Top of the Pops BBC4 Thursday/Friday 7.30pm | Page 1006 | The Popjustice Forum

Top of the Pops BBC4 Thursday/Friday 7.30pm

Discussion in 'Comeback corner' started by idratherjack, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. I read something where he said he had a shower once and saw something on the floor of the shower cubicle. He wondered what it was, only to discover it was the septum from his nose…
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  2. On one hand, I would agree with you – the admission of the undeniable impact the Spice Girls made at least meant it wasn't wall-to-wall Britpop. However …

    Watching this unexpected run of The Story Of … documentaries would suggest that these years have effectively been bracketed together for production purposes – we are getting the same talking heads, over and over again. This is reminiscent of those Channel 5 documentaries on the 70s, stuffed full of the same people on rotation because the interviews for different years are done at the same time. The BBC has clearly taken a leaf out of that book, most likely to save money. The economy drive has even hit the Big Hits compilations – the graphic links have the old TOTP logos from the shows currently being repeated on BBC Four, rather than the Ric Blaxill makeover logo that was commented on.

    So we have ended up with yet more features on Cast (yawn), Boyzone and Skunk Anansie again, in a year when Gina G, Mark Morrison and Babylon Zoo would have been more appropriate and more interesting (Morrison especially). And the work experience muppets were let loose on the research again: yes, the Prodigy, Underworld and Faithless all made an impact, but how can anyone argue that constituted dance going into the mainstream when previous years had seen massive hits for Baby D, Alex Party, 2 Unlimited, Livin' Joy, Haddaway and, um, yeah, the Prodigy? And why feature Black Grape's World Cup song without mentioning the thing that was the talking point at the time – Joe Strummer, who famously refused to do TOTP in the days of The Clash, happily on stage there?

    Even more bizarre was the mention of TFI Friday as some kind of madcap competitor for TOTP, yet the insistence that TOTP was still relevant and trend-setting. Much as I love TOTP, relegating the show to a Friday night – which always has fewer people watching (because more people go out) – was not a vote of confidence in the show, however valiantly Ric Blaxill tried to spin it.

    Unfortunately, that move coincided with the advent of something else which was a much more potent threat to TOTP's claim to be the UK's flagship music show: cable and satellite channels making inroads like never before and one channel in particular – The Box. Launched as a video jukebox service where viewers were able to dial in and request their favourites for the price of a call to a premium phone line, it quickly became the marketing tool of choice for record companies. They didn't have to bother bribing record shops to get a single into the chart: they simply kept ringing the phone lines so the artist they were promoting was in heavy rotation on The Box, and hitting a young demographic. Way more effective that trying to bag a slot on TOTP, unpoliced by the BPI and a route that would guarantee Peter André and the Spice Girls an instant profile with the desired audience, plus a highly placed debut chart position. (Both 'Mysterious Girl' and 'Wannabe' had blanket coverage on The Box way before they got anywhere near the Top 40).

    Given the impact this had on TOTP, it should have been featured – the show was no longer the trend-setter but the trend follower, struggling to keep up. Ric Blaxill did his best with stunts like double slots for Oasis and throwing virtual unknowns Bis into the studio – but even that couldn't halt the changes in music television taking place outside TOTP.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2022
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  3. Oh I agree the docs are still not anywhere near as good as they should be. I just thought 96 was a slight improvement on the previous two.

    And the thing about dance music entering the mainstream was oddly worded, but I got what they meant. The sort of "cool", British dance music scene blew up in 96.
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  4. Oh, I think I understand what they were circling but it was expressed so clumsily and inaccurately that it made no sense …

    The Prodigy's 1996 hits may have built on their previous singles but they were seismic in that they drew in a white audience who would normally have been drawn to rock – pushing Keith Flint to the front with an aggressive image worked wonders. In the same way that hip hop had already siphoned off a demographic who saw way more rebellion in the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy than in hair metal, the Prodigy, Underworld and the Chemical Brothers used a drug fuelled, musically extreme sound to draw in a young male audience. Guitars may have been thin on the ground, but attitude-wise, it was right up Kerrang! readers' streets.

