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Fifty poptastic years of Top of the Pops marked by Hythe author Steve Blacknell

12 January 2014

These are among the fascinating stories in a new book out for the 50th anniversary of the legendary music TV show. And its co-author is a former TV presenter from Hythe, Steve Blacknell.

The 61-year-old, of North Road, has co-written Top of the Pops 50th anniversary with London rock writer Patrick Humphries.

Sweet perform on Top of the Pops

Sweet perform on Top of the Pops

It tells the story of the ground-breaking BBC programme from its first broadcast on
January 1, 1964, to its last on July 30, 2006.

Mr Blacknell explains: “Top of the Pops was bigger than The Beatles and the Stones and bigger than its presenters.

"It was such a strong brand that every band had to appear on it. The Beatles were so busy that they were only able to appear live once, but they did it.

“The success of the show was that the idea behind it was very simple. It was to reflect the hits of the day. You would buy the record and could see the band perform it that week.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

“I think the ultimate Top of the Pops performance was David Bowie singing Starman with his band in 1972.”

The authors interviewed 140 people for the book, including presenters such as Pete Murray, David Hamilton and Peter Powell and members of the dance groups Pan’s People and Legs & Co.

Also sharing their memories are stars such as David Essex, Sir Cliff Richard and Slade.

Sir Cliff provides the foreword and Slade guitarist Dave Hill, sums up the programme.

He says in the book: “The real thrill came from sitting down with the whole family to watch the show together. That was the essence of the Pops – it bought different generations together like no pop show before or since.”

Hill always wanted to dress outlandishly for appearances on the show in the early Seventies. He would scour Kensington Market for the right clothes where he was often served by a then-unknown Freddie Mercury.

Mr Blacknell reveals how some bands were deliberately awkward for their appearances, especially when they did not like the requirement to mime.

He said: “Morrissey in The Smiths said he wouldn’t mime at first but then agreed to. But when he appeared on the programme he sang into a bunch of flowers making it so blatant.

Steve Blacknell, co-author of the 50th anniversary Top of the Pops book

Steve Blacknell, co-author of the 50th anniversary Top of the Pops book

“Midway through a song Squeeze swapped instruments with the guitarist Chris Difford going on drums.”

Mr Blacknell is a TV presenter trainer at the London Academy of Media in the capital’s Euston.

He was a former TV presenter on shows such as BBC Breakfast Time from 1984 to 1986, The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1982. He interviewed Phil Collins on Concorde on the day of Live Aid in 1985 en route from performing in London to singing in Philadelphia.

Mr Blacknell was the author of a 21st anniversary book on the show.

Top of the Pops and their performers - from the book Top of the Pops 50th anniversary

Top of the Pops and their performers - from the book Top of the Pops 50th anniversary

He first remembers watching it in 1966, when he was 14, with a performance by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich and accepts that the show had to come to an end.

He says: “I think it had had its day. Technology got in the way. In 2013, 182.2 million singles were sold in the UK but 99% were downloaded.

“Also in eras like the Seventies you had real stars like Sweet, Mud and Bowie who were held in awe but now there has been a punkdom of fame.

"That is, with punk music, the idea was anybody could do it, and with reality TV anyone can become a star.”

  •  Top of the Pops 50th Anniversary is published by McNidder & Grace and available in bookshops and Amazon price £24.99.

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