Drake-Chenault / Mark Ford / Hugo Keesing ------------ Chart Sweep / Time Sweep

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If you hear it you don't forget it. But what's perhaps most interesting about it, is how a collage composition like this that was once heard in national syndication, annually, by millions and millions of listeners, keeps seeming to shake its author. So much so that when someone anonymously uploads a fourth-generation cassette copy of it to SoundCloud, it warrants a 'hey wow look at this neat Internet thing' headline story on salon.com:


Two to six seconds of every single #1 pop song since the advent of the pop charts, i.e. when hits stopped being followed in terms of the 'hit parade' (still primarily seen in terms of the sheet music, the song and not any one recording of it) to the recording.

On the one hand the concept is so self-evident it seems like something beyond what any one author could take credit for. But anyone who listens to it carefully can hear the artistry in the editing, and realize that not just anyone can throw together all these songs with the effect of melting away the decades into a musical overview of the development of recorded popular music, the 'Time Sweep' is a composition and a masterpiece and it's unfair that it isn't nationally recognized as such, so I'm getting on a platform for a few minutes

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 02:43 (twelve years ago) link


The main body of the piece, 1955-1981, was collaged by Mark Ford, the chief audio engineer for Drake-Chenault Enterprises, the company that pioneered in FM radio syndication (i.e. the company that brought canned radio playlists to nationwide US markets) -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake-Chenault.


Notable features of this documentary include the "chart sweep," featuring a montage of #1 songs and notable hits from a given year or artist, a "time sweep" for each one-hour segment providing a montage of the major hits for each year or individual artist, and closing with a special climactic time sweep featuring a montage of every #1 hit from 1955 to the year of the latest version.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 02:44 (twelve years ago) link

^^ dude is an artist, full stop

the flow of the Time Sweep creeps up on you; each song is joined by a crossfade, not a blunt-splice. he did this by dubbing each song to its own bit of reel to reel tape, and performing the mix live to a third tape. then pausing, moving to the next reel, rewinding the other one, and splicing out the pauses on the third. each individual song must have taken 20-60 minutes to work out and he obviously experimented within each song to find bits that not only would best represent that song but flow perfectly out of the previous and into the next

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 02:49 (twelve years ago) link


production documentary -- about 8-10 minutes in there, Mark casually throws together a Kraftwerk / Bee Gees mashup

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 02:52 (twelve years ago) link

pressed to vinyl, the whole thing threaded through with Ford's collages, the final disc is the Time Sweep


Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 03:01 (twelve years ago) link

this was posted long before I started googling about on this, but I'm only seeing it now:


Registered: 04/28/04
Posts: 6,850
06/20/04 at 11:54 PM Reply with quote #4


Not only do I have in my archives all the various editions of The History of Rock & Roll done over the years, I've had several long conversations with the guys who engineered the show, like former Drake-Chenault chief engineer Hank Landsberg (who runs his company, Henry Engineering, out of Sierra Madre).

Through Hank, I also corresponded with Gary Theroux, who wrote much of the best edition of the show, the 1978 (stereo) incarnation, and I also spoke to Mark Ford, who was the guy who mixed and edited the show from about 1972 through the mid-1980s. It was Mark who did the incredible collages, including the infamous Hour 52 "#1 hit collage" from 1955 through about 1981, which is what I think many listeners remember most vividly.

Mark told me that he did most of that work using Sony consumer reel-to-reel decks, each modified and adjusted to get the best possible performance, and almost all of those segues were done by hand, hitting the buttons on the fly. He said there were often times when he'd be 19 songs into a 20-song medley when something would screw up, and he'd have to start it all over again. Quite an incredible achievement, particularly when you consider he had no computers, no automation... just human fingers and good timing.

About my only critique (which I tactfully raised to Mark) was that they used a lot of fake stereo for all the mono cuts in the show, and he basically shrugged his shoulders and said that was a "management decision." I'm in the process of dropping in correct mono versions for many of those songs, as well as inserting true stereo versions when I felt they sounded better. I also took it upon myself to segue a couple of the voice-overs on the music intros, which I felt made the show a little more interesting. Because the various versions of the show add up to about 66 hours or so (give or take), it's taken me a long time to get even half of it finished.

