|Show Name:||Top of the Pops|
|Executive Producer:||Mark Cooper (2005-2006) |
Andi Peters (2003-2005)
Chris Cowey (1997-2003)
Ric Blaxill (1994-1997)
Stanley Appel (1991-1994)
Paul Ciani (1988-1991) and others
|Current Producer:||Sally Wood|
|Current Directors:||Jonathan Urquhart and Janet Fraser Crook|
Fearne Cotton (2004-)
Reggie Yates (2004-)
|Network:||BBC Television Service|
Jan 1964 - Apr 1964
Apr 1964 - Jul 2005 and all Christmas specials
Jul 2005 - Jul 2006
|First Aired:||1 January 1964|
|Last Aired:||30 July 2006 (weekly)25 December 1964 - present (Christmas specials)|
31 December 2008 - present (New Years Eve specials)
13 March 2009 (Comic Relief special)
|Num Episodes:||2208 (to 31 December 2008)|
Top of the Pops, also known as TOTP, is a long-running British music chart television programme, made by the BBC and originally broadcast weekly from 1 January 1964 to 30 July 2006. It was traditionally shown every Thursday evening on BBC One, before being moved to Fridays in 1996, and then moved to Sundays on BBC Two in 2005. Each weekly programme consisted of performances from some of that week's best-selling popular music artists, with a rundown of that week's singles chart. Additionally, every year there was a special edition of the programme on Christmas Day featuring some of the best-selling singles of the year.
Although the weekly show was cancelled, the Christmas special has continued.   It was also survived by TOTP2, which began in 1994 and featured vintage performances from the Top of the Pops archives.
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 nearly 100 countries.
Top of the Pops began on New Year's Day 1964 in Studio A on Dickenson Road in Rusholme, Manchester, which the BBC had bought from Mancunian Films in 1954. DJ Jimmy Savile presented the first show, which 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 (throughout its history, the programme always finished with the best-selling single of the week). For the first three years Savile rotated with three other presenters: Alan Freeman, Pete Murray and David Jacobs. A Mancunian model, Samantha Juste, was the regular "disc girl".
The show was originally intended to have only a few programmes but ran for over 42 years, reaching landmark episodes of 1000 and 2000 in 1983 and 2002 respectively. During its heyday in the 1970s, it attracted 15 million viewers each week. Largely due to the varying levels of availability of chart acts throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the show featured tightly choreographed dance troupes such as Ruby Flipper, Legs & Co. and Zoo. The original and most popular of these groups, Pan's People, were used when an act was unable to appear in person and no footage of them was available - a common occurrence in the era before promotional videos. By the mid-1980s the troupes were dropped and 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. TOTP was traditionally shown on a Thursday night, but was moved to a Friday starting on 14 June 1996, originally at 7;00pm, but then shifted to 7:30pm, a change which placed the programme up against the hugely popular soap opera, Coronation Street, on ITV. This was when the major decline in audiences began as fans were forced to choose between TOTP and an episode of the soap.
The show saw many changes through the decades, in style, design, fashion and taste. It periodically had some aspect of its idents, format, or set design altered in some way, keeping the show looking modern despite its age.
The show was closely associated with the BBC radio station Radio 1, usually being presented by DJs from the station and between 1988 and 1991 the BBC1 programme was simulcast, audio-only, on Radio 1. During the last few years of airing the association was not as close as it once was, most notably in a radical shake-up in October 1991 when the Radio 1 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. Femi Oke joined in 1992. The team would take turns presenting either in pairs or solo and would often introduce acts in an out-of-vision voiceover over the song's instrumental introduction. This move was widely unpopular and much of the team were axed within a year, leaving the show presented solely by Tony Dortie and Mark Franklin by 1993, on a week-by-week rotation. The arrival of Ric Blaxill as producer in February 1994 signalled a return to presentation from established Radio 1 DJs Simon Mayo, Mark Goodier and Bruno Brookes.
Blaxill also began experimenting with handing presenting duties to celebrities, commonly contemporaneous 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, 2 Unlimited, Chris Eubank, Damon Albarn, Harry Hill, Jack Dee, Lulu and Jarvis Cocker. Radio 1 DJs still presented occasionally, notably Lisa I'Anson, Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley, Chris Evans and Nicky Campbell for a second spell. 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 Radio 1 DJs Jo Whiley and Zoe Ball. The team was later augmented by Kate Thornton and Gail Porter.
For most of its history the show had very strict rules about which singles could be featured. A song could not appear if it was going down the charts, nor could any track appear on consecutive weeks unless it was at number one. These rules were abandoned in 1997, 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.
On 28 November 2003, the show saw one of its most radical overhauls 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. The launch show, which was live and an hour long, was notable for an audacious performance of Flip Reverse by Blazin' Squad, featuring hordes of hooded teenagers choreographed to dance around the outside of BBC TV Centre. The new show, hosted by MTV presenter Tim Kash launched to hit ratings and continued to pull in big name artists and film stars. Kash continued to host the show for a year and later left to a new contract at MTV. The show was then co-hosted by Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton every Friday night until 8 July 2005. The final Top of the Pops to be shown on BBC One was broadcast on Monday, 11 July 2005, which was edition number 2,166.
