BBC 50th anniversary of Top of the Pops

BBC 50th anniversary of Top of the Pops
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The music series ran for 42 years, and still appears in Christmas schedules.

But unlike Dr Who, the show will not be commemorated at all.

The silence is thought to be because of revelations over Jimmy Savile. The DJ and presenter is thought to have abused hundreds of children. BBC executives have pledged never to show re-runs featuring him. But author who compiled a history says it ‘deserves to be remembered’

The BBC has snubbed the 50th anniversary of Top of the Pops because the programme has been tainted by the Jimmy Savile scandal, it has been claimed.

The long-running series, which was on every week for 42 years and still appears in Christmas scheduling, was first broadcast on New Year’s Day 1964, presented by Savile from a church in Manchester.

The DJ opened the show with the words ‘It’s number one, it’s Top of the Pops’. The show played host to iconic acts over the years, from the Rolling Stones – the first band to play the show – to the Beatles, The Clash, Cliff Richard, the Bee Gees, David Bowie and Sir Elton John.

But, unlike Dr Who, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, Top of the Pops will receive no special programming at all.

The sci-fi series was honoured with a feature-length anniversary episode as well as a dramatised documentary about its creation.

But Top of the Pops, which at its 1970s peak was watched by a quarter of the country, has no anniversary TV or radio shows, and prompted only a trivia article on the BBC website.

The decision is thought to be a direct result of the scandal following Savile’s death in 2011 aged 84.

Victim after victim came forward to reveal that the DJ had abused them when they were children. It is suspected he could have abused as many as 450 children.

He has since been branded Britain’s worst ever paedophile.

BBC executives have previously axed programmes featuring Savile and has pledged never to show footage of the presenter in re-runs.

However, not everybody is pleased by the decision, which some say does the show a disservice by ignoring its contribution to music history.

Patrick Humphreys, who has written a book about the show’s history for the anniversary, said: ‘It’s upsetting because I think the show deserves to be remembered for what it was, the excitement it created and what it went on to become.’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘Although there are both the Christmas and New Year’s Eve Top of The Pops specials, there are no current plans for a TOTP 50th anniversary programme.’

Top of the Pops triva

1. The programme was originally commissioned for six weeks, but ran for 42 years.

2. The fee for the first ever Top of the Pops appearance – by the Rolling Stones – was £86.

3. Sir Cliff Richard has performed on the show more than anybody else – an estimated 160 times.

4. Pete Townshend, of The Who, admitted it was TOTP which prompted him into his famous ‘windmill’ style of playing the guitar.

5. Status Quo are the group with the most TOTP appearances – 86 in total.

6. Elton John’s first TOTP appearances were as a backing musician for Brotherhood Of Man and Pickettywitch in 1970.

7. Although the show’s theme tune was a version of Led Zeppelin track Whole Lotta Love, the band never actually appeared on TOTP.

8. For nine months in 1971, the show featured an album slot.

9. When Queen made their TOTP debut, Freddie Mercury didn’t own a TV, so had to watch himself in a shop window.

10. Punk band The Clash boycotted the show because they’d have to mime – but by 1991 it was compulsory to sing live.

11. Top of the Pops (TOTP) was first broadcast on BBC1 on New Year’s Day in 1964 at 6:36pm, from a converted church on Dickenson Road in Longsight in Manchester. This and each edition was 30 minutes long. The original music programme was only commissioned for six episodes but was so successful that it lasted for over 40 years.

12. The format of TOTP changed little over the years. It would have a top 40 chart run down and culminate with a performance by that week’s number one group or ringer. Bands would appear live or show a video. In the early years performances were mimed, though later as technology got better bands, groups and singers would sing and perform live. Groups that did not have a video, which was common in the 1960s and 1970s, would have their music played to a group of in-house choreographed dancers such as Go-Jos, Pan’s People, Ruby Flipper, Zoo or Legs and Co. They would also perform for those who featured in the show but were unable to be at the studio.

13. By 1970 Top Of The Pops attracted audiences of 15 million. This dropped to around 3 million by the year 2002.

The First Episode Of Top Of The Pops

The pilot episode of TOTP was called The Teen & Twenty Record Club. It was presented by Disc Jockey Jimmy Savile. The producer was Johnnie Stewart. The first artists to appear on the show included The Rolling Stones. They sang I Wanna Be Your Man. Other groups and singers in the chart that week were:

I Want to Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
Glad All Over – The Dave Clark Five
She Loves You – The Beatles
You Were Mad For Me – Freddie & The Dreamers
I Only Want to Be With You – Dusty Springfield
Stay – The Hollies
24 Hours From Tulsa – Gene Pitney
Dominique – The Singing Nun
Secret Love – Kathy Kirby
Swingin’ On a Star – Big Dee Irwin
Hippy Hippy Shake – The Swinging Blue Jeans

14. Top Of The Pops grew and grew in popularity over the years and in March 1983 the show celebrated its 1000th edition with long term host Jimmy Saville. In 2002 TOTP celebrated its 2000th show.

15. Top Of The Pops moved to BBC2 in 2003 with former presenter and now producer Andy Peters. The first BBC2 show was broadcast on 17 July 2005 at 7pm with presenter Fearne Cotton and a different guest each week. Viewing figures continued to drop until the average viewers were only about 1.5 million.

16. On 20 June 2006 the decision was taken by the BBC to cancel Top Of The Pops after 42 years. It felt the channel could no longer compete with music downloads, the internet and 24-hour music channels.

17. The last Top Of The Pops programme was broadcast on the 30 July and was co-presented by Jimmy Saville, Tony Blackburn, Mike Read and Pat Sharp. The last broadcast of Top Of The Pops was the 2204th episode. It was recorded on Wednesday 26 July. There is a full review at the end of this article. It was going to be broadcast live on Sunday 30 July but Sir Jimmy Savile had a prior appointment as the honorary chieftain at the Lochaber Highland Games in Scotland. He had held this position for 34 years and would always wear a tartan tracksuit he has specially made. That was his last year as honorary chieftain and he now has the title of Special Friends Of The Games.

18. Although TOTP was axed the magazine continues to be published and on television the BBC will continue to broadcast repeats of TOTP2 which shows archive footage from as early as the 1960s of musicians on earlier Top of the Pops shows. This was first broadcasted in September 1994. Other BBC music shows will include Jools Holland’s Later programme and the BBC Four Sessions.

19. Another spin-off of TOTP was Top of the Pops Reloaded which was also known as Top of the Pops Saturday.

TOTP Presenters

The very first television Top Of The Pops show was presented by BBC Radio 1 DJ Jimmy Savile. Many more Radio 1 presenters hosted the TOTP shows over the years and including Dave Lee Travis, Tony Blackburn, Mike Read, Bruno Brookes, Sara Cox, Simon Mayo, John Peel, Steve Wright, Kenny Everett, Jayne Middlemiss, Mark Goodier and Noel Edmonds.

The last TV Top Of The Pops presenter was Fearne Cotton. Other TOTP presenters and hosts included Reggie Yates, Alan Freeman, Richard Skinner, Gail Porter, Jamie Theakston, Janice Long, Richard Bacon, Colin Berry, Jakki Brambles, David Hamilton, Kid Jensen, Jonathan King, Pete Murray, Samantha Mumba, Denis Van Outen, Nicky Campbell, Kim Kash, Caron Keating, Tommy Vance, Pete Murray and David Jacobs on BBC 1 and BBC 2. There have been 65 regular presenters and 100s of guest presenters over the years.

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