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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

The first show

Wednesday, 1st January 1964 BBC 6.35 – 7.00pm,  hosted by Jimmy Savile.

After the opening credit sequence featuring Bobby Midgeley's 'Drum Roll' the first show begins as it would for the rest of the decade with the call “yes, it’s number one, it’s Top Of The Pops” (spoken by Jim Moir, later to become a producer on the show) followed by that week’s number one, Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want To Be With You, while the opening camera shot scanned up the brand new top twenty chart board with host Savile in front. Moir then exclaimed "and a welcome to this week's top DJ, Jimmy Savile", who would then announce what the number one was, read a list of the new entries and introduce the first record.

Savile claims to have had an unconscious teenage boy propped up under the DJ console during the first show. The lad had fainted and his girlfriend alerted Savile of the predicament. Savile would not be the sole host as Alan Freeman, Pete Murray and David Jacobs (later replaced by Simon Dee) would all host in a four-weekly rotation, although Savile outlasted all of them, staying with the show until 1984. A 'disc girl' would be seen on screen lining up the upcoming record on a turntable, alerting the audience that they were hearing the record, not a live version like Ready Steady Go. The first disc girl was Denise Sampey, then Diane Hefforan who would eventually give way to glamour model Samantha Juste, who was assistant producer Cecil Korer's own assistant. Juste would be the last disc girl when she left the show in 1967. Writing for Disc in January 1967 she proudly claimed "I NEVER wear the same thing twice on Top Of The Pops." The disc girls were not there to introduce the songs so couldn't really talk on mic, if so then they would have to be paid. So it must have been something of a temptation for the host to get them to say something off the cuff as a dare. Producer Johnnie Stewart told Disc magazine "In principle, I'm all for Sammy saying something during the show, and it's no reflection on her that she doesn't." However, Samantha Juste can be heard saying a couple of words on the Christmas 1966 shows. Such was her celebrity that she made a record which she might have sung live to on the Pops in November 1966. She allegedly once played a Swinging Blue Jeans record at the wrong speed on the show, which is unlikely or at least very unlucky since all the records played must have been 45 rpm.

The DJs would be seen behind a desk alongside the disc girl with two record decks, two TV monitors placed far left and right of the desk and the top twenty board behind him, while at other points of the show he would be standing in front of a large back projection screen taking in a shot of the action from the stage or the audience.

Some rules were devised, a clip of the number one record would feature during the chart run-down at the beginning and then played complete the end of each show (although this rule would on occasion be broken if the record had been number one for a number of weeks). No record would appear twice in successive weeks, unless it was the number one. However three of the songs in the second show were repeats from the first show which must have proved disappointing for the audience, but with a show based on a chart format this would be inevitable. At the beginning, Stewart based the show on an aggregate of the current music paper charts, the NME, Melody Maker and Record Mirror.

At the time acts from the North West of England held the cards as far as the charts were concerned, but it must have raised a few eyebrows that, like Thank Your Lucky Stars, the show would not be based in London, although this would change two years' later.

Towards the end of the first show Savile passed over to next weeks' presenter (Alan Freeman) via a feed to London, although this feature might have been dropped quite quickly.

After each record played the audience would applaud, but later on in the show's run loud and very obvious canned applause would be used between each song.

The Manchester Years 1st January 1964 - 13th January 1966

The first shows proved popular and the BBC liked it enough to extend its run for another seven weeks, but from the third show onwards for the next few months two DJs/presenters would be on duty each week.

The early shows allowed the audience of a hundred and fifty in on a first come, first served basis, but if you weren’t at the studio by 1 pm you wouldn’t get in. Helping with publicity for the show were the Rolling Stones who made the headlines after they had picked a fight before their first appearance.

Although the show was recorded in Manchester it didn’t provide too many problems for the artists performing live, particularly with Mersey Beat continuing into 1964, but with the commercial side of the industry based in London it was imperative that acts could be relied upon to make it to the show. The BBC hired a Dakota aircraft to fly singers and bands to Manchester every week, but if an act who was required couldn’t make it to Manchester due to other working commitments then they would be ferried to a local BBC studio and the clip would be inserted via a permanent TV link to a studio in London.

One problem the producers gave themselves was that the broadcast day was also the day that the chart was announced (with new records released on Friday). With the show recorded then night before transmission it was possible to have an act promoting a record which, by the time of broadcast, was going down the chart. The industry, recognising how important the show had become moved the announcement of the new chart to a Tuesday lunch-time, which stayed in placed until October 1987 when it was then moved to Sunday evening. To help matters further the BBC programme schedulers moved the show to Thursdays from the 24th September 1964, which most people now associate as Top of the Pops day, running from from 7:35 - 8:00 pm. This would give the show's producers more time to get a show together. The production team would work until 11 am Wednesday to get the acts in time for the evening recording for broadcast the following day.

