1988 Countdown: Some Statistics

I’m actually on the road today, so video #76 will have to wait until next week. But to tide you over, I thought I’d share a few stats about the 1988 charts. There was quite a bit of turnover: 32 different songs hit #1 on the Billboard charts. (The most ever was 35, a mark achieved in both 1974 and 1975.) That would change abruptly after Billboard started incorporating real-world data from SoundScan (for sales) and BDS (for airplay) in late 1991: there were only 12 #1 singles in 1992, 10 in 1993, and 9 in 1994. Things perked up into the teens for a while, but then hit an all-time low in 2002, when just seven different tracks reached the top.

At any rate, back to 1988: most chart-toppers stayed there for one or two weeks. The exceptions were George Michael’s “One More Try” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (three weeks each), and Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It” (four weeks); I’m sure we’ll be seeing them all in the higher reaches of MTV’s countdown.

And what was going on in the alternate universe of the country charts? There was a new #1 single in Nashville almost every week: 48 total at year’s end. (This wasn’t an exceptional year; in 1984 and 1985, there were fifty-one different #1 country singles. Things slowed down a bit after Billboard started using the BDS data, but the country charts still moved much faster than their pop counterparts: 25 to 32 singles would routinely reach the top each year through the 90s.)

So what country songs managed to stay on top for more than one week in 1988? I’m glad you asked. Four held on for a full fortnight: Kathy Mattea’s “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses,” Randy Travis’s “I Told You So,” Ricky Van Shelton’s “I’ll Leave This World Loving You,” and Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing at All.”

posted 23 October 2008 in 1988 and tagged , . 1 comment

One Comment Thus Far on 1988 Countdown: Some Statistics

  1. Chris M. Says:

    Good rundown of the data. Re: country, the one-song-a-week turnover has nothing to do with actual airplay and everything to do with the heavily micromanaged Nashville system for attaining country radio airplay. Before BDS data was applied to the chart (in 1990, a little earlier than the big Soundscan switchover in 1991, because Hot Country Songs is an airplay-only chart and could serve as a guinea pig before the Hot 100 and other charts flipped) reporting of airplay was highly…erm, subjective. And my understanding is that the general belief in Nashville was that each hit song with the juice to go to No. 1 should have a “turn” there. So the unspoken gentleman’s agreement was that in most weeks, program directors should report a new No. 1 to Billboard to ensure a fair spread among the labels/artists. It’s both egalitarian and totally corrupt.

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