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Top of the Pops

From Academic Kids

Top of the Pops is a long-running British music chart television programme shown each week on BBC One and now licensed for local versions around the world. Each programme consists of half an hour of performances of some of that week's best-selling popular music.

It began on New Years Day 1964 in a studio set in an old disused church in Manchester. The first show was presented by DJ Jimmy Savile. It featured (in order) The Rolling Stones with "I Wanna Be Your Man'", Dusty Springfield with "I Only Want to be With You", the Dave Clark Five with "Glad All Over", The Hollies with "Stay", The Swinging Blue Jeans with "The Hippy Hippy Shake" and The Beatles with "I Want to Hold Your Hand", that week's number one. Jimmy rotated with three other presenters: Alan Freeman, Pete Murray and David Jacobs.

It was originally intended to have only a few programmes but has been going for over forty years. It was traditionally shown on a Thursday night, but was moved to a Friday in 1996, a change which caused some controversy. In November 2004, the BBC announced that the show was going to move again to Sunday evenings on BBC Two, thus losing its prime-time slot on BBC One [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/4051231.stm). This move has been widely reported as a final "sidelining" of the show, and perhaps a move towards cancelling it altogether.

This chart show has seen many changes through the decades: in style, design, fashion and taste. It celebrated its 2000th show in 2002. The show has historically been closely associated with the BBC radio station Radio 1, usually being presented by DJs from the station (although from October 1991 to January 1994 no Radio 1 DJs presented the show, and the association has never again become as close as it once was). In its heyday during the glam rock era of the early 1970s, the show featured the tightly choreographed dance troupe Pan's People (later succeeded by Legs & Co.), something which has been widely imitated on similar shows ever since. Acts performing on the show have traditionally mimed to a pre-recorded track and this accounts for a number of performers who never appeared on the show due to a resistance to mime. For a few years from 1991 the show adopted a live vocal to pre-recorded backing track policy. While this resulted in some of the show's best performance - notably Kurt Cobain's singing on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - it also exposed a number of poor live singers and was dropped as a general rule.

In November 2003, the show was radically overhauled in what has been widely reported as a make-or-break attempt to revitalise the long-running series. In a break with the previous format, the show is to play more up and coming tracks ahead of any chart success, and also to feature interviews with artists. The new show was hosted by MTV presenter Tim Kash until his contract expired in August 2004. It was not renewed due to his apparent lack of popularity with TV viewers. The show is currently co-hosted by Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton and averages around 3.5 million viewers every Friday night.

The BBC have also had a show called TOTP2 which shows archive footage from as early as the 60's of musicians on earlier Top of the Pops shows. It has been shown on BBC2 since September 1994, although the network's new controller Roly Keating announced in the summer of 2004 that it was being "rested" (repeats, however, continue on the digital channel UKTV G2). A more recent spinoff is Top of the Pops Saturday, showing on Saturday mornings on BBC One. This is aimed at a younger audience as is part of the CBBC Saturday Morning lineup.

Top of the Pops had short lived fame in the United States. In 1987, the CBS televison network decided to try a 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 and lasted almost 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. Viewer interest was gone and the show was taken off BBC America's schedule.

Although (happily) the original four presenters are still alive, sadly five presenters of the show have passed away - Stuart Henry, Kenny Everett, occasional presenter Caron Keating, John Peel and Tommy Vance. In addition, the creator of the show, Johnnie Stewart, died on April 29, 2005.

Goofs and Gaffes

  • While performing their 1982 hit "Jackie Wilson Says" the band Dexy's Midnight Runners were seen performing in front of a projection of the darts player Jocky Wilson. This was a deliberate joke by the band and the production staff, but many people (including, apparently, host David Jensen) didn't realise this and thought it a genuine mistake.
  • In a 2005 performance of Lyla, Oasis front man Liam Gallagher made no secret of the fact that he was miming his lyrics by walking away from the microphone and chewing gum when he was supposed to be singing.

Theme Music

A version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" by CCS was used as the shows theme tune for most of the 1970s although ironically the band never performed on the show. In 1981 an original song 'Yellow Pearl' by Phil Lynott was commissioned as the new theme music. This was replaced in 1986 with "The Wizard", a composition by Paul Hardcastle. The theme is currently a remixed version of the one used between 1991 and 1995.

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