Divide conquers charts

The charts are dead. Bereft of musical life, they lie in pieces. Chief suspect in their demise is a red-haired, chib-marked individual, last seen making off with several million pounds.

Yes, the Top 40 filled up with number twos. This week, Ed Sheeran occupied nine of the slots in the top 10. However, at number 6, another first, as a nation sighed “thank goodness for Coldplay” – a phrase only less likely than “oh, and praise be to Chainsmokers too!”

Ruining the chances of Ed’s perfect 10 was the dance duo’s collaboration with mild-mannered Chris Martin, who makes the carrot-topped crooner seem like Ozzy Osbourne by comparison.

To many the omnipresence of young Mr Sheeran was a sign that allowing streaming to occupy the singles charts has backfired spectacularly. And yes, the rules govern the charts change all the time, so the record label’s decision to class every track on Ed’s ‘Divide’ as a single was in the rules of the game. But in fact, the real problem is with Sheeran for being so damn good (I jest) or his fans for, well, buying his album in droves – close to half a million in one week.

For those acts not brimming with talent, underhand methods of rigging the charts have existed for aeons – whether through the “payola” (DJ bribery) scandal of the ‘50s, the rigging by the chart company itself to prevent the Sex Pistols getting a number 1 in Jubilee year, to their allowing labels to ‘force’ fans to buy several, different formats of every single in the 90s. Nowadays it should be harder – or perhaps much easier, depending on your computer hacking skills.

Of course, sometimes the artists themselves could take advantage, which is how Elvis Presley stands proudly alongside Leeds indie combo The Wedding Present in being the only act to have a UK chart hit in every month of a calendar year – The King of Rock doing so via his massive fanbase, the Weddoes via a clever and precise release schedule.

Those were different times – like when the Supremes record as most successful female band was overtaken by, er, Bananarama. Or that time when Ed Sheeran became the fastest selling UK male solo act EVER! – yes, ahead of Bowie, and Ed’s mentor, Elton.

If you want to know what the charts were like BS (that’s Before Sheeran, not another no 2 reference) Spotify now has all the hits as a playlist. From Al Martino in 1952 via ‘Mr Blobby’, Bob The Builder and ‘Shaddap You Face’ you can hear why, like the Brexit vote, the UK public shouldn’t be allowed out of the house unless accompanied by an adult.

As ever, I have to take care what I saw. Ed Sheeran, though making ineffably dull music, seems like a nice bloke. Though finding 50 or 100 fascinating facts about him seem to extend to “has a pub in the garden” (which 20-something multimillionaire wouldn’t?) or fit 40 Maltesers in his mouth (er, see above). The most interesting fact is how he got his scar – despite denials, it does seem to have been in a game of Marry-Knight-Stab with James Blunt and a couple of princesses (‘Careful With That Sword’ Eugenie and Beatrix ‘Chopper’.) The biggest mystery is how Ed could have broached royal security given what happened last time a ginger found his way into Buck House.

Anyway, ‘Divide’ is top of the pops, and there’s not much more to be said. Though it does contain a tune about a ‘Galway Girl’ – handy, as the Irish aren’t really much cop at penning tunes about their country. Plus, it can soundtrack the dancing of a jig on the grave of the charts.

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