and they also regularly used artists as guest presenters
To be fair, that's what our TOTP did between 1994-97 as well!
That is very true - and there were some good moments that came out of this, IMO. One example that springs to mind is when Damon Albarn hosted; whilst he was introducing Oasis, Noel Gallagher made rude gestures behind him:
(At the end, Damon mentions a rather unfortunate guest host for next week's show...)
Another of my favourite guest hosts was Dennis Pennis (a popular fictional TV host played by Paul Kaye), who spent the entire show viciously mocking the acts that appeared and generally being a cut above your typical trite host:
I quite enjoyed that era of TOTP: other memorable hosts included one-off returnee John Peel, who was also quite sarcastic, in his own inimitable manner; and Meat Loaf, who, so the story goes, started the show by screaming down the microphone because the script said 'INTRO: Terrorvision', with Meat Loaf not realising that Terrorvision were a band...
I love absolutely everything about these videos. TV in the 90s was amazing.
1. Moving the show to Fridays
This had already been tried in 1973 – after complaints that teenage viewers went out on Friday nights, BBC schedulers relented and moved it back to Thursdays after six months. No such luck in June 1996, when a series of disastrous scheduling errors (like putting it opposite ‘Coronation Street’ at 7.30pm and then shunting it to the graveyard slot on Sunday) ensured that the show was regularly beaten in the ratings by its retro brother ‘TOTP2’.
2. Changing the rules
From the programme’s inception in 1964, there were strict playlist guidelines: singles would only be played if they had risen up the chart; no single could be played in consecutive weeks unless it was Number One. This worked for three decades, when singles entered low and crept up the charts. But, by the early ’90s, singles began charting high and would then plummet. After ignoring the implications of this for a few years, ‘TOTP’ started to invite bands who hadn’t charted on to the show…
3. The ‘exclusives’
Introduced in the early 1990s by ageing variety producer Stanley Appel, who was perhaps showing his age when, at the height of grunge and rave, he was eagerly screening ‘exclusive’ pre-release performances from the likes of Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand and Genesis, who’d invariably fail to chart.
4. Bands playing more than one song
‘Ohmygod Oasis/Coldplay/Red Hot Chili Peppers/U2/Sting/Stevie Wonder have deigned to play “Top Of The Pops”! Let’s get them to play THREE songs! No, make it FOUR! Bugger it, let’s get them to do a WHOLE SHOW!’ This school of thought reached its nadir in 2002 when Herbie Hancock was invited in to Television Centre to play three songs in front of a crowd of bewildered London teenagers.
5. Making acts sing ‘live’
Another Stanley Appel innovation in 1991, this ludicrous policy basically rendered most of the great dance music to emerge in the early ’90s unplayable. Some bands were even instructed to recreate samples live. Pete Waterman argued that he’d never allow his acts to sing live on the show. ‘I spend months making my music,’ he said. ‘Why should anyone hear it being mutilated by TV sound engineers who’ve thrown together a mix in half an hour?’
6. The ‘Star Bar’
Introduced by producer Chris Cowey in 2003, this pointless interview segment was supposed to take viewers ‘backstage’ to meet assorted gushing pop brats. The number of acts on the show dropped from 11 to seven, and the proportion of actual music dropped by 36 per cent.
7. Tim bloody Kash
A digitally enhanced cyborg who looked like he’d been genetically spliced together in a TV recording studio, Kash – who was central to Andi Peters’ ‘All New’ 2003 overhaul of the show – may well beat Jonathan King and Tony Dortie as the worst presenter in the show’s 42-year history
8. Guest presenters
‘TOTP’ had flirted with these since the early 1980s, when producer Michael Hurll tried pairing pop stars with Radio 1 DJs (sample line from August 1980: Tommy Vance: ‘Do you like disco, Roger?’ Roger Daltrey: ‘No, I hate it!’ Vance: ‘Well that’s a shame, because here’s the Village People and “Can’t Stop The Music”!’). Rick Blaxill revived the idea in the mid ’90s. We have fond memories of Harry Hill and Jarvis Cocker (the latter wearing an ‘I Hate Wet Wet Wet’ T-shirt); we were rather more baffled by Frankie Dettori, Chris Eubank and Jeremy cocking Clarkson.
9. The Album Chart
Clueless producers had given this a go every few years since 1971, when the show expanded from 25 minutes to 45 minutes and producer Stanley Dorfman started programming 15-minute excerpts from prog classics like ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’. More recently it became an ill-advised regular fixture (hmm, let’s check out how Katie Melua and Il Divo are getting on…).
Too many gimmicks, too much obsessive change for change’s sake, too many attempts to look ‘cool’ and ‘relevant’, too many pretty and vacuous fashion-victim presenters… Pop music always works best when you don’t think about it too much.
Rules 2 wasn;t in force either during the 80s. There played songs out love and pride - King two weeks in a row didn't there just over the past couple of shows
"Inviting bands that hadn't charted", I remember there was fuss when they had Bis on who didn't even have a record deal. They reached the dizxy hights of singing the end credits theme to the Powerpuff Girls.
One of the main memories I have of that is that a couple of years later they had Dan Anderson on some show (I'm sure with Noel Edmonds) and had his daughter run a steamroller over what they claimed was every copy of that song they could track down (as they joked "they scoured every charity shop in the country).
I just found this as well (no reference to it in Popscene however), I'm guessing this was one of the ways they tried to get viewer interest back into the show?
I also wonder if it'll be repeated when we get to that point. Probably not.
No, probably not - it was absolutely a Song For Europe special using the Pops set and a Pops presenter, rather than a Pops special. Different producer, different production team.
They did this twice, in 1995 and 1996. In 1995 it was simply a showcase of the acts that would be appearing on A Song For Europe, because up until then the tradition had always been that they'd perform the songs somewhere before the show itself - they used to do it on Wogan for many years, and then when that ended on standalone programmes. In 1996 there actually was a purpose to it because there were two votes, that one there to cut the number down from eight to four, and then the final vote on the night itself.
Of course, for a couple of years around the turn of the century they did the Song for Europe show itself from the Pops studio.
In 1996 the uk chose Gina G “Ooh Ahh Just a Little Bit” which while coming a disappointing 8th on the night of the actual Eurovision, was (I think) the last Eurovision entry to top the U.K. Singles chart and do reasonably well globally.
That era of choosing songs for the Eurovision did produce some arguably much more relevant and current sounds than the Wogan era - compare Michal Ball to Love City Groove for example. Whether the Eurovision wanted it at the time is another matter.
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