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 "Yes, it's Number One, it's Top of the Pops!

Long-running music programme from The BBC that ran from New Year's Day 1964 to July 2006. Still turns up on special occasions; every Christmas Day and the past two Comic Relief nights.

Was presented by disc jockeys from BBC Radio 1 for many years (including John Peel, the legendary DJ who helped popularize psychedelic rock, punk, alternative rock and indie rock on his various radio shows) but most viewers associate the show with Jimmy Savile, who presented the first episode (and co-hosted the last) and appeared regularly as a host for 20 years.

For a large part of its history, the artists performing on the show were required to lip synch their performance. Some (like Belle and Sebastian, Blur, Oasis, The Cure, Nirvana and Marillion) had fun with this, intentionally miming their vocals and instruments poorly. The Smiths, in fact, gained their first major breakthrough with their anarchic miming of their first UK Top 40 single "This Charming Man" on the show. Before the "lip sync-only" rule was removed, there were a handful of performers (namely New Order, David Bowie and John Lennon) who performed one of their songs ("Blue Monday", "Starman" and "Instant Karma" respectively) live on the program. These performances were always a made into a big deal.

Spun-off in the 1990s and early 2000s to various series:

  • Top of the Pops 2 (originally a mix of the main programme, new music and archive show performances, Re Tooled as mainly archive with the arrival of Steve Wright)
  • Top of the Pops Saturday
  • Top of the Pops on THREE
  • Top of the Pops Plus

Not to mention various adaptations in other countries around the world.


This show provides examples of:

  • Book Ends - Jimmy Savile presented the first episode. At the end of the series, he co-presented the last, and the final scene showed him shaking his head in sadness and then pulling a giant switch as though to cut the power.
  • B Roll Rebus - Dance troupe Legs and Co, on the show from 76-81, relied so much on literal dancing that it was often joked that viewers could identify the song with the TV muted.
  • Cash Cow Franchise - As well as its 42 year run, the TOTP format was sold worldwide and spawned a magazine in the UK (which is still published despite the end of the weekly series) and many compilation albums (the 1970s ones not sung by the original artists, the 1990s ones actually sung by the original artists).
  • Channel Hop - from BBC One to BBC Two in 2005, what turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for the weekly series.
  • Cloudcuckoolander- Jimmy Saville!
  • Deadpan Snarker - John Peel. "That's one of the very best things since Napoleon's retreat from Moscow - Keith Harris and Orville."
  • Fan Service - Resident dance troupes Pan's People and follow-ups Legs and Co; arguably most of the female presenters in the late 1990s: Jayne Middlemiss, Gail Porter, Lisa Snowdon...
  • Guest Host - Played with at various point of the show's history.
  • Invisible Backup Band - Common with solo acts, as most artists appearing on the show were lip-syncing.
  • Is This Thing Still On? - Jeremy Clarkson was a guest presenter of one episode late in the programme's life. After an American hip-hop group finished performing he asked his co-presenter the trope question, then proceeded to refer to the song as "bloody appalling."
  • The Last DJ - John Peel
  • Long Runners - Into its 45th year - just about.
  • Missing Episode - Most early episodes of TOTP were wiped by the BBC; only four complete episodes exist from the 1960s (one and most of another with the presenter's links mute), and the show's archive only exists in full from 1977 onwards.
  • One-Liner - John Peel. "And if that doesn't get to Number One, I'm gonna come and break wind in your kitchen."
  • Retool - Often when a new producer was appointed. Either made the show good (Ric Blaxill) or awful (Andi Peters). Also the TOTP 2 Retool mentioned above.
  • Take That - The TOTP crew insisted that Nirvana play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the show, and Kurt wasn't too fond of the focus on "Teen Spirit" already, so his Creator Backlash mixed with an imitation of Morrissey and made a Take That moment to the crew of TOTP.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: And how! Not even mentioning the charts and the featured songs, the audience and their fashions and the video effects and graphics combine to make each episode a time capsule of the year it came from.
  • Vinyl Shatters: The early '80s titles end with a vinyl record exploding into fragments in mid air. (Although this clearly wasn't dramatic enough, as the titles were later updated to have an exploding TV instead).
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