By November 2004, viewing figures had plummeted to below three million, prompting 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 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 that 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 first edition on BBC Two was broadcast on 17 July 2005 at 7pm 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 and Anastacia. Viewing figures averaged around 1.5 million.
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 Sir Jimmy Savile (who had presented 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, Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis Bextor 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 Sir Jimmy 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 kicked off 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.
The magazine and TOTP2 have survived despite the show's axing, and the Christmas editions also continue. 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.
The show was given a revival for Comic Relief 2007 in the form of Top Gear of the Pops. This one-off special was presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May and filmed at the Top Gear aerodrome studio in Surrey on Sunday 11 March 2007.
In October 2008, British Culture Secretary Andy Burnham and Manchester indie band The Ting Tings called for the show to return. 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 they had not been formally approached by Cowell, and that in any case the format was not "up for sale".
The 2006 Christmas edition was scheduled for its usual hour long Christmas Day slot on BBC One and presented by regular presenters Fearne Cotton, Reggie Yates and Edith Bowman. The show style and format returned to normal (for a post 2002 Christmas edition) featuring almost all new performances on the most recent set design with the same on screen graphics and logos. No reference to the previous 'finale' was made. Cotton and Yates returned for the 2007 Christmas edition which again featured new studio material, however some performances were borrowed from other events and the show had been stripped of its more recent graphical design in favour of a nostalgic mix of old logos and generic captions.
No 2008 Christmas Special was originally planned, however the BBC announced on 20 November 2008 that the show would return on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve 2008, presented by Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates. Additionally, a series of six Top of the Pops 2 specials was broadcast on BBC Two.
The first of the two Christmas specials, broadcast on Christmas Day 2008, included performances from Girls Aloud, Leona Lewis, Coldplay and Alexandra Burke plus a special medley of hits from the musical Mamma Mia! performed by the cast of the West End stage version. The New Year's Eve edition featured a mix of repeat performances from the Christmas Eve show as well as alternative hits from the Christmas Eve performers and additional performances from Gabriella Cilmi and Keane who did not feature in the first of the specials.
See main article: List of performers on Top of the Pops.
See main article: List of performances on Top of the Pops.
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 6 November, 2005, lasted 9 minutes and 10 seconds in contrast to the shortest performance by Super Furry Animals with "Do or Die", broadcast on 28 January, 2000, clocking in at 95 seconds.
Status Quo have appeared the most times on the show, with 106 performances. The first of these was in 1968 and the last in 2005.
See main article: List of presenters on Top of the Pops.
Top of the Pops has featured many young stars, many of these former hosts have gone on to further their career and become staple household names in television, such as Jimmy Savile, Tony Blackburn and Noel Edmonds.
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.
A version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" based on the C. C. S. release, but using session musicians, was used as the show's theme tune for most of the period from 1971 to 1981, and again from May 1998 to November 2003.
Between July 1977 and May 1980 the show had no regular theme music at all, instead using a song from the current charts to accompany the Top 30 run-down at the start of the programme. There was also no theme music at all between June 1997 and April 1998, instead the introduction of the first performance played out to the title sequence.
In July 1981, "Yellow Pearl" by Phil Lynott was commissioned as the new theme music. This was replaced in April 1986 with "The Wizard", a composition by Paul Hardcastle. Two different variations of "The Wizard" were heard on the show - the latter was commercially released as a single and in 2008 released as part of the digital album 'No Winners' from Cooltempo Records.
The final theme used from November 2003 was a remixed version of that used between October 1991 and February 1995, composed by Tony Gibber.
Initially acts performing on the show mimed to the commercially released record, but in July 1966 - just after the show had been moved to London - and 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. The TOTP Orchestra, led by Johnny Pearson augmented the tracks when necessary. This set-up continued until 1980, when a protracted Musicians' Union strike resulted in the dropping of the live orchestra altogether and the use of pre-recorded tracks only. This accounts for a number of acts who never appeared on the show due to their reluctance to perform in this way. Highlights have included Jimi Hendrix who, on hearing someone else's track being played by mistake (in the days of live broadcast), mumbled "I don't know the words to that one, man", Shane MacGowan of the Pogues' drunken performance of "Fairytale of New York", a legendary performance of "Roll With It" by Oasis in which Noel and Liam Gallagher exchanged roles with Noel miming to Liam's singing track and Liam pretending to play guitar, and John Peel's appearance as the mandolin soloist for Rod Stewart on "Maggie May". Two other memorable incidents included performances by Marillion; an appearance for "Garden Party" saw Fish miming perfectly except from the line "I'm miming" (which was changed from the original "I'm fucking" for broadcast purposes), when he simply pointed at his closed lips. Two years later, Fish lost his voice prior to an appearance for "Lavender" and, despite only needing to mime, had the lyrics placed on large pieces of card and flipped them over in time with the recorded version.