As the shows' producers were keen to point out from the very beginning the artists could mime to their record, like they did on Thank Your Lucky Stars or Ready Steady Go! "We want viewers to hear the original discs," producer Johnnie Stewart told the Daily Mirror. "All the discs will be from the current hit parade and our audience will hear the exact sound that won the disc its popularity." According to a later Daily Mirror report "The show, incidentally, is the first BBC programme in which singers have been allowed to mime their records."

The 8th October 1964 programme sees a clip of The Searchers on tour in Australia, the first major location filming for the show and as explained by Johnnie Stewart at the time "We want to get more artists out of the studio and into the open air."

If an artist couldn't appear and a record company promotional film wasn't available then the producers would provide a film clip, sometimes a cartoon or a specially shot film featuring actors or models in a scenario inspired by the lyric. These films continued to be used up until the mid seventies when official promotional video clips became the norm. Among the many directors who worked on these Pops promo clips was Peter Whitehead who would later direct clips for the Rolling Stones and make the Swinging London travelogue Tonite Let's All Make Love In London, which itself featured a clip of Top Of The Pops filmed off-air.

The 19th November 1964 show saw the Top of the Pops debut of The GoJos, a dance troupe based around The Beat Girls from BBC2's The Beat Room. Dance troupes would be an almost weekly feature until the end of 1983, but for the first few months they would only appear every few weeks. The dance troupes that appeared over the years usually filled in for American acts who wouldn’t make a visit just to do the one show.

The hits of the year Christmas show would become an annual event, continuing to date, but for the first show it was decided to pre-record the show in London at Television Centre, rather than Manchester, and was broadcast on Christmas Eve as that was a Thursday, not on Christmas Day.

The show went south to London from July 8th 1965 for three months while the Dickenson Road studio received a technical upgrade. The show returned to Manchester with the 28th October edition, and a few weeks' later on the 25th November 1965 Top Of The Pops celebrated its 100th edition.

The show would be always stuck in one quandary, whether to just play the same hits week after week as the title suggests, or cooperate with record companies and expose new acts to a potentially large audience. For example, Jonathan King's Everyone's Gone To The Moon was played four weeks' running, despite not being a number one. So a New Release slot was introduced, which was usually given to well established acts, but on occasion would be given to a new or unknown act, leading to record company 'pluggers' bombarding the office with their new releases. Pluggers would prove a problem in the broadcast industry and would lead to allegations of bribery across radio and television for both the BBC and ITV. The New Release spot also provided a get out for producers when it became evident that not all the artists they wanted would be available. However, there would be a confusion of titles for some of the new records featured, some were a 'tip for the top', while some would be deemed 'chartbusters', while some were merely 'new releases'.

In October 1965 Ready Steady Go, the show that Top of the Pops had set out to topple was on the ropes and the producers were publicly talking up a replacement show, while the following year would also see the end to another of The Pops' targets Thank Your Lucky Stars.

By the end of 1965 it was apparent that Top of the Pops was the most popular and important pop music show on television, despite playing songs that were already hits. Fans, and particularly parents could finally see and cast judgement on the people making that noise that would come from the radio, a schism that would be so important in keeping the Generation Gap alive.

So important was the show to the industry that it had moved it's chart announcement day to accommodate it and finally to recognise its popularity the BBC gave it the ultimate reward, a Christmas Day broadcast. Christmas Day fell on a Saturday in 1965 not a Thursday, so this was both recognition and reward. However it was broadcast late at night, but had a lunchtime repeat the following day.

Jimmy Savile made himself unpopular with producers and crew when he would on occasion, burst in the studio claiming that he had a great gimmick he wanted to do on the show which would only take three or four minutes, an unthinkable amount of time on a show such as the Pops. It would only be near transmission that he would admit that he wasn't going to do anything anyway. Savile would later admit to rolling up the trouser legs of Eric Burdon and members of The Hollies while they were performing. Savile would also on occasion shout obscenities while the singers are performing. Nuisance behaviour by the hosts would continue into the seventies.

According to reminiscences from audience members on manchesterbeat.com The Black Velvets and Manchester legends The Mockingbirds, featuring Graham Gouldman and Kevin Godley were used as warm up bands. Fontana recording band The Admirals also had the same task. In addition to a free Coca-Cola members of the audience would be given plastic covers to go over their heels so not to mark the floor.