One of these days, I should get around to writing a long article on how the show came together, from its origins in February of 1969 on KHJ-AM, to a national phemonena. I consider The History of Rock & Roll to be one of the most impressive radio shows of its kind ever done, and it's unfortunate that shows like this are so rarely heard nowadays. And sadly, the show's creators, particularly Bill Drake, aren't given the respect they deserve.

--Marc W.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 03:03 (twelve years ago) link


Registered: 11/13/04
Posts: 2
11/16/04 at 01:40 PM Reply with quote #20


I researched, wrote and co-produced the Billboard-award-winning 1978 version of "The History Of Rock 'n' Roll." To read what's pretty much the whole story behind the show, check out my fairly detailed article at drakechenault.org. After word broke that the HRR was in development, CHUM apparently decided to try releasing a hastily-conceived cover version called "Evolution Of Rock." I first heard of it midway through the production of the HRR and was a bit worried about it stealing our thunder, as it would hit the air before the two-year production period of the HRR was completed. After the EOR aired in Canada, I was sent a couple hours of airchecks. I was vastly relieved to discover that it was, to put it mildly, a complete mess -- a self-indulgent disaster as poorly researched and written as it was organized and produced. No wonder it sank without a trace! Regarding the #1 Hits montage, that became the most bootlegged hour of the HRR. In developing the show's format, I laid out self-contained themes for each segment; some ran an hour or so, others parts of an hour. Among them were half-hour blocks documenting each of the rock 'n' roll years. They featured some key hits along with what I called the A and B montages. The B montages were of bits of significant hits we simply did have have time to play in full but I did want to include in some way. The A montages were key moments from every #1 hit of a given year, in order. We worked off a sequential list of those hits supplied to us by Billboard magazine. About three-quarters of the way through production, the girlfriend of one of our engineers demanded to know why he was keeping such late hours working on the show. What was taking so long? He responded by dubbing off a copy of the A montage master reel and taking it to her apartment. He then started it and went out to pick up a pizza. When he returned, she was sitting on the floor, transfixed by what she was hearing. There were tears in her eyes. "What's wrong?" he said. "It can't be that bad." She said, "Oh no, it's wonderful. I've just been listening to my whole life pass before my ears. Where did all the time go?" When he told me that, I rewrote the final hour to incorporate all of those A montages edited together. Many people told me I was nuts for wanting to do that; no one in their right mind would sit through a 40-minute-plus montage. But that became the most famous part of the show -- and later inspired a whole string of hit medleys, ranging from "The Stars On 45" to Jive Bunny & the Mixmasters' "Swing The Mood." The medley, by the way, has never been legally sold to anyone. Licensing all those #1 hits for commercial sale would be both a legal nightmare and a near-impossible feat, considering all the rights holders involved. (The HRR was not sold to stations that aired it; only leased for a brief period for broadcast use only.) What Mark Ford said about assembling it via tiny bits of quarter-inch tape is all true; he did in fact have an exceptionally low-tech studio -- full of Radio Shack-grade equipment. The fact that he was able to do such first-class work under such conditions dazzles me to this day. I have collaborated with many pros in state-of-the-art studios since then, but he remains one of the most creative engineers I have ever come across. I even named my first-born son after him!

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 03:05 (twelve years ago) link

the last edition of Mark Ford's Time Sweep runs through 1981, and the last time it was played on syndicated radio was apparently 1989. after that, the lineage gets tricky.


Hugo Keesing, music professor at University of Maryland teaching a class entitled "Popular Music in American Society" began updating the collage using the version of Ford's Time Sweep that runs through 1977. Using a cassette deck's pause button instead of cross-fades, he extended the piece through to 1992, and played the work for students in his class, occasionally dubbing them copies.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 03:13 (twelve years ago) link

The piece, now entitled 'Hugo Keesing's Chart Sweep' and packaged with a simple handwritten xerox insert, makes its way to Mark Gunderson of the Evolution Control Committee, who distributed many further copies of the piece to collage-friendly friends (including myself) through the 90's. In this pre-internet age, no further information about this mammoth work is to be found even by enthusiasts.

