March 24, 1956: The Billboard 200 Debuts
Fifty-seven years ago today, the record of U.S. album sales became a weekly tally.
Happy 57th birthday, Billboard 200! On this date in 1956, the albums chart launched as a weekly survey.
Previously the bi-weekly 15-position "Popular Albums," the tally joined Billboard magazine's weekly menu on March 24, 1956 (ranging from 15 to 30 positions in each issue). By Aug. 17, 1963, the chart had expanded to 150 positions, as "Top LP's," with the '60s bringing greater prominence to the album format, thanks in part to iconic works like the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
The chart was renamed "Top LP's & Tapes" the week of Feb. 19, 1972, "Top 200 Albums" (Oct. 20, 1984) and "Top Pop Albums" (Jan. 5, 1985). It underwent perhaps its most significant change the week of May 25, 1991, when electronically monitored Nielsen SoundScan point-of-sale data replaced ranked retailer reports as the basis for its tabulation. Finally, the rebranded "Billboard 200 Top Albums" (shortened to "The Billboard 200" on March 14, 1992) reflected U.S. album sales in specific units, with debuts at No. 1, and a higher turnover rate at the top, becoming common.
Harry Belafonte's "Belafonte" holds the distinction of topping the first chart on this date 57 years ago. The Beatles boast the most No. 1s (19), while Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" has spent the most time on the list: 827 weeks since its 1973 release. It continues to pad its sum, ranking at No. 177 this week.
The "West Side Story" movie soundtrack has logged the most weeks at No. 1 (54) and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" has totaled the most weeks for an album by a single act (37). As recently as last year, Adele rewrote the mark for the most weeks at the summit for an album by a woman, as "21" registered its 24th week at No. 1. It places at No. 23 this week in its 108th week on the chart, all spent in the top 40.
Bon Jovi notched the newest Billboard 200 No. 1 this week with "What About Now." "The news is official! What About Now is the number 1 album in the United States!!" the band beamed on Twitter Tuesday (March 19). "THANK YOU to the best fans in the world!!!"
Next to No. 1? Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience." Click here for the album's latest lofty sales projections.