One of the first things I learned upon starting school in the year 1978. was there was an element in society – a percentage of every group of people – who did not share the same values as myself. People who, for a variety of reasons, just did not see what I saw and hear what I heard. It’s hard for me to put myself in their shoes, as we naturally become drawn to people more like ourselves., but as we are all different it’s part of life. As we grow into adults, the joyless often stay joyless, destructive stay destructive, and the creative, if they’re lucky, find outlets for their creativity. The creative often cause trouble for themselves in life, the joyless and destructive cause trouble for others.
In 21st Century Britain, the worrying trend seems to be ‘The Rise Of The Idiots’ (to paraphrase ‘Nathan Barley’, written by Chris Morris & Charlie Brooker ten years ago). Whilst any business – creative or otherwise – needs ‘bean counters’ to guide it, the extraordinary change in recent years is the creative mediums of television and radio have been slowly taken over by the more destructive less creative types. In order to inspire you need to be inspiring, and yet what used to inspire is being transformed into either background or distraction. Furthermore, there appears to be a very real media agenda to discredit the latter half of the twentieth century, playing on the lack of knowledge, context and common sense afflicting so many of those born after 1989. Tell them everything was terrible in the 1970s and that everything is “awesome” in the 2010’s – and the chances are they will accept what you dictate without question. “Put your faith in us, we make everything better” seems to be the message – those of us fortunate enough to be older than 25 know the reverse is true. The reality is ignorance and misinformation is the order of the day, a vile mainstream constantly indulging in peoples worst fears and prejudice. The majority of people these actually want to ‘believe the worst’ of people – and certainly want to dismiss what they don’t know or understand.
Even as a young child I had – via the medium of radio and television -already grown to love music. The visual aspect of music (aside from the wonderful pictures painted in the mind’s eye of course) came to me early, firstly via Yorkshire TV’s lunchtime “pop” show ANIMAL KWACKERS and then, shortly after. TOP OF THE POPS. By the time I was 4 years old, my weekly treat was to stay up to watch Top Of The Pops every thursday. I always looked forward to thursday evenings, and always enjoyed the mix of music presented on the show. My eclectic taste in music today is a legacy of the early impact TOTP and the singles chart had on me, as easy as it now to look back and sneer at some of the content of late 70s TOTP and radio playlists. I was very fortunate to have grown aware of music and the pop scene in an era of phenomenal progression and variety. The “new wave” of pop ushered in with punk lastly roughly until the point when I started Senior School (the Summer of 1985).
Good fortune and good timing. I can remember first hand so many TOTP performances over those years, even tracks I never heard again (step forward TOTP hater Roger Taylor and his solo flop ‘Future Management’ – I was on a snowy holiday in North Yorkshire the night of Thursday April 23rd 1981 and had to watch The Pops on a black & white portable – and yet I can clearly recall the song even now). This is not just dewy-eyed nostalgia – I am talking about the days when most pop music had a genuine intelligence behind it.
In my humble opinion, TOTP went downhill a bit in the latter half of the eighties with the producers unsure how to counteract the MTV-led Videolution and update the show’s format, and the show itself locked into a limited 30 minute slot after Eastenders began in early 1985. It got good again in the 90s, only to fall apart once and for all (hand in hand with my beloved pop music) once the 21st Century kicked in.
Classed by some elitist snobs as forever tacky, Top Of The Pops was producing legendary moments long before I was born. Sadly, most of the pre-1976 shows were wiped, but the memories and influence remain. You will be hard-pressed to find a British pop star from the 76-86 era who’s life wasn’t changed by seeing ‘Starman’ by David Bowie & The Spiders From Mars on July 6th 1972 or Marc Bolan’s first brush with glitter when T.Rex presented ‘Hot Love’ to an eager audience in March 1971.
The sheer clamour for the rediscovery of Bowie & co performing The Jean Genie LIVE on Top Of The Pops in January 1973 when cameraman John Henshall gave the world access to his private surviving copy in 2011 and the amount of people who had been carrying fragments of this seismic performance in the back of their minds for almost 40 years was phenomenal – and more enthusiastic than the music industry can muster for any of it’s current product. That one discovery has probably done more for the reputation and profile of David Bowie in the run-up to his unexpected 2013 return than anything else. Similarly, discoveries of stupidly scarce footage of Top Of The Pops from the Summer of 1967 created a tidal wave of interest, particularly the original Syd Barrett incarnation of Pink Floyd performing See Emily Play. Now, THIS is a legacy to be proud of and, in the words of Danny Baker “meant so much to so many people”. Even now, despite almost every single one of the first 600 shows wiped, we still have footage of the likes of The Kinks, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Bee Gees on Top Of The Pops in the 60s. The UK – certainly during the years 1964-70 and then 1978-84 – was the international leader in the pop music boom, and Top Of The Pops is a historical weekly document of those times.
