower reaches of the Catalogue Singles, Albums, and Artists charts, and the odd new entry here and there. Here are the singles from 21st March:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Will-o-the-wisp
  2. The Beloved – Grin
  3. Frances Barber & Pet Shop Boys – Musik (Original Cast Recording) – EP
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Monkey Business
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Happy people

And here are the albums:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  4. Caribou – Suddenly
  5. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins

History of the UK Charts – Between Singles and Albums

As we saw earlier in this series of posts, the modern definition of an album is relatively straightforward – there are a number of sneaky clauses, but the main decider is simply what the dealer price is. Singles are more complex, and have evolved over time. If you have a bit of spare time, you can try to digest the rules here, but here’s a high-level summary.

Permitted formats (using my own terminology to try to simplify it):

  • Single: digital or CD, with one track, and a maximum playing time of 15 minutes
  • Maxi: vinyl, digital, CD, or USB, with up to four songs (three tracks on a 7″ single), and a maximum playing time of 25 minutes
  • Remix: vinyl, digital, CD, or USB, with one song, and a maximum playing time of 40 minutes

This is probably less of a deal nowadays, but of these, you can have up to 3 physical formats, from:

  • Any combination of Single CD, 7″, or 12″ vinyl
  • Two Maxi or Remix CD, DVD, or USB formats
  • Plus up to 3 digital bundle formats, and any number of digital single-track versions of the lead song

This might seem confusing if you haven’t seen it before, but, apart from the odd tweak here or there, this is pretty much how the UK chart has worked since the late 1980s – the digital formats are a more recent addition, of course. But other than that, five formats were reduced to four in the early 1990s; and four became three in 1998. Singles were reduced to three tracks and twenty minutes for a while, but then sense prevailed, and it was decided to try to rip music fans off a little less by expanding the rules again.

But once you step past all those rules, there are, of course, a couple of gaps. Something that costs the same as a single, but runs past the 25-minute limit might be an EP, or a mini-album. Or if it’s a bit longer, maybe it’s a full album that just retails at a lower cost. There’s no hard and fast rule, but by original definition, an EP, or “Extended Play” release, would have normally been a 7″ single playing at 33 1⁄3 rpm, running at maybe 15 minutes in terms of total playing time.

So where do those releases fall? The answer has evolved over time – in the 1960s, EPs had their own chart, and since then, Budget Albums have been a thing – albeit a thing that nobody really talks about much.

The UK EP Chart

As the Single and Album charts came to be established as two separate things, it was inevitable that EPs would get their own place in history, but it was somewhat short-lived.

Melody Maker may have been second to launch an Album Chart in the UK, but they led the charge with the EP Chart, kicking it off in November 1959 with a Top 10, and running until May 1963. Record Retailer also published an EP chart from March 1960 to December 1967, which slowly worked its way up from a Top 10 to a Top 15, and finally a Top 20. Finally, Music Echo and Pop Weekly also published short-lived EP charts in around 1965-1966. And after the Record Retailer chart ended the following year, there has never since been an EP chart in the UK.

Of course, that’s fairly appropriate – EPs were hugely successful in the 1960s, often acting like cut-price albums, but they fell out of favour over time, to a point where the term is often used these days for something that is really just a single.

The UK Budget Album Chart

For a while after the disappearance of the EP charts, EPs were either incorporated into other charts, or were lost for good. Then, by the late 1960s, Budget Albums started to appear on the market, often as cover albums by anonymous artists, but they appear to have been initially excluded from the main charts.

In 1969, Record Retailer published the first Budget Album Chart, although confusingly, it appears to have actually been a Mid-Price Album Chart, due to the actual prices involved. Then, in early 1970, an actual Budget Album Chart appeared, as did a Mid-Price Album Chart. NME, meanwhile, allowed all lower-price albums on their album chart.

From August 1971 to January 1972, Budget Albums were allowed onto the now-official UK Album Chart, and there was a sudden but short-lived influx of low-cost albums on the chart, many of them anonymous cover albums, and some of them entering right at the top spot. After that, they were removed for good.

The Record Retailer Budget Album chart lasted until June 1975, when it was retired. It’s not clear to me whether Budget Album charts then disappeared altogether for a couple of decades, or was published somewhere all along – a lot of people seem not to care particularly. But from 1997, the Budget Album chart has become available again, albeit with a bit of searching.

It’s a funny old chart – you can see one on UKChartsPlus’s sample edition here. In that particular week, it appears to be primarily made up of cut-price multi-artist compilations, discounted “greatest hits” collections by established artists. EPs make it on, occasionally, but it’s fairly rare – this only appears to have happened twice in 2010, for example.

Browsing through the hits, you see some interesting entries – for instance, The Human League had multiple hits with their cut-price best of The Best Of (#10 in 2000), Best Of (#7 in 2001), and The Best Of (A’s, B’s & Rarities) (#32 in 2005), but also studio album Dare peaked at #16 on a reissue in 2006. Depeche Mode had a number 1 with their Goodnight Lovers EP in 2002, and then had multiple hits with reissues in 2004. Plenty of other artists have never had a single hit on there.

If all this makes the Budget Album chart sound like some kind of purgatory, where badly behaved singles and albums are sent to live out the rest of their days – well, that’s because it is, pretty much.

Next time: midweek charts and artist charts.

This series of posts owes a lot to the following sources which weren’t directly credited above:

Record Companies – Mute Records

Closing this mini-series out is a quick look at Daniel Miller‘s Mute Records, which, since its launch in 1978, has become one of the most cult, collectible labels. Initially devised as an engine to release Miller’s own electronic act The Normal, it has grown to house a huge roster of artists from a broad range of genres.

Key artists include Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Moby, Goldfrapp, and more recently, New Order, but it has also housed some hugely influential underground artists, including Fad Gadget, Nitzer Ebb, and Laibach. The list could be endless. Many of those artists were lost when Mute was sold to EMI in 2002, and didn’t follow back when it regained its independence at the end of the decade, but the list of artists is still very strong.

Perhaps most notable in recent times is the now-legendary box set MUTE433, a compilation of different artists performing John Cage‘s 4’33”. Which is clearly brilliant, even if I don’t really want a copy (thanks all the same). By the time you read this, it might already be in the shops.

You can find out more about Mute by going to
http://mute.com/

Retro chart for stowaways – 16 Apr 2005

These were the top ten albums fourteen years ago this week!

  1. New Order – Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
  2. Moby – Hotel
  3. Basement Jaxx – The Singles
  4. Mylo – Destroy Rock & Roll
  5. Everything But The Girl – Adapt or Die – Ten Years of Remixes
  6. Client – City
  7. Daft Punk – Human After All
  8. Bent – Ariels
  9. Depeche Mode – Remixes 81-04
  10. Télépopmusik – Angel Milk