dan.tobias.name | Frivolity | Top Hits

My Pop-Charting Phase

As a kid I was interested in music pop charts. This started with listening to the end-of-year countdown shows that just about every radio station seemed to have on New Year's Eve back in the '70s, and continued with the "Top Hits" sheets handed out at the record department of the local Caldor's discount department store. Occasionally I would try to make my own "pop chart" by marking up one of those sheets with the order of my own preference of the current songs. Some time after I began doing a Web site, I found one of those and decided to type up the "top 15" from it, in the same format as my current preferences as I was then maintaining (as described below). Note that the format proceeds from #15 to #1, in an attempt to simulate the suspense of a radio countdown show.

By the end of the '70s, I had discovered Casey Kasem's "American Top 40", and listened to it every week, even keeping graphs of the progress of my favorite songs on the chart. However, as the '80s wore on, such countdown shows seemed to get less popular, and weren't heard as often (even on New Year's Eve) -- and AT40 wasn't the same when Kasem was replaced with Shadoe Stevens. However, I did look over the charts in Billboard magazine from time to time (at public libraries; I didn't find it worth it to actually subscribe!). As I got older, though, I gradually found myself recognizing fewer and fewer of the songs and artists on it.

Nevertheless, by the mid '90s, when I started running into people online who kept up charts of their favorite songs, I decided to try doing this myself, to put up weekly on my Web site and to submit to the compiled chart Top Hits Online (which began on a message board of the Prodigy online service, and which I helped migrate first onto other online services and bulletin board systems, and then to the Internet; for a long time I maintained the Web site for it, though somebody else actually compiled the charts; it's one of the projects I don't really have time for any more, so it's being taken over by others). It could be a chore finding enough current songs that I actually liked to make a chart, but I managed for several years. Here's one of my weekly charts:

The interesting thing for me is that, in this 1996 chart, there are barely any songs I even remember well enough by now to be able to hum the tune or recite any of the lyrics. In contrast, I still remember all of the songs on the 1979 chart very well. I guess the pop culture of one's youth will always make a more permanent impression than whatever comes along later.

Like the radio stations of old, I also did an end-of-year chart, so here are my lists for 1995 and 1996... I seem to have done away with the "suspense" mindset there, and listed them straightforwardly from #1 on down.


E-Mail Responses

Putting up this pop-chart stuff brought some interesting e-mail response. As mentioned above, I get constant queries about how to obtain records, tapes, CDs, lyrics, guitar tabulatures, sheet music, fan club info, and so on, for the songs and artists mentioned on these charts -- sorry, I have no idea. But I also got some mail admonishing me for lack of musical taste... here are some of these messages.

OK, I admit it... I'm completely lacking in taste. If it helps, I'll repeat that I've managed to completely forget most of the songs on my 1995-96 charts, so the critics were probably right about them failing to have lasting value. On the other hand, I still have a soft spot for the sappy '70s stuff. Meanwhile, contemporary pop music continues to drift further and further from anything I'm at all familiar with, and I'd be hard pressed to find 15 current songs I'm even sufficiently familiar with to list on a chart. I don't know if I could even think of 15 songs that I like which were released since January 1, 2000. C'est la vie...

2006 update: I do kinda like Kelly Clarkson, though...


This page was first created 14 Oct 1995, and was last modified 11 Feb 2006.
Copyright © 1995-2011 by Daniel R. Tobias. All rights reserved.