Chart Sweep / Time Sweep

This little piece of history has been going viral over the last few weeks after being put up on Soundcloud by a user called mjs538.
*UPDATE: Another user: DJMOOG1 has put up a better quality version which I’ve embedded above.
Although not actually by mjs538, the pieces have a strange and convoluted history in themselves as well as portraying the history of pop music based on all the #1 hits in the US charts since 1958. Both mixes use up to 5 seconds of each and every #1 since the mid fifties, in order, up until 1981 in Part 1 and into the early nineties in Part 2. Whilst a herculean effort, even in this day and age of digital editing and online stores to source the material, it’s all the more impressive that the bulk of Part 1 was made in the late seventies using reel to reel tape and a razor blade.

MARKFO_BThe piece – known as ‘Time Sweep’ – was part of an extensive radio show called The History of Rock n Roll’, made by Drake – Chenault Enterprises for radio in the US which utilized 52 hours to bring the first comprehensive history of rock music to the airwaves. Each year was prefaced with a medley of that year’s #1 hit singles (a ‘Chart Sweep’) and the whole was compiled into a ‘Time Sweep’ to end the mammoth series. The engineer responsible was Mark Ford (above), a veteran of radio jingles and production. He compiled and edited all the selections up until 1977, not only cutting and splicing but also EQing and time stretching sections to make them fit together sonically and selecting and pairing little couplets of lyrics at certain points – Roy Orbison‘s “Pretty woman, walking down the street”, segues into “there she was, just a walking down the street”.

For a little ‘behind the scenes’ info, check out this link on the making of the special

But the story doesn’t end there. For those paying attention, just after the Meco version of ‘Star Wars’ in Part 1, the sound quality noticeably changes in both the stereo field, quality and editing. The reason for this is that a teacher from Maryland University called Hugo Keesing extended and updated the concept of the Chart / Time Sweep for his classes as each year finished up until 1991. With all due respect to Keesing, he isn’t a sound engineer and it shows in the application of edits and production. This is where the piece stops being art and turns to documentation and, as such, loses the essence of its greatness. Keesing was using a Wollensack tape recorder to edit with and had no way to clean up or EQ the tracks. So, the majority of Part 1 is Mark Ford’s original (up until 1977) and then Keesing’s extension, which runs the entirety of Part 2.

Five Seconds Of Every #1 Pop Single Part 2 by mjs538

How this piece came into circulation on the web was via a tape with Keesing’s name on it that was passed to the Evolution Control Committee‘s Mark Gunderson in the 90’s and the piece was widely believed to have been by him in it’s entirety by the cut and paste fraternity unfamiliar with the History of Rock n Roll programme. Eventually Keesing was tracked down and you can read an interview with him over at Jon Nelson‘s ‘Some Assembly Required’ blog.

For a comprehensive overview of the whole story check here, there is also an update of the whole concept from 1993 to 2010 if you can’t get enough of this kind of thing.

6 thoughts on “Chart Sweep / Time Sweep

  1. Heard the original version, the station where I produced and voiced subscribed to D-C, and we aired the rockumentary along with separate replays of the time sweep sold to local sponsors. I had the honour of voicing around the sweep – intros and extros of the segments as donuts, with the local spots in between. Hearing my own modest pipes next to Bill Drake was a thrill. Never got around to dubbing a copy for myself and am totally enthralled as finding this on SoundCloud.

  2. To P.J. – my e-mail address is [email protected]. If you send me a note with your snail mail address, I will send you a dual-layer DVD that contains the information I mention in my earlier note. This will not cost you anything. If you have iTunes or another mps/4 player on your computer, you will be able to download them, arrange them in order, and enjoy hours of listening.

  3. To Mike D. – how do I get what you speak of (both the 1978 and 1981 versions of “The History of Rock and Roll”)? I haven’t heard them in a long time and there’s a lot I have missed from these broadcasts!

  4. I have all 52 hours of the 1978 version of “The History of Rock & Roll” and about 26 or so hours of the 1981 version. I also have a mix of the two programs; this contains 255 files on iTunes and also includes some five or so segments from the 1969 version of the KHJ version, which was 48 hours long. All the time listed represents radio time, that is, each segment would last about 15 minutes, with commercials.

  5. I think the 52 hours will either be lost or hosted on some sort of radio show collectors site if anywhere at all. I’ve sorted out the links above, the site regig had them doing weird things. The main one is better quality now but all the years are mixed together so you’ll have to take an educated guess at 1978.
    I actually have six different files with about 15 mins each of the main mix split up, also with a proper intro that none of the ones online seem to have. If Soundcloud will let me upload them I’ll put them up.

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