Sunday, November 30, 2014

Billboard Top 40 1976-85 Megalist Project

During my recent holiday trek across Texas (about 600 miles in 2 consecutive days), I listened to quite a bit of radio.  I heard plenty of football play-by-play and holiday tunes, but when my wife was asleep, I'd flip over to XM's "70's on 7" station.  As I was enjoying some soft rock favorites on the open road, I wondered how XM determined their (admittedly narrow) playlists. I asked myself, "At some point, do they play every song that hit the Billboard Top 40 during the '70s?"  That lead to other questions: "How many songs hit the Billboard Top 40 during the '70s?  How many do I have in iTunes?  What about the years 1976-85?"  Which lead to my ultimate thought: "Wouldn't a playlist of all the Top 40 songs from 1976-85 be awesome on shuffle?"  Needless to say, I've now got a new playlist project, one that makes my music collection seem terribly inadequate. 

My first stop was my copy of Joel Whitburn's Pop Annual 1955-1999 (above).  Sure, there's a newer edition that covers the charts through 2011, but why would this blog need that?  In any case, the book became my resource for this megalist project.  My first task to was to determine the scope of the project - how many tunes we talkin' here?  The total is 2235 tunes, but what surprised me was how evenly those 2235 songs are spread among the 10 years of My Favorite Decade.  Below is a chart of the number of songs that peaked in Billboard's Top 40 in the years 1976-85.

1976:  226
1977:  217
1978:  235
1979:  232
1980:  229
1981:  212
1982:  222
1983:  224
1984:  218
1985:  220

So, with a little help from my friends, I've started putting together the megalist with the goal of finishing the project by mid-March.  I've already discovered some music that was new to me, so I'm looking forward to this project - if only it came with a salary and benefits.  My ultimate goal is to have this playlist ready to go so that if (when) I ever purchase a Sonos or Bose SoundTouch audio system for my house, I can use the megalist to inaugurate the system.  Maybe I should start a Kickstarter campaign to fund my overpriced audio equipment fantasies. ;-)


  1. Not to sound like "Dirkie Downer" here, or anything, but it seems like a pretty ambitious goal to finish by mid-March, my friend. I've scratched and clawed for the last 25+ years to acquire on CD (or digitally, if necessary) all the Top 40 hits from the Early-70's onward, and I've still not completed my life's journey! It's simply stunning, the amount of charted hits that have never seen a post-vinyl era re-release. I'll of course be glad to help expedite the process for you in any way I can... All you have to do is ask.

    Best of luck, Kid™. Something tells me you're gonna' need it! :)

    1. Megalist© is happening, even if I have to buy overpriced vinyl on eBay and rip songs to digital myself!

    2. (Overpriced vinyl?!? First off, am I speaking with the same Mark who buys CD's by the dozens from his local used bins??)

      Another thought... You could get yourself a free program that I use and endorse wholeheartedly: YouTube Downloader. Yes you can not only download ANY video from YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, etc. with this program, but you can also convert said videos to MP3 files (Up to 256kbps), to add to your very own collection! This would give you a much more realistic (and cheaper) alternative to tracking down all those pesky, obscure Top 40's that you're not likely to find anywhere but on vinyl anyway...

      Songs like Sonny Charles' sensational (but ultra-obscure) #40 hit from January of '83, "Put It In A Magazine"... A song so rare, that virtually the same vinyl rip has been recycled time and time again amongst the dozen or so versions currently on YouTube!

      I wish you luck SRK, I really do... And when they ask you if you'd like to phone a friend, just tell 'em to get ol' Dirk on speed-dial for ya'!

  2. I know for a fact just by listening to classic AT40 shows and looking at Whitburn's Pop Annual lists that I do not like every Top 40 hit, so why would I want to obtain them? More power to you two crazy loons in your life's journies. If Dirk is willing to help the Kid™, then HERC must also offer his assistance. Need any Bay City Rollers? I'm your man.

  3. Mark, I love this ambitious project as it is something I would do myself. I know I have quite a bit of the Top 40 during a good percentage of this period but I am sure there are a number of forgotten "gems" that slipped under my radar (songs that barely cracked the Top 40 and were only on the chart for a week or two max). Best of luck on this search. Let me know if I can help.

  4. Mark, I ordered this Pop Annual from the Record Research after seeing your post. I want to see how my music library stacks up. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Welcome to the madness, my friend.