Thursday, January 20, 2011

A reading update, and a book you don't have to read from cover to cover...

Time does tend to get away from me sometimes. It's Thursday already.

I'm still working my way through The Miracle Detective, and I'm making progress, but there's been a lot going on this week. Monday night was an SCA business meeting. Tuesday night was knit night. Last night I was just a bum, watching NCIS episodes on DVD while waiting to go pick up a friend after her night class. In the mornings, there's work. And...well, you get the idea.

Also on Monday night, I started looking through a book I picked up at the library Sunday, Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits, by Fred Bronson (Billboard Books, 1995; revised and enlarged edition). And couldn't put it down for hours.

It's a book of lists. I love books of lists. Probably has something to do with the fact that I love making lists. Which is likely why I love the movie High Fidelity. I have the book around here somewhere, but I haven't read it yet. But I digress.

What Bronson did with this book was take all the Hot 100 lists from Billboard magazine, since it began publishing that particular list on a weekly basis on August 4, 1958, and assigned each song on each chart a numerical value based on its position that week, the did something mathematical with all the information and came up with a list of the 5000 hits of the rock era. But that's at the back of the book. He also worked up "top" lists for every year from 1956 (he used a series of Best Sellers in Stores charts for rankings before Billboard started publishing the Hot 100 chart) through 1994, for each decade from the 1950s through the 1980s, and "top" lists for a number of artists, writers, producers, record labels and so forth. There is also a series of specialized "top" lists, of which my favorite is probably either to Top 100 One-Hit Wonders or the Top 100 Songs that debuted at 100 on the Hot 100 list.

I guess you could say that Bronson is kind of a geek, with maybe too much time on his hands. He reports in the book's introduction that he did the same sort of thing with each week's top 30 list as broadcast on KRLA radio in Los Angeles, which he wrote down faithfully as it was broadcast on Friday afternoons. Until he discovered that the station reproduced the list and distributed it to record stores and he could just pick one up instead of writing them down. I can't laugh too hard at this. When I was growing up in Southern California in the late 1960s, I used to do the same thing on Wednesday evening (as I recall, although it's been a long time and I could be wrong) when KRLA's rival rock and roll station, KHJ, played their Top 30 countdown. Which of course means that I was a geek with too much time on my hands, too. This is something I'm glad to own up to now, although at the time I would have denied it.

Anyway, the book is great fun. If you like music, and if you stumble across it in the library, you might want to give it a look. It is also the ideal book for when you have some time on your hands but don't want to commit to reading a book all the way through. You can dip into this at any point and find out something interesting that you probably didn't know before. The only thing I wish is that there was a newly updated edition on the shelves at my library. There may well be such an edition, but I haven't come across it yet.

I'd really like to see what changes a decade and a half has made in that Top 5000 Hits of the Rock Era list.

Now. Back to The Miracle Detective.

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