|Top of the Pops|
Top of the Pops logo (1974-1986 and 2019 onwards)
|Created by||Johnnie Stewart|
|Presented by||Fearne Cotton|
(see full list)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||2,267 (508 missing)|
|Running time||25-60 minutes|
|Original network||BBC One (1964-2005, 2006-present)|
BBC Two (2005-2006)
|Picture format||4:3 (1964-1999)|
|Original release||Weekly run:|
1 January 1964 - 30 July 2006
24 December 1964 -
|Related shows||Top of the Pops 2|
Top Gear of the Pops
Top of the Pops Reloaded
Top of the Pops was the world's longest running weekly music show, for most of its history. Broadcast on Thursday evenings on BBC One. Each weekly show consisted of performances from some of that week's best-selling popular music records, usually excluding any tracks moving down the chart, including a rundown of that week's singles chart. This was originally the Top 20, though this varied throughout the show's history.
The Rolling Stones were the first band to perform on Top of the Pops with "I Wanna Be Your Man".Snow Patrol were the last act to play live on the weekly show when they performed their single "Chasing Cars". In addition to the weekly show there was a special edition of TOTP on Christmas Day (and usually, until 1984, a second edition a few days after Christmas), featuring some of the best-selling singles of the year and the Christmas Number 1. Although the weekly show was cancelled in 2006, the Christmas special has continued. End-of-year round-up editions have also been broadcast on BBC1 on or around New Year's Eve, albeit largely featuring the same acts and tracks as the Christmas Day shows. It also survives as Top of the Pops 2, which began in 1994 and features vintage performances from the Top of the Pops archives.
The show has seen seminal performances over its history. The March 1971 TOTP appearance of T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan wearing glitter and satins as he performed "Hot Love" is often seen as the inception of glam rock. In the 1990s, the show's format was sold to several foreign broadcasters in the form of a franchise package, and at one point various versions of the show were shown in more than 120 countries. Editions of the programme from 1976 onwards started being repeated on BBC Four in 2011 and are aired on most Friday evenings - as at May 2020 the repeat run has reached 1989. Episodes featuring disgraced presenters and artists such as Jimmy Savile (who opened the show with its familiar slogan, 'It's Number One, it's Top of the Pops') and Gary Glitter are not repeated.
Johnnie Stewart devised the rules which governed how the show would operate: the programme would always end with the number one record, which was the only record that could appear in consecutive weeks. The show would include the highest new entry and (if not featured in the previous week) the highest climber on the charts, and omit any song going down in the chart. Tracks could be featured in consecutive weeks in different formats. For example, if a song was played over the chart countdown or the closing credits, then it was acceptable for the act to appear in the studio the following week.
These rules were sometimes interpreted flexibly and were more formally relaxed from 1997 when records descending the charts were featured more regularly, possibly as a response to the changing nature of the Top 40 (in the late 1990s and early 2000s climbers in the charts were a rarity, with almost all singles peaking at their debut position).
When the programme's format changed in November 2003, it concentrated increasingly on the top 10. Later, during the BBC Two era, the top 20 was regarded as the main cut-off point, with the exception made for up and coming bands below the top 20. Singles from below the top 40 (within the top 75) were shown if the band were up and coming or had a strong selling album. If a single being performed was below the top 40, just the words "New Entry" were shown and not the chart position.
The show was originally intended to run for only a few programmes but lasted over 42 years, reaching landmark episodes of 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 in the years 1973, 1983, 1992 and 2002 respectively.
DJ Jimmy Savile presented the first show live from the Manchester studio (with a brief link to Alan Freeman in London to preview the following week's programme), which featured (in order) Dusty Springfield with "I Only Want to Be with You", the Rolling Stones with "I Wanna Be Your Man", the Dave Clark Five with "Glad All Over", the Hollies with "Stay", the Swinging Blue Jeans with "Hippy Hippy Shake" and the Beatles with "I Want to Hold Your Hand", that week's number one - throughout its history, the programme proper always (with very few exceptions) finished with the best-selling single of the week, although there often was a separate play-out track.
Later in 1964, the broadcast time was moved to one hour later, at 7:35 pm, and the show moved from Wednesdays to what became its regular Thursday slot. Additionally its length was extended by 5minutes to 30 minutes.
For the first three years Alan Freeman, David Jacobs, Pete Murray and Jimmy Savile rotated presenting duties, with the following week's presenter also appearing at the end of each show, although this practice ceased from October 1964 onwards. Neville Wortman filled in as director/producer on Johnnie Stewart's holiday break.
In the first few editions, Denise Sampey was the "disc girl", who would be seen to put the record on a turntable before the next act played their track. However, a Mancunian model, Samantha Juste, became the regular disc girl after a few episodes, a role she performed until 1967.
Initially acts performing on the show mimed to the commercially released record, but in 1966 after discussions with the Musicians' Union, miming was banned. After a few weeks during which some bands' attempts to play as well as on their records were somewhat lacking, a compromise was reached whereby a specially recorded backing track was permitted, as long as all the musicians on the track were present in the studio. As a result, Stewart hired Johnny Pearson to conduct an in-studio orchestra to provide musical backing on select performances, beginning with the 4 August 1966 edition. Later, vocal group The Ladybirds began providing vocal backing with the orchestra.
After two years at the Manchester Dickenson Road Studios, the show moved to London (considered to be better located for bands to appear), initially for six months at BBC TV Centre Studio2 and then to the larger Studio G at BBC Lime Grove Studios in mid-1966 to provide space for the Top of the Pops Orchestra, which was introduced at this time to provide live instrumentation on some performances (previously, acts had generally mimed to the records). In November 1969, with the introduction of colour, the show returned to BBC TV Centre, where it stayed until 1991, when it moved to Elstree Studios Studio C.
For a while in the early 1970s, non-chart songs were played on a more regular basis, to reflect the perceived growing importance of album sales; there was an album slot featuring three songs from a new LP, as well as a New Release spot and a feature of a new act, dubbed Tip for the Top. These features were dropped after a while, although the programme continued to feature new releases on a regular basis for the rest of the decade.