What Top Of The Pops was NEVER about – not until the preening faux-ironic likes of Fearne Cotton in it’s dying years anyway – was the presenters. Sure, many of the faces who presented the show added something to the mix – be it the current ‘elephant in the room’ the late Jimmy Savile (64-84), Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman (64-69), Tony “gaff” Blackburn (69-78), Noel Edmonds (72-78), Peter ‘Woo! Hey!” Powell (77-88), the under-fire and terminally uncool DLT (73-84), Simon “Timecheck” Bates (79-88), Mike Smith (82-88), Janice Long (82-88), Steve Wright (80-89),Bruno Brookes (84-95), ‘Woo’ Gary Davies (82-91), Simon Mayo (86-96) or the wonderful combinations of David ‘Kid’ Jensen (76-84) and John Peel (81-88) – but they were only ever there to link the tunes and performances, a little advert for BBC Radio 1. To now see the legacy I have described above reduced to hushed-tones and apologetic asides on the national network that produced that show on a weekly basis and still produces end of year specials is an absolute disgrace. What we have is all sides playing to the ignorance and immorality of our present sick society, planting “opinions” in the heads of people who actually have no idea what they are talking about. The “celebration” of the BBC’s legacy at Television Centre last week was somewhat tarnished by a reluctance to raise the issue of Top Of The Pops – a show that was filmed at TVC for over 25 years. The impression I got was TOTP wasn’t to be mentioned – with only the outspoken Danny Baker and (to a lesser extent) former TOTP presenter Noel Edmonds breaking the silence.
The BBC is ALLOWING the legacy of Top Of The Pops – not just a ‘National Institution’ but an international brand – to be destroyed. That Sir Jimmy Savile presented the show for the first twenty years is fact – that he did what he, in death, is alleged to have done many years ago is not, despite what The Metropolitan Police or ITV defective Detectives say. People connected to the show know the allegations of dressing room wrongdoings are at best highly dubious, so what I cannot understand is why the BBC are joining in on this attack on themselves when they should, on behalf of both themselves and us the TV license payers, be defending the show millions watched and loved. The legacy of Top Of The Pops is something that should be celebrated – somehow this cheaply-made show in a clinical TVC studio transcended the sum of it’s parts and changed many lives for the better over the course of over 30 years. Instead, to add insult to the injury of wiping 12 years worth of shows, the repeats many of us waited 35 years for have been ruined by an agenda set by ITV, a disgraced Police Force, a dubious unqualified TV “expert” working for ITV and several of their own artless self-serving so-called “investigative producers” wishing to engage in a tug-of-war amongst themselves at the expense of the BBC Light Entertainment legacy.
The present situation paints a picture of one host of the TOTP team running amok in the TVC dressing rooms – when the truth is Jimmy Savile spent as little time on set as he possibly could. A team of producers, lighting & sound engineers, cameramen – not to mention FEMALE dancers, make-up artists and designers – not to mention an audience policy of NO UNDER 16’s. We’re expected either to overlook the overwhelming evidence or assume every member of the Top Of The Pops team was covering up grave wrongdoing? If you believe that, you probably believe in Santa Claus too.
We are living in Orwellian times. The current position is very few people feel able to defend either Top Of The Pops or the pre-Matthew Bannister Radio One for fear of being picked off. There is a current police operation in place that appears to be serving an agenda of silencing those were there at the time – witness the arrests of Max Clifford and Jim Davidson after they had the audacity to publicly question the agenda of said operation.
No working DJ dare speak up against this shameless witch hunt in case they are either targeted themselves (after the mainstream round on them) or find themselves out of work by their mainstream media employers, and there are only a couple with the courage to speak out who aren’t ‘in that line of work’ anymore. They simply have to remain silent.
In being swept back, via the BBC4 repeats, to the time in my life when Top Of The Pops was my introduction to my lifelong love of music and the charts, I find it reprehensible and disgusting that at the exact week we arrived at the point in the run were no more episodes were missing from the archive, a shoddy ITV documentary made an unqualified charlatan full of unprovable allegations against a dead man backed up by a transparent witch-hunt by a famously corrupt police force and spineless present-day BBC management have resulted in 40% of those shows being banned. I can’t help but feel that not only is my intelligence being routinely insulted by these ridiculous claims but they are destroying a time I lived through and loved, a time were music progressed so quickly and effortlessly – like a time capsule of real life being blown to pieces by that group of artless loveless destructive kids who have pushed their way to the front of the queue as adults.
To add insult to injury, one final point. BBC4 are refusing to show Top Of The Pops presented by Dave Lee Travis due to his arrest by the ‘Savile Police’ for fear of being criticised by the vile scum of The Daily Mail and the Murdoch rags. Challenge TV – owned by Sky – have no such qualms about repeating the BBC-made ‘Jim Davidson’s Big Break’. Is that fair and just?