“FULL OF PLUM PUDDING, I EXPECT!”
There’s some sixties Pops stuff on YouTube but more or less all of it has either been on TOTP2 a million times or is just bizarre, put on YouTube by thieves who anonymously stick on stuff from wiped episodes covered in DOGs rather than giving them to the BBC, so we’ll start our jaunt through the archives with the second half of Christmas 1971. To be honest, you’ll probably have seen most of this episode before too, but maybe not in its entirety with Tony’s rather boring banter. And of course the high point is the disappearing Tam who you’ll notice is never referred to, and this show wasn’t even live!
“247 MUSICMAKERS IN THE FINEST TRADITION!”
Quite a lot of Pops on YouTube comes courtesy of the German channel einsFestival, who showed a load of seventies episodes last year, and it’s a shame no British channel has had the wit to do the same since UK Gold did it in the mid-nineties, when hardly anyone had it. Still, various people dutifully recorded them and whacked them online, so that’s good. One added bonus this time was that episodes were screened starring Noel Edmonds, as Noel refused UK Gold permission to screen them, so we get shows like this from April 1974. The chart rundown and Noel’s intro is there, and we always think they go into the 30-1 sequence in the titles too late, they’re already on the fade by the time they get to number fifteen and then fly through the last few numbers. Anywhere, among the highlights of the episode are our favourite Mud song and Mungo Jerry with the agreeably frantic Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black, which as Carmo perceptively notes in the comments, didn’t get in the top ten but is more famous than Baby Jump, which got to number one but we have never ever heard. Worth it for the pianist’s brilliant “ooh, I’m on the telly!” moment at 1:30.
“I WONDER IF CAN WILL GET IN THE TOP TIN!”
Christ, no wonder Noel didn’t want anyone to see these shows, his puns are appalling. Nevertheless this is a great when-worlds-collide moment as Noel introduces the majestic I Want More by Can. What’s important to remember about Pops in those days is that bands could appear on the show while they were about number fifty and, as it was more or less the only pop show on telly, you’d hear stuff for the first time ever, like Can here. Here’s the performance again, this time opening the show a few weeks later after the charts (“Starland Vocal Band?! They suck!”) but surely the best opener of any show ever is this one from 7/7/77 where surely ten million people would simultaneously have gone “What the hell is this?”. Actually this isn’t a particularly good version of The Crunch by The Rah Band, for it is that, here’s the brilliant studio version, but you don’t get the guitarist’s lovely smile, so swings and roundabouts.
“IT’S TIME TO LOOK AND LISTEN TO THE MUSIC!”
Bar the odd skill track like those, the mid-seventies were a bit grim musically, though it got loads better at the end of the decade. Sadly Pops failed to really catch up and some of the shows around 1979 have some ace tunes but are presented with absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever, Kid Jensen tried his best but the audience looked bored witless. The music’s often fantastic, though, and here’s an episode from October 1979, during the ITV strike, and the idea that twenty million people would hear XTC is a remarkable one. There’s some other good stuff elsewhere in that episode too, shame it’s so boringly presented, but the highlight is surely nine and a half minutes into this when Kid introduces Pops’ newest recruit, and what a dynamic entrance he makes. He didn’t appear again for another two and a half years, unsurprisingly.
“THE MERRIEST OF ALL, YEAH!”
Anyway, in the summer of 1980, the Pops went on strike for three months, and when it came back, Michael Hurll was calling the shots, and from here we entered the neon’n’streamers golden age. By the time we got to Christmas 1981, the show was in its pomp and this remarkable sequence of all the DJs singing along to All You Need Is Love is jaw-dropping for all sorts of reasons. But you know, rather that than the audience just staring. In fact the whole of this rather curious but highly entertaining episode – featuring Kirsty MacColl and Colin Blunstone even though they never got into the top ten – is online, though sadly the first part has been muted, so you’ll have to start with part two. Worse still, the mass DJ dance to Friend Or Foe by Adam Ant, from the Radio 1 fifteenth anniversary show in 1982, has been taken off YouTube, though fortunately it’s been burnt into our brain.
“A LITTLE CLOSER TO HOME, FROM NORTH WALES!”
It surely can’t be argued that early eighties Top of the Pops was anything other than the acme of the show’s brilliance, and it was certainly required viewing on Thursday nights at the time. Here’s your opportunity to relive those days, right back to sitting through Tomorrow’s World, with the above junction from June 1982, then this even more textbook example from January 1984, with Smith and Skinner joined by a pre-fame Gaz Top and failing to point out that among the delights to come, the number one single would not be one of them. By this point we’d gone to double headed presentation, with some very odd pairings, like this and surely the best ever combination of hosts and band, as DLT and Tony Blackburn introduce King Kurt. The best Pops hosts were, of course, the Rhythm Pals themselves, Kid Jensen and John Peel, and we’re not going to say anything about this clip, just watch how it starts.
“THE STUDIO-BASED BAND OF HIT MUSIC LOVERS, MIRAGE!”
Well, there’s plenty more Pops on YouTube, but we thought we’d end this feature with a look at some other music TV, most obviously the short-lived “rival” to the Pops, The Roxy. The above link is the charts from the first ever episode from June 1987, which can be seen in full on MySpace, including an exciting guest appearance from Elkie Brooks. Sadly a strike more or less did for the show and here’s a full episode from December 1987, when they could only show videos and old clips, and who’d have thought Kid Jensen in a cricket jumper interviewing The Hooters would fail to get the primetime ITV audience excited? Note they’d already had a revamp, and there was another one to come, although by March 1988, from which we have the last eight minutes of an episode, it was probably no worse than Pops at the time. Sadly the final moments, with the giant ROXY sign collapsing, have fallen off YouTube, but we’re just thrilled to see anything at all from this elusive show. And don’t forget, if you want to know more about The Roxy, The Roxy Book is available in every single charity shop in Britain.
And finally, the greatest piece of music television ever – The Brits 1989. All of it. We need say nothing else.