    Again, an interesting story to tell in the context of 1996, but not really one that the line-up of Boyzone, Skunk Anansie and Cast would be equipped to comment on …
  5. That is one of the most disturbing images I could ever imagine...
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  6. Everything about this is spot on. 1997 and 1998 would also see the launch of MTV UK, the Pepsi Chart Show and cd:uk, which would all leave Top of the Pops in the dust when it came to broadcasting new music.
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  7. Worth pointing out though that TOTP still got about 3x the number of viewers of CD:UK.

    It did become less of a "must watch" because pop music was all over the TV, and the trend of building up a single for weeks before it was released, but it still remained by far the biggest music show on TV.

    And after they did lose a big chunk of viewers from moving to Friday nights, the ratings did actually stay fairly stable at around 4 million between 1997 and 2001.
  8. If TOTP came back and stuck to the same rules about songs climbing etc you'd have the likes of Glass Animals on about 20 times. Pretty much all the top 40 is songs that have been around for months.
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  9. I remember The Box! It was where I saw the Spice Girls for the first time. The Box was where it was at in 1996!
    I also remember MTV doing a Boyband concert (Boyzone! Worlds Apart! Caught In The Act!) presented by Davina and Robbie. It also, weirdly, had the Spice Girls on it. Another example of rival channels making competitive programming.
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  12. Yep, better not to look really. I'm thankful my days of chart following were over by then.
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  13. I can honestly say that I couldn't hum or name one of ES tunes! That's not to be disrespectful to him...I'm just apathetic to his work...
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  14. I moved from "total indifference" to "red mist" the moment I heard "Galway Girl".
  15. You've mentioned the other growing problem for TOTP around this time: the music industry's attitude to the singles chart.

    We have already started seeing instances of singles entering the charts high up and then starting a downward trajectory almost straight away, and the further into the 00s we get, the more the major labels view the chart as a marketing tool, and nothing else. Record companies had one aim – to land a number one in the first week of release … hence them playing the game of building pre-release demand via channels like The Box. It worked for the Spice Girls and Peter Andre in 1996 and quickly became the norm – especially as the Britpop bubble burst, the accountants started to take over, and the kind of artist development that had previously yielded the likes of David Bowie, Prince and Kate Bush was trumped by what the balance sheet said.

    The TOTP format was constructed around the singles chart, and the drama therein – so the devaluing of that chart also devalued TOTP. Singles no longer had slow burn ascents as their popularity grew and intensified (a la 'Think Twice' by Celine Dion). The shock of a single entering the chart at number one back in the day became an eye roll for the mainstream public … here we go again. There was no longer any excitement or tension in the singles chart.

    So TOTP was on the back foot, and the music industry, which for so long depended heavily on the show, had stopped caring. An alignment of elements had stacked up against what made the show special and appointment to view TV – which Andi Peters later managed to take an even bigger wrecking ball to, doing irreparable damage …
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  16. If Ed Sheeran had stuck to songwriting, that might have been OK. But he has absolutely ZERO star quality as a performer – which is why he gets a NO from me …!
  17. You should write a book on pop culture/history/charts...I'd read it!
  18. I think I spent too long slavishly reading Record Mirror …!
  19. This is all true but as you know, it's even more complicated than that.

    Important to remember that the shift in strategy actually did work well for the industry as a whole - singles sales were really high in the late 90s.

    And I think the "excitement" of the TOTP chart rundown itself can be overstated. It was surely always more about the music itself, and that it used to be one of the only places you could see your favourite artists. As the years went on, it was inevitable that the show would struggle to hold on to viewers, regardless of how the music industry and the charts changed.

    But of course like you say, decisions made about the programme itself hastened its demise. I'd like to think it could find a (smaller, but loyal) audience even in 2022, though the format would have to change a bit.
  20. Yes singles sales were very very high in the late 90s, so for the industry and media it seemed all was well. They hadn't looked to the long term and seen what their tactics would ultimately lead to.
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