Audience members would be chosen from the crowd outside the studio by Cecil Korer. He would also go along to clubs in Manchester the previous weekend and hand out free tickets to people he wanted to see in the audience. A problem with Korer's baldness was recalled in an obituary. After seeing himself among a crowd of teenagers on the show "I said, 'God, that's me!' As a result, the BBC made me a wig. One night I went home with the wig still on and my dog wouldn't let me in."

Ready Steady Go! had gone through a very public crisis which nearly saw the show cancelled in late 1965 and responding to any thought that The Pops would go the same way Producer Johnnie Stewart spoke to Disc claiming "We are keeping to the same format, featuring the top 20 and an occasional newcomer."

Johnny Stewart had found it difficult to persuade artists to go up to Manchester, when London was Britain's Pop Music Central, so the decision was made to move the show down to London in the new year. Talking to Melody Maker at the time of the move Johnny Hamp from Manchester-based Granada claimed "We never have any trouble getting artists to come to Manchester. This week we featured The Drifters, Crispian St. Peters and next week we have Lulu, Dusty Springfield, The Small Faces and Jackie Trent." Mr. Hamp's assistant Rod Taylor also told the paper "We refuse to believe that everything happens in London. It just doesn't."

The London Years 20th January 1966 - 30th July 2006


By 1966 Mersey Beat was over and the R&B boom of 1964/5 meant that eyes were looking south again. The decision to move the show to London permanently had been made and on January 20th 1966 Alan Freeman presented the first regular London show from Television Centre (Studio 2), although a temporary move to Lime Grove would be necessary.

Talking to Melody Maker in January 1966 regarding the criticism that pop shows can be visually dull Johnnie Stewart agreed "I don't think pop shows have to be uninteresting. If they are, there is something wrong. But some artists and groups you get on pop shows are not particularly outstanding visually, and it's up to the producer to make them interesting."

In March 1966 the Musician’s Union demanded that for all television appearances singers should sing live and that MU members should be employed as backing musicians, so the Johnny Pearson Orchestra was introduced, much to the disappointment of the artists who appeared. However, to be fair, as studio session musicians members of the orchestra would have played on many of the records they found themselves now backing on the show. However, this was a major deviation from the original intent to stick to the original hit record version of each song. To facilitate the size of the orchestra a temporary move to Lime Grove (Studio G) was in order until a larger studio at Television Centre was re-configured to accommodate everyone. This also meant that the budget of the show had to increase. A version of the orchestra would survive until the early 1980s. Talking to Disc in April 1966 Johnnie Stewart claimed "When and if it happens we will deal with any problem that arises." He added "it would not mean the end of the show." It certainly contributed to the decision to end Thank Your Lucky Stars after five years. Talking to Disc in July 1966 about the impending live performance changes Producer Stewart said "It's more complicated, obviously - and more expensive. But I don't anticipate too much trouble. We'll take an extra day to do it properly - and get the musicians in to back artists in the usual way."

Not only are the Musicians Union forcing live performances by artists, but also limiting the number of live appearances made by foreign (mostly American) acts, so special promotional films are shot for The Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, The Lovin' Spoonful among others to be included in the show. Filmed clips of Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and other British acts were also made specially for the show.

In April 1966 Samantha Juste appears on Juke Box Jury, so people finally get to hear her voice. Since she doesn't appear on the Pops with Jimmy Savile it was suggested that they don't get along, but she claims that "It's not that at all. I love him and I think he's great character but it's just not his image to have someone on the show with him. Besides there'd be no room with all his toys." Savile had a regrettable habit of bringing props with him onto the set.

In May 1966 it is alleged that The Small Faces pulled out of one edition of Top Of The Pops as they couldn’t agree on a billing placement. Since the only 'billing' the show accommodated was the number one spot this seemed unlikely. It had also been alleged that Steve Marriott had fallen out with the producer, telling him to 'fuck off', leading to a ban.

On 21st July 1966 the show is broadcast live for the first time, but the producer Stewart doesn't go out of his way to promote it as such.

