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Video gallery: Top Of The Pops - 50 years on

Wolverhampton | | Published:

It was scheduled to last for just six shows, and was filmed on a shoestring budget from a converted church in suburban Manchester.

But when the first episode of Top of the Pops was screened 50 years ago today, it would mark a sea-change in popular culture for generations to come.

"When it was on you could walk up to almost anybody in the street, and they would know who was No 1 in the charts," says Stourbridge pop-music historian Paul Collins, who was an avid viewer of the show throughout its 42 years.

And the show did much to raise the profile of numerous Midland acts who appeared on it.

Slade's Dave Hill belts out the hits

Slade, The Move and Wizzard were regular fixtures during the show's glory years during the 1970s, when 15 million viewers would tune in every Thursday to hear their latest hits, often accompanied by the terminally cheesy dance troupe Pan's People.

Slade's Dave Hill was quick to catch on to the importance of making a memorable visual impact, and while scouring Kensington Market for props, he was served by a young Freddie Mercury. "I remember acts like The Move and Wizzard being on, and you would root for you local act just like you would for your local football team," says Mr Collins.

"You often knew what was Number 1 because the charts were out on Sunday, but tuning in to see the artists performing live – or miming very badly – was wonderful." And in the days when television exposure was crucial to selling records, an appearance on Top of the Pops was a huge achievement.

Jonn Penney, of Stourbridge rock band Ned's Atomic Dustbin, says he was initially sceptical about whether a band such as his should be appearing on such a mainstream television programme, but soon overcome his reservations.

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Jonn Penney fronting Ned's Atomic Dustbin

"When my band was starting up, we were termed as being a bit oddball, a bit different, but then The Cure went on Top of the Pops," he says. "That was a massive period for a new kind of music."

The first group to appear on New Year's Day, 1964, was the Rolling Stones, performing I Wanna Be Your Man, followed by Dusty Springfield with I Only Want to be With You. The Dave Clark Five, The Hollies and The Swinging Blue Jeans also appeared, along with the week's No 1 act The Beatles, performing I Want to Hold Your Hand. The show was completed by filmed pieces from Cliff Richard and The Shadows and Freddie and The Dreamers.

In the early days there was a strict set of rules laid down by producer Johnnie Stewart about who could appear on the show. Each show would close with that week's No 1, no acts that were falling in the charts would be asked to appear, and only No1 acts would be allowed to feature in two consecutive editions. Pan's People, led by choreographer Felicity 'Flick' Colby, first appeared in 1968, replacing the show's original dance troupe the Go-Jos.

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In 1973 the show was revamped with a version of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love adopted as the theme tune, which remained in place until another revamp in 1981, which saw Phil Lynott's Yellow Pearl specially commissioned.

The shows were usually screened live, with the performers miming to a pre-recorded track, which led to many acts refusing to appear on the show. It backfired spectacularly in 1967, when a wrong backing track was played, leaving Jimi Hendrix to mime to Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear. The miming policy ended in 1991 when new producer Stan Appel said all performers must sing live, and also relaxed the rules so that acts could appear whatever their position in the charts.

In 1996, Top of the Pops moved from its customary Thursday night slot to Friday, marking the beginning of the end for the venerable pop show. Up against top-rated soap Coronation Street, it was struggling for viewers, and then in 2005 it was moved again to a Sunday evening slot.

Few people were surprised when it was finally dropped from the TV listings in 2006, although TOTP2, showing footage from the show's heyday, continues to pull in decent viewing figures.

1. SLADE

With the outrageous costumes favoured by Noddy Holder and Dave Hill, Slade was made for Top of the Pops, and Hill in particular loved the appearances.

Jimmy Lea, however, was not always so keen. There was one occasion when Noddy donned a huge kipper tie which Lea thought made him look like comedian Arthur English, and Hill was dressed in a silver outfit which Lea likened to a cockerel.

"Arthur English I could just about accept, but I said there was no way I was going on stage with a soppy cockerel," he later said.

Hill was said to have replied: "You write 'em Jim, I'll sell 'em."

2. WIZZARD

With his voluminous locks, extravagant make up and huge beard, Wizzard's Roy Wood was a natural for the Top of the Pops age.

One memorable appearance came in 1972 when the band performed its hit single See My Baby Jive, with an energetic contribution from Wood getting the entire audience bouncing up and down.

Bass player Rick Price recalls: Every time we got a 'Top of The Pops' we felt obliged to come up with even more outrageous outfits. Well we did have Sweet and Mud to contend with."

For Christmas 1973, Wood went one better, dying his hair and beard white for the unforgettable festive classic "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday."

3. UB40

The Midland reggae stars made a total of 49 appearances on the show over an 18-year period, including four with Chrissie Hynde with whom the band had a long-running association.

The group's first appearance came on March 20, 1980, when Mike Read introduced a performance of Food for Thought, and there were two return visits the following month.

The group, fronted by Ali Campbell, appeared for four consecutive weeks in 1983 performing the No. 1 hit Red, Red Wine, with two of these shows being fronted by West Midland DJs Peter Powell and Simon Bates.

4. DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS

The band's first hit, Dance Stance, reached No. 40 in the charts in January, 1980, earning a first appearance on the show.

It raised Dexy's profile, helping the group's second single, Geno, hit No. 1 spot.

But while the television exposure raised the profile of the band formed by Wulfrunian Kevin Rowland and Cradley Heath's Kevin 'Al' Archer in 1978, not everyone was happy, and keyboard player Andy Leek quit because of the media attention.

"Just because I've been on Top of the Pops doesn't mean I should get any more respect," he said.

Archer also quit, but in 1982 the new-look group was back on Top of The Pops, with its most successful track to date, Come On, Eileen, and again later that year with Jackie Wilson Says.

5. DURAN DURAN

The Birmingham group was at the heart of the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s, and made regular appearances on the show.

Known as 'the prettiest boys in rock', there stylish outfits and distinctive haircuts meant they were ideally suited to television appearances, and their flamboyant on-stage presence meant there was always plenty of drama.

The act's first appearance came in March, 1981, when Planet Earth got to No. 12 in the singles charts, and the group returned three more times that year. The boys from Birmingham were back in 1982 with Hungry Like the Wolf and Rio, and the following year Is There Something I Should Know? became their first No. 1, followed by The Reflex in 1984. Duran Duran's last appearance on the show came in 1995.

6. BLACK SABBATH

With their outrageous dress-sense and similarly unpredictable on-stage behaviour, millions of eyes were glued to Ozzy, Tony and Geezer whenever they appeared on television.

The heavy metal trio were on Top of the Pops twice - in 1970 when they performed Paranoid, and eight years later with Never Say Die.

7. ROBERT PLANT

Perhaps ironically, given that Whole Lotta Love was the show's theme tune for eight years, Led Zeppelin never did appear on Top of the Pops.

But while Led Zep was firmly focused on album sales, many fans will remember frontman Robert Plant appearing in 1983, performing Big Log.

8. MUSICAL YOUTH

The baby-faced reggae stars' seldom seemed to be away from Top of the Pops during a 15-month purple patch in the early 1980s.

Pass The Dutchie was at No. 1 for three weeks in 1982, while Never Gonna Give You Up, The Youth of Today, 007, and Sixteen also earned appearances.

9. JUDAS PRIEST

The Black Country metal band first appeared on Top of the Pops in January, 1979, when lead singer Rob Halford caused a sensation by peforming Take On The World dressed in black leather, studs and a peaked cap. Judas Priest appeared on a total of four occasions.

10. BEVERLEY KNIGHT

The Wolverhampton songstress was one of the last performers to appear on the series in 2006, but her soulful rendition of Erma Franklin's Piece of My Heart will go down as one of the more memorable appearances on the show.

11. THE CHARLATANS

The indie rockers' first appearance on TOTP came in September, 1990, when they mimed to a backing track of Then.

They returned in 1997 when they performed North Country Boy live, but sadly they were now minus keyboard player Rob Collins who had died in a car accident the year before.

12. OCEAN COLOUR SCENE

The Britpop group from Moseley made its debut on the show in 1996, performing The Riverboat Song.

The lads were back the following year with Marchin' Already, but this picture shows a 2003 performance of I Just Need Myself.

13. JAKI GRAHAM

Jaki during her first appearance on Top of the Pops in April, 1985, when Round And Around reached No. 9 in the charts.

She made two further appearances that year, returning on three more occasions in 1986.

14. THE WONDERSTUFF

It is hard to believe it has been more than 22 years since the unlikely combination of comedian Vic Reeves and Stourbridge rock band The Wonderstuff topped the charts, earning Miles Hunt and co their first appearance on TOTP. Here we see the group - minus Vic - performing Full of Life (Happy Now) in 1993.

15. NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN

Ned's lead singer Jonn Penney initially questioned whether a band such as his should be seen to appear on Top of the Pops.

It looks like he was quite Happy judging from this 1991 appearance, though.

16. POP WILL EAT ITSELF

Stourbridge seemed to be the heart of West Midland alternative rock during the early 1990s, with PWEI, going up against the Ned's and the Wonderstuff.

They certainly looked hot when they were performing 92 Degrees on the show in 1991.

17. BABYLON ZOO

It was a 1995 advert for Levi's jeans, featuring the track Spaceman, which catapulted the Wolverhampton rock group to fame.

The following January, the band released the track as its first single, shooting straight to the top of the singles charts - and earning this appearance on Top of the Pops.

18. CORNERSHOP

Fronted by Wolverhampton brothers Avtar and Tijinder Singh, the name Cornershop was a light-hearted swipe at the stereotype of Asian shopkeepers.

Brimful of Asha reached No. 60 in the singles chart in 1997, but DJ Norman Cook saw its potential. The following year, Cook's remix took it to No. 1.

19. ALTERN-8

With lead vocalists Mark Archer and Chris Peat wearing face masks and chemical suits, and being joined on the stage by a silver spaceman, this 1991 appearance by the certainly stood out from the crowd.

The Stafford rave act's single Activ 8 (Come With Me) had just reached No. 3 in the charts, winning a place on the show. The following year Altern-8 was back again, with the predictably titled Evapor 8

20. BIZARRE INC

The Stafford house music band, comprising DJs Dean Meredith and Mark 'Aaron' Archer, first appeared in 1991, performing Such A Feeling, and later that year returned for a rendition of Playing With Knives

Here the duo are pictured peforming I'm Gonna Get You in 1992, and they were back the following year with Took My Love.

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