Saturday, 2 April 2011

Don't bring back Top of the Pops

Middle-aged people went a bit mad last night as BBC4 chose a Top of the Pops theme for their regular Friday music night. I followed the Twitter stream for #totp and it was trending all night.

The first hour and a half was a clip show from 1964 to 1975 (with colour coming in for Lola by the Kinks). Husband periodically walked into the room, looked at the TV, said 'he's dead' and walked out again. But I had a great time. And not just because the Faces, T Rex and David Bowie were on one after the other.

Most of the music was good. But even better was following what people were saying about it.

It was like being immersed in a collective memory. Tom Jones appeared singing Delilah and people started talking about Alex Harvey. Suzi Quatro came on and women started talking about role models (never mind what the men said). As the evening progressed, there were reminisces about Saturday jobs, hot summers and boyfriends who looked like Ron Wood (oh, that one was just me).

It was followed by a dreadful documentary about 1976. Just to spoil the party, it brought out a lot of sceptics muttering about 'people who thought punk made a difference'. (Depends what you mean by 'difference'... but that's another story.)

The night also brought out a lot of people who think it would be a good idea to bring back Top of the Pops. It wouldn't.

Top of the Pops was needed because there were hardly any other media outlets for music. Top of the Pops was classic because there was a brief, golden age for pop singles. Top of the Pops was good because when we watched it, we were young . None of these things now apply.

I predict that the repeats of Top of the Pops will be a flop. Because they start in 1976 (the first year for which they have the full set - and probably the time I stopped watching).

By then, the show was already past its prime. Partly because the music business had changed: the 'serious' stuff was on albums (and the stiflingly dull Old Grey Whistle Test); the fresh, interesting stuff hadn't reached the mass media. And partly because the producers had lost faith and started tinkering with the format - something that carried on, in one way or another, until they finally killed it off.

Top of the Pops was good for a few years. And relevant for a few years. Yes, there were a lot of classic moments. But the BBC should not kid themselves it good because of them. It was because of the musicians. And, like last night, because of the audience.

No comments:

Post a Comment