The Musicians Union ban on singers and musicians' miming on TV would come into effect on 1st August. The Union's stance was put by their General Secretary "We object to pop programmes playing records when musicians should be employed to put over live accompaniment." Thank Your Lucky Stars was due to finish, so wasn't affected by the ban, while Ready Steady Go had been live for some time. A BBC spokesman said "Top Of The Pops will continue with artists giving live performances. The show will go on presenting top twenty numbers. It's the only one of our programmes to be affected by the ban." This wasn't true since A Whole Scene Going had bands miming. Writing to Melody Maker a fan of the show points out "If Top Of The Pops goes live then microphones will pick up the noise of dancers shuffling about and girls screaming. It'll be one big horrible noise." The 4th August 1966 show was the first one to implement the miming ban, but some acts had been singing live for some time before. It was pointed out by Tony Hall in Record Mirror "They can't even pre-record the backing tracks as on RSG." Johnnie Stewart, also speaking to Record Mirror said "I think the ban on miming has actually improved the show because it has improved the artistes. Eric Burdon live is great. Eric trying to remember his words while miming is not so hot!" On one Thursday, after the transmission of one show they taped Cilla Black, Eric Burdon, Chris Farlowe, Tom Jones and Lee Dorsey with the 22 / 23 piece studio orchestra for future editions. Johnnie Stewart explained "We can't do many live items on the show because of the problems of presenting an artiste with a live orchestra - we avoid the Ready Steady Go technique of having backing tracks." However specially pre-recorded backing with singers lip-synching would be used.

Films specially shot for the show become more prominent this year as the Musicians Union ban seems to target foreign artists. Many of them are shot by Peter Whitehead, but some are made by amateurs who send them in to the show, for which they receive a payment and a credit at the end of the show. Talking to Record Mirror Stanley Dorfman explains "We're always on the look-out for worthwhile material and we think Top Of The Pops may eventually be a great encouragement for British film-makers. Unfortunately, most of the work submitted features a girl (usually looking something like Julie Christie) wandering in a park, looking at ducks while sun shines through the trees."

David Jacobs bids farewell to the show on the 8th September by saying ‘thank you for having me’. He would go on to host a new Rediffusion show Words and Music later in the month. Talking to Disc Weekly he said "I enjoyed doing 'Top Of The Pops' but I don't think I was very good at it. I think I looked a bit old sitting up there." It was later suggested that he quit because he feared his new Rediffusion show would be broadcast on the same night at The Pops. His replacement would be ex-Radio Caroline DJ Simon Dee. His attitude to the live show was expressed in a Record Mirror interview in early 1967 "It's more of a now thing, more genuine somehow, and a greater test of the artiste." The article also noted "he gets a kick out of watching anybody perform - "including women" he mutters darkly." It was also suggested that Samantha Juste might also be leaving the show now that it has gone live, but according to producer Johnnie Stewart "Samantha will still be needed to play records while film clips are being shown."

During 1966 a new host desk setup was created, with the monitors, chart board and turntables now gone with just a rack of singles and running order visible on the desk. The chart board had been replaced with the new Top of the Pops logo. The show also moves from the BBC's Television Centre due to security issues, so Lime Grove becomes the Pops' new home due to it's legendary impregnability.

Producer Johnnie Stewart leaves the show at the end of the year to work on two new pilot shows. Stanley Dorfman will fill the vacancy until his return.

With the charts announced on Tuesday the acts have to be booked by Wednesday and some will come in on Wednesday and record for the following evening's show, or any future editions. The show is then rehearsed on Thursday and edit in any film clips and any artists that couldn't make in time the previous day. By this time the show based its chart on an aggregate of the New Musical Express, Record Retailer, Melody Maker, Disc and Music Echo charts. While readers of the New Musical Express voted the show 'Best TV or Radio Show' in an end of year poll.

There would be no Pops broadcast on Christmas Day this year, but the show's contribution to the festive season saw it extended to two shows on the 26th and 27th, albeit with many repeat clips used.

Rounding off the year Ginger Baker nearly died by overdosing on heroin in the Pops dressing room at Lime Grove before Cream's debut appearance.


For Cream's second appearance Ginger Baker takes umbrage at the rubber cymbals he's supposed to use. Drummers who are miming have to use dampening pads and rubber cymbals for purposes of sound balance.

The Host DJs are also appearing weekly on BBC1's Saturday evening Juke Box Jury leading to over-exposure.

At the beginning of the year producer Stanley Dorfman posed a question to readers of Disc. How to visibly represent hit recordings by Jim Reeves and Elvis Presley. As Reeves had died all they could do was use stills and the little film that existed. "Now, another Jim Reeves record has been released 'I Won't Come In While He's There' It seems bound to make the charts. But you can't dance to it, and the problem is how to present it. You can't keep showing stills of Reeves. The same with Presley - he has ‘Indescribably Blue' out on February 3. I would welcome suggestions from your readers on the best way of presenting these artists. We get hundreds of letters from viewers asking about Reeves and Presley on the show. A lot of them don't seem to realise Reeves is dead and Presley is impossible to get on film." He also stated Elvis "might as well de dead as far as we are concerned."

