Today in 1980, 1985

Die-cut 7" sleeveAs none of the Smash Hits cover stars issued a single on the 24th of January in any year of the 1980s, today’s article looks at another major influence on the British pop scene, the weekly BBC chart show Top Of The Pops.

Launched in 1964, original producer Johnnie Stewart set out the criteria regarding artists’ eligibility to appear. Those with singles in the chart were invited to perform in the studio: the highest new entry and the highest climbing single would be appear, along with other records making their way up the chart. The only guaranteed invite though was for the group or singer with the #1 record – no other song would be permitted on the show two weeks in a row.

Who appeared on the show would of course also depend on who was available on the day the programme was recorded, and sometimes an edition would be filled out with tracks from positions lower down the featured chart or new releases, but in general hits that had already peaked in earlier weeks were not eligible for inclusion. It wasn’t necessary for the artist concerned to attend the studio to get his or her record played though; a resident “disc girl” in the 60s would act as DJ and play the record for the studio audience to dance to, or one of a number of professional dance ensembles (The Go-Jos, Pan’s People, Ruby Flipper, Legs & Co or Zoo) would perform a choreographed routine to it.

Broadcast for most of its run on Thursdays and with an audience of around 15 million per edition, an appearance on TOTP could help a single’s weekend sales considerably.

1980: Presenter – Mike Read

Artist Release Type
Azymuth Jazz Carnival Chart run-down
The Buggles The Plastic Age Studio performance
The Nolans I’m In The Mood For Dancing Studio performance
The Boomtown Rats
(Bob Geldof)
Someone’s Looking At You Studio performance
Bee Gees Spirits (Having Flown) Legs & Co routine
Joe Jackson It’s Different For Girls Archive studio footage
Suzi Quatro Mama’s Boy Studio performance
Dollar I Wanna Hold Your Hand Studio performance
The Specials Too Much Too Young Video tape
Barbara Dickson Caravan Song Studio performance
Matchbox Buzz Buzz A Diddle It Studio performance
Sheila And B. Devotion Spacer Video tape
The Regents 7 Teen Studio performance
Pretenders Brass In Pocket Archive studio footage
Kool & The Gang Too Hot Show credits

During Michael Hurll’s tenure as executive producer (most of the 1980s: 1980 – 1987) the rules on which singles were broadcast could be more rigidly enforced. If an artist was eligible to appear but couldn’t attend the studio, there was usually a promotional video available to show instead. So, the #1 was shown, then the #2 (as long it was a new entry, going up, or a non-mover, and hadn’t been shown the previous week), and then on through the Top 40 until the half-hour running time was used up. The highest new entry and highest climber were still shown, but not necessarily in full: the use of ‘breaker clips’ (short 30- or 40-second extracts from the promo video) would often suffice. Hurll also reinstated the use of a titles sequence for the show, and the theme tune (Phil Lynott’s Yellow Pearl for the edition featured below) would play while the chart run down was narrated by the presenters, hence fewer studio performances in the list below than the one above. One artist appears on both shows originally broadcast on the 24th of January during the 80s: Barbara Dickson was in the studio in 1980 and exactly five years later, a clip of the single that would take her to #1 in two weeks’ time was shown.

1985: Presenters – Mike Smith and Steve Wright

Artist Release Type
Chaka Khan This Is My Night Studio performance
Ashford & Simpson Solid Video tape
Strawberry Switchblade Since Yesterday Studio performance
James Ingram Yah Mo B There Studio performance
(Leee John)
Thank You My Love Breaker clip
Billy Ocean Loverboy Breaker clip
Big Country
(Stuart Adamson)
Just A Shadow Breaker clip
Art Of Noise Close (To The Edit) Breaker clip
Bucks Fizz I Hear Talk Breaker clip
Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson I Know Him So Well Breaker clip
Prince Little Red Corvette Breaker clip
King (Paul King) Love And Pride Studio performance
Foreigner I Want To Know What Love Is Video tape
Kirsty MacColl A New England Show credits

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