diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Top 10 reasons why Top of the Pops dies tonight (aged 42½)

[10] The pop chart used to be released on a Tuesday lunchtime. If you missed it on the radio there was no internet or Ceefax to help you to catch up, there was just the chart rundown on Top of the Pops two days later. So everybody watched, just to see who was Number One, what they looked like and whether they could mime or not. Today's records (and videos and pop charts) are over-exposed.
[9] The whole family used to be able to watch TotP. Your dad could enjoy Pan's People, your mum could ask you what that terrible racket was, your gran could wait for Barry Manilow to appear and you could thrill to the live performance of some top secret new band that only you and a million other teenagers knew about. Nowadays your dad watches for Fearne Cotton, your mum only watches when Ronan Keating's on, your gran is watching ITV and you're out having a life.
[8] Andi Peters should have been watching the show, not producing it.
[7] TotP went downhill as soon as they stopped letting Radio 1 DJs present the show. These DJs may generally have been idiots but at least they had screen presence. Compare Jimmy Saville, DLT and JohnPeel&KidJensen to whoever the anonymous grinners are who've compered the show more recently. No contest.
[6] TotP's true home is on Thursday night. When Top of the Pops was on a Thursday night, the following morning every school playground in the country would be buzzing with chatter about who'd been on, what they'd sung and what they were wearing. Once TotP shifted to a Friday night ten years ago there was nobody left to share your opinions with the following morning, and the 'must see' televisual event of the week died.
[5] The traditional home of the charts has always been Sunday evening. Radio's highest audience of the week used to tune in at teatime to hear the full Top 40 rundown delivered by Alan Freeman, Tony Blackburn, Bruno Brooks or some other broadcasting demi-god. Moving Top of the Pops to Sunday evening would have been a masterstroke a decade or two ago. But nowadays the Top 40 radio countdown is an embarrassment, more a chatshow with records for two egos to talk over, and the Sunday audience is watching Emmerdale and the Antiques Roadshow instead. God help us.
[4] TotP is a show about singles. Alas, the single is dead (or at least fatally wounded) and nobody has ever successfully produced a show called Top of the Albums (imagine the Melua/Cullum/Anastacia hell of it all).
[3] TotP used to only play records that were climbing the chart (or at least not falling). If you fell, you weren't on. If you hadn't released your record yet, you weren't on. It was a simple but brutal format, and if that meant watching the Smurfs followed by the Boomtown Rats followed by James Galway then so be it. This worked because the British public picked the playlist, not the producer. Nowadays the producer picks the playlist weeks in advance, and quite frankly we don't care who he picks any more.
[2] Top of the Pops used to be the route through which mainstream UK consumers discovered the music they liked. You'd hear this week's new entries, choose your favourites, then pop down to Woolworths on Saturday and add them to your collection. But downloads, ringtones and the internet allow modern consumers to find their music wherever they choose, bypassing traditional media altogether. We don't discover our favourite records from TV or radio any more, they're recommended to us by friends.
[1] Pop music is no longer the shared consciousness of the nation. 25 years ago everybody knew who Shakin Stevens was and could sing along to his Number One hit Green Door. No so today's bland chart-toppers. Our record industry has fractured to the point where audiences prefer to interact with one of 50 separate digital video channels rather than watch one all-encompassing half hour show. We all have different favourites now, more personal but wholly lacking in zeitgeist. Pops used to be short for Popular, and nothing is any more.

Popslinks
The official history, presenters and opening titles
How TotP used to be
40-year critical review
TotP trivia
the passing away of an icon
Pan's People


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