Number One - It was TOP OF THE POPS!
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The Disused Weslyan Church (now demolished)
which was the BBC Manchester Studios (from 1954 until 1967)
on Dickenson Road, Rusholme, Manchester, England
This was the BBC Studios from which TOTP was broadcast
for its first 3½ years.
|From a pilot show called 'Teen and Twenty Record Club' based loosely on the BBC's radio show 'Pick Of The Pops' this was purely a top of the charts show and has become the longest-running British pop vehicle, arguably reaching its greatest heights in the early and mid-Seventies.
It was originally booked for only six programmes, but due to its immediate popularity was extended indefinitely after only the second. Transmitted on Wednesdays, later Thursdays, the entire show had to be put together in about 24 hours as the week's chart was released at 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. The original four DJ presenters were Jimmy Savile, David Jacobs, Alan 'Fluff' Freeman and Pete Murray who were generally considered to be the country's best at the time. They compered the show in strict rotation, with the following week's DJ appearing in a cameo 'handover' at the end of the show. Assistants included Diane Hefforan, Denise Sampey ( who span the discs on the first programme ) and Samantha Juste ( who took over the role from Denise and eventually married Monkee Micky Dolenz after they met on the show ).
The original producer was Johnnie Stewart who was responsible for the show's incredible success and growth during the Sixties and early Seventies. His trademark logo silhouette always appeared beside his name on the closing credits.
|The first show was broadcast on 1st January 1964 from a disused Wesleyan church in Dickenson Road, Manchester, (because most of the other BBC studios were busy at the time) which had been acquired by the BBC and fitted out as a tv studio some years earlier. The studio, though, had a long history pre-BBC and was the original home of Mancunian Films.
Generally, the acts mimed their songs - not because they couldn't play / sing (although this was questionable in some cases), but to achieve a higher transmission sound quality. This changed in 1966 after a Musicians Union ban on artists miming to their actual records. Following this, the Top of the Pops Orchestra, directed by Johnny Pearson, provided live backing to specially recorded tracks by the artists. Vocal backing was provided by The Ladybirds (Maggie Stredder, Gloria George and Marian Davis).
As with Ready Steady Go, a live studio audience were able to dance to and, in the early years, meet and mingle with the stars.
By mid 1967 the Manchester studio had become too small for the increasingly complex production and it was moved to Lime Grove studios in London.
Samantha Juste |Presenter Jimmy Savile claimed the BBC were lukewarm about the programme's prospects, stating that: "The BBC had a studio in Manchester [on Dickenson Road] which was a disused church and, anything they didn't want to do in London, they slung up into this old church."
DJs Jimmy Savile and Alan Freeman 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 "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 silhouette which ended each programme was that of Stewart, the show's producer, although many people assumed this was Billy Fury. Local photographer Harry Goodwin was hired to provide shots of non-appearing artists, and also to provide backdrops for the chart run-down. He would continue in the role until 1973.
The show was originally intended to have a series of 6 programs but ran for over 42 years.
|Due to the popularity
and viewing figures for the initial run of six programs,
the run was made open-ended. 1964 seemed the perfect
moment to launch a program such as this. British acts
were influencing the world's charts and pop would later
seem to define the era. If it had been launched, say,
five years later it's questionable as to whether it would
have had as long a run as it has.
The acts usually mimed their songs - not because they couldn't play / sing ( this was questionable in some cases ), but to achieve a higher transmission sound quality. This changed in 1966 after a Musicians Union ban on artists miming to their actual records. Following this, the Top of the Pops Orchestra, directed by Johnny Pearson, provided live backing to specially recorded tracks by the artists. Vocal backing was provided by The Ladybirds - Maggie Stredder, Gloria George and Marian Davis. As with Ready Steady Go, a live studio audience were able to dance to and, in the early years, meet and mingle with the stars.
ormally they do so by
virtue of a simple format that nobody can think of a
better way of doing - children's magazines, sports programs
and so on. The same is very true of TOP OF THE POPS.
The idea of representing what was in the charts that
week is such a strong format that everybody under the
age of 60 must have seen at least one episode.
Top Of The Pops was by no means the first
pop program on TV, but the format remained so obvious
that one almost cannot believe that nobody had thought
of it until 1964. However, it was quite revolutionary
for its time - the Radio Times article launching the
series announced that the performers who's songs are
popular and are in the charts will be represented. They
will then mime to their discs. This is a departure from
standard BBC policy, but the idea is to replicate the
sound of the popular track. No two performances are the
same, but this performance is the one that made it a
hit. So basically it was records on telly - and popular
ones at that.
The show was such a hit
with the acts and their managers themselves that for
one of the first shows, Beatles manager Brian Epstein
contacted the then head of BBC Light Entertainment -
Bill Cotton to ask him if he would play a Beatles record
on the show. Bill replied saying that he would provided
The Beatles showed up at the studio.
