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60 years of singles charts... in numbers

As the UK Official Singles Chart celebrates its 60th birthday, we look back at over half a decade of music

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Published: Wednesday, 14th November 2012 at 4:17 pm

On this day in 1952 the UK Official Singles Chart was first published in NME.


A lot has changed in those 60 years... When the Singles Chart kicked off, Queen Elizabeth II had been on the throne for less than a year, Churchill was still Prime Minister and tea rationing from the Second World War had only just ended. The singles that made it onto the chart were being bought as vinyl records and played on gramophones, whereas nowadays most of us buy our music digitally and listen to it on our iPods (other MP3 players are available...) But we are still a nation dedicated to listening to and buying singles. In fact, the 2010s are set to be the most successful decade for singles sales.

So, as the UK Singles Chart celebrates its 60 year reign, we look back at over half a decade of music in numbers:

1... The first ever UK number one was Here In My Heart by Al Martino. The American crooner continued to hold on to the top spot for nine consecutive weeks.

16...  is the number of times all the singles bought since 1952 would stretch around the globe (if in seven inch CD form). It's almost enough to reach the moon and back.

16... Bryan Adams' cheesy ballad (Everything I do) I Do It For You held onto the number one spot for an impressive 16 weeks. That's the longest number of weeks a single has been number one.

60... The Official UK Singles Chart has been in existence for 60 years. Before this, sales of records in Britain were measured by sales of sheet music. For the very first chart, 20 record shops were phoned and asked to list their top ten selling songs. Oh how things have changed...

99... percent of singles purchased in the 2010s have been digital.

123.. is the number of singles that have hit the million-selling mark. At the start of the century only 70 records had passed one million sales but the number of tracks making it to a million is increasing year on year.

658,000... Elton John's single Candle in the Wind sold an unprecedented 658,000 copies on its very first day of sale.

1,200... There have been a whopping 1,200 number ones since the first chart was published.

1955... was the year in which Bill Haley & His Comets released (We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock. The jazzy number sold 1.42 million copies, making it the highest selling single of the 1950s.

1963... was the year She Loves You by The Beatles was released. The fab four went straight to number one and quickly became the highest-selling single of the 60s.

1984... Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas was released in 1984. It was the highest-selling single in the UK chart until Elton John's Candle in the Wind was released - and remains the highest-selling single of the 80s, as well as a festive staple to this day.

1997... Elton John's Candle in the Wind was released in 1997 as a tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The single still holds the title of the biggest-selling single since records began.

1.79 million... Who'd have guessed it? Will Young's Pop Idol single Evergreen was the highest selling single of the noughties, selling an impressive 1.79 million copies.

2 million... Wings' Mull of Kintyre sold 2 million copies when it went on sale in 1977, making it the highest-selling single of the 70s. It was the very first single to sell over two million copies in the UK.

640 million... This is the number of singles that were snapped up by those legwarmer-wearing pop lovers during the 1980s - the peak decade for single sales so far.

683 million... From the day music was downloadable, we Brits have bought 683 million singles digitally.


3.7 billion... singles have been purchased since the start of the Official UK Singles Chart. That number of singles could fill London's O2 Arena 185,000 times over.


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