In 2002, the ECC uploads his cassette transfer of the work to his website as mp3's tagged simply as 'chart sweep part one' (46:03) and 'chart sweep part two' (28:11).


Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 03:19 (twelve years ago) link

Beginning his review with an entire paragraph about his own solo album, Chris Ott mistakes 'Chart Sweep' for the work of the Evolution Control Committee in a Pitchfork review and uses it as an opportunity to attack Gunderson for his cowardace:

I'm unimpressed by Gunderson and Seeland's cowardice in not releasing "Chart Sweep" parts 1 & 2. This unreal sequence of brief (legally inconsequential) clips from every #1 song up to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" is a must-download, available from ECC's site. Didn't Nirvana knock Whitney's tyrannic single off the charts? What's the implication in ending just before that happened? The tracks elicit all sorts of philosophical questions and cultural memories; there's no question of their artistic worth versus any copyright claims. These guys want to sell copyright controversy, but how can they insult our intelligence by boasting about CBS lawsuits while selling only the most timid of their adventures?


Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:01 (twelve years ago) link


sarahel, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:09 (twelve years ago) link

but i also wanted to say, that after hearing some of this, it helped me articulate what Girl Talk (yeah, i know, sorry) reminded me of -- a radio bumper that never ends.

sarahel, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:11 (twelve years ago) link

i didn't want this thread to go unnoticed. milton, i was actually listening to one of your podcasts on collage & sampling in 20th century music* yesterday on the bus ride home while reading my RSS feed. i noticed this article and i thought it was pretty great timing. i planned on coming back later to listen. this #1 hits thing is pretty amazing btw. it's not at all as jarring as expected. all of the songs flow from one to the next perfectly. it's sort of like that mae shi mixtape that was being passed around a few years, but more listenable. pretty cool

* people should listen to these podcasts. they're really well done and very educational. i haven't really spent much time w/20th cent classical and it's really cool to hear them along w/descriptions of what's going on

jaxon, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:21 (twelve years ago) link

The transition from the Mark Ford to the Hugo Keesing section at ~1977 of Chart Sweep is extremely audible, both in the quality of the audio fidelity and the artistry of the editing. I'm huge fan of the squirky sound of mechanical-pause-button edits rendered on a cassette deck, but there is no comparison to the Mark Ford stretch. Not everyone can collapse decades down to an hour with a sense of flow, and the Ford stretch contains more than a few call-and-response segueways:

'like a bridge over troubled water, whisper words of wisdom'
'everything is beautiful to the long and winding road'
'cherokee people, you've got a friend'

xpost I guess I can understand that, but the conceptual stricture of the piece is what makes it for me -- unlike the completely arbitrary yearbook flow of GT, you know that Chart Sweep is going to end. the decades are condensed in order, not traipsed through.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:23 (twelve years ago) link

This is so much fun, thanks Milton. But that Salon writer:

Remember Bobby Darin? Me neither, but there he is.

The HELL?!

Hodge Podge Bodge, Peo-PLE! (Dan Peterson), Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:26 (twelve years ago) link

ya seriously

jaxon, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:30 (twelve years ago) link

what i mean is, Chart Sweep is constructed like a radio bumper (Ford was a radio guy, wasn't he?) -- the ones where a few top songs of the day are montaged together and then punctuated with the station ID, so you get excited by hearing the hooks of these songs you ostensibly love, but then frustrated as one goes into another, and then reassured that you will hear the whole song soon by a brief tagline that seeks to associate your listening pleasure with the station's call letters. These generally last about 5-15 seconds, i think.

