Vancouver Pop Hits from ’56 to ’91
“What a great blog…! It’s terrific!
Such good info in an easy-to-read style.
I grew up in Montreal,
so some of the Billboard “did not chart” songs
I’ve never even heard of ~ an eye-opener, for me,
that we didn’t all listen to exactly the same stuff!” ~ Judy Hill
Like Judy Hill, you may have thought exactly the same songs were on the pop charts in every city across Canada and the USA. However, as the pop song reviews on this website reveal, we didn’t all listen to exactly the same stuff. There was lots of overlap. But there were also a lot of songs, at least here on the Canadian west coast, that charted well on local pop-rock AM stations in Vancouver. These same songs struggled to replicate their success here on the pop charts in America.
If you’re interested in recalling some of the more distinctive popular songs on Vancouver’s AM radio from 1956 to 1991, this website is for you. Each weekday a song that charted into the Top 20 of the pop charts in Vancouver is reviewed. Each review discusses a song that was significantly more successful in Vancouver than on the Billboard Hot 100 in America. A “Countdown” began here on this site with the first review on October 3, 2016, counting down from song #1,130 to song #1.
Each song is ranked on the Countdown according to its overall chart performance. The higher the song the better it performed on the local charts here in Vancouver. The songs you won’t find reviewed on this website are tunes that performed relatively well both in Vancouver and the USA. The final song on this countdown of 1,130 songs (a tribute to CKWX AM 1130) will be finished sometime in the summer of 2021. Thereafter this website will serve as an archive of songs on Vancouver’s AM pop radio that were part of the musical signature of the west coast sound in the golden era of rock ‘n roll. There are also 70 “extra” songs reviewed that are “bubbling under the Countdown“, resembling what Billboard does with songs that are “bubbling under the Hot 100.” In total there are 1,201 songs (discs) that are being reviewed on this website for this project.
This website was launched after a number of years of researching the chart performance of each charted song on record surveys of local Vancouver AM radio stations. These songs have been compared with their chart performance on the USA’s Billboard Hot 100. The seed of this research emerged after years of conversations with friends in the ‘States about songs we each remembered from our childhood, youth, twenties and thirties. In addition to songs we shared in common there were songs I’d mention these friends had a vague recollection of, or had never heard of before. Vancouver happens to have the largest ex-pat American population in the world. A 2016 study by the USA’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) estimates that Canada’s third largest urban region is home to 183,155 eligible US voters, more than any other international city outside of the United States. It could be a conversation starter for local Vancouverites getting their new friends and neighbours, who’ve moved here from the USA, up to speed with the more distinctive sound of pop radio here on the west coast.
Red Robinson, in photo above (circa 1958), was a pioneer of rock ‘n roll radio in Vancouver.
The Billboard Hot 100 is the American music industry’s standard record chart in the USA for singles based on radio play and sales. The research for this website’s countdown has involved researching the weekly Billboard Hot 100 charts between September 1956 and November 1991. The list of songs on Vancouver’s AM pop radio on this 1130 Countdown are not compared with other radio markets in Canada (locally or nationally), the United Kingdom or Australia. Included on this list are 520 songs that never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 (and another 54 songs that did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100 bubbling under this 1130 Countdown). Numbers of the songs appearing on this list had minimal chart success on the Hot 100. There are some songs that made the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. There are even a few songs that cracked the Top Ten on the Hot 100. But to crack the Top Ten on the Hot 100 and end up being listed on this Countdown, a song had to have a remarkable chart run here in Vancouver.
The length of the list is a tribute to CKWX AM 1130, one of the first stations that gave local DJ’s a chance to play rock n’ roll records for Vancouver listeners and record buyers. There will be up to five posts per week. From 1956 to 1991 their was a significant shift from regional hits on local radio stations to an increasing homogenization of hit records common across all radio markets in North America. This has led to a decrease in a uniquely distinctive “sound” on local radio stations in Vancouver (and elsewhere). For example, between 1960 and 1969 there are 588 individual 45 RPM singles that appear on the 1130 Top Hits list on this website. This contrasts with the final eleven and a half years included in this survey. From January 1980 to November 19, 1991, there are only 192 charted songs that appear on this 1130 Top Hits list.
Over time there have been changing playlists of songs chosen for “Flashback Weekends” on pop music stations in Vancouver from the mid-60’s to current playlists of songs on local “oldies” radio stations. One outcome is that many songs that were once hits here in Vancouver have fallen off the radar of oldies playlists in this city.
Songs reviewed here include recording artists from doo-wop, rockabilly, late 50s “gingerbread” teen idols, British Invasion, garage band, folk rock and psychedelic pop-rock from the 60’s, singer-songwriters, glam rock and disco from the 70’s, new wave and mainstream rock artists from the 80’s and early hip-hop and indie artists into the 90’s. An emerging picture of what Vancouver’s musical tastes were as distinct from the buying habits in the USA may give some cultural anthropologists a basis for research proposals for years to come. For now, check the posts, present or past anywhere on the Countdown. Take a trip down memory lane (or discover a few tunes you’ve never heard before), turn back time to “the good old days,” and get a glimpse of the remarkable changes in musical styles spanning these 35 years from 1956 to 1991.
For more about the creator/author of vancouversignaturesounds.com click the “About” page.
This website is created for archival, non-commercial purposes only.