Checked content

Top of the Pops

Related subjects: Television

Background to the schools Wikipedia

This wikipedia selection has been chosen by volunteers helping SOS Children from Wikipedia for this Wikipedia Selection for schools. SOS mothers each look after a a family of sponsored children.

Top of the Pops
Top of the Pops 2003.jpg
Title screen used from 2003 to 2006
Format UK Singles Chart
Created by Johnnie Stewart
Presented by Fearne Cotton
Reggie Yates
(see full list)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 2214
Executive producer(s) Johnnie Stewart (1964–73)
Robin Nash (1973–80)
Michael Hurll (1980–87)
Paul Ciani (1988–91)
Stanley Appel (1991–94)
Ric Blaxill (1994–97)
Chris Cowey (1997–2003)
Andi Peters (2003–05)
Mark Cooper (2005–)
Producer(s) Stanley Dorfman
Mel Cornish
Colin Charman
Phil Bishop
Brian Whitehouse
Mark Wells
Sally Wood
Running time 25–60 minutes
Original channel BBC One
BBC TV (1964)
BBC Two (2005–06)
Original run Weekly run:
1 January 1964 (1964-01-01)
Christmas specials:
25 December 2006 (2006-12-25) – present
Related shows Top of the Pops 2
Top Gear of the Pops
Top of the Pops Reloaded
External links

Top of the Pops, also known as TOTP, is a British music chart television programme, made by the BBC and originally broadcast weekly between 1 January 1964 and 30 July 2006. It was traditionally shown every Thursday evening on BBC One, before being moved to Fridays in 1996, and then to Sundays on BBC Two in 2005. Each weekly programme consisted of performances from some of that week's best-selling popular music artists, with a rundown of that week's singles chart. Additionally, there was a special edition of the programme on Christmas Day (and, until 1984, a second such edition a few days after Christmas), featuring some of the best-selling singles of the year.

Although the weekly show was cancelled, the Christmas special has continued. It also survives as Top of the Pops 2, which began in 1994 and features vintage performances from the Top of the Pops archives.

In the 1990s, the show's format was sold to several foreign broadcasters in the form of a franchise package, and at one point various versions of the show were shown in nearly 100 countries. Editions of the programme from the 1970s are being repeated on most Thursdays on BBC Four.


The first Top of the Pops aired from Dickenson Road Studios in Manchester on 1 January 1964.

Top of the Pops was created by BBC producer Johnnie Stewart, inspired by the popular Teen and Twenty Disc Club which aired on Radio Luxembourg.

Top of the Pops began on New Year's Day 1964 in Studio A on Dickenson Road in Rusholme, Manchester, which the BBC had bought from Mancunian Films in 1954. The show was originally intended to have only a few programmes but ran for over 42 years, reaching landmark episodes of 1000, 1500 and 2000 in the years 1983, 1992 and 2002 respectively. During its heyday in the 1970s, it attracted 15 million viewers each week. Largely due to the varying levels of availability of chart acts throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the show featured tightly choreographed dance troupes such as Ruby Flipper, Legs & Co. and Zoo. The original troupe, The Go-Jos, were succeeded by Pan's People, who were used when an act was unable to appear in person and no footage of them was available – a common occurrence in the era before promotional videos. By the mid-1980s the troupes were dropped and the audience took a more active role, often dancing in more prominent areas such as behind performing acts on the back of the stage, and on podiums. TOTP was traditionally shown on a Thursday night, but was moved to a Friday starting on 14 June 1996, originally at 7 pm, but then shifted to 7.30 pm, a change which placed the programme up against the soap opera Coronation Street on ITV. This began a major decline in audience figures as fans were forced to choose between Top of the Pops and an episode of the soap.

The show saw many changes through the decades, in style, design, fashion and taste. It periodically had some aspect of its idents, format, or set design altered in some way, keeping the show looking modern despite its age. The programme had several executive producers during its run (although not all were billed as such), in charge of the overall production of the show, although specific content on individual shows was sometimes decided by other producers. When Stewart left the show in 1973, after nearly 10 years in charge, he was replaced by Robin Nash. In 1980, Nash was replaced by Michael Hurll, who introduced more of a "party" feel to the show, with performances often accompanied by balloons and cheerleaders. Paul Ciani took over in 1988. Stewart, Nash and Hurll all made brief returns to the show as producer after they left, in 1976, 1981 and 1991-2 respectively.

The show was originally based on the Top 20. By 1970 the Top 30 was being used, and a switch to the Top 40 was made in 1984. (Radio One also changed to the Top 30 in the early 70s and to the Top 40 in 1978).