A year-end Christmas show featuring a review of the year's biggest hits was inaugurated on 24 December 1964, and has continued every year since. From 1965 onward, the special edition was broadcast on Christmas Day (although not in 1966) and from the same year, a second edition was broadcast in the days after Christmas, varying depending on the schedule, but initially regularly on 26 December. The first was shown on 26 December 1965. In 1973, there was just one show, airing on Christmas Day. In place of the traditional second show, Jimmy Savile hosted a look back at the first 10 years of TOTP, broadcast on 27 December. In 1975, the first of the two shows was broadcast prior to Christmas Day, airing on 23 December, followed by the traditional Christmas Day show two days later.
The 1978 Christmas Day show was disrupted due to industrial action at the BBC, requiring a change in format to the broadcast. The first show, due to be screened on 21 December, was not shown at all because BBC1 was off the air. For Christmas Day, Noel Edmonds (presenting his last ever edition of TOTP) hosted the show from the 'TOTP Production Office' with clips taken from various editions of the show broadcast during the year and new studio footage performed without an audience. The format was slightly tweaked for the Christmas Day edition in 1981, with the Radio1 DJs choosing their favourite tracks of the year and the following edition on 31 December featuring the year's number1 hits.
The second programme was discontinued after 1984.
The year 1980 marked major production changes to Top of the Pops and a hiatus forced by industrial action. Steve Wright made his presenting debut on 7 February 1980. Towards the end of February 1980, facing a £40 million budget deficit, the BBC laid off five orchestras as part of £130 million in cuts. The budget cuts led to a Musicians' Union strike that suspended operations of all 11 BBC orchestras and performances of live music on the BBC; Top of the Pops went out of production between 29 May and 7 August 1980. During the Musicians' Union strike, BBC1 showed repeats of Are You Being Served? in the regular Top of the Pops Thursday night time slot.
Following the strike, Nash was replaced as executive producer by Michael Hurll, who introduced more of a "party" atmosphere to the show, with performances often accompanied by balloons and cheerleaders, and more audible audience noise and cheering. Hurll also laid off the orchestra, as the Musicians' Union was loosening enforcement of the 1966 miming ban.
Guest co-presenters and a music news feature were introduced for a short while, but had ceased by the end of 1980. The chart rundown was split into three sections in the middle of the programme, with the final Top 10 section initially featuring clips of the songs' videos, although this became rarer over the next few years.
An occasional feature showing the American music scene with Jonathan King was introduced in November 1981, and ran every few weeks until February 1985. In January 1985, a Breakers section, featuring short video clips of new tracks in the lower end of the Top 40, was introduced, and this continued for most weeks until March 1994.
Although the programme had been broadcast live in its early editions, it had been recorded on the day before transmission for many years. However, from May 1981, the show was sometimes broadcast live for a few editions each year, and this practice continued on an occasional basis (often in the week of a bank holiday, when the release of the new chart was delayed, and for some special editions) for the rest of the decade.
The end of 1988 was marked by a special 70-minute edition of the show broadcast on 31 December 1988, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first show. The pre-recorded programme featured the return of the original four presenters (Savile, Freeman, Murray and Jacobs) as well as numerous presenters from the show's history, anchored by Paul Gambaccini and Mike Read. Numerous clips from the history of the show were included in between acts performing in the studio, which included Cliff Richard, Engelbert Humperdinck, Lulu, the Four Tops, David Essex, Mud, Status Quo, Shakin' Stevens, the Tremeloes and from the very first edition, the Swinging Blue Jeans. Sandie Shaw, the Pet Shop Boys and Wet Wet Wet were billed in the Radio Times to appear, but none featured in the show other than Shaw in compilation clips.
Paul Ciani took over as producer in 1988. The following year, in an attempt to fit more songs in the allocated half-hour, he restricted the duration of studio performances to three minutes, and videos to two minutes, a practice which was largely continued until May 1997. In July 1990, he introduced a rundown of the Top5 albums, which continued on a monthly basis until May 1991. Ciani had to step down due to illness in 1991, when Hurll returned as producer to cover for two months (and again for a brief time as holiday cover in 1992).
From 1967, the show had become closely associated with the BBC radio station Radio 1, usually being presented by DJs from the station, and between 1988 and 1991 the programme was simulcast on the radio station in FM stereo. However, during the last few years of the 1980s the association became less close, and was severed completely (although not permanently) in a radical shake-up known as the 'Year Zero' revamp.
Following a fall in viewing figures and a general perception that the show had become 'uncool' (acts like the Clash had refused to appear in the show in previous years), a radical new format was introduced by incoming executive producer Stanley Appel (who had worked on the programme since 1966 as cameraman, production assistant, director and stand-in producer) in October 1991, in which the Radio1 DJs were replaced by a team of relative unknowns, such as Claudia Simon and Tony Dortie who had previously worked for Children's BBC, 17-year-old local radio DJ Mark Franklin, Steve Anderson, Adrian Rose and Elayne Smith, who was replaced by Femi Oke in 1992. A brand new theme tune ('Now Get Out of That'), title sequence and logo were introduced, and the entire programme moved from BBC Television Centre in London to BBC Elstree Centre in Borehamwood.
The new presenting team would take turns hosting (initially usually in pairs but sometimes solo), and would often introduce acts in an out-of-vision voiceover over the song's instrumental introduction. They would sometimes even conduct short informal interviews with the performers, and initially the Top 10 countdown was run without any voiceover. Rules relating to performance were also altered meaning acts had to sing live as opposed to the backing tracks for instruments and mimed vocals for which the show was known. To incorporate the shift of dominance towards American artists, more use was made of out-of-studio performances, with acts in America able to transmit their song to the Top of the Pops audience "via satellite". These changes were widely unpopular and much of the presenting team were axed within a year, leaving the show hosted solely by Dortie and Franklin (apart from the Christmas Day editions, when both presenters appeared) from October 1992, on a week-by-week rotation.