Brian Epstein remarked to Bill - could you imagine what would happen if The Beatles showed up at Dickenson Road, there'd be a riot, to which Bill replied - I KNOW!
By 1967 the closure of this studio in Manchester (another shortly opened in Piccadilly) and the increasingly difficult part of getting all the acts to Manchester (as most were by now based in London), it was decided that the show now be broadcast from London.
If it had continued in the UK in its original format and on Thursday evenings but just brought up to date, it would most likely still have keep pretty good viewing figures.
By mid 1967 the Manchester studio had become too small for the increasingly complex production and it was moved to Lime Grove studios in London. From there it went to Studio 2 at Television Centre and, eventually, to the huge Studio 5 back at Lime Grove.
Also at this time, the show started using 'guest' DJs, the first of which were Emperor Roscoe, Kenny Everett, Stuart Henry and Simon Dee ( whose TOTP career only lasted a few months before he was given his own show ).
Stanley Dorfman (former producer): "The show at that point was pretty much a teenybopper type show. When it moved to London it became chic, it became stylish – introduced by Pan’s People. There was a wonderful choreographer called Flick Colby… "
|Live television threw up all kinds of problems, one of the most memorable being in March 1967 when, in his first appearance on TOTP, Jimi Hendrix was announced by Pete Murray and was quite bemused when he started his 'mime' to the sound of an Alan Price record.
Another 'goodie' was on the November 9th 1967 200th edition show when the normally immaculate Gene Pitney completely forgot the words to his song and just made it up as he went along, giving rise to an extremely dubious 'lip-synch'. This show, like the first, was introduced by Jimmy Savile. Live acts seen were The Dave Clark Five ( Everybody Knows ), Val Doonican ( If The Whole World Stopped Loving ), The Kinks ( Autumn Almanac ), the unfortunate Gene Pitney ( Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart ) and The Foundations ( Baby, Now That I've Found You ). Filmed items were Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Titch ( Zabadak ), The Who ( I Can See For Miles ) and Donovan with 'There Is A Mountain'. Guests on this special edition show included two of The Bee Gees, Lulu, Alan Price, Paul Jones, Graham Nash, Scott Walker and Simon Dee.
One of the regular attractions of the show for some of the male viewers during the Sixties and Seventies were the dance troupe Pan's People who joined the show in 1967 (dancing to 'Mony Mony' by Tommy James and The Shondells) after the departure of the original 3-6 girl outfit 'The Gojos'. Choreographed by Flick Colby, they performed their dance routines to backing music from current chart hits in a variety of (sometimes bizarre) outfits.
|They usually had a maximum of one week and, occasionally, only 24 hours to perfect their routine for each show. The original PP line-up was Flick Colby (who soon stopped performing to concentrate on the choreography and business side), Ruth Pearson, Babs Lord, Dee Wilde, Louise Clark and Andi Rutherford ( Cherry Gillespie replaced Andi when she left to have a baby in the early Seventies ).
Flick Colby: "I think people did think we were objects but I don’t think that’s true. People knew our names, we ran our own group, we handled the business side of it and nobody ever made us do anything we didn’t want to do..... I think it was kinda outrageous and it was our chance to take the mickey just a little bit."
The theme music probably most associated with the show was CCS's version of 'Whole Lotta Love', but during the Sixties it was an instrumental piece written by Johnnie Stewart and Harry Rabinowitz. It was first performed as a percussion piece by Bobby Midgly, replaced by another version of the same piece played by a five-piece orchestra and later a third version played by Johnny Pearson's Top Of The Pops Orchestra.
However, the trump card for TOTP has
always been its permanence. The program was normally
always on, every week. It was also always on (excepting
its last two or three years) at peak viewing time, on
the main channel. After an early shift from Wednesday,
Thursday night remained for over 30 years as Top Of The
Pops time. There were few occasions, of course, when
the program moved nights for sporting coverage or other
events, but by and large it remained consistant on BBC1
on Thursday evenings at around 7.20pm (19.20hrs). Most
of its competitors never had the luxury that TOTP had
in terms of its peak slot.
One of the reasons was undoubtedly
the rules that original producer Johnnie Stewart devised
for the program. Stewart was to be involved with the
program for over a decade, but the format was so strong
that people did not notice when he left. The basic rules
were simple enough - the number one record would always
be featured, as would the highest new entry and the highest
climber. Records going down the charts would never be
featured, unless they started to climb again and reach
a higher position than before. Non-movers could only
be played if they didn't move for four weeks, and, crucially,
no record apart from the number one could be played on
This format made sure that throughout the 60's the audience
figures remained around the 15-16 million mark.
The Story part 2 -- To the end & Oversees go HERE
|There Were Very Few Programmes That Remained A Staple Of The Schedules For Generations
|Unfortunatly there are only 82 clips (including promo films) in the BBC archives from the 1960s including 4 complete shows.
plus one show from 1969 of 7 clips is in a private collection
all the others have been wiped. (Shame on the BBC)!
From 1977 all shows exist complete.