From 1967, the show was closely associated with the BBC radio station Radio 1, usually being presented by DJs from the station and between 1988 and 1991 the BBC1 programme was simulcast on the radio network. During the last few years of airing the association became less close, most notably in a radical shake-up, introduced by incoming Executive Producer Stanley Appel (who had worked on the programme since 1966 as cameraman, production assistant, director and stand-in producer) in October 1991, when the Radio 1 DJs were replaced by a team of relative unknowns, such as Claudia Simon and Tony Dortie who had previously worked for CBBC, 17-year-old local radio DJ Mark Franklin, Steve Anderson, Adrian Rose and Elayne Smith, who was replaced by Femi Oke in 1992. The team would take turns presenting either in pairs or solo and would often introduce acts in an out-of-vision voiceover over the song's instrumental introduction and sometimes even conducted short informal interviews with the performers. Rules relating to performance were also altered meaning acts had to sing live. To incorporate the shift of dominance towards American artists, more use was made of out-of-studio performances, with acts in America able to transmit their song to the Top of the Pops audience "via satellite". These changes were widely unpopular and much of the team were axed within a year, leaving the show presented solely by Dortie and Franklin by 1993, on a week-by-week rotation. The arrival of Ric Blaxill as producer in February 1994 signalled a return to presentation from established Radio 1 DJs Simon Mayo, Mark Goodier, Nicky Campbell and Bruno Brookes.

Blaxill expanded the use of "via satellite" performances, taking the acts out of studios and concert halls and setting them against landmark backdrops. As a consequence, Bon Jovi performed Always from Niagara Falls and Celine Dion beamed in Think Twice from Miami Beach. Blaxill also began experimenting with handing presenting duties to celebrities, commonly contemporary comedians and pop stars who were not in the charts at that time. In an attempt to keep the links between acts as fresh as the performances themselves, the so-called "golden mic" was used by, amongst others, Kylie Minogue, Meat Loaf, Chris Eubank, Damon Albarn, Harry Hill, Jack Dee, Lulu and Jarvis Cocker. Radio 1 DJs still presented occasionally, notably Lisa I'Anson, Steve Lamacq, Jo Whiley and Chris Evans. In 1997, incoming producer Chris Cowey phased out the use of celebrities and established a rotating team (similar to the 1991 revamp, although much more warmly received) of former presenters of youth music magazine The O-Zone Jayne Middlemiss and Jamie Theakston as well as Radio 1 DJs Jo Whiley and Zoë Ball. The team was later augmented by Kate Thornton and Gail Porter.

Appearance rules

Stewart devised the rules which governed how the show would operate: the programme would always end with the number one record, which was the only record ever repeated from the previous week. The show would include the highest new entry and the highest climber on the charts, but no song going down in the chart was included.

Tracks could be featured in consecutive weeks in different formats. For example, if a song was played over the chart countdown or the closing credits, then it was acceptable for the act to appear in studio the following week.

These rules were abandoned in 1997, possibly as a response to the changing nature of the Top 40 (in the late 1990s and early 2000s climbers in the charts were a rarity, with almost all singles peaking at their debut position).

When the programme's format changed in November 2003 (three months after the appointment of Andi Peters as Executive Producer), it concentrated increasingly on the top 10. Later, during the BBC Two era, the top 20 was regarded as the main cut-off point, with the exception made for up and coming bands below the top 20. Singles from below the top 40 (within the top 75) were shown if the band were up and coming or had a strong selling album. If a single being performed was below the top 40, just the words "New Entry" were shown and not the chart position.

The first show

DJs Jimmy Savile and Alan Freeman presented the first show, which featured (in order) The Rolling Stones with " I Wanna Be Your Man", Dusty Springfield with " I Only Want to Be with You", the Dave Clark Five with "Glad All Over", The Hollies with "Stay", The Swinging Blue Jeans with " Hippy Hippy Shake" and The Beatles with "I Want to Hold Your Hand", that week's number one (throughout its history, the programme always finished with the best-selling single of the week). For the first three years Savile rotated with three other presenters: Alan Freeman, Pete Murray and David Jacobs. A Mancunian model, Samantha Juste, was the regular "disc girl". The silhouette which ended each programme was that of Stewart, the show's producer, although many people assumed this was Billy Fury. Local photographer Harry Goodwin was hired to provide shots of non-appearing artists, and also to provide backdrops for the chart run-down. He would continue in the role until 1973. In 2010, the Victoria and Albert Museum mounted a major exhibit of his photographs My Generation: The Glory Years of British Rock – Photographs from Top of the Pops 1964–1973, and again published an accompanying book. In October 2011, My Generation: The Glory years of British Rock was displayed for free at The Public in West Bromwich.

All New Top of the Pops

On 28 November 2003, the show saw one of its most radical overhauls in what was widely reported as a make-or-break attempt to revitalise the long-running series. In a break with the previous format, the show played more up-and-coming tracks ahead of any chart success, and also featured interviews with artists. The launch show, which was live and an hour long, was notable for a performance of " Flip Reverse" by Blazin' Squad, featuring hordes of hooded teenagers choreographed to dance around the outside of BBC Television Centre. The new show, hosted by MTV presenter Tim Kash, launched to low ratings and scathing reviews. Kash continued to host the show for a year before being dropped by the BBC, later taking up a new contract at MTV. The show was then co-hosted by Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton every Friday night until 8 July 2005.

