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Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

BBC2's daily cultural review show Late Night Line-Up (1964 - 1972) was usually broadcast at the end of the station's schedule and as such afforded an open-ended time slot from 11.00 pm onwards. Musical guests ranged from classical to rock and jazz, all playing live in the studio. Everyone from Ivor Cutler to Richie Havens to Tim Buckley to The Jimi Hendrix Experience turned up to play, and when BBC2 was granted the opportunity to become Britain's first colour TV channel, and in the summer of love at that, it must have been quite a coup to be invited. Production costs for colour at the time must have been exorbitant, but the discussion format was cheap, so getting in live acts to perform one or two songs wouldn't have broken the bank. The number of acts appearing must have given show producer Rowan Ayers the idea of an alternative to Top Of The Pops, featuring mainly rock music acts there to promote an LP, rather than a single, therefore more likely to be able to fill a half-hour spot. Reporting on The Small Faces edition in June 1968 the NME said "They will be featured in the 'Late Night Line-Up' series which, from now on, will devote the whole of its Friday-night edition to showcasing a different pop group every week."

Ayres would be given the job title of editor, rather than producer. That title would go to Steve Turner who previously had been a vision mixer on many classic BBC TV comedy shows like Hancock and Steptoe and Son. Turner himself had little interest in pop music before embarking on the show. Talking to Melody Maker in September 1969 he admitted "... my main interests are light classical music, church, and organ music" which he felt helped him approach the show with an open mind "I therefore worked that much harder to understand the whole scene." Turner was given a free hand to create the show, but given a small budget and an even smaller studio, 20 by 30 feet. The first shows were broadcast live, but this was considered unsuccessful, so later shows would be taped and edited together.

The "colour" aspect of the title would be obvious as BBC2 was the only colour channel in the UK at the time and seeing the great British bands of the time in colour was a wonderful novelty if you had one of the very expensive colour TVs, costing around £300 at the time if you didn't rent one.

It was not initially seen as a show in its own right, just a part of Late Night Line-Up, so Colour Me Pop never credited as such in newspaper TV listings. Even in Radio Times it was listed underneath Late Night Line-Up, initially announcing itself as "presenting a Friday/Saturday Diversion." However, with the 2nd November 1968 edition it got its own solo credit for the first time. Debuting on Saturday for the pilot edition, the show then moved to Friday for the next few editions, then moving back to Saturday and broadcast before BBC2's iconic Midnight Movie.

According to press accounts ahead of the first show there would have been two flavours of the show, Colour Me Pop and Colour Me Jazz, depending on the content, but the jazz element would be dropped before the first broadcast.

Featured acts were given thirty minutes to play live (or singing live to the backing track) in the studio each week with occasional forays to the exotic location of The Fairfield Hall, Croydon for several live sets recorded on the 29th September 1968 as a Mexico Olympic Games fundraiser (the games would take place the following month.) There would also be some other location filming, with Clodagh Rodgers wandering around derelict buildings in a mini-skirt for one song.

The show recognised that albums were now taken seriously as a new musical format in its own right, rather than just a collection of songs or a studio recreation of the band's live set, but thankfully the acts were allowed to get on with performing with no silly interviews about the meaning and motivation for what they were doing. Among those who paid a visit were The Small Faces, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Move, The Moody Blues, David Ackles, Eclection, Fleetwood Mac and many others. However, the show wasn't just given over to the progressive tendency, with time given to a few pop acts like Clodagh Rodgers and The Fortunes. The show was also important in giving much needed exposure to many second division bands on smaller labels who would have been excluded from Radio One playlists otherwise.

Despite his worry that the show would be taken off "after the first four weeks" Turner's production skills resulted in a fifteen month run.

Having won the Top TV Show award in the Melody Maker poll in September 1969, beating Top Of The Pops, it was assumed that the show would return, but the BBC had no plans to do so. A re-boot of Late Night Line-Up in September 1969, a week after the final Colour Me Pop probably contributed to its cancellation. However, Steve Turner had actually recorded further shows for transmission around Christmas 1969, but they were never broadcast. These shows featured Gulliver's People, The Golden Earring, The Sands, Jefferson and Sight & Sound. Talking to Melody Maker in October 1969 Turner said "Whether this will be the thin edge of the wedge for further Colour Me Pop shows I can't say at present." It appears that Golden Earring recorded a session for the show, with photos from the session appearing on British and French album covers and some of the BBC studio recording appearing in their Eight Miles High documentary.

Two retrospective compilation shows were assembled in 1969/70, but that would be the last anyone saw. Turner would go on to produce the shows' descendent Disco 2. Sadly, there was no tie-in LP release, as there was for Disc A Dawn or John Peel's Top Gear radio show the following year.

Several of the few surviving shows have been released on DVD and CD, while an excellent article on the show, written by Adam James Smith appeared in issue 92 of Shindig.



18th May 1968, 14th June 1968 - 30th August 1969