Visit the official Doctor Who website

Visit the official Doctor Who website
Look to the future

Asylum seekers...

Asylum seekers...
Refuge of the Daleks

Doctor Who picture resource

Doctor Who picture resource
Roam the space lanes!

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website
Step back in time

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood
Armed and extremely dangerous

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures
Fearless in the face of adversity

Call on Dani’s House

Call on Dani’s House
Harmer’s a charmer

Intercept the UFO fabsite

Intercept the UFO fabsite
Defending the Earth against alien invaders!

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse
Programmable agent Echo exposed!

Hell’s belles

Hell’s belles
Naughty but nice

Love Exposure

Love Exposure
Flash photography!

Primeval portal

Primeval portal
Dressed to kill or damsels in distress?

Charmed, to be sure!

Charmed, to be sure!
The witches of San Francisco

Take on t.A.T.u.

Take on t.A.T.u.
All the way from Moscow

Proceed to the Luther website

Proceed to the Luther website
John and Jenny discuss their next move

DCI Banks is on the case

DCI Banks is on the case
You can bet on it!

On The Grid with Spooks

On The Grid with Spooks
Secret agents of Section D

Bridge to Hustle

Bridge to Hustle
Shady characters

Life on Ashes To Ashes

Life on Ashes To Ashes
Coppers with a chequered past

Claire’s no Exile

Claire’s no Exile
Goose steps

Vexed is back on the beat!

Vexed is back on the beat!
Mismatched DI Armstrong and bright fast-tracker Georgina Dixon

Medium, both super and natural

Medium, both super and natural
Open the door to your dreams

Who’s that girl? (350-picture Slideshow)

Thursday, 22 June 2006

That was Number One, that was "Top of the Pops"


After a little over 42 and a half years the BBC's flagship pop programme, "Top of the Pops", is to finish at the end of July. "Another One Bites the Dust", to quote Freddie Mercury. It's a brilliant lifespan for a television show, of course, but, having got this far, one might've been forgiven for thinking it would go on forever. I always believed "Doctor Who" was a permanent fixture too. It lasted 26 years before being abandoned to collect dust in archive storage. Now the flagship SF series has been resurrected, after 16 years in the wilderness, so there is no reason why the same thing shouldn't happen to "Top of the Pops", one day. After all, like "Doctor Who", it is a brand name and, after a suitable period, I'm sure the powers that Beeb will want to capitalise on it!

Also, again in a similar fashion to "Doctor Who", the producers started tinkering with the programme's format. "Top of the Pops" was originally intended to feature only singles going up the chart, the top twenty not the top forty, and, unless you were at number one, no record would be played on consecutive weeks. It didn't feature the album chart although there was a time when they started playing new releases, before they charted, if it was a dead cert the artist in question would be a new entry the following week.

Originally broadcast on Wednesday, January 1st, 1964, "Top of the Pops" became better established as part of early evening television on Thursday nights and there was a time, in the mid-Seventies, when I was torn between watching it and the competition of "Space:1999" on ITV, just as I had been forced to choose between "Doctor Who" and "UFO" earlier the same decade. Some say that when "Top of the Pops" was later moved to Friday nights it spelt the beginning of the end, just as the same thing had been said about "Doctor Who" when moved from Saturday to weeknights. The pop show's fate was sealed when moved to Sunday nights on BBC2.

The original presenter was Jimmy Savile and you can see, in the top of the picture, that he actually used to spin the records. Bottom right is a bare-footed Sandie Shaw who was at number 1 that particular week. Above her, you can see the bottom of the top twenty chart board and can just make out that "Crying in the Chapel" by Elvis Presley was at number 20. In the first ever edition, Sir Jimmy, as he is now, introduced The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Dusty Springfield no less! Much archive footage has been erased, another thing in common with "Doctor Who", and the only clip of Sandie that still exists from the black and white days, for example, is a rehearsal sequence.

Many presenters followed Jimmy, from the sublime to the ridiculous depending on your point of view. Noel Edmonds was painful while John Peel's sarcasm was refreshing considering some of the awful "acts" he had to introduce. The vacuous nature of the programme's most recent host, Fearne Cotton, so falsely earnest, is a million miles from the fun of Jimmy Savile's approach to the given material. I still remember soul boy Tony Blackburn commenting, on a rare appearance by prog rock band Genesis, that "It takes all sorts", for which, despite not being a fan of them particularly, I've never really forgiven his narrow-mindedness. I've often thought that the "artists" should pay to appear on "Top of the Pops", rather than being paid, considering a slot on the show is no more than advertising the availability of a product!

The programme has produced many memorable moments and the choice of these probably depends, most likely, on one's age! My era was the Seventies and, in particular, the more musically adventurous side of Glam Rock followed by New Wave, the more musically adventurous side of Punk. So, I remember Roxy Music performing "Virginia Plain" in which you can barely see future U2 producer Brian Eno on synthesiser; Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel with their number one hit "Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)" in which Steve repeats a verse, by mistake, and acknowledges it during the performance by adding a word - "I know what faith is AGAIN and what it's worth" - and I fondly recall Hugh Cornwell snarling his way through The Stranglers' "No More Heroes". Any more? Loads! But I'll finish with my all-time favourite appearance, on "Top of the Pops", which was "Starman" by David Bowie, featuring the late Mick Ronson, of The Spiders from Mars, on guitar.

3 comments:

karensff said...

I was one of the ones who believed it would go on forever. Despite the fact I haven't watched it in years and didn't watch regularly during my teen years. I remember Jason and Kylie from when I was little. Then I remember Oasis very early on and Blur. As I said I wasn't a regular viewer.

Going completely away from that, my favourite companions were Harry, Zoe, Leela and Nyssa. I always thought it was a pity there wasn't more with Harry.

Stuart Douglas said...

What - I'm offline for a week with the world's worst Flu ever and I come back and find they've cancelled TotP!?!?

Highlights for me - the show which had the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays on it, and Thom Yorke battering out 'Pyramid Song' with Radiohead (oddly I never watched TOTP when I was younger, only once I went to Uni).

I've no doubt it'll be back a lot quicker than Who took though.

doppelganger said...

I knowe the Bowie / Ronson clip I think.... is it the one that caused a bit of a hoo-hah at the time 'cos Bowie draped his arm over him..?