By November 2004, viewing figures had plummeted to below three million, prompting announcement by the BBC that the show was going to move, again, to Sunday evenings on BBC Two, thus losing the prime-time slot on BBC One that it had maintained for more than forty years. This move was widely reported as a final "sidelining" of the show, and perhaps signalled its likely cancellation. At the time, it was insisted that this was so that the show would air immediately after the official announcement of the new top 40 chart on Radio 1, as it was thought that by the following Friday, the chart seemed out-of-date. The final Top of the Pops to be shown on BBC One (barring Christmas and New Year specials) was broadcast on Monday 11 July 2005, which was edition number 2,166.

The first edition on BBC Two was broadcast on 17 July 2005 at 7 pm with presenter Fearne Cotton. After the move to Sundays, Cotton continued to host with a different guest presenter each week, such as Rufus Hound or Richard Bacon. On a number of occasions however, Reggie Yates would step in, joined by female guest presenters such as Lulu and Anastacia. Viewing figures averaged around 1.5 million.

Top of the Pops: Alfresco

On 30 July 2004, the show took place in Gateshead to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary. Girls Aloud, Busted, Will Young and Jamelia were among the performers that night.

The Final Countdown

On 20 June 2006, the show was formally cancelled and it was announced that the last edition would be broadcast on 30 July 2006. Edith Bowman co-presented its hour-long swansong, along with Jimmy Savile (who had presented the first show), Reggie Yates, Mike Read, Pat Sharp, Sarah Cawood, Dave Lee Travis, Rufus Hound, Tony Blackburn and Janice Long. The final day of recording was 26 July 2006 and featured archive footage and tributes, including The Rolling Stones – the very first band to appear on Top of the Pops – opening with "The Last Time", the Spice Girls, David Bowie, Wham!, Madonna, Beyoncé, Gnarls Barkley, The Jackson 5, Sonny and Cher and Robbie Williams. The show closed with a final countdown, topped by Shakira, as her track " Hips Don't Lie" (featuring Wyclef Jean) had climbed back up to number one on the UK Singles Chart earlier in the day. The show ended with Savile ultimately turning the lights off in the empty studio.

Fearne Cotton, who was the current presenter, was unavailable to co-host for the final edition due to her filming of ITV's Love Island in Fiji but kicked off the show with a quick introduction recorded on location, saying "It's still number one, it's Top of the Pops". BARB reported the final show's viewing figures as 3.98 million. Since the last episode featured no live acts in the studio, the honour of being the last act to actually perform on a weekly episode of TOTP goes to Snow Patrol with " Chasing Cars" in the penultimate edition, the last act ever featured visually on a weekly Top of the Pops was Girls Aloud, as part of the closing sequence of bands performing on the show throughout the years. They were shown performing " Love Machine".

After the end

The magazine and TOTP2 have survived despite the show's axing, and the Christmas editions also continue. However, the TOTP website, which the BBC had originally promised would continue, is now no longer updated, although many of the old features of the site – interviews, music news, reviews – have remained, now in the form of the Radio 1-affiliated TOTP ChartBlog accessible via the remains of the old website.

In October 2008, the then British Culture Secretary Andy Burnham and Manchester indie band The Ting Tings called for the show to return. On 29 October 2008, Simon Cowell stated in an interview that he would be willing to buy the rights to Top of the Pops from the BBC. The corporation responded that they had not been formally approached by Cowell, and that in any case the format was not "up for sale". In November 2008, it was reported by The Times and other newspapers that the weekly programme was to be revived in 2009, but the BBC said there were no such plans. In July 2009, Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant criticised the BBC for ending the programme, stating that new acts were missing out on "that great moment of being crowned that week's Kings of Pop".

In April 2011, the BBC began to reshow Top of the Pops on Thursday nights on BBC Four beginning with the equivalent show from 35 years earlier in the same 7.30-8pm slot. The starting point, 1 April 1976, was chosen because it was the point at which most episodes remain in the archive. The repeats are continuing as at March 2013, repeating episodes from 1978 - however, following the Jimmy Savile allegations, from October 2012, episodes featuring Jimmy Savile ceased to be broadcast. Following the arrest of Dave Lee Travis by officers investigating Savile, episodes featuring Travis are also being omitted.

Christmas specials

Although the weekly Top of the Pops has been cancelled the Christmas Specials have continued, hosted by Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates. The Christmas specials are broadcast on Christmas Day afternoon on BBC One. In 2008 and 2009, a New Year's Eve special was also broadcast. The New Year's Eve special returned for 2012 along with the regular Christmas special.

Comic Relief specials

The show was given a revival for Comic Relief 2007 in the form of Top Gear of the Pops. This one-off special was presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May and filmed at the Top Gear aerodrome studio in Surrey on Sunday, 11 March 2007.