In February a new large Top Of The Pops logo appeared behind the host. It was a white on black design, made to look like neon and would become one of the longest lasting of any of the logos, remaining until the early seventies.

Another change sees associate producer Stanley Dorfman leave the show on 16th February 1967, but he would later return to produce the show in the early seventies. By this time the show is regularly reaching eleven to twelve million viewers each week. One of the regular credits at the end of each show belongs to assistant producer Colin Charman. It was his job to visit London nightclubs and get the best dancers to appear in the show's audience. He admitted in a Disc interview in February 1967 that there was a small 'in crowd' of dancers who appeared on the show each week. "But that's purely because they're good looking and good dancers. Also from the point of view of safety it's good to have some kids who know how the studio works."

Simon Dee would leave after the 23rd March show to host his own early evening chat show Dee Time. When this was announced at the end on 1966 Pops producer Stanley Dorfman said that changes would have to be made should he leave "But we might not add another man. We may just carry on with the remaining three."

Pete Murray had agreed to appear on Southern TV's new pop show As You Like It, but a new edict at Top Of The Pops forbidding the shows' DJ from appearing on ITV meant meant he couldn't.

Despite attracting the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and many of Motown, Stax and Atlantic's top acts Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra would remain elusive. When daughter Nancy appeared on the show in 1967 producer Johnnie Stewart asked her to pass on his best wishes to Sinatra Snr, having worked with him when he appeared on BBC radio back in 1951. "It's a big ambition of mine to have him on Top Of The Pops."

In May the host's seating area and podium were removed and the new logo replaced with an older one. The hosts will now appear on the stage floor with members of the audience around them, while the new Top of the Pops logo would later become a part of the scenery.

In late July Johnnie Stewart talked to Disc abut the problems of featuring American hits on the show "You really have to be something of a crystal gazer in my job.. it's very difficult to gauge how a record's going to move. I must admit I have made bloomers by commissioning film of a group somewhere in the States only to find the record has dropped out of the chart by the time it arrives. It's a continuous headache." Talking about the problems that Stanley Dorfman expressed about Elvis Presley and Jim Reeves hits "And with Reeves records we try to film a typical Country and Western setting - rocky mountains, horses and cowboys, that sort of thing."

Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade Of Pale promo clip joins the list that Top of The Pops considered controversial. Joining it would be The Kinks' Dead End Street and The Rolling Stones' We Love You. Footage of the Vietnam war intercut with the goup on stage on posing outside as stately home was too much for an early evening showing. Other clips which showed the artists(s) miming to the song could not be shown as this broke the Musician Union rule.

Alan Freeman makes most of his nickname 'Fluff' during his Pops tenure. After previously referring to Sounds Orchestral's hit as "Cast Your Wind To The Fate" he introduces The Kinks' Dave Davies as Ray Davies on an edition this year. However, one fluff he wasn't responsible for happened on 24th August 1967 when instead of the expected playback for 'The Burning of The Midnight Lamp' by The Jimi Hendrix Experience we actually heard 'The House That Jack Built' by The Alan Price Set.

Samantha Juste fails to turn up for recording for several weeks in August, leading to speculation that she has married Monkee Mickey Dolenz and won't be returning to her DJ desk. Although she eventually returns, it would only be for a few weeks, leaving the show in late October to live in the USA. Her absence would lead to a makeover of the show. After Freeman announced her departure on the show the producer's office was flooded with potential applicants, however producer Stewart tells Disc "... I shall not now be using a girl on the show - especially as we are introducing Radio 1 deejays in guest spots each week. Three people would be too many. I may, however, feature a girl in the New Year. But this is only a possibility at this stage."

From October 1967 it was decided to showcase DJs from the BBC's new pop radio station Radio 1 so Stuart Henry, Kenny Everett, Tony Blackburn (who hosts his own show on Southern TV), Emperor Rosko, Mike Raven, Chris Denning, Mike Lennox, Keith Skues, Pete Brady, Dave Cash, David Symonds, Ed Stewart and John Peel would take in turns to co-host the show with Savile, Murray and Freeman. This also conveniently doubles up as an audition for future appearances, but most of the DJs wouldn't be seen on the show again. When prompted by Disc as to the future of the three regular hosts producer Stewart told them "Please do not jump to conclusions about people leaving."

