Nostalgia Sunday – Lahiton and the Hit Parades

April 8, 2012 - 10:31 PM by

Where are the Israeli hit parades of yesteryear?, was the question that arose during the annual Passover post-lunch shmooze-fest. It’s indeed a subject for discussion, as song charts came to Israel many decades after being a standard part of Western pop music culture, and a tricky subject at that, as our early hit parades were based not on record sales but rather on postcards sent in by fans to the state-run radio networks and subject to the whims of the broadcasters at those networks.

An annual Hit Parade, based on the weekly ones, has been broadcast on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, since 1963. There are actually two annual Hit Parades, one on Galei Zahal (GLZ), the army radio network and the other on the Israel Broadcast Authority (IBA). GLZ decided to split the charts into Hebrew-language songs and international songs in 1967; IBA followed suit two years later. IBA pop station Reshet Gimel began operations in 1973 and took over the hit parade responsibilities for the network.

So there were two hit parades, both based on the tastes of teenage girls with time on their hands (and postage stamps) and 30-year old DJs — the two groups that traditionally call the shots in pop music. But despite the demographics, these do not a real hit parade make because real charts reflect record sales. And in a country where the two main record companies, Hed Arzi and CBS, essentially had no competition (until Helicon came along in 1985), such information was not made public.

I’m not sure why but like so many other things in Israel, probably it wasn’t out of meanness but more likely out of lethargy (it’s very hot here), ignorance (What, record companies in America tell people about their business? Why?) and because no one ever got around to thinking of it (reserve duty, Jewish holidays, wars, food shopping, etc.).

Enter Lahiton. Founded and edited by Uri Aloni and David Paz as a bi-weekly magazine in September 1969, a year later, Lahiton became a weekly, presenting a kind of journalism previously unknown in Israel: news and gossip about music and performers, record reviews, lyrics, pictures, full-color posters that decorated the walls of children and teens across the country, and charts — not only Israeli but foreign ones, too.

Lahiton also initiated a Gold Record award whose first winners were Shlomo Artzi, Dorit Reuveni and Igal Bashan. Following Lahiton’s lead, Israel’s record companies also began awarding Gold Records to artists with albums selling over 20,000 copies, thus tacitly releasing sales information.

In 1976, Lahiton merged with movie magazine Olam HaKolnoa and began reporting on movies stars as well as singers. The magazine’s popularity began to wane in the early to mid-Eighties as its editors moved on to found new magazines and as Israelis became exposed to more sophisticated fare like Melody Maker, Rolling Stone and Billboard.

Lahiton folded in 1990. The archive is not online although some kind souls have taken to scanning and posting select pages, including some scans of the Hit Parade page.

Recently, a Facebook page launched, dedicated to all things Lahiton, with a very active community of people interested in sharing pictures and comments, with some also wondering where the old Hit Parades are at.

In fact, the IBA website has a search engine accessing all annual Hebrew-language Hit Parades dating back to 1969.

An extensive interview (in Hebrew) with Lahiton founding editors Aloni and Paz by pop culture researcher Eli Eshed can be found here.

For those interested in buying or selling vintage copies of Lahiton — or just looking at some really cool cover art — look no further than the BookSefer site with prices ranging from NIS 160 (Michael Jackson in his “Bad” phase) down to NIS 70 (Izhar Cohen in his Michael Jackson in his “Bad” phase).

And of course, there is an online alternative to take the place of the write-in postcard vote: Charts.co.il, which provides the latest chart information — of the many, many charts now available to us — and gives users the chance to rate their favorites, just like the old days.

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