(Updated March 2023)
I’m always popping up on various forums to talk music. Or actually, usually to correct so called “experts” (read that as “interns”, heh heh) on music, particularly chart facts. I do this a lot over at the MeTV website because when they do a music column, there are inevitably mistakes. Yes, when it comes to chart stuff, and particularly Billboard chart stuff, I’m THAT GUY. Sorry, can’t help it, it’s a COMPULSION. I have to correct chart errors, I just HAVE TO. It’s my scientific speciality (and kudos to those who get THAT obscure movie reference, heh heh).
Over the years, I’ve amassed a ton of books, as I’ve always been an avid reader. I don’t read as much anymore because my eyesight needs LOTS OF LIGHT to be able to read actual books now; I do much better with my Amazon Kindle these days. Fortunately I have wonderful bright sun-level lights at my chair in the living room, and here in the office. And I still get plenty of usage of my music reference library. Some of the books are out of date now, but those that are updated regularly, I try to keep up with. And music isn’t the only place I do that – I also update the main cookbooks from “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cooks Country” every other year to make sure I have all the recipes I need. But most of the updates are of my music reference library. When updates are released, I try to get the most recent volume.
My music reference library is one of my most fun things to have. I can spend hours pouring over these books looking for stuff, and often do. So let me share some (but not all – I have FAR too many to list here) of my most valuable research tools with you.
THE WHITBURN COLLECTION
Joel Whitburn and his crack team at his Menomonmee Falls, MN, company, Record Research, have now been publishing the compiled chart information from THE bible of the music industry, Billboard magazine, for FIFTY years. Their first edition came out in 1970, covering the main chart, presently known as the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, they have expanded to cover nearly ALL the various charts in the magazine, and in the 2000s, they branched out considerably, working with Billboard to obtain the charts of the other three major U.S. music trades which are now defunct – Cashbox, Music Vendor/Record World, and Radio and Records. I have always had one or two of the books but in the last two years, I have been able to budget for and finally purchase most of the major volumes of chart info I’ve always wanted – they are NOT cheap, folks, running between $60-$90 per book – and believe me, I’ve been like a kid in a candy store going over these books with a fine tooth comb – remember Scotty and his technical manuals in “Star Trek”? That’s what these are to me -it has been so damn much fun! Whitburn has more books than I’ve purchased, and I still have a few books to add – more that are on my “Must Have” list for statistical info, and others that are more checklists than anything else – but I’m loving my collection of Whitburn books to peruse to my hearts content. We lost Joel last year at the age of 83, but his team carries on the fine work he started over 50 years ago.
Top Pop Singles 1955-2018
Covers all versions of Billboard’s pop charts, known since the 1960s as the Hot 100, under various titles from the chart’s inception in 1955 to present. Book has greatly expanded with new features with almost every edition, and now includes all “Bubbling Under” tracks (101-150, varied depending on when it was released), which were previously in a separate book, as well as Billboard Airplay chart entries not released as commercial singles. The newest edition, which came out in October 2021, split the book in two – the first volume covers through 1989, and the second book – to be released in spring 2023 – will cover 1990 forward. Much easier – the first book will NEVER have to be updated, and the current book is HUGE so it will make it less unwieldy to maneuver, heh heh. So I have the last full one AND the first volume of the new style (Black and white version, it’s also available in color) just to suit my whims…heh heh…
Top Pop Albums 1955-2016
Covers all versions of Billboard’s main all-genre album chart, presently known as the Billboard 200, from its inception in 1955 to the present day. This book has been greatly expanded in the two most recent volumes, and now covers a TON of info, including individual tracks on each album and more. It has a companion CD ROM (purchased separately) with tons more info on each album, and yes, I have that as well…heh heh…
Pop Annual 1955-2016
This book is the only one that deviates from the format of the other books, which are listed by artist; PA lists the songs year-by-year according to chart position, so you know where each song peaked on the chart that year. OMG I LOVE THIS BOOK!
