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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

According to a Radio Times article to promote the first edition of the show Alan 'Fluff' Freeman and his agent proposed the idea for a new type of music show to BBC commissioners back in Spring 1967. The format would feature live guests, interviews, reviews and film clips. However, this format looked very similar to the pilot for the un-commissioned Discotec, hosted by Simon Dee back in 1966. Freeman himself referred to the show as "Radio 1 in vision."


The BBC finally pulled the plug on the too-long running Juke Box Jury in late 1967 and immediately commissioned a pilot of the show, recorded Monday 27th November 1967. The title All Systems Freeman was in place right from the beginning, as was the producer, ex-Jazz 625's Terry Henebery. The pilot show featured The Herd and Cat Stevens and was played to BBC commissioners two days later. Freeman had proved an immensely likeable TV personality and his occasional mistakes on Top of the Pops had brought him his own kind of celebrity.


After favourable reviews from the BBC viewing panel the show was given the go-ahead. The show would be recorded in the old Top Of The Pops home of Dickenson Road in Manchester on a Wednesday and broadcast Friday evenings, the day after Top of the Pops, at 6.40 pm for twenty-five minutes. Freeman was relieved of his 'Pops' duty during the run of the show, bar one show on the 25th January, while he also took Pops' director Johnnie Stewart with him. Freeman's contract with Top Of The Pops ended on 14th December 1967, so apart from the Christmas shows with Pete Murray and Jimmy Savile he was a free agent.


Freeman told Disc a couple of weeks' ahead of the show's debut said "It's an all action pop show which concentrates on playing the new releases. My hope is that from the minute the programme starts there will be non-stop music for the whole half hour - just like my 'Pick Of The Pops' shows in fact. During the programme, which consists purely of discs released on the day the show goes out, we'll have artists in the studio, on film, and pre recorded. I'm going to be in charge of a massive control panel for records, films, tapes, jingles - the lot, and I'm getting very nervous about the whole thing. One of the best things about the show is that we'll be able to foster new talent as well as featuring the latest discs by established artists. This is something sadly lacking on TV at the moment." Freeman, talking to Disc, said "I am wildly excited about the whole thing. It's like the old saying - 'all things come to him who waits'."


Freeman found himself behind a desk again, similar to the one on Top of the Pops, looking a little like his Radio One desk setup with two 'grams' (turntables), headphones and microphone, but at the end of its run BBC’s Head of Variety Bill Cotton Jnr said that the show had tried to “capture the drama of a recording studio”, to that end most of the artists appearing would wear big headphones. While seen by some as innovative it has to be questioned why the producer wanted the set of a TV show to look like a radio studio. There would be no audience in the studio, Freeman claimed that "...it tends to slow a programme down. It's all go, go, go."


The show's thirteen week run would feature many of the chart stars of the day in the studio backed by the Northern Dance Orchestra, or if they couldn't make it to Manchester a film clip of the artist would be included. A guest reviewer and an interview would break up the music to distinguish it from Top of the Pops. Fluff would also feature in a filmed insert sequence quizzing members of the public about their musical tastes.


The show was transmitted the same night as Southern's new pop show New Release, hosted by Freeman's Radio One colleague Tony Blackburn. Responding to Mike Mansfield's concerns about the two shows clashing on a Friday evening Alan Freeman replied "There won't really be much clash because my show will be just about finished by the time Tony's starts. As far as the concept of the show I can't really comment until I've seen Tony's show - but I should imagine there will be lot of difference in ideas between the two shows." Just as Freeman's show was coming to its conclusion Southern Television gave Blackburn a re-titled, re-vamped version of his show, but this time with a more prominent Saturday evening time slot. Blackburn himself was invited onto Freeman's show on January 12th to perform his new single, So Much Love.


'Fluff' lived up his reputation by getting a Beach Boys' song title wrong in the first show.


After initially reaching six million viewers it soon settled down to four and a half million, enough of a shortfall to pique interest from the press who saw it as a disaster. When it was suggested that the show would not have its run extended Freeman told Melody Maker "I've heard nothing. This is a terrible shock. My agent has heard nothing at all about the show coming off." The show would not be given an extension and was duly sent packing with Freeman reporting for duty back at Top of the Pops almost immediately. Disc magazine claimed that they were the ones to break it to him that it was over with Freeman admitting "That's that, then. I'm very disappointed. We had an original format and we tried. Perhaps we did not use enough star names. Who knows what went wrong? I'll just to sit at home watching TV on Fridays." The show was due to finish on 29th March, but the final show was pulled to make way for a pop charity show. A spokesman for Bill Cotton Jnr said "The show is coming off at the end of its 13 week schedule (March 29) and we will not be pursuing it again. It has not been as successful as we had hoped. The audience, which fell to to five-an-a-half million, was fairly low for this type of show." Talking to the Daily Mirror Cotton said "We think !t succeeded, and had a fair run. Not

every show has to go on indefinitely."


Talking to Record Mirror in July 1974 Freeman said "The BBC gave me three months to get that show off the ground, and that wasn't really long enough. It took Top Of The Pops nine months to get the audience interested in tuning in, yet I was only given three. The idea of the show was to try and bring other artists and other acts on the box, perhaps some of whom would never have seen the light of day on Top Of The Pops. There were a great many critics of the programme, mostly saying that all of the turntables and all of the panel was only back-drop. Everything you could see did really work, and I was cueing in records, and if you remember I was also wearing cans, because the whole time I was talking to you the listener, the producer was shouting instructions in my ear. I thought the whole show was fabulous, and I was very sorry when it was given the chop."


In April 2019 a two minute clip of the show was discovered, the only know surviving evidence of the show.



ALL SYSTEMS FREEMAN!


BBC1

5th January 1968 - 22nd March 1968