TV Cream

Radio 1: The Shows

Top Forty, The

“SING SOMETHING SIMPLE featured the Cliff Adams Singers and the Jack Emblow Quartet…”; with those heart-glowing words, a nation’s teens pressed Rec and Play on their big brother’s shiny silver Amstrad ghetto blaster, and prepared to create their very own Close Encounters Of The Chart Kind on a flaky, overused WH Smith C90. Back then, Radio 1 was only allowed access to the FM airwaves on a Sunday afternoon for the Top 40 and on weeknights for John Peel, adapting to the available two hour slot and covering the whole Top 40 by simply not playing the ones going down. For many years, ‘spoilers’ oddly aired the previous Tuesday, leading to clusters of Jam or Smiths fans loitering by the sixth form common room door, straining to hear if A Town Called Malice or Shoplifters Of The World Unite was the highest new entry. Sunday afternoon countdown came into its own for Generation Cream in the early 80s with TONY BLACKBURN’s tenure – Adam And The Ants! Toni Basil! Altered Images! – and introduction of idea of playing every song in the Top 40, but getting them all in by playing two-thirds of each one, an idea eventually canned. Oh, and not forgetting the time he announced a new entry for a new band from Birmingham: “…with Planet Earth, this is Dur-run Dur-run”.

Then it was the turn of TOMMY VANCE to count down those hits, using an instrumental version of Men At Work’s Down Under as backing music (“…at number 23, its The Lotus Eaters, with The First Picture Of You!”). In 1984 – the year the Top 40 Show was allowed to buck the network’s ban on Frankie’s Relax – competition hoved into view with ILR’s The Network Chart Show, as David ‘Kid’ Jensen weirdly morphed back from evening semi-alternative guru and Peel-endorsed rhythm pal to Capital housewives choice. By now, RICHARD SKINNER was charged with counting down the platters that matter, with bizarre ‘telex’ sound effects, before the dreaded BRUNO BROOKES took the chair for the as-they-happened countdowns in the late 80s, famously seeing out his last days by playing Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of with all sixteen ‘fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’s and bellowed ‘motherfuckaaaaaaaaa’ intact, with Mark Goodier taking the chair up to the end of the Cream Era.



  1. Adrian

    August 28, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I listened to the Top 40 most sundays between 1983 and about 1995, this brought back a few memories..

  2. Matthew Harris

    August 25, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    I totally understand why you’ve left out the two mercifully brief stints BATES. had on the chart show: April 78 to August 79 and January to September 84. Sadly not brief enough that he doesn’t count.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    February 20, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Probably at its best and most Cream like during the Tom Browne era in the seventies, where Browne managed to present a one hour Top 20 without sounding stressed or fluffing his words and best remembered for its theme tune by CCS. It’s six o clock on Radios 1 and 2 is probably ingrained into the memories of millions who grew up in the seventies.
    Interestingly this was Browne’s only gig at Radio 1, apart from the occasional interview, and his young James Mason voice was never heard on the station again after 1978. Could this be a reason he left, as he never let on about his decision, and the station certainly was poorer without him.

  4. Richardpd

    February 21, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    I’ve still got some old chart tapes I made in 1986-7 & didn’t bother to pause during the DJ links. Normally I could fit the top 20 onto a C90. I still have these & digitised them a few years ago.

    Mostly they were presented by Bruno Brookes, but one is presented by Tommy Vance who was standing in that week.

    The sung number jingles “Britain’s Number One!” were a bit of a 1970s throwback by the late 1980s, & a few months later they were updated, I think this was when the charts became that week’s Monday-Saturday sales.

    • Glenn Aylett

      February 21, 2021 at 2:45 pm

      The Top 40 switched to being announced on a Sunday in 1987, which made it harder for home tapers to choose their favourite songs. By then, Radio 1 was facing strong competition from the Network Chart on ILR, which while not official, often had remixes of hits and a better presenter with David Jensen.

      • Richardpd

        February 21, 2021 at 11:15 pm

        I don’t remember listening to the Network Charts much but I think it used a different methodology (Saturday – Friday? sales from different shops) as sometimes the positions were different.

        It’s a shame the BBC couldn’t keep hold of David Jensen as he was one of their better DJs in the first half of the 1980s.

  5. Droogie

    February 21, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    @ Glenn Aylett Someone’s uploaded some of the Tom Browne Top 40 shows on YouTube. What a voice! Hearing him again brought back a Proustian rush of memories of always hearing the Top 40 in the car when my dad used to drop my mum off to work at the local British Legion on Sunday evenings. Hearing his use of Heartsong by Gordon Giltrap as backing music for the countdown again was especially evocative.

    • Glenn Aylett

      February 23, 2021 at 4:56 pm

      @Droogie, it was a top 20 then, but there was no doubting the professionalism of Browne and the show did have his name in the title for some years. Also it was preceded by a breakers and new releases show from 4 until 6 that lasted until 1975 that Browne hosted. Yet he never reached the same level of fame as people like Tony Blackburn and left the station in 1978. I do believe he now lives on a farm in Thailand.

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