Top R&B Singles 1942-2016
Covers the various Billboard R&B oriented charts, known from time to time as Soul Singles, Black Singles, and currently R&B singles.
Top Country Singles 1944-2017
Covers the various Billboard country charts, currently known as Hot Country Tracks, through the present day.
Hot Disco/Dance 1974-2003
On my holy grail list of Whitburn books for YEARS, the company finally did a reprint of this book in 2017, the only reference book available for Billboard’s Dance and Disco charts. Although I wish he’d update this book to present day, it’s a friggin’ goldmine for a hardcore disco fan like myself, listing ALL the album tracks as well as 12″ singles tracks, the ONLY RR book that covers that particular format.
Top Adult Contemporary 1961-2001
The current edition of this is “Top Adult Songs” and I haven’t yet purchased it because it’s not updated far enough to justify the expense. It’s due for an update in 2021, I believe. This covers the adult contemporary format, known until the late 1980s as the Easy Listening chart, from its inception through the end of the 20th century. This chart was also the go-to chart for the short lived syndicated radio countdown show “Music Scene USA with Wink Martindale” which ran from 1975-77 on AC-oriented radio stations around the country. It may have also been used for a time on one of the Mutual Radio “National Music Survey” shows too…
Christmas In The Charts 1920-2004
This seasonal chart reference is amazing – it covers ALL holiday singles chart hits on NINE different Billboard charts as well as radio play of holiday album cuts. It’s AWESOME!
Cashbox Pop Hits 1952-1996
Cashbox Looking Ahead 1959-1993
These two books cover the entire history of the Cashbox Magazine charts, which were rivals to the Billboard charts for years, using different methodology and sources. Quite a few songs that never made it to #1 on Billboard did on Cashbox and vice versa.
Hit Records (Record World) 1954-1982
Hit Records 101-150 (Record World) 1959-1982
These two books cover the entire history of another music trade, Record World, from its inception (as Music Vendor) to its closure in 1982.
The Comparison Book 1954-1982
This book is friggin BRILLIANT! It cross-references every song that hit either the Billboard, Cashbox, or Record World charts during the time frame where all three co-existed, and at a glance you can see where it placed on each chart. Friggin’ AWESOME!
Radio And Records Top Pop Hits 1973-2009
When I worked at DiscJockey.Com, R&R was our bible – its charts have been used by various countdown shows over the years, including American Top 40 (1990s), Solid Gold, National Music Survey, and others, and were the inside track to airplay on radio stations around the world. They were bought out by Billboard in 2009, and now the chart is called Billboard Airplay Monitor. These are the pop songs on radio for the time period, exclusively ranked by airplay.
Top 10 Charts 1958-1997
All the songs that hit the Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten week by week through the time period.
Daily #1 Hits 1940-1989
This unique little spiral bound book is divided by date – each page tells you what song was #1 on the Hot 100 or its contemporary equal on that date every year. Hey Joel, can we get an updated version, please?
Top 1000 Singles 1955-1987
This has been updated several times since 1997, but I haven ‘t purchased it – it’s a ranking of the top-selling 1000 songs of all time to the current end date by chart rank, position, and weeks on the chart.
The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits 5th edition
This book, of which I haven’t updated for YEARS (I think it’s on the 12th edition now), is a mass market book as opposed to a research volume, and is identical to the Top Pop Singles book except it is adjusted to cover only the Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with the stats adjusted for the same.
Music Yearbook 2007 & 2008
For a few years, RR released an annual Yearbook which covered each years’ charts – every chart – and was formatted like the Pop Annual. I got this one when they went on an “Everything must go!” sale a few years ago.
Pop Hits Singles And Albums 1940-1954
FINALLY added this to my collection in March 2021! This book is even better than I thought it was – it covers the pre-Hot 100 days on Billboard charts (1940-1955; 1900-1940 is covered in Pop Memories, see below), and has a huge section of each song, plus a Pop Annual-styled year by year section, and an artists section too. GOLDMINE!
