TV Pop Diaries

Popular Music on British Television

Home Intro Articles Credits Timeline Links 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s

Introduction

The web site you are now viewing started life before the term world wide web was coined, in fact when I began creating this in 1984 the idea of home computing had only been properly realised with the introduction of the Apple Macintosh. So, it was out with the pen and paper, and so it continued until 1994 when I bought my first PC to help deliver my second music reference book.

Having been born in 1961 I was lucky enough to have witnessed two cultural explosions in Britain simultaneously, The Beatles and television, and starting school shortly after my father’s death I retreated to the solace that meant the most to me and quickly found that my two best friends were right there at home, pop music and ‘the box’. They never argued with me, they never stole my football, they never wanted homework at nine the next morning, they were there for me, more or less, whenever I needed them. I looked forward to Ready Steady Go!, Top Of The Pops, Five O’ Clock Club, Time For Blackburn!, All Systems Freeman! and other tele pleasures of the mid to late sixties more than I did proper children’s programming. Blue Peter seemed to be designed for prissy middle-class brats who had no friends, while most of the puppet shows were plainly aimed at kids who "weren't right". It wasn’t until Do Not Adjust Your Set in 1967 that the perfect blend of comedy and music could be made for both children and adults without patronising either, in no small way in thanks to resident musical turn The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. The show was a blessing.

The little pop music played on the officially government sanctioned radio, in this case the BBC Light Programme, was watered down by bizarre cover versions by the Northern Dance Orchestra and other Musician Union bands hired to keep the music live, or more likely to keep MU musicians in work. Television didn't seem to suffer the same fate, when you heard My Generation it was only going to be The Who, not Uncle Bob Sharples and the ABC Showband. There was something more genuine about pop on TV than the fare offered by BBC radio. We could see it was The Who, and I think they knew we could see them too. Most of my living room memories of pop music from the sixties seem to favour television rather than radio. But when it came, much later in life of course, to relate the joy of old shows to friends and colleagues I could only guess at the exact era I was talking about, I had no proof that Jimi Hendrix actually appeared on Ready Steady Go! but I knew he did, because I saw it, so there. But there’s the problem, proof. No-one knows for sure as these shows no longer exist, wiped away as if they were dirt. So who’s to prove these things ever existed in the first place? Allow me to introduce myself.

I've decided to display the data in chronological order so we can see the progression of popular music and how it was treated on television from the mid-fifties through to the end of the century. I’ve also decided to begin the database from the opening day of the Independent Television in September 1955 as it just seems the right time. Lonnie Donegan’s skiffle expedition had just about reached every part of Britain by about this time, while early American rock and roll releases were becoming more prolific here in the UK, although it would take another few months for Elvis, Little Richard etc to make their UK chart debut. Although the new commercial television wasn’t necessarily going to target a youth audience, its mere existence provoked the BBC into action. The BBC had hosted blues acts like Josh White and probably some great fifties singers before this site’s start date and hopefully at some point I’ll explore this further.

I'm not mad enough (yet) to declare that "this is it, this is everything". It isn't, and could never be. Despite my best attempts (excluding a prohibitively expensive trawl through the BBC and ITV paper archives) this will never be complete. The data listed here were compiled from newspapers, TV listings, music papers etc and were correct at time of printing, leaving last minute changes (particularly on live shows) mostly un-documented. The nearest I could get to recording any change in schedule would be in the following day's newspapers' review section, and these changes have been recorded in the data where applicable. Of course, readers are bound to remember changes that have not been reflected in the data, so feel free to contact me and offer corrections. Pop music, you know, the very thing you worked hard for from Monday to Friday to be a part of buying on a Saturday, the very thing you probably lost your virginity to, the very thing, if you’re lucky, you’ll fall in love to, the very thing that made you weep in December 1980 is the very thing that has been wiped wholesale. Trashed, disregarded, disposed of like so much waste. This site will make you very unhappy.

Your past has been destroyed, your memories wiped. I hope I can provoke an old dormant memory, or at least a feeling of what it was like to look forward to RSG! of a Friday evening after you had your tea.

