“SING SOMETHING SIMPLE featured the Cliff Adams Singers and the Jack Emblow Quartet…”; with those heart-glowing words, a nation’s teens pressed Rec and Play on their big brother’s shiny silver Amstrad ghetto blaster, and prepared to create their very own Close Encounters Of The Chart Kind on a flaky, overused WH Smith C90. Back then, Radio 1 was only allowed access to the FM airwaves on a Sunday afternoon for the Top 40 and on weeknights for John Peel, adapting to the available two hour slot and covering the whole Top 40 by simply not playing the ones going down. For many years, ‘spoilers’ oddly aired the previous Tuesday, leading to clusters of Jam or Smiths fans loitering by the sixth form common room door, straining to hear if A Town Called Malice or Shoplifters Of The World Unite was the highest new entry. Sunday afternoon countdown came into its own for Generation Cream in the early 80s with TONY BLACKBURN’s tenure – Adam And The Ants! Toni Basil! Altered Images! – and introduction of idea of playing every song in the Top 40, but getting them all in by playing two-thirds of each one, an idea eventually canned. Oh, and not forgetting the time he announced a new entry for a new band from Birmingham: “…with Planet Earth, this is Dur-run Dur-run”.
Then it was the turn of TOMMY VANCE to count down those hits, using an instrumental version of Men At Work’s Down Under as backing music (“…at number 23, its The Lotus Eaters, with The First Picture Of You!”). In 1984 – the year the Top 40 Show was allowed to buck the network’s ban on Frankie’s Relax – competition hoved into view with ILR’s The Network Chart Show, as David ‘Kid’ Jensen weirdly morphed back from evening semi-alternative guru and Peel-endorsed rhythm pal to Capital housewives choice. By now, RICHARD SKINNER was charged with counting down the platters that matter, with bizarre ‘telex’ sound effects, before the dreaded BRUNO BROOKES took the chair for the as-they-happened countdowns in the late 80s, famously seeing out his last days by playing Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of with all sixteen ‘fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’s and bellowed ‘motherfuckaaaaaaaaa’ intact, with Mark Goodier taking the chair up to the end of the Cream Era.