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BBC Cancels 'Top of the Pops'


This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Madeleine Brand.

A British Institution is dead, or at least it's been issued a death warrant. The BBC announced yesterday it's pulling the plug on the television music show Top of the Pops, later this summer. British DJ Jimmy Savile hosted that first program.

(Soundbite of Top of the Pops)

Mr. JIMMY SAVILE (DeeJay): Welcome to January the first, 1964. It's 6:34 p.m. and it's a program that you've never heard of before. It's called Top of the Pops.

BRAND: Featured guests on that inaugural episode were some bands you may have heard of. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield and the Hollies. Top of the Pops was supposed to last just a few episodes; it's been on the air for 42 years. At its peak, in the 70s, it had more than 15 million viewers.

(Soundbite of Top of the Pops):

Mr. SAVILE: …we have lost a young lady. So if any of you gentlemen are watching on your own, this young lady is for you. Top Pop girl in America, Top Pop girl in Britain, the one and only Lulu.

BRAND: For years Top of the Pops was a Thursday night institution featuring musicians on the Top Forty charts. There were strict rules about who could appear on the show. Your single had to be going up the charts, not down, and live performances were mostly discouraged. Bands would lip sync to their own recordings. Les Carter's band, FruitBats was on the show. He said in an interview on BBC being on Top of the Pops was the sign that you made it.

LEZ CARTER: And when I was a kid and I was watching Top of the Pops and doing the twist in front of our black and white tele with my brother, I decided I wanted to be in a band. Headlining Glastonbury and things like that weren't really important, but being on Top of the Pops was you know, that was what was aiming for.

BRAND: But over the years this show became dated. Young people went elsewhere to hear pop music and Top of the Pops prime time Thursday night slot became Friday night and then last year the show was moved to tea time on BBC two. But original presenter Jimmy Savile said the show's demise is okay, its legacy as a pioneer will stand.

Mr. SAVILE: I don't think it's sad news. Because I started it on Wednesday January the first 1964 at 6:30 in the evening, live from Manchester and Rolling Stones first group on, Get Off of My Cloud. And now you've got about twenty channels all doing twenty-four hours a day, pop music exactly like Top Of The Pops invented it's just that they call the program a different name.

BRAND: Top of the Pops will sign off next month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand is the host of NPR’s newest and fastest-growing daily show, Day to Day. She conducts interviews with newsmakers (Iraqi politicians, US senators), entertainment figures (Bernardo Bertolluci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Gervais), and the everyday people affected by the news (an autoworker laid off at GM, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq).