A controversial decision made by the BPI at its 25th October council meeting means that as from 1 January 1989 multi-artist compilations of previously released tracks will be ineligible for the album chart.
This move will obviously bring an end to the domination of the chart by albums in the Now and Hits series which, together with the similarly unwelcome Nite Flite (a CBS album of soft soul) and Hot City Nights (Polygram's AOR collection) have prevented other, regular album releases from claiming the chart's premier position for 19 weeks in the last year.
Unaffected by the ban will be albums comprising of new, previously unreleased material, so there will still be a place. for example, for the Original Soundtrack Scrooged and the charity album Sergeant Pepper Knew My Father. Still to be decided is the fate of albums like Buster, which includes a blend of familiar oldies and newly-recorded music.
If the new regulation had been introduced at the start of this year, three albums which didn't reach number one would have: The Best Of OMD, Push by Bros and People by Hothouse Flowers. The biggest winners would have been Tracy Chapman, whose eponymous debut album would have extended its already creditable three week domination of the chart's top spot to seven weeks, and Kylie Minogue's Kylie — The Album, which would also have had seven weeks on top, instead of four.
Going back still further, Dire Straits" run of 10 consecutive weeks at number one with Brothers In Arms early in 1986 would have extended in both directions to a mind-boggling 18 weeks.
Artists with particular reason to rue the rise of various artists albums in recent years are Tina Turner, Elvis Costello and Stevie Wonder. Each has reached number two with two albums that failed to reach pole position because of compilations. and each is still waiting for their first bona-fide number one.
Stevie missed out first in 1976 with Songs In The Key Of Life and then in 1984 with the soundtrack album The Woman In Red (which also included tracks by Dionne Warwick). Mr Costello missed out on being the second Elvis to write his name on the chart roll of honour, first in 1979 with Armed Forces, and then a year later with Get Happy. Tina came close with 1984's Private Dancer and in 1986 with Break Every Rule.
The greatest domination of the top of the chart by multi-artist compilations came in 1972, shortly after K-Tel, Ronco and Arcade exploded onto the scene as the first companies to use TV advertising to sell records. On December 9, 1972, the top four albums were 25 Rock And Roll Greats, 20 Fantastic Hits Volume 2, 20 All-Time Hits Of The 50s and 22 Dynamic Hits. The number two album in this historic listing was on Arcade, the others were on K-Tel, which remains the most successful marketer of "various artists" albums to this day, with more than 100 albums safely charted, amongst them eight number ones. Sitting patiently behind the four sales-grabbing compilations that December day nearly 16 years ago was Slade's Slayed?. which would have topped the charts for no fewer than five weeks before it got its first official week al number one on January 13, 1973. Six months earlier, Slade's first album Slade Alive was less tenacious, and lost its chance of reaching number one when it failed to overtake the very first K-Tel album 20 Dynamic Hits.
So effective were K-Tel, Ronco and Arcade in this period, that TV advertised albums, whether compilations or by individual acts, were banned from the chart from mid-1973 for 2 years.
Perhaps the most famous album never to reach number one as the result of a compilation is Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, which was beaten by K-Tel's 20 Flashback Great Hits Of The Sixties on March 31, 1973, and never challenged for chart leadership again. Other albums to be frustrated in their effort, to reach number one by various artists compilations not mentioned above are Don McLean's American Pie, Emerson, Lake And Palmer's Trilogy, Simon & Garfunkel Greatest Hits and Cat Stevens' Catch Bull At Four, all in 1972; Gary Glitter's Touch Me and George Harrison's Living In The Material World' (1973); Sade's 'Diamond Life' and Iron Maiden's Powerslave (1989); Tears For Fears' Songs From The Big Chair and Spandau Ballet's Singles Collection (1985); Lionel Richie's Dancing On The Ceiling (1986) and Alison Moyet's Raindancing (1987). McLean's album was the first so to suffer, as all albums which had previously ended up second best to compilations had themselves reached number one sooner or later.
All the above, of course, assumes that the absence from the chart of various artists albums would not significantly alter the pattern of sales for other albums, though it is possible that if, for instance, Now 12 was not racked with chart albums, some record buyers seeking an album containing T'Pau's I Will Be With You hit would have opted for the group's Bridge Of Spies album, which may, with these extra sales under its bet, have been in a position to have challenged the LP we have here assumed to be the substitute number one, Tracy Chapman.
Obviously, Chartfile will continue to reflect what's happening in the published album chart, but rest assured that as and when various artists compilations outsell all others you will be told about it.
I dislike the high profile of compilations, but strongly disagree with the decision to expel them from the chart. Purist that I am, I believe that the chart should reflect exactly what is being sold, and should not be massaged in any way, Nuff said?