Rock Tracks 1981-2020
I added this to my research library in March 2021 as well, and covers all the songs that have hit the rock and alternative rock charts since their inceptions. Woo Hoo!
Pop Memories 1900-1940
The last of the books for the main releases that I didn’t have, I recently finally added this to my collection, and what a goldmine – I have never even heard of many of the artists, let alone the songs, which covers the first forty years of recordings as a widespread medium. This book was a labor of love for Joel and it shows – it’s full of incredible details and I am having a blast diving into this book!
Top 10 Hits 1950-2020
Unlike the previous Top 10 Hits book above, this one goes one better – it takes every top ten single to hit ALL FOUR of the major charts – Billboard, Cashbox, Record World, and Radio and Records – and lists them in order by their highest peak on whichever chart hit it first. Basically it’s similar to The Comparison Book above, but with R&R also included and just for the Top Ten, while only listing the magazine where the song peaked. Fantastic research tool!
The Gavin Report 1958-2000
Published in December 2022! Another radio tip sheet, The Gavin Report was one of the most influential publications in top 40 radio for over four decades. Originally started as a mimeographed newsletter, it eventually became a full magazine in the early 1980s. This book is a complete reference of all their top 40 pop charts over the years and I am superhappy to have it in the collection!
Billboard Hot 100 Charts – The Complete Charts week by week
I wasn’t going to get these books originally, but I realized how helpful they would be in completing my “Missing Years” chart project, so I picked up the four volumes I wanted the most – I have the volumes reprinting the exact Billboard Hot100 covering the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s. Not sure about the Cashbox chart books yet – it will depend on my budget…but I would like to have them for sure…
WHEW! That’s A LOT of research books!
I DO wish the team at RR would update the Dance/Disco and Adult Songs book (as noted above, I don’t have the latest one, which is only up through 2006) to the present day, but what I have is manna from heaven for a chart nut like myself.
However, there are several books I don’t have yet, that I’m planning to add on the “when I have time and money” to do it…
OTHER BILLBOARD BOOKS
All of these are mass market books, and most (but not all) are updated about every four years or so, all published for the mass market by Billboard Books.
The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson
Written by Billboard “Chartbeat” columnist Bronson, this book is an in-depth look at each and every song to hit #1 on the Hot 100 through the most recent period.
Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits by Fred Bronson
This marvelous tome, also from author Bronson, takes the Hot 100, wrings it out every which way, and gets tons of specific info out of it; it should probably add the word “lists” to the title, because that’s what it is – and there are a TON of lists – by artist, by genre, by decade, by specific artists, by classification (instrumentals, songs with a name in the title, labels, etc) – One of my ALL TIME FAVORITE books of chart info!
The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits by Wesley Hyatt
Similar to the Hot 100 oriented book above, this book is an indepth look at each and every song to hit #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart through the most recent period.
The Billboard Book of Gold and Platinum Records by Adam White
Long out of print, this book uses the Whitburn formula, ranked by artist with a listing of their RIAA certified gold and platinum albums current through 1990.
The Billboard Book of One Hit Wonders by Wayne Jancik
Formatted like the Number One books above, this tells the story of the artists that are Top 40 “One Hit Wonders” – which to me is a bastardization of the original term “One Hit Wonder”; what I’ve always considered the CORRECT definition of the term, which was the ORIGINAL definition – just ONE HIT on the Billboard Hot 100 – is rarely used anymore, and mores the pity. This volume was last updated in the late 1990s, I believe, so I have that version. I suppose I should see if there has been a more recent update. Songs are in chronological order from 1955-present day at time of publication.
The Billboard Guide to Contemporary Christian Music by Barry Alfonso
Published in 2002, this isn’t a chart book – it’s a reference guide to the best known artists in the genre. It has interviews with over a dozen artists, a large section of biographical and album discography information for over 200 well known CCM artists (Amy Grant, DeGarmo & Key, Carman, Petra, DC Talk, Michael W Smith. etc), and a chronology of the progression of the format. Fascinating reading if you love this kind of music.