On 13 March 2009, Top of The Pops was once again revived in its usual format for a special live Comic Relief edition, airing on BBC Two while the main telethon took a break for the BBC News at Ten on BBC One. As with the Christmas specials the show was presented by Radio 1 duo Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates with special guest presenter Noel Fielding and appearances from Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Claudia Winkleman, Jonathan Ross, Davina McCall (dancing in the audience and later as a Flo Rida dancer with Claudia Winkleman and French and Saunders), and David Tennant.

Live performances – interspersed with Comic Relief appeal films – included acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Oasis, Take That, U2, James Morrison, and Flo Rida (that week's Number 1). Kicking off the show was a performance from Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones in their Gavin & Stacey guises, feat. Tom Jones and Robin Gibb with "(Barry) Islands in the Stream", the unofficial Comic Relief single.

Performers, performances, and presenters

In its extensive history, Top of the Pops has featured many artists, many of whom have appeared more than once on the show to promote many of their records.

Green Day hold the record for the longest Top of the Pops performance: " Jesus of Suburbia" broadcast on 6 November 2005, lasted 9 minutes and 10 seconds. There is uncertainty about what was the shortest performance. In 2005, presenter Reggie Yates announced on the show that it was Super Furry Animals with " Do or Die", broadcast on 28 January 2000, clocking in at 95 seconds. However, "It's My Turn" by Angelic was 91 seconds on 16 June 2000 and, according to an August 2012 edition of TOTP2, " Here Comes the Summer" by The Undertones was just 84 seconds on 26 July 1979. Cliff Richard appeared the most times on the show, with almost 160 performances. Status Quo were the most frequent group with 87 performances.


Initially acts performing on the show mimed to the commercially released record, but in July 1966 – just after the show had been moved to London – and after discussions with the Musicians' Union, miming was banned. After a few weeks during which some bands' attempts to play as well as on their records were somewhat lacking, a compromise was reached whereby a specially recorded backing track was permitted – as long as all the musicians on the track were present in the studio. The TOTP Orchestra, led by Johnny Pearson augmented the tracks when necessary. This set-up continued until 1980, when a protracted Musicians' Union strike resulted in the dropping of the live orchestra altogether and the use of pre-recorded tracks only. This accounts for a number of acts who never appeared on the show due to their reluctance to perform in this way. Highlights have included Jimi Hendrix who, on hearing someone else's track being played by mistake (in the days of live broadcast), mumbled "I don't know the words to that one, man", Shane MacGowan of the Pogues' drunken performance of " Fairytale of New York", a performance of " Roll with It" by Oasis in which Noel and Liam Gallagher exchanged roles with Noel miming to Liam's singing track and Liam pretending to play guitar, and John Peel's appearance as the mandolin soloist for Rod Stewart on " Maggie May". In 1989, The Stone Roses performed " Fools Gold/What the World Is Waiting For" on the show. Lead singer Ian Brown swung his microphone around while he was supposed to sing. Two other memorable incidents included performances by Marillion; an appearance for " Garden Party" saw Fish miming perfectly except for the line "I'm miming" , when he simply pointed at his closed lips. Two years later, Fish lost his voice prior to an appearance for "Lavender" and, despite only needing to mime, had the lyrics placed on large pieces of card and flipped them over in time with the recorded version, although he had a problem on one occasion with tearing off a sheet, only to quickly catch up in time.

For virtually the whole "Live Sound" period, the Sound Supervisor was the late Dickie Chamberlain, who skilfully reproduced the sound of the original discs with a fraction of the kit available in the recording studios.

The miming policy also led to the occasional technical hitch. A famous example of this is the performance of " Martha's Harbour" in 1988 by All About Eve where the televised audience could hear the song but the band could not. As the opening verse of the song beamed out of the nation's television sets, the unknowing lead singer Julianne Regan remained silent on a stool on stage while Tim Bricheno (the only other band member present) did not play his guitar. An unseen stagehand apparently prompted them that something was wrong in time to mime along to the second verse. The band were invited back the following week, and chose to sing live.

Another hitch was Simon Le Bon singing with Duran Duran. He was posing with his microphone which promptly flew off the stage and he was left to sing into a microphone stand; he just shrugged his shoulders and carried on.

Occasionally bands played live – examples in the 1970s being The Who, John Otway, Sham 69, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Typically Tropical, David Bowie (with Heroes) and, in 1980, the then fledgling heavy metal superstars Iron Maiden played live on the show when they refused to mime to their single "Running Free".

For a few years from 1991 the show adopted a live vocal to pre-recorded backing track policy. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana on " Smells Like Teen Spirit" dropped his voice an octave and changed the opening line ; the band also made it very clear that they were not playing their instruments. (Kurt later said during an interview that he wanted to sound more like Morrissey during the performance). It also exposed a number of poor live singers, and was dropped as a general rule. It was not helped by the fact that it coincided with a sudden upsurge of chart success for dance tracks which were heavily sample-based and whose sound could not easily be reproduced in a TV studio – sampled vocals from other tracks had to be sung live.