By 1994, much of the 'Year Zero' revamp was quickly undone and the arrival of Ric Blaxill as producer in February 1994 signalled a return to presentation from established Radio1 DJs Simon Mayo, Mark Goodier, Nicky Campbell and Bruno Brookes. Blaxill expanded the use of "via satellite" performances, taking the acts out of studios and concert halls and setting them against landmark backdrops. As a consequence, Bon Jovi performed Always from Niagara Falls and Celine Dion beamed in Think Twice from Miami Beach.
The last remnants of the Year Zero revamp were replaced in 1995, when a new title sequence, logo and theme tune were introduced (the logo having first been introduced on the new programme Top of the Pops 2 some months previous), coinciding with the introduction of a new set. Blaxill also increasingly experimented with handing presenting duties to celebrities, commonly contemporary comedians and pop stars who were not in the charts at that time. In an attempt to keep the links between acts as fresh as the performances themselves, the so-called "golden mic" was used by, amongst others, Kylie Minogue, Meat Loaf, Des Lynam, Chris Eubank, Damon Albarn, Harry Hill, Jack Dee, Lulu, Jarvis Cocker, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring. Radio1 DJs still presented occasionally, notably Lisa I'Anson, Steve Lamacq, Jo Whiley and Chris Evans.
TOTP was traditionally shown on a Thursday night, but was moved to a Friday starting on 14 June 1996, originally at 7 pm, but then shifted to 7.30 pm, a change which placed the programme up against the soap opera Coronation Street on ITV. This began a major decline in audience figures as fans were forced to choose between Top of the Pops and an episode of the soap.
In 1997, incoming producer Chris Cowey phased out the use of celebrities and established a rotating team (similar to the 1991 revamp, although much more warmly received) of former presenters of youth music magazine The O-Zone Jayne Middlemiss and Jamie Theakston as well as Radio1 DJs Jo Whiley and Zoe Ball. The team was later augmented by Kate Thornton and Gail Porter.
Chris Cowey in particular instigated a set of 'back to basics' changes when he took over the show. In 1998, a remixed version of the classic 'Whole Lotta Love' theme tune previously used in the 1970s was introduced, accompanied by a new 1960s-inspired logo and title sequence. Cowey also began to export the brand overseas with localised versions of the show on air in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy by 2003. Finally, the programme returned to its previous home of BBC Television Centre in 2001, where it remained until its cancellation in 2006.
On 28 November 2003 (three months after the appointment of Andi Peters as executive producer), the show saw one of its most radical overhauls since the ill-fated 1991 'Year Zero' revamp in what was widely reported as a make-or-break attempt to revitalise the long-running series. In a break with the previous format, the show played more up-and-coming tracks ahead of any chart success, and also featured interviews with artists and a music news feature called "24/7". Most editions of the show were now broadcast live, for the first time since 1991 (apart from a couple of editions in 1994). The launch show, which was an hour long, was notable for a performance of "Flip Reverse" by Blazin' Squad, featuring hordes of hooded teenagers choreographed to dance around the outside of BBC Television Centre.
Although the first edition premièred to improved ratings, the All New format, hosted by MTV presenter Tim Kash, quickly returned to low ratings and brought about scathing reviews. Kash continued to host the show, but Radio1 DJs Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton (who had each presented a few shows in 2003, before the revamp) were brought back to co-host alongside him, before Kash was completely dropped by the BBC, later taking up a new contract at MTV. The show continued to be hosted by Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton (usually together, but occasionally solo) on Friday evenings until 8July 2005.
On 30 July 2004, the show took place outside a studio environment for the first time by broadcasting outside in Gateshead. Girls Aloud, Busted, Will Young and Jamelia were among the performers that night.
Figures had plummeted to below three million, prompting an announcement by the BBC that the show was going to move, again, to Sunday evenings on BBC Two, thus losing the prime-time slot on BBC One that it had maintained for more than forty years.
This move was widely reported as a final "sidelining" of the show, and perhaps signalled its likely cancellation. At the time, it was insisted that this was so the show would air immediately after the official announcement of the new top 40 chart on Radio 1, as it was thought that by the following Friday, the chart seemed out of date. The final Top of the Pops to be shown on BBC One (barring Christmas and New Year specials) was broadcast on Monday 11 July 2005, which was edition number 2,166.
The first edition on BBC Two was broadcast on 17 July 2005 at 7.00 pm with presenter Fearne Cotton. After the move to Sundays, Cotton continued to host with a different guest presenter each week, such as Rufus Hound or Richard Bacon. On a number of occasions, however, Reggie Yates would step in, joined by female guest presenters such as Lulu, Cyndi Lauper and Anastacia. Viewing figures during this period averaged around 1½ million. Shortly after the move to BBC Two, Peters resigned as executive producer. He was replaced by the BBC's Creative Head of Music Entertainment Mark Cooper, while producer Sally Wood remained to oversee the show on a weekly basis.
On 20 June 2006, the show was formally cancelled and it was announced that the last edition would be broadcast on 30 July 2006. Edith Bowman co-presented its hour-long swansong, along with Jimmy Savile (who was the main presenter on the first show), Reggie Yates, Mike Read, Pat Sharp, Sarah Cawood, Dave Lee Travis, Rufus Hound, Tony Blackburn and Janice Long.
The final day of recording was 26 July 2006 and featured archive footage and tributes, including the Rolling Stones - the very first band to appear on Top of the Pops - opening with "The Last Time", the Spice Girls, David Bowie, Wham!, Madonna, Beyoncé, Gnarls Barkley, the Jackson 5, Sonny and Cher and Robbie Williams. The show closed with a final countdown, topped by Shakira, as her track "Hips Don't Lie" (featuring Wyclef Jean) had climbed back up to number one on the UK Singles Chart earlier in the day. The show ended with Savile ultimately turning the lights off in the empty studio.
