The Album Charts here in the UK are not what they used to be. This page on the Official Chart Company website, “All The Number 1 Albums”, lists every chart-topping album going back to the first official chart in 1956. It shows how things have changed in the intervening decades.
In the early years there was a firmly established pattern of albums by male singers and Original Soundtracks (OSTs) alternating throughout the year, with long-running spells by the latter, especially at Christmas. “The King and I” soundtrack was the #1 album for 15 consecutive weeks at the end of 1956 and another 11 weeks at the end of the following year. The 1958 Christmas #1 album went a whole lot further: the “South Pacific” soundtrack spent 70 (yes, SEVENTY) consecutive weeks at #1. It was the only album to top the chart in 1959. For anyone who turns 64 between now and 31 December I can tell you with great confidence what the #1 album was on the day you were born.
The arrival of The Beatles in 1963 changed things. From May 1963 until February 1965 there were only five albums that topped the UK charts, all but one of them by The Fab Four: “Please Please Me” (30 weeks), “With The Beatles” (21 weeks), “A Hard Day’s Night” (21 weeks) and “Beatles for Sale” (a mere 7 weeks). In between the second and third of these releases The Rolling Stones spent 12 weeks at #1 with their self-titled first album. Not a solo singer or OST in sight. All of these albums enjoyed unbroken runs at the top: the figures given here are for consecutive weeks.
By contrast, no singles spent more than 8 weeks at #1 during the 1960s, and nothing in the Singles Chart has ever come close to matching the 21 weeks at #1 for “With The Beatles” or “A Hard Day’s Night”, let alone the 70-week run by the “South Pacific” soundtrack. For the record, in its 9 separate spells at #1 “South Pacific” clocked up an astonishing 115 weeks at the top of the UK Album Chart.
At the start of this century, the Singles Chart reached a new high for the number of singles that made it to #1: 42. It reminded me of planes coming in to land, the release schedules allowing one song after another to land at #1 for just one week before vacating the spot for the next one. Of the 42 new releases that made it to #1, 35 of them were there for just one week.
And now, over 20 years later, the Album Charts have gone the same way. In 2022 the number of different releases making it to the top was identical to the figure for singles in 2000: 42, most of them spending just a single week at #1. Only four album spent more than a week at the top: “=” (Ed Sheeran, 3 weeks, in 2 different spells at #1), “Harry’s House” (Harry Styles, 6 weeks in 4 spells), “Midnights” (Taylor Swift, 3 weeks in 2 spells) and “Renaissance” (Beyoncé, a single spell of 2 weeks).
The chart-topping releases that had extended stays at #1 in 2022 were all in the Singles Chart: 10 weeks for “As It Was” (Harry Styles, the year’s best-seller), 8 weeks for “Afraid to Feel” (LF System), 7 weeks for “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (from the “Encanto” soundtrack) and 6 weeks for “Anti-Hero” (Taylor Swift).
Apart from the occasional rogue year like 2000, the number of releases making it to the top of Singles Chart, and the number of weeks spent there, have been fairly consistent over the years. The Album Charts, on the other hand, are not what they used to be.