Thursday, July 17, 2014

number ones

I've been on a bit of a kick lately of reading about pop music and number one singles. I've been finding it fascinating, so I'm sharing some links here here on the off-chance that you do, too. Down the internet rabbit-hole we go...

It all started a few years ago when I stumbled across a music column in The Vine by Tim Byron, reviewing the latest Australian number one single. Usually, the column looks at what makes a song so popular- what are it's hooks? Themes? Cultural context? And what makes the song- it's influences and so on. Tim Byron is a music writer but also apparently a psychology lecturer, and he often seems to have interesting things to say about the singles, and treats them with a certain respect. Which is one of the reasons why I was so interested when he mentioned his new podcast...

90 percent hits is a podcast (and blog- their tumblr is well worth checking out) about all the number one singles in Australia in the 1990s (the period that my generation looks on with particular nostalgia). It's made by Tim Byron, Casey Atkins, Tim Coyle and Danny Yau. They talk about the songs, and also their personal reaction to them/memories of them. I must admit I still haven't finished the podcast, but it's definitely hit 1999. The podcast (and the column) reference some other blogs that inspired them...

Like Popular by Tom Ewing, which reviews all the UK number one singles (see the chronological list/archive here). The reviews start in 1952, and as I write this go all the way to 1998 (I'm only at 1967). The posts tend to be pretty short, always including a score out of 10, but the commenters are often pretty well informed and have interesting tidbits to add. This blog seems to be the one that inspired them all (it started in 2003!) including...

No Hard Chords, a blog by Sally O'Rourke  looking at all the US number one singles from the Billboard Hot 100. I really like the writing in this blog, it gives some nice background to the hits. It's covered 1958-1967 so far, but the last post was written over a month ago so I'm a bit worried there may be no more, still the one before that was written in January, so there's still hope! 

Last is the one I haven't really gotten to yet (maybe because it would take a bit longer!) is Then Play Long, which reviews every UK number 1 ALBUM (by Marcello Carlin and Lena Friesen). I've only read the entry on U2's The Unforgettable Fire, which was linked from a round-up of music writing in The Vine (another Tim Byron column), but that was a great mix of personal essay and music writing, so I would be interested to read more.

I've still got a lot of blog reading to do, clearly, but this has inspired me to read up on my pop music history- any good book recommendations?