Fearne Cotton, who was the current presenter, was unavailable to co-host for the final edition due to her filming of ITV's Love Island in Fiji but opened the show with a quick introduction recorded on location, saying "It's still number one, it's Top of the Pops". BARB reported the final show's viewing figures as 3.98 million.
As the last episode featured no live acts in the studio, the last act to actually play live on a weekly episode of TOTP was Snow Patrol, who performed "Chasing Cars" in the penultimate edition; the last act ever featured visually on a weekly Top of the Pops was Girls Aloud, as part of the closing sequence of bands performing on the show throughout the years. They were shown performing "Love Machine".
The magazine and TOTP2 have both survived despite the show's axing, and the Christmas editions also continue after returning to BBC One. However, the TOTP website, which the BBC had originally promised would continue, is now no longer updated, although many of the old features of the site - interviews, music news, reviews - have remained, now in the form of the Radio 1-affiliated TOTP ChartBlog accessible via the remains of the old website.
On 29 October 2008, Simon Cowell stated in an interview that he would be willing to buy the rights to Top of the Pops from the BBC. The corporation responded that they had not been formally approached by Cowell, and that in any case the format was "not up for sale". In November 2008, it was reported by The Times and other newspapers that the weekly programme was to be revived in 2009, but the BBC said there were no such plans.
In July 2009, Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant criticised the BBC for ending the programme, stating that new acts were missing out on "that great moment of being crowned that week's Kings of Pop".
In early 2015 there was increased speculation of a return of the show including rumours that Dermot O'Leary might present alongside Fearne Cotton. According to a report in the Daily Mirror, a BBC insider stated that "some at the highest level are massive supporters of the plan [of a return] and have given the go-ahead." The move of the UK charts to a Friday due to take place in summer 2015 was also said to favour the possibility of a return, making it "the perfect tie-in" and a "perfect start to the weekend", but no weekly return has occurred.
In April 2011, the BBC began to reshow Top of the Pops on Thursday nights on BBC Four beginning with the equivalent show from 35 years earlier in a 7:30 pm-8:00 pm slot approximating to the time the programme was traditionally shown. The first programme shown, 1April 1976, was chosen because it was from approximately this episode onwards that most editions remain in the BBC archive. The repeat programmes come in two versions; the first is edited down to fit in the 30-minute 7:30 slot, the second is shown normally twice overnight in the following weekend, and is usually complete. However both the short and longer editions can be edited for a number of reasons. Potentially offensive content to modern audiences is cut (for example the Barron Knights' in-studio performance of "Food For Thought" on the edition of 13 December 1979 including a segment parodying Chinese takeaways using mannerisms that may now be viewed as offensive), and cinematic film footage can be truncated, replaced or removed entirely due to the costs to the BBC of reshowing such footage. The BBC also makes the repeats available on BBC iPlayer. The repeats are continuing as of January 2020 with episodes from 1989, and in autumn 2020, episodes from 1990 will be aired.
Following the Jimmy Savile allegations, from October 2012, episodes featuring Jimmy Savile ceased to be broadcast. Following the arrest of Dave Lee Travis by Operation Yewtree officers, and the subsequent prosecution, acquittal, retrial, further acquittal on all but one minor charge and failed appeal, episodes featuring Travis were also omitted. Episodes featuring Mike Smith are also not included in the run due to the presenter declining to sign licence extensions to permit rebroadcast. Smith died in August 2014 and the BBC continues to honour his wishes. Due to these broadcasting restrictions and the occasional missed weeks in the original run due to strikes and other reasons (an episode was not made for 1June 1978 due to the BBC showing the 1978 FIFA World Cup), other programmes are shown on some Thursday nights to make up the shortfall in the number of programmes in a given year, in particular The Sky at Night and The BBC Proms.
Prior to the 1976 BBC reruns shown in 2011, the BBC produced a special programme, "The Story of 1976". This comprised excerpts from the 1976 programmes, interspersed with new interviews with people discussing the time period. They have produced similar programmes prior to subsequent annual reruns, "The Story of 1989" being the most recent such programme as at May 2020, and "The Story of 1990" due to be broadcast later in 2020.
A series of "Big Hits" compilations have been broadcast with on-screen captions about artists.In December 2016, a festive special using the format of the "Big Hits" programmes, Top of the Pops: Christmas Hits was broadcast on BBC Four, featuring a mix of Christmas music and non-festive songs which had been hits at Christmas time. This effectively replaced the annual Christmas edition of Top of the Pops 2, which did not run that year.
Although the weekly Top of the Pops has been cancelled, the Christmas Specials have continued, hosted by Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates. The Christmas specials are broadcast on Christmas Day afternoon on BBC One. Since 2008 (apart from 2010, 2011 and 2018), a New Year special has also been broadcast. The most recent festive edition of Top of the Pops was the New Year Special on 30 December 2019. A new logo and title sequence were introduced on the 2019 Christmas special. The BBC's Head of Music Television, Mark Cooper, continues to oversee the programme as executive producer, while Stephanie McWhinnie replaced Wood as producer with effect from Christmas 2011. On 4December 2017, Yates stepped down from hosting Top of the Pops due to comments he made regarding Jewish people and rappers. The BBC later announced Clara Amfo as Yates' replacement, Amfo continues to hold the role.
The show was given a one-off revival (of sorts) for Comic Relief 2007 in the form of Top Gear of the Pops, presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. It was filmed at the Top Gear aerodrome studio in Surrey on Sunday, 11 March 2007, although it bore little resemblance to the usual Top of the Pops format.
On 13 March 2009, Top of The Pops was once again revived, this time in its usual format, for a special live Comic Relief edition, airing on BBC Two while the main telethon took a break for the BBC News at Ten on BBC One. As with the Christmas specials the show was presented by Radio1 duo Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates with special guest presenter Noel Fielding and appearances from Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Claudia Winkleman, Jonathan Ross, Davina McCall (dancing in the audience and later as a Flo Rida dancer with Claudia Winkleman and French and Saunders) and David Tennant.