It was rumoured before Christmas that the Radio 1 DJs will be replacing the resident hosts, but this wouldn't actually happen for another two years. Jimmy Savile commented in Disc "It would bother me if I was off 'Top of the Pops' - only because I love the programme so much. But I wouldn't be worried. Why should I, when the rest of the things I do bring me in over £850 a week? Anyway, I have a loaded revolver in a drawer beside my bed. I should place it to my temple - then make quite sure someone was there to pull it aside and say 'No, Jimmy don't!'" BBC's Head of Light Entertainment Bill Cotton Jr, one of the show's architects said "The format of pop is changing, and this is reflected in the programme by bringing in new personalities. But there is no question of anyone being dropped. The regular comperes are tremendously professional. Pete Murray, for instance, is desperately professional. I consider him one of the finest deejays in the world."

The Pops decides to enter the spirit of the Summer of Love a few months late as the producers use a new lightning system for the two Christmas shows. The rig was designed by Mike Leonard, who usually worked with the likes of Pink Floyd.

Controversy dogged the show as Scott Walker's hit single Jacky was effectively banned. Talking to Disc Bill Cotton Jr said "There are certain programmes on which records like Scott Walker's 'Jacky' will not be played. To my mind some of the words are not the sort twelve and thirteen year-olds should hear. They're very damaging. And Top Of The Pops for instance, is not the show to hear them on."

The show appeared to be a dating agency for pop stars. In 1967 alone Mickey Dolenz met Samantha Juste and married her, similarly Barry Gibb met Linda and Maurice Gibb met future wife Lulu all backstage at the show.

Fans of the show would finally get to see a complete archive edition as the Boxing Day show, and it's promotional trailer, were kept by the BBC. However, since the show features co-host Jimmy Savile it's unlikely ever to be seen again.


Mike Leonard's psychedelic light show seems to have made it into the early shows, but by the summer a more subdued version seems to have been used.

Alan Freeman would leave the show for several months to host his own BBC pop show All Systems Freeman, but it flopped, so he returned to the show in April. Producer Johnnie Stewart also leaves to work on Freeman's show, and is replaced by Colin Charman who tells Disc "The future format of 'Top Of The Pops' is still in the melting pot. But it must be kept basically the same. We have, however, a brilliant new designer in Mel Cornish and he will be bringing some exciting visual ideas to the show. We hope to get a lot of pace in it." The set design expands as audience members are now seen dancing behind one of the stages. Care it apparently taken in not playing records that are likely to be played on All Systems Freeman the following night. The Tip For The Top and New Release spots will stay until further notice. However, after the first edition of Freeman's show The Pops decided to drop the New Release spot. Talking to Disc Johnnie Stewart said We couldn't run the 'New Release' item bearing in mind the format of Alan's show. So we have dropped it. Instead we may have something bubbling under the Top Twenty." It's probably no co-incidence that the show's spot shared the same name as Tony Blackburn's new ITV show.

Confirming the BBC's commitment to the show Bill Cotton Jnr tells Disc "'Top Of The Pops' is a fantasy-type show which relies a lot on clever camera work. We fought hard to get it like it is - and I'm certain it's a formula that will hold sure for a good many years."

On the 1st February it would be John Peel's turn to appear on the show, co-hosting with Jimmy Savile. It did not go well. After his mind went blank during one link the producer caught Peel trying to sneak out the building and cautioned him ‘I'll make sure you never work in television again.' A threat which Peel didn't argue with. Peel however would return in December 1981 and would go on to become a regular and much loved member of the Pops team together with his Radio 1 'Rhythm Twin' Dave Jensen and later on, with Janice Long.

Pete Murray announced in February that he will be leaving the show as soon as his TV sitcom reaches the screens, but this was an empty threat as he continued to host the show until the end of the decade.

In April Billy Cotton Jr, head of Variety and Light Entertainment at the BBC briefly considered extending the show to fifty minutes, beginning in June, but then changed his mind. Talking to Melody Maker he said "I decided against it. One has to take into account the pop content of other programmes like Dee Time and the Billy Cotton Show."

In May the Musician's Union voted to ban session players from standing in for group members in recording sessions and on TV. The Love Affair had admitted in a TV interview that they didn't play on their own records, leading to action by the union. A BBC spokesman told the Melody Maker that "Groups appearing live on Top Of The Pops play with the studio accompanying orchestra and simulate the sound of their hit record as closely as possible. But they may record the number earlier for showing on the programme. This is permissible." There was already a no miming agreement between the show and the union.

Stuart Henry is announced as the new, regular addition to the hosting line up. Talking to Disc in May he said "I never really thought 'Top Of The Pops' would happen for me. I've heard rumours about me getting the show almost since I joined Radio 1, and they were beginning to get me down. and now it's happened I can't really believe it."