One example of an artist who was exposed as a poor live singer was Kelly Overett of the Italian Eurodance act Cappella. During a 1994 performance on the show she sang " Move on Baby", but it was evident that her performance on the show would also lead to questions about whether she actually sang on the group's songs. Those questions would later be answered several months later when Overett was dropped by Cappella and admitted that she never sang on any of their recordings.

t.A.T.u. used playback for Yulia Volkova because of her vocal fold cyst in 2003 when performing " Not Gonna Get Us".

In its final few years miming had become less and less common, especially for bands, as studio technology became more reliable and artists were given the freedom to choose their performance style. Former Executive Producer, Andi Peters, stated that there was "no policy" on miming and said that it was entirely up to the performer if they wanted to sing live or mime.

Theme music

For much of the 1960s the show's theme music was an organ-based instrumental track, also called "Top of the Pops", by the Dave Davani Four.

  • 1 January 1964 to ?: Instrumental percussion piece written by Johnnie Stewart and Harry Rabinowitz and performed by drummer Bobby Midgly.
  • 1965 to 1966: Dave Davani Four's "Top of the Pops" with the Ladybirds on backing vocal harmonies. Originally the opening theme, this was later played as a closing theme from 1966 up until 1970.
  • 20 January 1966 to 13 November 1969: Unknown instrumental guitar track.
  • 27 November 1969 to 29 October 1970: Unknown brass track played over colour titles with a voiceover proclaiming, "Yes! It's number one! It's Top of the Pops!" There was no TOTP on 20 November 1969 due to the Apollo 12 Moon landing.
  • 5 November 1970 to 14 July 1977: Led Zeppelin's " Whole Lotta Love" based on the CCS release, recorded by Johnny Pearson and session musicians from the BBC orchestra.
  • 21 July 1977 to 29 May 1980: No opening theme tune: A contemporary chart song was played over the countdown stills. "Whole Lotta Love" only featured in Christmas editions.
  • 7 August 1980 to 2 July 1981: No opening theme tune: The CCS version of "Whole Lotta Love" was played over some of the images of the featured artists and during the countdown stills in the Top 30 and Top 20 sections which were moved later on in the programme. By 1981, "Whole Lotta Love" was only heard during the chart rundowns.
  • 9 July 1981 to 27 March 1986: "Yellow Pearl" by Phil Lynott was commissioned as the new theme music. From 1983 to 1984, a re-recording of "Yellow Pearl" was played over the chart rundown and a soft rock version from 1984 to 1986.
  • 3 April 1986 to 26 September 1991: "The Wizard", a composition by Paul Hardcastle.
  • 3 October 1991 to 26 January 1995: "Now Get Out of That" composed by Tony Gibber.
  • 2 February 1995 to July 1997: the theme was a track called "Red Hot Pop" composed by Vince Clarke of Erasure.
  • July 1997 to 24 April 1998: No opening theme. The opening of the first song of the episode was played under the titles.
  • 1 May 1998 to 21 November 2003, updated, drum and bass version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" by Ben Chapman.
  • 28 November 2003 to 30 July 2006 and present for TOTP2 and Xmas specials: A remixed version of "Now Get Out Of That" by Tony Gibber.

Missing episodes

Due to the BBC's former policy of deleting old programmes, the vast majority of the episodes from the first ten years of the programme's history have been lost, including the only live appearance by The Beatles.

Of the first 500 episodes (1964–73) only about 20 complete recordings remain in the BBC archives. The earliest surviving footage dates from 26 February 1964 and consists of performances by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and The Dave Clark Five. Some programmes exist only partially (largely performances that were either pre-recorded or re-used in later editions). There are also two examples of rehearsal footage, which are both from 1965, one which includes Alan Freeman introducing The Seekers, and another with Sandie Shaw rehearsing " Long Live Love" both believed to be for the end-of-year Christmas Special. There are also cases of shows that only exist in their raw, unedited form. The oldest complete episode in existence was originally transmitted on Boxing Day in 1967 (only four complete recordings from the 1960s survive, two of which have mute presenter links). The most recent that is not held is dated 8 September 1977. All editions after this date exist in full.

Some segments of TOTP which have been wiped by the BBC do survive in some form owing to having been included in other programmes, either by the BBC itself or by foreign broadcasters. The only surviving footage of The Beatles on the programme, for instance, comes from its re-use in episode one of 1965 Doctor Who serial The Chase. Additionally a number of recordings are believed to exist in private collections.

The 5 April 1984 episode was never made, as BBC1 was off air the entire day due to industrial action. Additionally, the programme was forced off the air for several weeks by industrial action by the Musicians' Union in both 1974 and 1980.


Top of the Pops has a sister show called TOTP2 which uses archive footage from as early as the late 1960s. It began on 17 September 1994. The early series were narrated by Johnnie Walker, before Steve Wright took over as narrator. In summer 2004 BBC Two's controller, Roly Keating, announced that it was being "rested". Shortly after UKTV G2 began showing re-edited versions of earlier programmes with re-recorded dialogue. Finally after a two-year break TOTP2 returned to the BBC Two schedules for a new series on Saturday, 30 September 2006, in an evening timeslot. It was still narrated by Steve Wright and featured a mixture of performances from the TOTP archive and newly-recorded performances. The first edition of this series featured new performances by Razorlight and Nelly Furtado recorded after the final episode of Top of the Pops.

