The Top of the Tops effect

THURSDAYS evenings in the 1970s and 1980s meant watching the nation’s flagship music show, Top of the Pops. There was always an atmosphere of excitement in the studio: a posse of smiling music-lovers surrounding the host during the intro was pretty common.

After the intro, the music swiftly followed. The artists and music was varied: we had the loud, the sultry, the soulful, the funny (Shaddap you Face by Joe Dolce) – the music mixture was like bag of sweets containing Jelly Babies, Dolly mixtures, Cola Cubes, Bon-Bons, Love Hearts, Black Jacks and Dib-Dabs; during a fifteen-minute period, Adam Ant, The Commodores and Bad Manners could have graced the TOTP stage. The mixed bag of sweets concept may have seemed like it had not been thought through, but in reality, it worked.

A bit of inside information and a slick supply chain meant Our Price Records were ready for a weekend of fast and furious trading

Record label executives wanted their artists to appear on TOTP – an appearance meant a dead-cert increase in record sales and publicity.

To highlight the sheer power of TOTP, let’s look back at the once popular high street record shop, Our Price Records: the BBC provided in phone-in service for them – the Our Price team would give them a call on Tuesday, and in turn, the BBC would tell them which songs, artists and groups were going to be on Thursday’s TOTP. Our Price were also informed about whether the group or artist would be appearing live, or if a music video would be played instead. Once Our Price got the list of songs from the BBC, they would order the music singles to arrive in stores by Friday. A bit of inside information and a slick supply chain meant Our Price Records were ready for a weekend of fast and furious trading.

The final piece of magic that TOTP boldly displayed involved leggy women. When a group or artist was unavailable, the female dance group, Legs and Co, danced in the studio to the unavailable artist’s song. Let’s face it, the name of the dance group gives a clear indication as to which part of the body would take centre stage. I’m sure many men didn’t really care much about the song as they were hypnotised by the leggy ladies. Another tick in the success completion box for the TOTP bosses.

The Top of the Pops effect was unique: starting-off on Thursday evening, its vapours kept engulfing the surroundings until the following Thursday. The TOTP vapours engulfed viewers, then drifted into record shops and continued drifting out of the radio speakers throughout the country. TOTP was once a well-oiled, precise music programme that touched the lives of the nation.

Enjoy Joe Dolce and Bad Manners below:

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