For virtually the whole "Live Sound" period, the Sound Supervisor was the late Dickie Chamberlain, who skillfully reproduced the sound of the original discs with a fraction of the kit available in the recording studios.
The miming policy also led to the occasional technical hitch. A famous example of this is the performance of "Martha's Harbour" in 1988 by All About Eve where the televised audience could hear the song but the band could not. As the opening verse of the song beamed out of the nation's television sets, the unknowing 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. An unseen stagehand apparently prompted them that something was wrong in time to mime along to the second verse. The band were invited back the following week, and chose to sing live.
Another hitch was Simon Le Bon singing with Duran Duran. He was posing with his microphone which promptly flew off the stage and he was left to sing into a microphone stand...he just shrugged his shoulders and carried on.
For a few years from 1991 the show adopted a live vocal to pre-recorded backing track policy. Kurt Cobain on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" dropped his voice an octave and changed the opening line to "Load up on drugs, kill your friends"; the band also made it very clear that they were not playing their instruments. (Kurt later said during an interview that he wanted to sound more like Morrissey during the performance). It also exposed a number of poor live singers, and was dropped as a general rule. It was not helped by the fact that it coincided with a sudden upsurge of chart success for dance tracks which were heavily sample-based and whose sound could not easily be reproduced in a TV studio - sampled vocals from other tracks had to be sung live.
One example of an artist who was exposed as a poor live singer was Kelly Overett of the Italian Eurodance act Cappella. During a 1994 performance on the show she sang "Move on Baby," but it was evident that her performance on the show would also lead to questions about whether she actually sang on the group's songs. Those questions would later be answered several months later when Overett was dropped by Cappella and having admitted that she never sang on any of their recordings.
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, stated that there was "no policy" on miming and said that it was entirely up to the performer if they wanted to sing live or mime.
Due to the BBC's former policy of deleting old programmes, the vast majority of the episodes from the first ten years of the programme's history have been lost, including the only live appearance by The Beatles.
Of the first 500 episodes (1964-73) only about 20 complete recordings remain in the BBC archives. The earliest surviving footage dates from February 26 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 cases of shows that only exist in their raw, unedited form. Many are also silent on the presenter links (these versions were made so that performances could be re-used in future episodes). The oldest complete episode in existence was originally transmitted on Boxing Day in 1967 (only four complete recordings from the 1960s survive, two of which have mute presenter links). The most recent that is not held is dated September 8 1977. All editions after this date exist in full.
Some segments of TOTP have turned up in unlikely places; a segment of a 1965 episode, featuring The Beatles performing "Ticket to Ride," was used on an episode of Doctor Who.
The April 5 1984 episode was never made, as BBC One was off air the entire day due to industrial action. Additionally, 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. 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.
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 3pm 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 in a weekly hourly format now presented by Kim Robson, and produced by former BBC World Service producer Alan Rowett.
The defunct channel UK Play 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 to 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 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 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.
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 (broadcasted on Rai Due and after on Italia 1) and French version of the show, ended by September 2006. Domestic versions of the show continue to run in The Netherlands until the end of December 2006. BBC Prime used to broadcast re-edited episodes of the BBC version, the weekend after it was transmitted in the UK.
Top of the Pops had short-lived fame in the United States. In 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 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.
On January 23, 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 utilize 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, it is unlikely it will go forward.
The Top of the Pops brand has also been exported to New Zealand which for many years had to rely on music-video only shows to demonstrate its Top 20 (as well as the occasional season of the UK version of TOTP) as the world's top acts found New Zealand just too far away from the major markets to visit regularly. This all changed when the New Zealand government suggested a voluntary New Zealand music quota on radio (basically a threat that if the stations did not impose a quota themselves then one would be imposed on them). This worked and suddenly the amount of indigenous music played on radio stations shot up, as did the number of New Zealand hits in the top 20. Therefore a new version of a show like Top of the Pops became feasible for the first time, and the show was commissioned by TVNZ. The show began in early 2004 with host Alex Behan. The hour-long show (as opposed to the 30 minute UK version) which is broadcast at 5pm on Saturdays on TV2 contains a mixture of songs recorded in the Auckland TVNZ studios as well as performances from the international versions of the show. The New Zealand Top 20 singles and Top 10 albums are also featured. Alex stayed as host for two years before Bede Skinner took over.Despite a popular fan base in early 2006 TVNZ announced that Top of the Pops has been axed and ideas for new music shows are currently being considered.
Free-to-air music channel C4 then picked up the UK version of Top Of The Pops and aired it on Saturday's at 8pm with a repeat screening on Thursdays. However since the UK version has recently been axed itself, this arrangement has obviously now ended.
An edited version of the UK show was shown on BBC Prime, the weekend after UK transmission.
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.
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 compilation 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 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 7 July 2008. A podcast supporting the release of the boxset featuring interviews with Mark Goodier, Miles Leonard, Malcolm McClaren 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.
The BBC have announced that the magazine will continue in publication despite the end of the television series.
In 2004 there was a DVD Released Called Top of the Pops 40th Anniversary 1964-2004 DVD. It features one song for each year to celebrate its 40th Anniversary.