In May 1968 show a new dance troupe appeared. Pan's People had been brought in to replace the occasionally absent GoJos, who would go on to be regular dancers on The Val Doonican Show later in the year. Choreography would be handled by American dancer Felicity 'Flick' Colby who would stay with the show until the dancers were disposed of during the Michael Hurll years in the early eighties. The three founder members, Dee Dee, Flick and Babs had been members of The Beat Girls, but left in December 1966 after turning down a work in panto' in order to return home to their families. After a despondent drunken night they decided to form their own dance troupe and after ditching the idea of calling themselves Dionysus Darlings the idea of Pan, the goddess of dance came to them. After working on Belgian and Dutch TV they got the gig at the BBC. Pan's People defined Top Of The Pops for many viewers, not just the lecherous Benny Hill stereotypes, but for girls too who would love the outfits, much to the concern of many mothers! Colby would later admit frustration of having chosen a record to choreograph on Friday for the following weeks' show, only to find the record had gone down the chart a few days' later. So the routine, and even the costumes, had to be scrapped and a new routine to another song hastily arranged. The troupe were never contracted together for the show, signing contracts individually and renewed every thirteen weeks. Despite the anonymity they decided to wear signature colours wherever possible - Dee Dee wore red, Babs wore blue, Ruth wore yellow, Louise wore green and Flick wore purple. They were given three days to rehearse the song on Friday, Monday, Tuesday and record on Wednesday evening for the Thursday show. They were on Equity union minimum, starting on £19 per show, rising to £45 towards the end of their tenure.

The show continues with it's regular presenter and Radio 1 DJ co-host format. The DJ is seen very much as a guest presenter, but on occasion a pop star would guest host, with Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Alan Price and Lulu all making a go of it. However from time to time just one presenter (Savile / Freeman / Murray) would appear.

On the 20th June Radio 1 DJ Stuart Henry became the first Radio One DJ to become the sole presenter that week, becoming a regular presenter from the end of July onwards. Sole presenters would be the norm from then on.

In August Johnnie Stewart claimed in a Melody Maker interview that there was interest in an American version of the show. While acknowledging that clips of the show were sent to Germany he also raised doubts about such a project "... so many odd things stand in the way of deals of this kind. Some agents don't want clips of their artists to be seen on TV. There are also problems involving copyright and the musician's unions - on both sides of the Atlantic."

By the time of the Pops' 250th show on October it was pulling in around twelve million viewers a week, and all four current presenters were brought together for the occasion. Talking to the Daily Mirror Colin Charman, producer of the anniversary show, claimed "The reason for the show's success is that Top of the Pops has always catered for a universal pop taste for the whole family. It has never gone too way out."

Again, the show was given a Christmas Day special, with two presenters playing the hits of the year, with part two on Boxing Day hosted by the other two presenters.


Into its fifth anniversary and the show continues with its 'yes, it's number one, it's Top of the Pops' intro, followed by the chart run down with the number one record and the DJ introduced. The show ends with Johnny Pearson's end theme Topsy Popsy with the audience dancing as it has done since 1966.

The 20th of February show sees the chart extend its coverage from the top twenty to the top thirty. According to Top Pop magazine the show's producer Colin Charman "decided to enlarge the scope of the programme to use the current Top 30 of the BBC's new computerised chart." The same show saw an appearance by comedian Dick Emery whose new release was given a plug on the Pops. Over the next few years other BBC variety faces like Clive Dunn, Ronnie Corbett and Bruce Forsyth would use the show in the hope in attracting more attention to their own shows.

The Pops would on occasion either be cancelled or presented in an shortened format due to sport, elections (also held on a Thursday in Britain) or in the case of 13th March 1969 the Apollo 9 splashdown to earth, leading to a fourteen minute show, easily the shortest in the show's lifetime.

The set design now incorporated a raised platform, over by the TOTP logo for dancers, while a back projected light show was still evident.

The now regular presenting team of Savile, Murray, Freeman and Henry continued, but Stuart Henry bows out on 27th March and on 24th April they were joined by Radio 1's Tony Blackburn who would stay with the show until the early eighties. Talking to Melody Maker a BBC spokesman said "For a long time, this fourth deejay spot has been quite fluid. The idea was to introduce new faces into the show and Stuart came into this category." However, Stuart Henry told a different story in the same article "The BBC hasn't bothered to notify either my agent, Bunny Lewis, or me about the change. Obviously the BBC has its reasons. The one that springs to mind is that Tony is much prettier than me. That's indisputable. Of course, I'm sorry to be leaving Top Of The Pops, but I do have my own eight week series coming up on Tyne Tees from February 21."

