Friday, June 23, 2006

When the music's over

"I'll miss 'TOTP' in the same way that I missed the local greengrocer's when it closed. It had been there before I arrived and it's a shame that it's gone, but I haven't used it all that much recently". Thus quoth ByTheSeaShore in his post on the demise of 'Top Of The Pops'. Couldn't have put it better myself.

In truth I can't remember the last time I watched 'Top Of The Pops'. It was certainly before it was symbolically relegated to BBC2, as clear a precursor to its demise as any. The reasons for my not tuning in were manifold, not least the presenters and the increasingly rubbish selection of acts invited to perform (no real reflection of the make-up of the charts).

I could say that the decision to axe the show, a national institution, is untimely and appalling - but the sad truth of the matter is that it isn't.

It had clearly been in desperate need of being shot between the eyes for some time. Inspector Sands has laid the blame squarely at Andi Peters's door, and I can't disagree with him. Peters single-handedly destroyed the programme's unique identity. It's a worrying day when I find myself in agreement with Noel Edmonds, but he had a point (of sorts) when he said: "It's a tragedy when a broadcaster doesn't understand such a powerful brand".

The Inspector is absolutely right in saying that despite (or perhaps even because of) the changes in record-buying patterns and means of consumption, and the fracturing of the common ground in musical and TV terms, there was still certainly a place for the sort of show that 'Top Of The Pops' once was. Seeing a favourite band perform on the programme was the always source of much excitement, and as a whole the show played an integral part in my musical education. That's something of which The Kidz are now going to be deprived.

So what's left but to remember some of the moments that made 'Top Of The Pops' such great viewing? Of all the performances noted by Del, Eels' debut remains the most memorable for me - the trio stopped miming along to 'Novocaine For The Soul' towards the end and instead destroyed Butch's miniature child's drumkit as the song continued to play. Also worthy of mention on a personal note was Therapy?'s first appearance when they performed 'Screamager' - I fell in love instantly and bought the Shortsharpshock EP the very next day.


(See, it IS possible to write about 'Top Of The Pops' without making reference to Pan's People. Oh...)


Blogger Lord Bargain said...

I think it's a bit of a shame, actually. I am not sure that shunting it onto BBC2 on a Suunday night did it any favours although, bizarrely, I have seen it more often since they did that (normally by accident) than I did when it was on BBC1.

Even though I didn't see it at the time, my favourite TOTP moment has got to be that classic Dexys Midnight Runners performance of "Jackie Wilson Said" when the designer at TOTP misheard and so put a huge picture of fat darts legend Jocky Wilson in the background. Pure class.

7:27 am  
Blogger Ben said...

Perhaps I didn't put it quite right. What I meant was that, like you, I find it a shame that 'TOTP' is dead - it was essential viewing once upon a time. But it had been so badly handled for several years now that sadly in the end it was a good thing for it to be put out of its misery.

11:08 am  
Blogger bytheseashore said...

I agree that it's been handled and scheduled badly and it's a shame that it's being axed. It seems to me that it passed its peak at least a decade ago which I think is due to the sheer availability of music these days (via other stations and the 'net). The days when I watched TOTP religiously were when my only real chance to buy a new album or single was on a Saturday, and anything taped off the radio was talked over by Bruno Brookes (or whoever). The Chart Show managed to complement rather than directly compete with TOTP because of its genre charts.

I think the BBC should make sure TOTP goes out with a bang with a series of programmes devoted to each of its decades. They aired a brilliant compilation of the 80s on New Year's Eve 1989-1990 which I stayed at home to record rather than doing the things that an 18-year-old should have been doing. No idea where it is now, unfortunately.

Much of the above confirms that I'm probably outside TOTP's target age range but maybe that's the point. I'm still trying to work out whether Radio 2's getting better or my critical faculties are waning with age.

6:49 pm  

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