Happy 30th Birthday, Chart Beat
On this date 30 years ago, Billboard introduced a new column that "look(s) behind the numbers and, hopefully, put(s) it all in some perspective."
In the March 28, 1981, issue of the print magazine, Billboard published the first Chart Beat.
The page three news item "New Feature: Chartbeat" further defined the column as a "weekly home for inside information about records, artists, producers, songwriters and labels on the pop singles and album charts.
"It's not, then, a laundry list of the week's prime movers - they can be gleaned easily from the charts themselves - nor is it designed to replace in-depth stories on various developing chart trends."
Three decades later, through the masterful stewardships of Paul Grein (1981-92) and Fred Bronson (1993-2009), Chart Beat continues with the same mission.
"I remember wondering what would happen when we got to the inevitable week where there was no chart news," Bronson mused in 2009.
"It never happened."
Through such added dimensions as the weekly "Ask Billboard" Q&A, the now-daily column, online since 1996, has evolved into a heavily interactive forum (enhanced with video clips and audio samples), where chart fanatics worldwide, whether on their computers or mobile on their phones, can discuss not only Billboard rankings but also wider musical developments.
"'Rapture' Captures Summit for Blondie and Chapman," heralded the first Chart Beat headline dated 30 years ago today.
"Blondie and Mike Chapman lengthen their leads as the hottest singles artist and producers of the '80s so far as 'Rapture' leaps unexpectedly to No. 1 on this week's Hot 100," wrote Grein.
(The maiden column reads not so differently in form from this morning's posting comparing artists with the most No. 1s on Billboard's Pop Songs chart, which, like more than 150 other surveys, would originate in the years since Chart Beat's launch).
"('Rapture' is) Blondie's fourth single to hit the summit in less than two years - more than any other act in the business. Donna Summer has collected three No. 1 hits in the past two years; Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand and Queen have all had two," Grein tallied.
"'Rapture' is producer Chapman's sixth No. 1 single in the past 2½ years, which is exactly two more than his nearest rivals have accumulated in the same period. Giorgio Moroder and the team of Barry Gibb, Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten have struck the top spot four times since September 1978."
Grein also noted that "'Rapture' is the second rap disco smash to achieve the ultimate on the pop singles chart in less than six months, following Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust'."
The inaugural Chart Beat additionally spotlighted the Billboard 200 (or, the Top LPs & Tape chart, as it was then known).
"Mainstream hard rock bands have a lock on the top three spots on this week's pop LP chart," wrote Grein.
"REO Speedwagon's 'Hi Infidelity' holds at No. 1 for the sixth week; Styx's 'Paradise Theatre' is closing the gap in its third week at number two and Rush's 'Moving Pictures' surges five notches to number three.
"The current LPs are the biggest in all three groups' careers."
Upon Chart Beat's 30th anniversary, Grein's annual year-end salutation seems fitting: "May you always have a bullet on the chart of life!"