Thursday, February 24, 2011

5 seconds of heaven

Five Seconds Of Every #1 Pop Single Part 1 by mjs538
Five Seconds Of Every #1 Pop Single Part 2 by mjs538

And I thought I was a music nerd...

So the story goes that Hugo Keesing created a mix tape called Chart Sweep which had a five second snippet of every number 1 charting 45 released from 1956 (the birth of the US Billboard charts) until the early 90's when the 45 chart was phased out. Apparently the tapes have been in circulation privately for some time but have recently been added to soundcloud and a few other sites. Listening to them is quite a revelatory experience, in terms of the music you know subconsciously and how much of it brings back memories of childhood. What really blows my mind though is the sheer commitment/insanity it would take to compile this. Mr Keesing, I bow to you sir.

Of the two parts above, the second is the most interesting to me because it starts in about 1981/82 with Down Under and ends with Whitney Houston's I will always love you - roughly when I was aged 9 to 19. I can recognise and sing along to pretty much most of these songs which shows how popular music can infect the deepest recesses of your brain like a virus. Even in the late 80's and early 90's where I was pretty much dedicated to metal music, I recognise all these songs including Michael Bolton, Milli Vanilli and Roxette as well as obscure bands like PM Dawn (maybe this says more about me than the music here).

Apart from showing the ubiquitous nature of popular music, it also shows homogenity of the charts because a lot of these songs sound very similar. When Prince and EMF appear, it's almost jarring because they sound so different. There was also a lot more hip hop based songs than I remember at the time which provides some hilarity - hearing Sir Mixalot's Baby Got Back sandwiched between Mariah Carey and Madonna makes it sound even more weird and brilliant. That being said there was far more Huey Lewis number 1's than I care to remember.

The other thing I noticed is that during the 80's there are a large number of English artists charting in America which I don't think happens as much these days with the US charts being largely dominated by US artists. On that, even as a five second snippet, Duran Duran's A View to a Kill is not only the worst Bond theme of all time, it could rate as one of the worst songs of all time and in terms of the quantity and quality of the company here - that's quite amazing.



  1. Such a great post. Music is indeed like a virus. I didn't know about 4-5 of the songs on the second part, which was surprising to me. (Surely it should have been more surprising to know all the words to all the other songs?)

    I was half an hour late to work this morning because I couldn't tear myself away from the song snippets. Such a fun/nostalgic and occasionally horrifying ride. It's amazing how these songs seep into your brain totally unconsciously. I can't tell you one thing I learned in primary school but can easily sing you the chorus to Mr Mister's "Broken Wings".

    And that is where the education system is going wrong: it needs more jingles.


  2. PS. I am currently cutting a music doco on Blondie. A terrific band for the first 5 albums but I would argue that every song on their "Hunter" album is easily far worse than Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill".

    Fun Fact: Deborah Harry recorded the original version of "For Your Eyes Only" but the studio decided they wanted the version Sheena Easton did instead. Debbie's was way cooler.

  3. I was astounded by how many of those songs I knew - I didn't know all the names but it seems the choruses are buried deep in my brain - SO much Phil Collins. My challenge today is to make it through the 46 minutes of part 1. Oh and Mr Mister are almost as awesome as their name.

    I didn't know that about Deborah Harry. I listened to A view to a kill on youtube and I thought it was really terrible. However, I haven't been able to get it out of my head for about 48 hours. I think I'm starting to like it...