In the words of Lolly, “How I wish I was a deejay. I’d play my favourite music every day.” And if you don’t know who Lolly is, you may as well stop reading right now. In the Summer of ’98, thanks to a certain magazine, my devotion to the befitting genre of teen pop exploded into new highs (or, depending on your tastes, sunk to new depths). I’d been an avid, some might say religious purveyor of Smash Hits since the dawn of the Spice Girls. But in 1998 – 2nd June, to be precise (my 12th Birthday), they unknowingly unleashed a ravenous demon from within my soul – and this soul was hungry for pop music. From that date, Smash Hits would give away the lyrics for eight singles that had been or were due to be released that fortnight in the form of a square card with artwork and stats on the front, and the lyrics on the reverse. If you were there from the beginning, you’d know it was a big deal. They teased this new format in the previous issue with a songwords card featuring the lyrics for Lady Marmalade, by All Saints.
June 2, they went all out for the launch and gave away a free wall-chart which you could hang vertically from your bedroom wall (which, of course, I did). There were ten slots, meaning you could sort the smash hits from the sma-shits. Obviously, even with the bonus card, the first fortnight I only had nine songs to pick from and, truth be told, I didn’t like all of them, so they bloody well weren’t going to go into my Top 10 by default. I waited until the next issue to have a more healthy sum of seventeen to pick from. And on that Sunday, I documented the first ever Style Chart. Thanks to my borderline-sociopathic personality, I still have the handwritten charts that I made almost every week from June 1998 until September 2000. And somehow, I still have ALL 500-and-odd songwords cards from that time period (don’t have the wall chart though, I wonder when and where that perished). You might be thinking, two years isn’t that long to devote your life to something – and devote is a good word. I maintained that chart throughout chemotherapy and a stint in isolation whilst having a bone marrow transplant (which failed and almost killed me, but let’s not dwell). It became the driving force of my existence during the months I was being bullied in high school. I indulged myself in every new issue, even throughout leaving that high school and starting a new one. I became my own best friend (I’m exaggerating, I did thankfully have a best friend who lived up the street). I would sit up in my attic bedroom and, using a multi-CD stereo with a karaoke microphone, I would deejay onto a cassette tape and countdown the Top 10. I still have some of these tapes, and in one particularly depressing show, I pretended Lolly was in my “studio” and answering listeners questions on the phone. I’m probably over-sharing, but I want you to get an idea of how important this was in my life. I began making friends in my new high school, and later that year, my taste in music shifted, and I no longer felt the desire to keep up with Smash Hits. Today marks the 17th Anniversary of the very first Sunday Style Chart Countdown, and I thought I’d celebrate by turning something introverted into an activity everyone can enjoy. I have been in the process of creating playlists on 8tracks for all 100-and-odd weeks of the Style Chart and now I’d like to share them