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Popular Music on British Television

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JUKE BOX JURY
BBC / BBC1
1st June 1959 - 27th December 1967
Re-vamp 16th June 1979 - 18th August 1979
One off show 19th March 1989
Second re-vamp 24th September 1989 - 3rd December 1989

Originally planned for a thirteen week run the series was based on a popular American show hosted by Peter Potter and produced by ex-Six-Five Special producer Russell Turner.

Radio Luxemburg and Light Programme DJ David Jacobs had approached the BBC in 1956 with the idea for a series called Hit Or Miss in which a panel would cast their opinion on the week’s new releases, only to have the idea rejected by Leslie Johnson at the BBC’s Light Entertainment department. In early summer 1959 Jacobs was approached to be a member on the panel of a new series Juke Box Jury, the format of which the BBC had just bought from America. When Jacobs explained that the idea was put to them a couple of years previous he was given the job of host to placate him. But despite Jacob's involvement it was Pete Murray who had hosted the pilot show.

The show involved a panel of four showbiz personalities passing opinion and ultimately judgement on the week’s new releases, with a guest appearance by one of the artists whose work was reviewed / criticised. The act had to sit behind the set in what became known as The Hot Seat. Since there was an even number of jurors there could be an draw between hit and miss, so the panel was complemented by an audience panel made up of three members of that week’s audience who also imparted their opinion 'hit' or 'miss'. Talking to The Stage in April 1959 Turner explained "This show was been a great success in America. But we have really only bought the title. We intend to make it more British. I have seen the tele-recording of one of the American shows and it seems a bit slow".

Only fifty seconds of each song would be played, but not only singles were played, some LP tracks were also included.

The show’s cheap to run format proved popular with the BBC, while the audience also got the chance to play amateur reviewer.

The original theme tune was later replaced by Hit Or Miss by The John Barry Seven, at the suggestion of David Jacobs after it had been judged on the show.

The show's potential to make or break a record drew the attention of critics, especially Labour MP, Roy Mason who effectively accused David Jacobs of payola in the House of Commons in December 1959, and again in Spring 1960.

In 1961 it was suggested that the format would change with a teenager and a DJ put into the panel. Although this was never intended it lead to a denial from the show's producer Billy Cotton Jr who revealed that he would sometimes get insulting letters claiming that the panel know nothing about pop music, without realising that's the point.

Notable editions include The Beatles taking over the show in December 1963, taking the show into the top ten ratings for the first time since February 1962, while The Rolling Stones took over the following year and in the process abandoning the traditional hit or miss board.

By 1964 the weekly audience averaged twelve million, however irritation from other programme makers at it’s space-taking residency in the schedule saw the show shifted to an earlier time slot on Saturday evening, together with a shorter running time.

A later producer Barry Langford explained that he would take on average about sixty new releases every week to youth clubs and try them out on the members, the most popular would them be included on that week’s show. Langford had taken over the producers' role in Spring 1964 and vowed to eliminate any potentially anti-pop jurors.

In mid-1964 the producers introduced film clips for some of the songs instead of the usual camera pointed at the reactions of the audience.

It was later moved from Saturday evenings to Wednesday in October 1967, which is usually the first sign of an upcoming P45. It transpired that Jacobs in autumn 1967 had suggested that he leave the show. Talking to the Melody Maker in December 1967 Jacobs said "I felt I had done all I could and said all I could on the programme. It had been a long and lovely time but it was time to go on to something else. The BBC said they would think about it and about ten days later they told me that they had decided to take it off".

Despite teens avoiding the show it out-lasted Thank Your Lucky Stars and Ready, Steady, Go!

The show was revived twice by the BBC, once in 1979, hosted by Noel Edmonds, which included a legendary encounter with John Lydon, ex-Sex Pistol, and in 1989 made by Noel Gay Productions and hosted by Jools Holland.