The swinging 60s, the decade of flower power, the Beatles, and the decade Top of the Pops first winging it's way onto our screens.
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During the mid-1960s television was becoming more of a mainstream medium, and there were only two main channels in the UK. BBC TV & ITV. ITV already had its own music show, 'Ready Steady Go’, where popular artists of the day performed their hits. In 1964, BBC bosses were looking at ways to compete with their television rival, and so they came up with the idea of a music chart show, called 'Top of the Pops', which was commissioned for a 6 week period, after a successful pilot, called the “The Teen & Twenty Record Club”.
The show's first producer Johnny Stewart (executive producer from 1964-73), allowed only chart climbers to perform on the show. This helped avoid music labels trying to get falling chart entries onto the show to revive single sales.
The original TOTP studio was located in Dickinson Road, Manchester, in a converted church. The format of the show was relatively simple, climbing chart single performances, combined with in-vision links presented by a variety of BBC radio personalities of the day. Jimmy Savile presented the first show on the 1st January 1964, along with Pete Murray, David Jacobs and Alan Freeman. The original trio presented the show regularly throughout the 1960s. Later on in the decade with the launch of Radio 1, more personalities were added to the regular roster, including Tony Blackburn, Stuart Henry, Emperor Rosko, Simon Dee, John Peel and Kenny Everett. In the early days, the show was often unrehearsed mayhem as the presenters often didn't know what they were supposed to say, and improvised. The chaotic arrangement didn't stop TOTP becoming an instant success though, as the Beeb renewed the show for a couple more years.
However, at this point the ‘Musicians Union’ decided that having all these acts miming on TV was putting their members out of work. With this in mind, the BBC didn't want to fall out with the ‘Musicians Union’ as it would threaten the majority of their TV and radio entertainment shows. With this came the introduction of the 'Top of the Pops orchestra’. During the 60s and 70s they re-created pretty much any Top 30 sound. Solo artists, including Lulu & Tom Jones would sing to the orchestra, while full bands would play live.
There wasn't the room to house a full orchestra in Manchester so TOTP moved to TC2 at Television Centre on 20th January 1966, introducing a new audience to the TOTP studio. With the move to TVC, Johnnie Stewart decided to introduce competitions for the best studio dancers, and they would win prizes, like the latest releases on vinyl. As the 60s began drawing to a close, TOTP transmitted its first colour edition on 24th November 1969.
Johnny Stewart ordered every TOTP episode after June 1967 to be recorded and archived accordingly. At the time it was common practice to wipe transmitted shows, like most, if not all BBC programmes of the time, because people believed the show had no more commercial value after the original broadcast. They also knew that the show couldn't be sold to other countries, and they didn't think they would show it again because it was based on the singles chart of the time. Most wiped BBC shows were returned from the countries that bought the show, but because the show wasn't sold abroad most episodes before 1973 have been lost forever. The first full episode of TOTP in the BBC archive is the Boxing Day 1967 episode.
It was evident that during Johnny Stewart's time as producer he had made a success of TOTP, with the show reaching it’s 300th episode in October 1969. But as the swingings sixties drew to a close, times were changing, which meant changes across the music scene and for TOTP…