Aired on BBC Radio 1 between the mid-1990s and late 2001 was Top of the Pops: The Radio Show which went out every Sunday at 3 pm just before the singles chart, and was presented by Jayne Middlemiss and Scott Mills. It later reappeared on the BBC World Service in May 2003 originally presented by Emma B, where it continues to be broadcast weekly in an hourly format, now presented by Kim Robson and produced by former BBC World Service producer Alan Rowett.

The defunct channel Play UK created two spin offs; TOTP+ Plus and TOTP @ Play (2000–2001) (until mid-2000, this show was called The Phone Zone and was a spin-off from BBC Two music series The O-Zone). BBC Choice featured a show called TOTP The New Chart (5 December 1999 – 26 March 2000) and on BBC Two TOTP+ (8 October 2000 – 26 August 2001) which featured the TOTP @ Play studio and presenters. This is not to be confused with the UK Play version of the same name. A more recent spin-off (now ended) was Top of the Pops Saturday hosted originally by Fearne Cotton and Simon Grant and its successor Top of the Pops Reloaded. This was shown on Saturday mornings on BBC One and featured competitions, star interviews, video reviews and some Top of the Pops performances. This was aimed at a younger audience and was part of the CBBC Saturday morning line-up. This was to rival CD:UK at the same time on ITV.


A number of performers have sent up the format in various ways. Mainly this has been performers who disliked the mime format of the show, often as a more effective protest against this rather than just refusing to appear.

  • When Fairport Convention appeared to promote their 1969 hit " Si Tu Dois Partir", drummer Dave Mattacks wore a T-Shirt printed "MIMING".
  • When The Smiths appeared on the show to perform their single " This Charming Man", lead singer Morrissey was unhappy about having to lip-sync and so held a bunch of gladioli on the stage instead of a microphone.
  • In the 1970s The Stranglers performed their song "No More Heroes", with Hugh Cornwell deliberately miming terribly. Also, during the guitar solo Cornwell "played" the guitar with his teeth and drummer Jet Black sat in the opposite direction from the drum kit and drummed the air. They performed similar antics two years later when miming their hit "Duchess".
  • In 1977, Australian punk band The Saints appeared when their minor hit "This Perfect Day" made the lower reaches of the chart. Singer Chris Bailey deliberately mimed the lyrics out of time before continuing to sing after allowing the microphone to fall out of his hand. Meanwhile guitarist Ed Kuepper stood stock still, staring blankly away from the camera whilst strumming intermittently at a fraction of the fast pace of the guitar on the record.
  • During their performance of " Tom Hark" in 1980, the drummer for The Piranhas used plastic fish instead of drum sticks.
  • Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers appeared a few times on the show and each time didn't take it serious. Normally singer Jake Burns would pull silly faces and flirt with the camera while playing. Drummer Jim Reilly would purposely hit the drums in a repetitive manner that didn't match up with the song and at times would pull the drum kit apart before the song was finished. And once, while playing the song "Just Fade Away", Reilly played a bodhrán rather than drums.
  • While performing their 1982 hit " Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)", the band Dexys Midnight Runners were seen performing in front of a projection of the darts player Jocky Wilson instead of soul singer Jackie Wilson. Dexys frontman Kevin Rowland later said in an interview that the use of the Jocky Wilson picture was his idea and not a mistake by the programme makers as is sometimes stated.
  • When Oasis mimed to " Whatever" on Top of the Pops in 1994, one of the cello players from the symphony was replaced by rhythm guitarist Bonehead, who clearly had no idea how the instrument should be played. Towards the end of the song, he gave up the pretence and started using the bow to conduct. A woman plays his rhythm guitar. On another occasion Liam walked away from the microphone and chewed gum during a 2005 performance of " Lyla".
  • Faith No More lead singer Mike Patton also showed he was obviously miming a performance by sticking his tongue out of the side of his mouth during close-up shots. Also, their 1997 performance of "Ashes to Ashes" on the show featured Robin Guy (of the band Sack Trick) on drums instead of their actual drummer. He apparently wore a "Puffy" mask as a joke in reference to Faith No More's actual drummer, Mike "Puffy" Bordin. Mike Patton can be seen giving Guy the finger during the performance, supposedly because the mask fell off (or was taken off on purpose) as soon as the performance started.
  • Singer Les Gray of Mud went on stage to perform with a ventriloquist dummy during the performance of Lonely This Christmas and had the dummy lip-synch to the voice-over in the middle of the song.
  • During Mott The Hoople's performance of their single Roll Away the Stone in 1973, drummer Dale Griffin plays with very large, oversized drumsticks.
  • For Orbital's debut TOTP performance they just stood around, occasionally leaning forward to press a button on their sequencers. One of their machines had its power plug deliberately draped across it, to show the equipment wasn't even plugged in.
  • EMF appeared on the show with one of the guitarists strumming along while wearing boxing gloves.
  • In Blur's performance of " Charmless Man" in 1995, Dave Rowntree decided to play with oversized drumsticks, while Graham Coxon, played a mini guitar.
  • In Green Day's first Top of the Pops appearance in 1994, the band played the song " Welcome to Paradise". Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wore an otherwise plain white t-shirt with the phrase "Who am I fooling anyway?" handwritten on it, most likely a reference to his own miming during the performance. He could also be seen not playing his guitar during the instrumental bridge in the song.
  • The performance of " Maggie May" by Rod Stewart and The Faces featured John Peel miming on mandolin. Near the end of the song, Rod and the Faces begin to kick around a football. This is despite the fact that the music can be still heard playing in the background.
  • Eels performed " Novocaine for the Soul" playing on toy instruments, which they then trashed.
  • The Cure were known for their abhorrence for miming their songs whilst on TOTP and on several occasions made it obvious they were not playing their parts – using such stunts as playing guitar left-handed, miming very badly out of synch and dressing their instruments up in clothes.
  • During "Sing" by Travis, a pie fight broke out which aped the music video of the song. Even though the members of the band got involved, the music still played in the background.
  • Ambient group The Orb notably sat and played chess while an edited version of their 39:57-minute single " Blue Room" played in the background.
  • Depeche Mode's performance of " Barrel of a Gun" in 1997 featured famous Dutch photographer and director Anton Corbijn who mimed playing the drums.