Live performances - interspersed with Comic Relief appeal films - included acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Oasis, Take That, U2, James Morrison and Flo Rida (that week's Number1). Kicking off the show was a performance from Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones in their Gavin & Stacey guises, feat. Tom Jones and Robin Gibb with "(Barry) Islands in the Stream", the Comic Relief single.
In its extensive history, Top of the Pops has featured many artists, many of whom have appeared more than once on the show to promote many of their records.
Green Day hold the record for the longest Top of the Pops performance: "Jesus of Suburbia" broadcast on 6November 2005, lasted 9minutes and 10 seconds. There is uncertainty about what was the shortest performance. In 2005, presenter Reggie Yates announced on the show that it was Super Furry Animals with "Do or Die", broadcast on 28 January 2000, clocking in at 95 seconds. However, "It's My Turn" by Angelic was 91 seconds on 16 June 2000 and, according to an August 2012 edition of TOTP2, "Here Comes the Summer" by the Undertones was just 84 seconds on 26 July 1979. Cliff Richard appeared the most times on the show, with almost 160 performances. Status Quo were the most frequent group with 106 performances.
Throughout the show's history, many artists mimed to backing tracks. Early on, Musicians' Union rules required that groups re-record backing tracks with union members performing when possible. However, as The Guardian recounted in 2001: "In practice, artists pretended to re-record the song, then used their original tapes."
The miming policy also led to the occasional technical hitch. In 1967, as Jimi Hendrix prepared to perform "Burning of the Midnight Lamp," the song "The House That Jack Built" by Alan Price was played in studio instead, prompting Hendrix to respond: "I like the voice...but I don't know the words." In 1988, All About Eve appeared to perform "Martha's Harbour." Although the song was being played on the television broadcast, it was not being played in studio, so lead singer Julianne Regan remained silent on a stool on stage while Tim Bricheno (the only other band member present) did not play his guitar.
Occasionally bands played live, examples in the 1970s and 1980s being the Four Seasons, the Who, Blondie, John Otway, Sham 69, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, The Sweet, The Jackson 5, Heavy Metal Kids, Elton John, Typically Tropical, New Order, Whitney Houston and David Bowie. In 1980, heavy metal band Iron Maiden played live on the show when they refused to mime to their single "Running Free". Solo artists and vocal groups were supposed to sing live to the Top of the Pops Orchestra. Billy Ocean, Brotherhood of Man, Anita Ward, Thelma Houston, Deniece Williams, Hylda Baker and the Nolans all performed in this way.
In 1991 the producers of the show allowed artists the option of singing live over a backing track. Miming has resulted in a number of notable moments. In 1991 Nirvana refused to mime to the pre-recorded backing track of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with Kurt Cobain singing in a deliberately low voice and altering lyrics in the song. In 1995, the Gallagher brothers of Oasis switched places while performing "Roll with It". During their performance of "Don't leave me this way" the Communards singers Jimmy Somerville and Sarah Jane Morris swapped lyrics for part of the song towards the end. Another example of whimsy was John Peel's appearance as the mandolin soloist for Rod Stewart on "Maggie May". The new practice also exposed a number of poor live singers, and was dropped as a general rule.
In its final few years miming had become less and less common, especially for bands, as studio technology became more reliable and artists were given the freedom to choose their performance style. Former Executive Producer Andi Peters said there was no policy on miming and that it was entirely up to the performer whether they wanted to sing live or mime.
From 1966 to 1980, Top of the Pops had an in-studio orchestra conducted by Johnny Pearson accompany select musical performances, with The Ladybirds (later Maggie Stredder Singers) providing backing vocals. Credited on the show as musical associate, Derek Warne played piano and provided musical arrangements for the orchestra. As The Telegraph recounted, Pearson and the orchestra improvised accompaniments with about 20 minutes of rehearsal time per song, and the musicians, "almost all middle-aged, often struggled with the enormous range of rock and pop tunes with which they were presented." In contrast, The Times said upon Pearson's passing in 2011 that the orchestra "often elicit[ed] excellent performances with barely enough time beforehand for a couple of run-throughs."
Other notable members of the orchestra include drummer Clem Cattini, trombonist Bobby Lamb, and lead trumpeters Leon Calvert and Ian Hamer. From 1971 to 1974, Martin Briley played guitar for the orchestra before joining rock group Greenslade.
Following the 1980 Musicians Union strike, the programme resumed broadcast on 7 August 1980 without its orchestra or backing singers. However, Pearson continued to make occasional contributions as musical director until the 900th episode in the summer of 1981.
When an artist or group was unavailable to perform in studio, Top of the Pops would show a music video in place. According to Queen guitarist Brian May, the groundbreaking 1975 music video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" was produced so that the band could avoid miming on TOTP since they would have looked off miming to such a complex song.
In the era before promotional videos were routinely produced for every charting single, the BBC would frequently have neither the band themselves nor alternative footage available for a song selected for the programme. In the first few months of the show in 1964, the director would just scan across the audience dancing in the absence of any other footage, but by October 1964 a decision was made to at least occasionally bring in a dance troupe with a choreographed routine to some of the tracks.
An initial candidate troupe was the existing BBC TV Beat Girls, but an ex-dancer from the Beat Girls, Jo Cook, was eventually engaged to create a troupe, the all-female Go-Jos, with Cook as choreographer. The Go-Jos also worked outside of Top of the Pops, notably for two years on the Val Doonican show - Doonican said in 1968 "I thought the Gojos were fabulous, something really new. When I got my own television series I just had to have them with me."
They were initially a three-piece (Pat Hughes for the first edition only, Linda Hotchkin and Jane Bartlett), but their number eventually grew to six (Hotchkin, Bartlett, Lesley Larbey, Wendy Hilhouse, Barbara van der Heyde and Thelma Bignell) with Cook as full-time choreographer. Lulu remembered of their costumes "They mostly wore white boots to the knee and short skirts and the camera would go up the skirt and it was all very risqué."
