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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
How iconic pop show slipped from top
Slade on Top of the Pops
The 1970s were considered the show's heyday
UK television's longest running music show is being axed after a steady decline in viewing figures, but Top of the Pops leaves behind unforgettable highlights - and mishaps - from its 42-year history.

From a converted church in Manchester on New Year's Day 1964, Jimmy Savile introduced The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Dusty Springfield to viewers - and Top of the Pops was born.

Despite its beginnings in Manchester, it is BBC Television Centre - where it moved and was filmed for decades - that is regarded as the show's "spiritual home".

Many describe the 1970s as the programme's heyday, when its Thursday night slot would attract 15 million viewers.

An appearance on Top of the Pops would virtually guarantee a high placing when the new charts were unveiled the following Sunday.

Dance troupes

Hairy Radio 1 DJs would introduce bands, while dance troupes Legs and Co and Pan's People kept teenage boys across the country entranced.

And it is that period of the show's history that is often thought of as defining an era - seen by some as unsubtle and unstylish, and by others as fun and uncomplicated.

Pan's People on Top of the Pops in 1970
The dance troupes' routines accompanied the music in the 70s
The show has always struggled to keep up with the times since then, but has remained a vital part of music scheduling.

During the 1980s, Madonna gave us a taste of what was to come when she performed Like a Virgin in a pink wig, while two up-and-coming Manchester bands, The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, heralded the Madchester era on the same show at the end of the decade.

But for every moment that the show has memorably and successfully tapped into youth culture, there has been a performance that has become notorious for the opposite reasons.


In 1983, Dexy's Midnight Runners played Jackie Wilson Said in front of a giant picture of darts player Jocky Wilson. To this day, nobody quite knows why.

Many also remember Billy Bragg mumbling his way through She's Leaving Home because his lyrics were taped to the floor, and hidden by the dry ice, and All About Eve sitting in confused silence because their backing track failed to start.

The 1990s and beyond also produced their fair share of memorable moments - the stage invasion when Nirvana played Smells Like Teen Spirit, 75 people buckling the stage during Fat Les's performance, Supergrass's Danny destroying the drum kit and Robbie Williams threatening Prince on stage.

And a new generation of stars emerged - Jennifer Lopez demanded "dozens" of dressing rooms for an appearance, according to the show's website, while R Kelly brought 43 bouncers and Busta Rhymes stayed in the studios for just 30 minutes but recorded three songs in that time.


Top of the Pops left Television Centre between 1991 and 2001, during which time the show saw a marked decline in viewing figures.

This was an era of plummeting singles sales, and the growth of 24-hour music channels.

Further competition to the show continued to arrive from the internet, video and DVD.

Andi Peters
Andi Peters was brought in from Channel 4 to revitalise the show
A controversial move from Thursday to Friday in 1996 failed to reverse the slump, as did a high-profile relaunch produced by Andi Peters in 2003.

As it continued to attract an average of about three million viewers - less than half its mid-1990s total - it underwent the biggest shake-up in its history.

But last year's move to BBC Two on Sunday night halved the average audience to just over one million.

For so many years must-see TV, Top of the Pops will be gone from 30 July but surely not forgotten.


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