Passions: One hit wonders, Pan’s People – TOTP is a treasure trove of memories

Top of the Pops was once essential viewing every Thursday evening
Wizzard performing on Top of the Pops in 1973. (Pic: Jack Kay/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)Wizzard performing on Top of the Pops in 1973. (Pic: Jack Kay/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Wizzard performing on Top of the Pops in 1973. (Pic: Jack Kay/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I grew up in the glory days of Top Of The Pops, so it is a joy to dip into the BBC4 schedules on a Friday to see what gems pop up. It’s television’s equivalent of dropping a coin into a jukebox and pressing ‘shuffle.’

It should be compulsory viewing for the Spotify generation which will never fully experience the utter randomness of any line-up as we tuned in for the all important top 30 run down. Google or Alexa would never throw up Motorhead straight after Cliff Richard, for example - unless it suddenly malfunctions.

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That diversity - from the great to the naff and back again via the cheesiest of links from DJs with no discernible dress sense - was what made TOTP so great.

The BBC’s archives are a treasure trove of memories and rediscoveries. One minute you’re reliving Noddy Holder and Slade in their prime, and the next you’re Googling Streetband and being absolutely blindsided by the fact that the bloke singing ‘Toast’ was in fact Paul Young.

And while so much of TOTP really hasn’t aged well, it doesn’t matter when the music serves up so many forgotten gems that have you scurrying deep into your vinyl and CD collections once more.

These shows capture the wow factor of Kate Bush’s mesmerising debut, the energy of Adam Ant exploding on to the scene, the transformation from glam rock to punk to new romantics, all featuring some truly great performances, some dire miming and audiences who could barely shuffle let alone dance.

And talking of dance, Pan’s People and Legs & Co’s interpretations of a random top 30 hit remain just as unfathomable to this day.

But, they have been preserved for eternity along with a generation of one hit wonders and novelty acts. I can still picture, Lieutenant Pigeon battering out Mouldy Old Dough, and Clive Dunn singing Grandad in a rocking chair,, but Kid Jensen’s confident prediction of big things for a band called Child had been stumped. I’m not sure they even troubled the top 75.

TOTP was never as cool as The Tube, but it spoke to us in a way that the Old Grey Whistle Test didn’t, and it was essential viewing every Thursday for generations. It may have no place in today’s streamlined, genre specific charts, but these old shows still entertain and delight. May the BBC never run out of editions to screen.

Allan Crow is Editor of the Fife Free Press, sister title to The Scotsman

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