Cook herself said of working on the Doonican show (of which she was dance director) comparing to Top of the Pops, "Pop steps are limited... With Val we have more scope, and we can work to get more of the feel of ballet into our numbers."
In April 1968, a Top of the Pops choreographer, Virginia Mason, auditioned for dancers for a routine on Top of The Pops (Simon Says by the 1910 Fruitgum Company); two of whom that were successful (Ruth Pearson and Patricia "Dee Dee" Wilde) were part of the existing six-female dance troupe, Pan's People. Like the Go-Jos, this group was also partly drawn from ex-members of the Beat Girls.
Although this routine did not make it onto the programme itself, in subsequent weeks, members of Pan's People (Louise Clarke, Felicity "Flick" Colby, Barbara "Babs" Lord, Pearson, Andrea "Andi" Rutherford and Wilde) started to appear on the programme separately to the Go-Jos. Pan's People were then selected by the BBC over the Go-Jos when they chose a group to be the resident troupe. The Go-Jos' final Top of the Pops performance was in June 1968 dancing to "Jumping Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones.
As with the Go-Jos, in the first eighteen months of the Pan's People era the dancers were not a weekly fixture on the programme. However, due to group fan mail and good viewing figures, by 1970 the group was on nearly every week. Pay was not high, they were paid the minimum equity rate of £56 per week.
One of the original Pan's People dancers, Colby, became the full-time choreographer in 1971. Colby spoke of the dancing - "They weren't Broadway-standard routines... we were definitely doing watercolours, not oil paintings."
In early 1976, the last remaining of the early members of Pan's People, Ruth Pearson announced her retirement, leaving just four members all of whom who had joined within the last four years; Cherry Gillespie, Mary Corpe, Lee Ward and Sue Menhenick. Rather than continue with this line up or add additional members, it was decided by Colby and BBC production staff to replace this group with a male and female group created for the programme, Ruby Flipper, choreographed by Colby and managed by Colby with Pearson. Lee Ward left shortly after this decision was made, reportedly saying regarding the change "It's a big mistake. Men rush home to watch sexy ladies. They do not want to see other men.".
Rehearsals for this new group started in March 1976, and the group began appearing on Top of the Pops in May 1976. Whilst producers were aware of the switch to the new group, Bill Cotton, the then head of the light entertainment unit of which Top of the Pops was part, was not. This group started as a seven-piece with three men (Gavin Trace, Floyd Pearce and Phil Steggles) and four women (Menhenick, Gillespie, Patti Hammond and Lulu Cartwright). Corpe was not invited to join the new troupe. Trace, Pearce, Steggles and Cartwright joined following open auditions, Hammond, an established dancer, was invited to join to complete the "look" following a later individual audition. Colby viewed this gender-mixed group as an opportunity to develop more physical routines including lifts., more duets and generally not have the whole group at each performance.
However, by August the BBC had decided to terminate the group due to perceived unpopularity and being "...out of step with viewers". Their final appearance was in October 1976.
The group created to replace Ruby Flipper was Legs & Co, reverting to an all-female line-up, and once more choreographed by Colby. Three of the six in the initial line-up (Menhenick, Cartwight and Hammond) were taken from Ruby Flipper. with Rosie Hetherington, Gill Clarke and Pauline Peters making up the six. Despite being an all-female group, on occasion one or more male dancers were brought in, notably Pearce several times.
During their run, the group covered the transition from Disco to Punk, Electronic and Modern Romantic music. Notably, they danced to two Sex Pistols tracks.
By late 1981, Legs & Co (by this time Anita Chellamah had replaced Peters) had become more integrated into the studio audience, rather than performing set-piece routines, as a result of the 'party atmosphere' brought in by Michael Hurll. Also by this time Colby was particularly keen to work once more with male dancers; feeling it time for a change, Legs & Co's stint was ended, and a twenty-member dance troupe (ten male, ten female), named Zoo was created, with a set of performers drawn from the pool of twenty each week. Colby was now credited as "Dance Director". Three members of previous troupes, Menhenick, Corpe and Chellamah, made at least one appearance each during the Zoo period. The dancers now chose their own clothes, moving away from the synchronised appearance of previous troupes.
By the early 1980s, record companies were offering the BBC free promotional videos, meaning dance troupes no longer fulfilled their original purpose. Zoo's run ended in 1983, and with it the use of dance troupes on Top of the Pops.
After the demise of Zoo, the audience took a more active role, often dancing in more prominent areas such as behind performing acts on the back of the stage, and on podiums. However, the show also employed cheerleaders to lead the dancing.
Legs & Co's first performance (credited as Legs & Co): 11 November 1976 - Dancing to "Spinning Rock Boogie" by Hank C. Burnette
Zoo's final performance: 29 September 1983 - Dancing to "What I Got Is What You Need" by Unique
For much of the 1960s, the show's theme music was an organ-based instrumental track, also called "Top of the Pops", by the Dave Davani Four.
Due to the BBC's former policy of deleting old programmes, the vast majority of the episodes from the programme's history prior to 1976 have been lost, including any official recording of the only live appearance by the Beatles.
Of the first 500 episodes (1964-73), only about 20 complete recordings remain in the BBC archives, and the majority of these are from 1969 onwards. The earliest surviving footage dates from 26 February 1964, and consists of performances by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and the Dave Clark Five. Some programmes exist only partially (largely performances that were either pre-recorded or re-used in later editions). There are also two examples of rehearsal footage, which are both from 1965, one which includes Alan Freeman introducing the Seekers, and another with Sandie Shaw rehearsing "Long Live Love"--both believed to be for the end-of-year Christmas Special. There are also cases of shows that exist only in their raw, unedited form. The oldest complete episode in existence was originally transmitted on Boxing Day in 1967 (only five complete recordings from the 1960s survive, two of which have mute presenter links). The most recent that is not held is dated 8September 1977. Most editions after this date exist in full, except a few 1981-85 episodes recorded live feature mute presenter links (These episodes were skipped on the BBC Four re-runs).