But Girl Talk just puts in more of each song and the whole thing goes on longer, so it's even more frustrating, and ultimately exhausting.

sarahel, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:30 (twelve years ago) link


I guess I just melted down when I saw that Salon article. The most fascinating thing about Chart Sweep is how it manages to keep shirking its author. It's obvious why it does this -- the concept is so basic that in some ways it does seem beyond an author. But at the same time, I'm just shocked that even a water-coolerish aggregate site like Salon would casually post a 'hey look at this cool thing the internet made' headline story without any interest in the history or authorship of the piece, just casually attributing it to 'mjs538'.

And this piece, particularly the Mark Ford stretch, is a flat out masterpiece of editing that was heard in syndication by millions and millions of syndicated broadcast radio listeners. And due to copyright, there is no real official edition to speak of, it's just in the ether! It keeps getting lost.

Gunderson posted to the comments of the Salon story identifying it as Hugo Keesing's Chart Sweep. Which is true -- they posted TradeMark's digital transfer of a fourth generation cassette copy of Keesing's extension of Mark Ford's piece. But that obscures the lineage, this is the heart of it: http://www.reelradio.com/gifts/horrts2.html

xpost yeah who remembers Bobby Darin? this salon author must be in his early twenties and utterly unconcerned with, well, any kind of journalism, he's just hanging out at the water cooler gabbing

xxpost the links upthread, Mark Ford wasn't just any radio guy, he was the chief engineer at the company who pioneered the concept of automated cross-country genre/format playlists -- he was one of the most influential editors who pioneered the sound of those bumper station IDs for FM radio format stations in the 70's. listen to that interview I posted upthread where he walks you through how he constructs that Kraftwerk / Bee Gees mashup, he's a musician with flow.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:35 (twelve years ago) link

he was one of the most influential editors who pioneered the sound of those bumper station IDs for FM radio format stations in the 70's

ha, so he literally created the thing that Girl Talk reminds me of!

also, sorry for polluting this thread with Girl Talk.

sarahel, Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:38 (twelve years ago) link

Haha, from the comments:

Who's Bobby Darin?
Really? That Bobby Darin dude is no where near my generation and I know of him and his tunes.
What are you? 19 years old and just weening off the Disney teat?

I sort of might have been okay with "Remember Ernie K-Doe?" or something (and I LOVE K-Doe, but realize he's a chart footnote) but hello Mr. Salon writer, "Mack The Knife?" There was a Kevin Spacey biopic, etc, etc...

Hodge Podge Bodge, Peo-PLE! (Dan Peterson), Thursday, 24 February 2011 19:56 (twelve years ago) link

it's ok, just y'know stop mentioning him

it's not at all as jarring as expected. all of the songs flow from one to the next perfectly. it's sort of like that mae shi mixtape that was being passed around a few years, but more listenable.

I agree, it's shockingly listenable. And it's listenable 'cause of Mark Ford.

I enjoyed that Mae Shi mixtape (thanking you Shasta). It's blunt splices, and it's less about flow than disjunction, it's more like 3-second shuffle play through a very, very interesting iPod. the only structural principle all these genres have left in common is sound. not notes, self-expression, portraiture, money... just sound

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:02 (twelve years ago) link


Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 20:02 (twelve years ago) link

Time Sweep uploaded to ubuweb, forget when this happened. Attributed solely to Hugo Keesing.


Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 22:14 (twelve years ago) link

I believe it was uploaded there very recently. But in any case, it hit the blogosphere, and was reuploaded anonymously to SoundCloud by user rjs538.

Wayne and Wax follows the blog explosion.


Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 22:17 (twelve years ago) link

In the last week Chartsweep has risen to “viral” prominence after a complicated — and possibly incestuous — round of re-posting and re-blogging and re-posting and re-blogging. Although uploaded to SoundCloud just two days ago, as of this writing, the two parts have cumulatively garnered nearly 150k plays!