International versions


The TOTP format was sold to RTL in Germany in the 1990s, and aired on Saturday afternoons. It was very successful for a long time, with a compilation album series and magazine. However, in 2006 it was announced that the German show would be ending. The Italian version (broadcast on Rai 2 and after on Italia 1) also ended on 2006, but in 2010, in February, it come back in a new edition, broadcast by Rai 2, and a further new one started on the same channel; the show was cancelled in October 2011. The French version of the show, ended by September 2006. Domestic versions of the show continued to run in the Netherlands until the end of December 2006. BBC Prime used to broadcast re-edited episodes of the BBC version, the weekend after it was transmitted in the UK.

United States and Canada

Top of the Pops had short-lived fame in the United States. In 1987, the CBS television network decided to try an American version of the show. It was hosted by Nia Peeples and even showed performances from the BBC version of the programme. The show was presented on late Friday nights as part of CBS Late Night, and lasted almost a year.

In 2002, BBC America presented the BBC version of Top of the Pops as part of their weekend schedule. The network would get the episodes one week after they were transmitted in the UK. BBC America then tinkered with the show by cutting a few minutes out of each show and moving it to a weekday time slot.

On 23 January 2006, Lou Pearlman made a deal to bring Top of the Pops back to the airwaves in the United States. It was expected to be similar to the 1987 version, but it would also utilise the Billboard magazine music charts, most notably the Hot 100 chart. It was supposed to be planned for a possible 2006 or 2007 launch, but with several lawsuits against Lou and his companies (which resulted in his conviction in 2008), as well as the cancellation of the UK version, the proposed US project never went forward. On 19 August 2006, VH1 aired the UK series' final episode.

The United States had its own similar series, American Bandstand, which aired nationally on ABC from 1957 to 1987 (although it would continue in first-run syndication until 1988 and end its run on USA in 1989). Similar series also included Soul Train (1970–2006, featuring R&B artists), Club MTV (1986–92, featuring Dance Music acts; hosted by Downtown Julie Brown, an alumnus of TOTP as part of the show's last dance troupe Zoo) and Solid Gold (1980–88; like the early TOTP, it also used dance troupes).

Canada's version of this (mostly of American Bandstand and Soul Train) was Electric Circus (1988–2003), which was also seen in the USA, and which had a national chart (mostly of dance music and some pop) as well as live performances, and was based on a local late 70's program in Toronto called CITY TV Boogie.

New Zealand

The Top of the Pops brand has also been exported to New Zealand which for many years had to rely on music-video only shows to demonstrate its Top 20 (as well as the occasional season of the UK version of TOTP) as the world's top acts found New Zealand just too far away from the major markets to visit regularly. This all changed when the New Zealand government suggested a voluntary New Zealand music quota on radio (basically a threat that if the stations did not impose a quota themselves then one would be imposed on them). This worked and suddenly the amount of indigenous music played on radio stations shot up, as did the number of New Zealand hits in the top 20. Therefore a new version of a show like Top of the Pops became feasible for the first time, and the show was commissioned by Television New Zealand. The show was Executive Produced by David Rose, managing director and owner of Satellite Media and began in early 2004 with host Alex Behan. The hour-long show (as opposed to the 30-minute UK version) which is broadcast at 5 pm on Saturdays on TV2 (New Zealand) contains a mixture of songs recorded on a sound stage in the Auckland CBD, as well as performances from the international versions of the show. The New Zealand Top 20 singles and Top 10 albums are also featured. Alex stayed as host for two years before Bede Skinner took over. Despite a popular fan base in early 2006 TVNZ announced that Top of the Pops has been axed and ideas for new music shows are currently being considered.

