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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS POLL WINNERS’ CONCERT

ABC
1961, 1964 - 1966

Music promoter and New Musical Express owner Maurice Kihn had introduced the first British record sales chart in 1952 and had been looking for ways to promote the paper by using the biggest names in pop. Outdoor jazz festivals had been popular, so the idea of a pop concert, in a big indoors venue made sense, and The Royal Albert Hall in London was considered big enough.

The first Poll Winners’ Concert took place in 1959, but it wasn't until 1961 that television took an interest. ABC TV's newly created Big Night Out strand chose the Poll Winners’ show as their first outing, recorded 5th March 1961 at the Empire Pool, Wembley. Hosted by David Jacobs it featured Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Connie Francis, Lonnie Donegan among others. However popular, a change of format for Big Night Out meant that they didn't return.

In fact ABC didn't go back until 1964 when Merseybeat was beginning to wane. Despite the inclusion of Joe Loss and His Orchestra it was one of the greatest line ups of pop seen at the time. The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Merseybeats and of course, The Beatles. The show was edited into two parts and shown in May 1964 and serves as the last great testament to Merseybeat.

ABC were back the following year with the first part shown on Easter Sunday 1965. Those lucky enough saw live sets from Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames, Donovan, The Kinks, The Searchers, The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones & The Squires, Them, The Animals, The Moody Blues, The Seekers, Herman's Hermits, Dusty Springfield and again topping the bill The Beatles. Probably the greatest line up of any pop show of any time.

Booking all the acts in time for the show meant a possible cultural delay as British pop was moving so fast. The 1964 show saw the finest Mersey acts, but many of them would never see that level of fame ever again and in 1966 the mod scene was well represented, except that true mod culture had really all but faded by that time and the bands that started with rhythm and blues would now have to face the challenge of what to do next. Although the show, again split into two, was a fantastic sample of British pop at the time The Small Faces, The Who, The Spencer Davis Group, Yardbirds, The Alan Price Set and Dusty Springfield there was no airtime for The Beatles. Their management couldn't agreed an acceptable fee for the broadcast. So they were only seen receiving their award. The Rolling Stones did the same, suggesting that this was the beginning of the end. It's also noticeable that the stage set for the 1966 show bore an uncanny resemblance to ABC's Thank Your Lucky Stars, which was also about to finish.

It wasn't just the end of mod, but the end of ABC's interest. With no Beatles or Stones in the 1966 show ABC just turned and didn't go back. However, Southern's Time For Blackburn showed some footage of The Rolling Stones at the 1968 show.

A similar show was hosted at the Empire Pool, Wembley in 1968 for charity and broadcast by the BBC in late March 1968 featuring Cliff Richard, The Foundations, Amen Corner, The Spencer Davis Group, Simon Dupree & The Big Sound among others.