Milton Parker, Thursday, 24 February 2011 22:34 (twelve years ago) link

Milton Parker has nailed it and he is to be credited for his insight and accuracy. I worked at Drake-Chenault from 1978 through 1983 as a sound technician and format recording engineer. I watched as Mark Ford (and Bill Watson, "producer") carefully, professionally and patiently recorded and updated "The History Of Rock and Roll" as well as the final "Time Sweep", sometimes into the wee small hours. I even played guitar for the HRR background "beds" under the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary and The Beatles and others. Please note that the records and tapes in mono, stereo or "enhanced stereo" were recorded in studios and pressed in plants all over the country under various and continually advancing technical audio improvements over many years. Mark Ford had to blend and homogenize these variables into one final, flowing package and make it listen-able, accurate and historically correct. His work was cut out for him. This is a work of art, at least up to his involvement in '81. What has not yet been mentioned, is the fact that he equalized and phase-corrected many cuts to bring out the highs and lows to make the AM/FM radio listening experience "better" than the original sound, whenever possible. You may even be able to hear instruments that were buried in the original recording. Certainly noticeable, is the tempo-matching from intro to outro, even from a fast to slow song. As a musician I know that that is not easy. Studio B at Drake-Chenault was not an unprofessional or low quality studio to work in. Thanks to Hank Landesberg, it was made for radio production and an editor like Mark Ford. He could hand-que 1/4" tape decks, turntables and razor blade-edit as good as any in the business. He had a good ear for the music he grew up with and an ear for sound. The finished product, delivered to stations around the country on vinyl LP and tape, was probably better sounding than any person has ever heard on their radio, as Mr. Parker well knows. If Mark Ford was a guitar player, he would probably be Eric Clapton with a little Hendrix thrown in. It was an education and learning experience being around him as well as the Drake-Chenault team of Terry Tretta, Mike Williams and Bill Drake. As a side note, in 1980, while Ford was editing the "History of Rock And Roll", one of the writers with Gary Theroux was Laurie Kaye. She and Dave Sholin went to New York to interview John Lennon the very day hey was killed. Ford had to drop everything and produce and edit a Lennon radio special to be aired ASAP. RSR.

RSR, Thursday, 3 March 2011 05:07 (twelve years ago) link

Thanks for signing up to post -- that's all great information, especially the context with all the other members of the Drake-Chenault team. At first I worried I was attributing perhaps too much credit to a single member of what had to have been a closely knit team, but when I heard that interview with him upthread and that Joni Mitchell crossfade & that 1981 mashup, all that work had such a recognizable signature it became clear he was the author.

You don't notice editing when it's done perfectly but it's pretty much the defining quality that seperates improvisation from composition, and Mark Ford was a composer. Not surprised to hear about all the equalizing & compression work beyond the temposhifts & crossfades -- flow like that takes more than craft, it takes inspiration

Hugo Keesing is not the only one to have updated the piece -- Bill Ingram had a version that extended Ford's edit through to 2002, and Joe Campas produced a version that goes through 2009. All three versions use blunt cuts between tracks, analog pause edits or blunt digital cuts -- no crossfades. And there's no correction for level imbalances, so it's a rocky listen when the mix swerves across R&B, country & powerballads -- you can get your ears blown out, and the tempo shifts are jarring. I'm grateful for those other versions because you still get the narrative, but they only underline the artistry of the 55-81 stretch.

Mark Ford would have loved Pro Tools.

The Time Sweep is just one of those masterpieces, and it's so interesting watching it keep getting discovered by massive new audiences, each time completely free of context even though it's been known by who knows how many millions. But the story eventually gets out on something this valuable.

Milton Parker, Friday, 4 March 2011 20:34 (twelve years ago) link

and that Joni Mitchell crossfade & that 1981 mashup

were those platypus moments for you? (i.e. triumphant and joyous because they were so well done)

The origin of "platypus moment" was Bruce Conner's A Movie, when the platypus rises through the water -- it was just the perfect edit.

sarahel, Friday, 4 March 2011 22:26 (twelve years ago) link

google reveals a frightening number of returns for 'platypus moment'

luckily for my sanity most of them do not reveal a widespread colloquial use of the term to denote non-sequituous editing inspired by bruce conner's 'a movie'

Milton Parker, Saturday, 5 March 2011 04:14 (twelve years ago) link

succinct version


Milton Parker, Monday, 7 March 2011 08:10 (twelve years ago) link

have you considered growing a mustache?

sarahel, Monday, 7 March 2011 17:17 (twelve years ago) link

three weeks pass...