The International Guide to New Age Music by Henk N Werkhoven
Published in 1998, but not including the magazine’s name in the title, it’s similar to the Contemporary Christian book, with profiles of artists (not nearly as extensive; it’s focused on listing as many as possible with just a small blurb about most, and more extensive write-ups and discographies about more prolific and popular artists) and also included a CD sampler of music by an array of new age format artists. Excellent info source for it’s time.
AMERICAN TOP 40
Long THE definitive countdown show which used the Billboard Hot 100 for most of its run, I have four books specifically about the show, none of which are still in print, but all of which, if you are a fan of the long-running show hosted by Casey Kasem, Shadoe Stevens, and Ryan Seacrest, are a MUST HAVE.
American Top 40: The Countdown Of The Century by Rob Durkee
Published in 1999 and now long out of print, this book tells the complete story of how AT40 came to be, how it was made, the various problems, the host changes, it’s eventual demise and rebirth, and more. The book includes substantial interview quotes from the big players involved over the years – Casey Kasem, Tom Rounds, Don Bustany, Shadoe Stevens – as well as Pete Battistini, the self-proclaimed (and wildly accurate, heh heh) “Biggest AT40 Fan EVER!” (see below). If you love this show, you NEED this book – find it in a library, on eBay, wherever…but FIND IT!
Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 Yearbook
I had this when it came out and lost it when I moved from Washington to Ohio in 1981, but found a decent copy of it on eBay a few years ago. Branded with Casey Kasem’s name but actually written by the writers of the show, with Jay Goldsworthy and Don Bustany as editor and editor-in-chief respectively, it was intended to be a yearly book featuring mini-bios and Top 40 chart history about all the acts who hit the chart each year. The first (and only) edition made features facts about every artist that hit AT40 from November 1977 to October 1978, as well as each weeks’ Billboard Top 40 chart, and a few other stats lists as well.
American Top 40 with Casey Kasem: the 1970s by Pete Battistini
American Top 40 with Casey Kasem: the 1980s by Pete Battistini
Remember how I mentioned above that Battistini was the self-proclaimed “Biggest AT40 Fan Ever”? A few years ago, he PROVED IT true by self-publishing this two-volume set of amazing stuff, and although they are TECHNICALLY still available, they can be hard to find. These books, covering the original 1970-1988 run of the show as hosted by Kasem (the second volume ends with Kasem’s final show in 1988), contain stuff you won’t find ANYWHERE ELSE – reproductions of letters from people involved with the show, radio stations, and industry movers and shakers, advertising from the show, interviews with many of the people who helped shape AT40, whether for one week or all time, complete and specific listings of EVERY SINGLE STATION in the world that carried AT40, memories of other fans, and a COMPLETE rundown of EVERY SINGLE BROADCAST of American Top 40 from the first show (July 4 1970) to Kasem’s last show in 1988. If you are an AT40 fan, THIS IS THE HOLY GRAIL! Battistini put a lot of hard work, and a lot of LOVE into this set, and it’s an absolute MUST HAVE for AT40 fans around the planet…
THE CHICAGO CHARTS
Author Ron Smith released a couple of books back a few years ago which cover the radio charts of two of Chicago’s most influential top 40 stations in it’s history. They are both formatted like the Record Research books, by artist with chart info listed under each.
WCFL Chicago Top 40 Charts 1965-1976
This volume covers WCFL-AM’s weekly playlist for the years noted.
Chicago Top 40 Charts 1970-1979
This volume covers WLS-AM’s weekly playlist for the years noted.
If anyone knows of any other cities that have released books like this, please by all means let me know, as I’m definitely interested! I also have two books on the charts from the UK, and also The CHUM Chart book from radio station CHUM-AM in Toronto. I m also on the look out for the books published about the RPM Charts in Canada and the ARIA charts in Australia, so if anyone wants to get rid of one, or knows where I can find them, give me a shout please!
That’s a huge list, and that’s not all of the books I have – I will be updating this list when I finish my renovations with more titles that are a part of my reference library!