The YouTube Files – 35 Years Of The Chart Show.

This piece is late because the actual 35th anniversary was in April, but I wanted to take another look back at The Chart Show, as some of the earliest editions turned up online recently. The Chart Show was originally shown on Channel 4 on Friday afternoons, and famously had no hosts, with everything being introduced by computer graphics that were impressive for the time (Top Of The Pops launched their first computer-generated opening sequence around the same time, I wonder if it was a response to this, or a coincidence).

It is always interesting seeing the early days of a show before it is properly defined and settles down into a regular format, and it is clear from these editions that there were too many charts mixed in with some bizarre choices for exclusive videos, although at least it gave some lesser-known acts their three minutes of TV fame. At this point as well as the familiar Heavy Metal (later Rock), Indie, and Dance Charts, there is much more.

These include the Reggae Chart, and the Euro Singles Chart, which featured the biggest hits across Europe, including Sandra, a German singer who never really found fame in the UK, and Stephanie (“is this a duff video or what?”). Then there’s the Compact Disc Chart (albums sold on CD) and The Music Video Chart (compilations of videos and concerts released on VHS). vlcsnap-00010

Then there was the UK Hits In The USA Chart, featuring some successful acts during what was called “The Second British Invasion”. One played was “Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer that was indeed a chart-topper in America (“can you believe the follow-up to this video is just as bad!”), which in the final edition on ITV in 1998 was rather oddly claimed to be the first video ever shown, when it was actually about halfway through the fourth edition (that honour goes to “What You Need” by Inxs).

And then there was the Network Album Chart, and The Chart File (later Chart File Update), which once featured Cherry Bombz, a rock group fronted by Anita, who used to be in Toto Coelo. Er, yes. The exclusive videos (called Video Reveal at this point) were a rather odd mix, including “World Domination” by The Belle Stars (“these girls used to be shy until they started using hair gel”), the failed attempt to reinvent themselves as a trio (that doesn’t even feature on their best-of).

And there was even Tom Watt (who was best-known at the time as Lofty off EastEnders) and his baffling take on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, where we are informed that “members of The Fall and New Order appear in this vid” and “a big hi to Dick Robins from all at The Chart Show!”. No idea what this was all about, but I’m sure it went down well at his local The Queen Vic.

The show didn’t conclude with The Top Ten, but The Network Chart, showing us some of the hits currently on the up (and not using the official chart like Top Of The Pops did), and The Chart Race, where you had to write in and predict where a few songs would enter the chart. Add to all this the famous video recorder-style graphics, some sludgy-green captions, and the HUD that told us facts that wasn’t on the screen long enough and almost impossible to read anyway.

And then, in June 1986, after barely two months, The Chart Show was rather abruptly cancelled by Channel 4, and replaced by Rewind. Wait, what? Well, there was a return eventually of course, but lots of ideas tried out in the early days were dropped quickly, with the majority of the extra charts featured gone by the end of 1986, and the more familiar format that would run for another 12 years began to take shape.

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