Almost becoming choked up after seeing running orders of old shows I recall as a child it gave me a heartening soul-matey satisfaction to hear others recall similar surprise at a recollection, in some cases, jogging a memory not aired in twenty, thirty years. I hope that this site means something to you.

Assembling the data in its present form made me quite aware of the number of acts that never had the kind of success that they worked so hard for, yet these were the kind of acts television producers relied so much on. I think it would be unfair and unrepresentative of television history to exclude the not-so-popular acts that worked as hard as the better known ones. Shows like Thank Your Lucky Stars initially existed to bring new British talent like this to our screens and I know their stories of these acts are just as interesting. If you have any experience of appearing on any of these shows and would like to share your memories with us then please get in touch.

As mentioned earlier I can’t help you with where these shows are now. Up until the late seventies the two BBC channels and the stations that made up the ITV network had very differing approaches to keeping old programmes. I refer to ‘old programmes’ as I’m sure all cases they’d never see it as ‘archiving’. With very few exceptions (the Queen’s Coronation, for example) there was never any intention of any of the channels to keep an archive for cultural or historical purposes. Shows were only kept if there was a demand from overseas broadcasters, or a definite repeat showing at some point in the future. It was my intention when initially contemplating this site to include information about what still exists, but this would also infer that everything else doesn’t exist, which may (hopefully) be wrong. It’s also my intention every now and again to put up features and articles about shows, genres, people etc. If there’s anything you’d like to see then please get in touch.

I should have enjoyed compiling this more than I did, but a repetitive sensation of loss replaced the joy all too often. Not a personal sense of loss one would expect from realising that too many years were paraded in front of me in the form of old TV listings, but the loss of things that once existed, that no longer exist, in any form. Film and television should be preserved. It is possible, once filmed, only deterioration or misplacement will take it away. Only in this case, it is the deliberate destruction that is particularly hurtful, I had a past, now I don’t with only a black and white memory left. And the beat goes on...? The BBC admitted in April 1996 that they had lost the first episode of children’s drama series Byker Grove, only transmitted in October 1989, and were looking for a home video copy to broadcast on The Children’s Channel satellite station.

The feeling I had reading through the old listings was one of reading my own diary. This was something I wasn’t really prepared for and was a little scary. As a non-diary keeper I can now attribute dates to some of the most important personal events in my life and has definitely helped me sort out an loft-like memory a lot clearer. What little proof we have of these shows’ existence is locked away, barely or never given an airing, not that I’m suggesting any kind of Video Liberation Front, but public access should be available. The unwillingness of others to accept that Britain has a rock and roll history prevents some of the shows from being aired publicly. Again, I’m not suggesting a conspiracy of deliberate subversion of these shows, it’s just that the key-holders probably don’t realise its cultural importance, and maybe after series like the BBC’s Sounds Of The Sixties / Seventies / Eighties they might be sufficiently inspired, or at least inquisitive enough to seek out these clips and clear them for showing. The truth is that, until recently, the BBC just didn’t know what they have in their archive. Stories of film and tape being dumped in skips and picked up by fans is not apocryphal. Certainly shows get sent aboard and the organisation quite rightly expect the show to be returned, but when it isn’t no-one person would notice it’s missing until it was needed again. So there may be more film and video in existence somewhere than they would realise. Admit it, Rock and Roll is Culture and has just as much a right to exist as cinema, theatre and literature, but it’s fared badly in terms of preservation because of the misunderstanding of its importance. The middle-class guardians of the nation’s newly adopted favourite media indulged in a dictat that anything working-class is therefore frivolous and should and will be treated as disposable. At the risk of sounding too precious about this, yes of course it’s important to keep a record of everything, not just the chosen few, but that’s really my point, the archive is not really representative of the whole. Choices have been made by individuals as to what should be kept and what shouldn’t, this ark is incomplete without zebras is what I’m saying, and I for one think that’s not just a shame, but shameful.