TV Pop Diaries

Popular Music on British Television

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TOP OF THE POPS

BBC/BBC1/BBC2
1st January 1964 - 30th July 2006


Commission

The BBC had been considering a response to Associated Rediffusion's successful and trend-setting Friday tea-time pop show Ready, Steady Go! which had debuted in August 1963. BBC Television Producer Johnnie Stewart had taken Radio Luxembourg's Teen and Top Twenty Disc Club as his inspiration, and gave its host Jimmy Savile eight weeks to predict what would be in the UK top ten by the first week of January 1964, and that prediction would be the basis of the first show. Producer Stewart had previous experience in pop / light entertainment for BBC Television working on pop shows Juke Box Jury, Twist! and The Trad Fad. The show format was devised by Savile and The Good Old Days producer Barney Colehan and a pilot was commissioned for late 1963, but it was Stewart who had come up with the title 'Top of the Pops'. The title Teen and Twenty Record Club had briefly been considered.

The pilot was recorded at the location that would become the home of the show for the first two years, a converted church in Dickenson Road, Rusholme, Manchester, formerly the home of Mancunian Films. The format devised would concentrate on hit singles, rather than anyone that happened to be available, but it was the Head of Light Entertainment Bill Cotton Jnr who suggested that it should concentrate on the top twenty. This format would make the show more of a crowd-puller, but this also meant that at least eight of the top twenty acts would have to make themselves available at short notice. A series of six shows was commissioned, with a budget of £1300 per show to debut on New Years' Day 1964, with the show recorded on Tuesdays for transmission the following night.

Since the show is based on what the public is buying then a chart, from the many available, has to be chosen. They decided to use the Disc & Music Echo chart for the first few years, although this is never mentioned on screen.

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