Free-to-air music channel C4 then picked up the UK version of Top of the Pops and aired it on Saturdays at 8 pm with a repeat screening on Thursdays. However, since the UK version has recently been axed itself, this arrangement has obviously now ended.

Africa, Asia and the Middle East

An edited version of the UK show was shown on BBC Prime, the weekend after UK transmission.

In addition, a licensed version was shown on the United Arab Emirates-based MBC 2 television channel. This version consisted of parts of the UK version, including the Top 10 charts, as well as live performances by Arabic pop singers.

Latin America

A complete version of the UK show was shown on People+Arts, two weeks after the UK transmission.

Compilation albums

A number of compilation albums using the Top of the Pops brand have been issued over the years. The first one to reach the charts was BBC TV's The Best of Top of the Pops on the Super Beeb record label in 1975, which reached number 21.

Starting in 1968 and carrying on through the 1970s a rival series of Top of the Pops albums were produced, however these had no connection with the television series except for its name. They were a series of budget cover albums of current chart hits recorded by anonymous session singers and musicians released on the Hallmark record label. They had initially reached the charts but were later disallowed due to a change in the criteria for entering the charts. These albums continued to be produced until the early 1980s, when the advent of compilation albums featuring the original versions of hits, such as the Now That's What I Call Music! series, led to a steep decline in their popularity.

In the 1990s, the BBC Top of the Pops brand was again licensed for use in a tie-in compilation series. Starting in 1995 with Sony Music's Columbia Records label, these double disc collections moved to the special marketing arm of PolyGram / Universal Music Group TV, before becoming a sister brand of the Now That's What I Call Music! range in the EMI / Virgin / Universal joint venture.

Similarly to the roles of Top of the Pops on BBC One and BBC Two in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the compilation albums range featured current hits for the main series and classic hits (such as 70s Rock) for the "Top of the Pops 2" spin-offs.

The Top of the Pops brand has now been licensed by EMI who released a compilation series in 2007–08, with one CD for each year that Top of the Pops was running. The boxset for the entire series of 43 discs was released 7 July 2008. A podcast supporting the release of the boxset featuring interviews with Mark Goodier, Miles Leonard, Malcolm McLaren and David Hepworth is available.

Number One in the Compilation Charts

These albums in the series reached No. 1:

  • Top of the Pops 1 ( Columbia Records, 1995)
  • Top of the Pops '99 – Volume 2 ( Universal Music TV, 1999)
  • Top of the Pops 2000 – Volume Two ( BBC Music / Universal Music TV, 2000)

Top of the Pops magazine

Top of the Pops magazine has been running since February 1995, and filled the void in the BBC magazine portfolio where Number One magazine used to be. It began much in the mould of Q magazine, then changed its editorial policy to directly compete with popular teen celebrity magazines such as Smash Hits and Big, with free sticker giveaways replacing Brett Anderson covers.

An early feature on the Spice Girls coined the famous "Spice" nicknames for each member ( Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary and Sporty) that stayed with them throughout their career as a group and beyond.

The BBC announced that the magazine would continue in publication despite the end of the television series, and is still running.

An earlier Top Of The Pops magazine appeared briefly in the mid-1970s. Mud drummer Dave Mount sat reading an edition throughout a 1975 appearance on the show.

In popular culture

  • The Scottish punk band The Rezillos lampooned the show as a vehicle for vapid commercialism and for paying little or no attention to talented, unknown bands, in their song "Top of the Pops." Ironically the band actually ended up performing the song on the programme (twice) when it entered the charts.
  • The Kinks recorded "Top of the Pops" on their 1970 album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, an album highly critical of the music business.
  • The Smithereens recorded a song entitled "Top of the Pops" on their album Blow Up.
  • The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (who later became The KLF) sampled nearly three minutes of Top of the Pops on their album 1987.
  • The opening scene for the Spice Girls' movie Spice World shows the group recording a performance of their song "Too Much" for Top of the Pops.
  • Top of the Pops is mentioned in Micky Dolenz's of The Monkees biography, I'm A Believer: My Life Of Monkees, Music And Madness as he married Samantha Juste, who at the time hosted the show.


In May 2006, following a special Red Hot Chili Peppers concert recorded in the car park of BBC Television Centre, Hammersmith and Fulham Council (which governs the area the centre is located) informed the BBC that in order to legally conform to an Act of Parliament which came into force in 2004 they needed to have a special licence to continue to admit members of the public to any future performances. Prior to the matter being resolved the BBC requested the assistance of their own staff members to fill-in as audience members for this and other music shows.


In 2004 there was a DVD released called Top of the Pops 40th Anniversary 1964–2004 DVD. It features one song for each year (except 1966, two tracks from 1965 are featured instead) to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

There was also a DVD quiz released in 2007 called The Essential Music Quiz. There was also a DVD in 2001 called Summer 2001, a sister DVD to the album of the same name.

Retrieved from ""