It was suggested by Tom Sloan, BBC head of light entertainment while at the Montreux television festival that there could be a Eurovision Top Of The Pops each month with participating countries sending over their number one record via Eurovision. Sweden had agreed to the idea, with Hans Lagerkvist, programme manager of the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation claiming "The show would be shown each month, giving viewers the best of European pop music". The show never happened, but for a brief period in the mid-eighties John Peel and Dave Jensen would present international charts on the show.

In June the American Federation of Musicians imposed a ban on visiting British musicians, which leads the British Musicians Union to respond with their own, leading to projected appearances by The Ohio Express and Paul Revere & The Raiders being cancelled. A BBC spokesman talking to the Melody Maker stated “It is obvious that if the top five places in the in the charts were held by American groups, and they happened to be in this country and available for TV, it would be a great pity not to be able to feature them. Now, when groups appear in Britain, we will obviously not go out of our way to book them.”

October brings a problem that the Pops would have to deal with on occasion in years to come, a record at number one which had been blanket banned by the BBC, so not given any radio, or television airtime. The record in question was Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin's 'Je T'aime Moi Non Plus.' The ban was enforced due to its erotic lyrical content (despite the fact that most viewers couldn't speak French so wouldn't be offended), so an instrumental version by the Johnny Pearson Orchestra was used instead. Speaking to Melody Maker at the time Johnnie Stewart said "If it gets to number one, I'll play the instrumental cover version of the song by Sounds Nice", despite the fact that the cover version wasn't the number one record and didn't even have the same title, theirs being "Love At First Sight". "I've already made enquiries about getting them for the show, and if they're available they'll be on." Sounds Nice were in fact a group of studio musicians put together to cover the song, led by Paul Buckmaster and produced by Gus Dudgeon, who together would work miracles for David Bowie and Elton John. Despite the success Philips Records had deleted it, handing it over to the independent Major Minor Records whose boss Philip Solomon threatened legal action if Top Of The Pops refused to play it.

BBC1 In Colour

Both the BBC and ITV had been making colour shows for several years in advance of the proposed colour television service, announced for introduction mid November 1969. The BBC had made colour test recordings in 1959, while some ITV companies had been filming shows in colour since the mid sixties specifically for the American market. As for the Pops, some colour recording had been made in 1967, but this was purely for test purposes only and was never intended for broadcast. Talking to Melody Maker in July 1969 a spokesman for Top Of The Pops talked of the move to colour in November "We shall probably go into the colour studios before that to get the feeling of it."

On Friday 14th November 1969 BBC1 and ITV both switched to colour and the Pops equipped itself with a larger studio at Television Centre which could now take an audience of three hundred. The set had been redesigned to have more room for the audience to dance. However the intended 20th November show had to make way in the schedule for the Apollo 12 lunar mission, so we had to wait until the following Thursday 27th November 1969 to see Top Of The Pops in colour for the first time. From the available evidence the opening and closing credits appear not to have changed, but they would soon be replaced.

However, the week of the first colour show brought bad news for Alan Freeman and Pete Murray as it was announced that they were to be dropped from the show. Mel Cornish told Melody Maker "There are no plans at all to present any new faces, but the position will be reviewed in the new year." Freeman claimed "It wasn't a shock. I've had six very good years. One has to be philosophical about these things."

The BBC announced in December 1969 that Top Of The Pops would be extended to 45 minutes in the new year. Talking to the Melody Maker a BBC spokesman explained "The extended time means that Top Of The Pops will now be able to draw from the Top 30 instead of the Top 20. Instead of six or seven records being featured it will mean something like 12. And there will now be an opportunity to include groups who are around the 32 or 42 mark in the chart, so this will give more scope for the screening of up-and-coming talent." At the same time the BBC announced the first series of Disco 2, which would also promote new talent. This together with the experimental tone of Lulu's show at the beginning of the year suggests that BBC were recognising the worth of non-chart talent to fill air time. Producer Mel Collins said "We've been after an extension for a long time. Now at last we've got it."

The first colour Christmas show didn't use Pan's People, but the male-female troupe The Ascot Dancers who had the names of the presenters and some of the acts written on their torsos in lipstick and make up. Alan Freeman and Pete Murray were on their way out but bid farewell on the two Christmas shows. Christmas was also taken up with a charity football match between the Top Of The Pops XI versus the Top Ten XI at the Dolphin Stadium in Slough.


The 1960s