And where better to start than with the person who created the Chart Beat column in Billboard magazine in the issue dated March 28, 1981: Paul Grein! Now, exactly 35 years later, the column, still in print and vastly expanded online, continues not only to present chart highlights, but analyze how songs and albums become hits. Chart Beat also places top-ranking titles in historical context, i.e., how Rihanna has passed Michael Jackson for the third-most Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s of all time (14) with her coronation of "Work."
"There's a desire to quantify," Grein says of music fans' appetite for chart information. "We want to create order and make things definitive."
Grein also shares, among other insights, stories from throughout his impressive career, including an interview with an Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson. "It was at his house in Encino [Calif.]," Grein recalls. "He did very few interviews. It was before he became as massively big as he would become. He was shy, sensitive. He was talking in much more emotional terms than artists generally do. And I think he came to the decision that he didn't want to do interviews during Thriller. He would rather have a mystique than give it all away in an interview."
Check out Grein's memories and more as we take a trip through decades of music, and chart, history on the first Billboard Chart Beat Podcast!