I have to say I am very plesantly surprised and delighted that so mnay people have commented so favoriably on this blog about the History of Rock 'n' Roll Timesweep. As I explained early in this blog, I came up with the idea while programming and writing the 52-hour special in 1977-8. There wasn't room in the show for so many great songs that I asked to have edited together two medleys -- one of all #1 hits, in sequence, and the other of other memorable hits of a given year that we didn't have time to play in full. (It took quite a while to develop each list and then find all the source material, but between the record libraries at Drake-Chenault and my own, we managed to pull it off.) The medleys were designed to run during the half-hour blocks I had laid out spotlighting each year starting in 1956 . I actually planned similar half hours covering 1950 through 1955 and another spotlighting roots-of-rock tracks from before 1950 (such as Wynonie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight" and Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right, Mama") but Bill Drake felt stations would object and those half-hours were never assembled. When I first brought up the idea of the medleys, pretty much everyone at Drake-Chenault thought they wouldn't work -- everyone, that is, except Bill Drake and Mark Ford. Both said "Let's try it" and Mark welcomed the challenge -- not really realizing just how difficult it would turn out to be. Mark dug in, though, and despite the relative crudity of his studio (quarter inch tape and mostly Radio Shack-grade electronics) he took great pains and delight in crafting all the #1 hit montages and most of the Other-Hits-Of-The-Year montages. One of the big objections voiced by most of the Drake-Chenault staff was their belief that people would get confused by the two-to-three minute montages and tune out. With that in mind, you can imagine the reaction when I later suggested we edit all the #1 hits montages together into one super montage and end the show with it. I got that idea after one our engineers, tired of hearing his girlfriend ask, "What exactly is it that's keeping you working late each night," copied the #1 hits element reel (on which all the #1 hits medley masters were stored) and took it home to his apartment. He told the girl he was going out to pick up a pizza and while he was gone she could listen to the reel. When he returned, he found her sitting crcsslegged on the floor in front of the speakers wth tears in her eyes. "What's the mater?" he said. "It can't be that bad." "Oh no," she replied. "I've just been hearing my whole life pass before my ears." When I heard that, I knew a #1 hits medley would HAVE to end the show. Both of my co-producers, Drake and Ford, agreed. What's come to be known as "The History of Rock 'n' Roll #1 Hits montage" -- which filled almost all of Hour 52 -- has become the most heavily bootlegged portion of the entire Billboard award-winning special. Pirated copies on LP, cassette, CD and MP3 files have been cirtculating now for -- wow -- 33 years! After I left Drake-Chenault, Mark lengthened the montage to bring it up to date through 1981. I've never had any contact with Hugo Keesing or Bill Ingram, know nothing abou them or what they may have done to extend the montage farther from there. I've been told, though, that my little idea in 1978 inspired the medley craze of the early '80s, which produced the Stars on 45 singles and others featuring medleys by Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Beatles and more. Wish I could have gotten a royalty. I could use the money!

Gary Theroux, Saturday, 2 April 2011 03:27 (twelve years ago) link

Hi Gary, thanks for posting

If you are still reading, do you know if anyone knows where the master tape is? I know a renegade label that could be interested in releasing the 55-81 stretch, and I think it should happen. Not to sound like a broken record, but it is clearly a collective masterpiece.

Milton Parker, Saturday, 2 April 2011 06:10 (twelve years ago) link

seven years pass...

I have been searching for a complete copy of The Number One Radio Show for years!

It was created and syndicated (and updated) by Drake Chenault around the same time as the celebrated History of Rock And Roll broadcast.

In fact, the same famous Chart Sweep is at the beginning of The Number One Radio Show!

What follows the Chart Sweep is a chronological countdown of every Billboard Number 1 song in order ... Hosted by Mark Elliot

Can anyone help me in this quest?

David Liebeskind, Monday, 28 January 2019 16:26 (four years ago) link

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