Some off-air recordings, made by fans at home with a microphone in front of the TV speaker, exist in varying quality, including the Jimi Hendrix Experience performing a live version of "Hey Joe" in December 1966.
Some segments of TOTP which have been wiped by the BBC do survive in some form owing to having been included in other programmes, either by the BBC itself or by foreign broadcasters. What was thought to be the only surviving footage of the Beatles on the programme, for instance, comes from its re-use in episode one of 1965 Doctor Who serial The Chase. Additionally a number of recordings are believed to exist in private collections. However, in 2019, an 11-second clip of the group's only live appearance on TOTP, from 16 June 1966, was unearthed - this was recorded by a viewer using an 8mm camera to film the live transmission on their television. Other individual but complete clips that have surfaced over recent years include The Hollies performing Bus Stop, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience playing both Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary.
Thanks to a deal between the BBC and German television network ZDF around the turn of the 1970s, several TOTP clips were sent over to be shown on Disco, a similar styled chart show. This meant that performances from the likes of The Kinks (Apeman), The Who (The Seeker) and King Crimson (Cat Food) still exist in German archives.
Two complete episodes from 1967 were discovered in a private collection in 2009, having been recorded at home on an early available open reel to reel video recorder. Whilst the tapes suffered from major damage and degradation of both sound and picture quality, one show featured Pink Floyd with original leader Syd Barrett performing See Emily Play, whilst the second contained Dave Davies singing his solo hit Death of a Clown.
The programme was forced off the air for several weeks by industrial action by the Musicians' Union in both 1974 and 1980.
Top of the Pops has a sister show called TOTP2 which uses archive footage from as early as the late 1960s. It began on 17 September 1994. The early series were narrated by Johnnie Walker, before Steve Wright took over as narrator. In summer 2004 BBC Two's controller, Roly Keating, announced that it was being "rested". Shortly after UKTV G2 began showing re-edited versions of earlier programmes with re-recorded dialogue. Finally after a two-year break TOTP2 returned to the BBC Two schedules for a new series on Saturday, 30 September 2006, in an evening timeslot. It was still narrated by Steve Wright and featured a mixture of performances from the TOTP archive and newly recorded performances. The first edition of this series featured new performances by Razorlight and Nelly Furtado recorded after the final episode of Top of the Pops. In 2009 Mark Radcliffe took over as narrator.
Aired on BBC Radio 1 between the mid-1990s and late 2001 was Top of the Pops: The Radio Show which went out every Sunday at 3 pm just before the singles chart, and was presented by Jayne Middlemiss and Scott Mills. It later reappeared on the BBC World Service in May 2003 originally presented by Emma B, where it continues to be broadcast weekly in an hourly format, now presented by Kim Robson and produced by former BBC World Service producer Alan Rowett.
The defunct channel Play UK created two spin offs; TOTP+ Plus and TOTP@Play (2000-2001) (until mid-2000, this show was called The Phone Zone and was a spin-off from BBC Two music series The O-Zone). BBC Choice featured a show called TOTP The New Chart (5 December 1999 - 26 March 2000) and on BBC Two TOTP+ (8 October 2000 - 26 August 2001) which featured the TOTP @ Play studio and presenters. This is not to be confused with the UK Play version of the same name. A more recent spin-off (now ended) was Top of the Pops Saturday hosted originally by Fearne Cotton and Simon Grant, and its successor Top of the Pops Reloaded. This was shown on Saturday mornings on BBC One and featured competitions, star interviews, video reviews and some Top of the Pops performances. This was aimed at a younger audience and was part of the CBBC Saturday morning line-up. This was to rival CD:UK at the same time on ITV.
A number of performers have sent up the format in various ways. Mainly this has been performers who disliked the mime format of the show, often as a more effective protest against this rather than just refusing to appear.
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The TOTP format was sold to RTL in Germany in the 1990s, and aired on Saturday afternoons. It was very successful for a long time, with a compilation album series and magazine. However, in 2006 it was announced that the German show would be ending. The Italian version (first broadcast on Rai 2 and later on Italia 1) also ended in 2006. In February 2010 the show returned on Rai 2, and was broadcast for two seasons before being cancelled again in October 2011. The French version of the show ended by September 2006 on France 2.
In the Netherlands, TopPop was broadcast by AVRO 1970-1988, and a version of the show continued to run on BNN until the end of December 2006.[better source needed]BBC Prime used to broadcast re-edited episodes of the BBC version, the weekend after it was transmitted in the UK. Ireland began transmitting Top of the Pops in November 1978 on RTÉ2. This was the UK version being transmitted at the same time as on BBC. The broadcasts ceased in late 1993.
Top of the Pops had short-lived fame in the United States. In October 1987, the CBS television network decided to try an American version of the show. It was hosted by Nia Peeples and even showed performances from the BBC version of the programme. The show was presented on late Friday nights as part of CBS Late Night, and lasted almost half a year.
In 2002, BBC America presented the BBC version of Top of the Pops as part of their weekend schedule. The network would get the episodes one week after they were transmitted in the UK. BBC America then tinkered with the show by cutting a few minutes out of each show and moving it to a weekday time slot.
On 23 January 2006, Lou Pearlman made a deal to bring Top of the Pops back to the airwaves in the United States. It was expected to be similar to the 1987 version, but it would also utilise the Billboard magazine music charts, most notably the Hot 100 chart. It was supposed to be planned for a possible 2006 or 2007 launch, but with several lawsuits against Lou and his companies (which resulted in his conviction in 2008), as well as the cancellation of the UK version, the proposed US project never went forward. On 19 August 2006, VH1 aired the UK series' final episode.
