10.12.2010

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn



This book, the awesome Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits and others like it are probably obsolete now, now that  Billboard Magazine no longer dominates public perception as to what "singles" (remember them?) and compact discs (awaiting the lonely, disused arms of cassette tapes and 8-tracks and LPs) are listened to and bought most often, as they've largely been replaced now by song downloads. 

1983 edition, the first one I owned
But there was a time in the not-so-distant past, before iTunes and defunct Napster, when people actually bought records and tapes and CDs at an actual record store (R.I.P. Tower, Licorice Pizza, The Wherehouse, Music-Plus, the majority of indie record stores a la the one read -- and seen -- in High Fidelity) and perused the album or CD racks; holding actual music in their hands rather than some ubiquitous and annoying hi-tech gadget robotically carried around everywhere like a calcified white ear outgrowth -- the iPod; gone is oogling the cool album artwork and memorizing the liner notes, being hip to the rock vibe ambiance and sense of community engendered by like-minded music enthusiasts standing next to you flipping through the same racks as you, maybe getting in your way and invading your personal space, on the hunt for that next great music find, replaced now by rapid electronic transmissions that have effectively removed so much of the mystery (and body odor) involved in popular music acquisition.


But there was a day when that wasn't the case, and The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits chronicles that day, back when it was a must-have for the avid pop music trivia buff; when it was the Holy Bible for both the record collector and the music fan like me obsessed with Billboard chart statistics.  Call me Kasey Kasem Wannabe, but there was a time when I knew exactly how many consecutive weeks (whatever week it was) that The Dark Side of the Moon had accumulated on the Top 200 Album Charts.  Or how many consecutive weeks Rumours, and then the album that eclipsed it, Thriller, had held the Number One spot.  Or what bands final four studio albums all went #1.  Oh how I grieve the pop musical statistical past!  Do you know what was the first ever heavy metal song to crack the Billboard Top 40 singles chart?  No?  Well, I do!

You'll find, if you ever decide to flip through this relic, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, every song from 1955-on that ever cracked Billboard Magazine's iconic Top 40 singles chart.  The songs are listed in an easy to use format too.  Much easier, I'd add, than downloading music from a god damn computer.  You can look up a song alphabetically by song title or artist/group.  You'll discover not only how high a particular song charted, but how many weeks it spent in the Top 40 (or how many at #1) and whether or not it went gold (500,000 units of sale) or platinum (1,000,000 units of sale) or neither.

The book also includes album cover artwork to a sweet selected smattering of singles from the 1955 to the present day.  "Present day" for the edition I have, is 2004s.  The "records holder" section shows who dominated the charts each year, by decade, and all-time.  Did Madonna have as many Top 40 hits as The Beatles?  How many weeks did the Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" (ick!) spend at #1?  Go buy the book on Amazon right now and help make it relevant again, because I sure won't spill the beans and spoil the surprise (and thus potentially eliminate someone's purchase).

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits is just an overall fun resource; a fascinating reference work that's sure to bring back childhood pop musical memories ("oh yeah, I remember that song!  I was wearing braces") with just a flip of the page.

I sincerely hope that this post is not as irrelevant now or as obsolete as a K-TEL production.  And screw you with your stupid iTunes practically surgically implanted in your damn ears if you're too damn young to know what the hell I mean by "K-TEL production."

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