The United States had its own similar series, American Bandstand, which aired nationally on ABC from 1957 to 1987 (although it would continue in first-run syndication until 1988 and end its run on USA in 1989). Similar series also included Soul Train (1970-2006, featuring R&B artists), Club MTV (1986-92, featuring Dance Music acts; hosted by Downtown Julie Brown, an alumnus of TOTP as part of the show's last dance troupe Zoo) and Solid Gold (1980-88; like the early TOTP, it also used dance troupes).
Canada's version of this (mostly of American Bandstand and Soul Train) was Electric Circus (1988-2003) on MuchMusic, which was also seen in the USA through MuchMusic USA. It had a national chart (mostly of dance music and some pop) as well as live performances, and was based on a local late '70s programme in Toronto called CITY-TV Boogie.
The Top of the Pops brand has also been exported to New Zealand. Although the British show has been broadcast intermittently in New Zealand, the country historically relied on music video-based shows to demonstrate its own Top 20, as the major international acts, who dominated the local charts, considered New Zealand too small and remote to visit regularly. This changed to an extent in 2002, when the New Zealand government suggested a voluntary New Zealand music quota on radio (essentially a threat that if the stations did not impose a quota themselves then one would be imposed on them). The amount of local music played on radio stations increased, as did the number of local songs in the top 20. Therefore, a new local version of Top of the Pops became feasible for the first time, and the show was commissioned by Television New Zealand. The show was executive produced by David Rose, managing director and owner of Satellite Media, and began airing in early 2004 with host Alex Behan. The hour-long show (as opposed to the 30-minute UK version) which was broadcast at 5 pm on Saturdays on TV2 contained a mixture of performances recorded locally on a sound stage in the Auckland CBD, as well as performances from the international versions of the show. The New Zealand Top 20 singles and Top 10 albums charts are also featured. Alex Behan stayed as host for two years before Bede Skinner took over. Despite having a sizeable fan base, in 2006 TVNZ announced that Top of the Pops had been axed.
Free-to-air music channel C4 then picked up the UK version of Top of the Pops and aired it on Saturdays at 8 pm with a repeat screening on Thursdays. However, since the weekly UK version was axed itself, this arrangement also ended.
An edited version of the UK show was shown on BBC Prime, the weekend after UK transmission.
In addition, a licensed version was shown on the United Arab Emirates-based MBC2 television channel. This version consisted of parts of the UK version, including the Top 10 charts, as well as live performances by Arabic pop singers.
A complete version of the UK show was shown on People+Arts, two weeks after the UK transmission.
A number of compilation albums using the Top of the Pops brand have been issued over the years. The first one to reach the charts was BBC TV's The Best of Top of the Pops on the Super Beeb record label in 1975, which reached number 21 and in 1986 the BBC released The Wizard by Paul Hardcastle (the 1986-1990 Top of The Pops theme tune) on Vinyl under the BBC Records and Tapes banner.
Starting in 1968 and carrying on through the 1970s a rival series of Top of the Pops albums were produced, however these had no connection with the television series except for its name. They were a series of budget cover albums of current chart hits recorded by anonymous session singers and musicians released on the Hallmark record label. They had initially reached the charts but were later disallowed due to a change in the criteria for entering the charts. These albums continued to be produced until the early 1980s, when the advent of compilation albums featuring the original versions of hits, such as the Now That's What I Call Music! series, led to a steep decline in their popularity.
In the 1990s, the BBC Top of the Pops brand was again licensed for use in a tie-in compilation series. Starting in 1995 with Sony Music's Columbia Records label, these double disc collections moved to the special marketing arm of PolyGram / Universal Music Group TV, before becoming a sister brand of the Now That's What I Call Music! range in the EMI / Virgin / Universal joint venture.
Similarly to the roles of Top of the Pops on BBC One and BBC Two in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the compilation albums range featured current hits for the main series and classic hits (such as '70s Rock) for the "Top of the Pops 2" spin-offs.
The Top of the Pops brand has now been licensed by EMI who released a compilation series in 2007-08, with one CD for each year that Top of the Pops was running. The boxset for the entire series of 43 discs was released 7July 2008. A podcast supporting the release of the boxset featuring interviews with Mark Goodier, Miles Leonard, Malcolm McLaren and David Hepworth is available.
These albums in the series reached No. 1:
Top of the Pops magazine has been running since February 1995, and filled the void in the BBC magazine portfolio where Number One magazine used to be. It began much in the mould of Q magazine, then changed its editorial policy to directly compete with popular teen celebrity magazines such as Smash Hits and Big, with free sticker giveaways replacing Brett Anderson covers.
A July 1996 feature on the Spice Girls coined the famous "Spice" nicknames for each member (Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary and Sporty) that stayed with them throughout their career as a group and beyond.
The BBC announced that the magazine would continue in publication despite the end of the television series, and is still running.
An earlier Top of the Pops magazine appeared briefly in the mid-1970s. Mud drummer Dave Mount sat reading an edition throughout a 1975 appearance on the show.
In May 2006, following a special Red Hot Chili Peppers concert recorded in the car park of BBC Television Centre, Hammersmith and Fulham Council (which governs the area the centre is located) informed the BBC that in order to legally conform to an Act of Parliament which came into force in 2004 they needed to have a special licence to continue to admit members of the public to any future performances. Before the matter was resolved the BBC requested the assistance of their own staff members to fill-in as audience members for this and other music shows.
In 2004 there was a DVD released called Top of the Pops 40th Anniversary 1964-2004 DVD. It features live performances, containing one song for each year, except 1966. (Two tracks from 1965 are featured instead). Also included as extras are seven opening titles, most notably the one with the flying coloured LP's from 1981. This title sequence had Phil Lynott's song "Yellow Pearl" as the theme. The 1986 and 1989 titles are also featured, with Paul Hardcastle's hit "The Wizard" as the theme. This DVD was to celebrate 40 years since the show started.
There was also a DVD quiz released in 2007 called The Essential Music Quiz. There was also a DVD in 2001 called Summer 2001, a sister DVD to the album of the same name.