The greatest show on earth: Top of the Pops takes a final bow

In the days when a three-minute single had the power to rock the world, 'Top of the Pops' was essential viewing for millions. As the show finally bows out tomorrow, Bobby Elliot of The Hollies - who performed in the first ever programme - remembers how it all began. And Ed Caesar checks out the original all-star line-up
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

I remember that Top of the Pops show so well. Our manager at the time told us that we had a gig up in Manchester for the BBC for some programme called Top of the Pops. I remember thinking, "What an uncool name for a programme!" I thought it was going to be one of these minority BBC2 things. Obviously, it turned out differently.

The show went out live from this old church on Dickenson Road in Manchester. I remember all of us apart from Clarkie [Allan Clarke, guitars/vocals] turning up in the van. Clarkie had come up by train from London, and had shared a compartment with Brian Jones of the Stones, who were also on. At that time, we were a suit band, and the Stones were a T-shirt band. The train was running late, and they decided, on the train, to change into the clothes they were going to wear for the show. So Brian Jones changed out of his suit into his T-shirt and jeans, and Clarkie changed out of his T-shirt and jeans into his suit.

We all had flats down in London, and we felt that going up to Manchester was a bit of a chore, but the place itself was quite atmospheric. I remember there was a little canteen filled with Mancunian dinner ladies serving you sponge and custard and what have you.

Johnnie Stewart was the producer, but there was this guy who was there for many years called Harry Goodwin, who was a photographer. He was taking pictures of all these stars, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix and everyone, all through the Sixties.

We knew the presenter, Jimmy Savile, from before. Jim was great. Around the same time, we were opening a shop in Bolton with Jim, and there were all these kids in the shop. They had trapped us up against the shelves which looked like they were going to fall down. Jim said "Bob! This way!" We went out the back and he had a burgundy Rolls-Royce with his own chauffeur, and we got away.

Johnnie Stewart, the producer was a lovely man, but he didn't give us a briefing, it was all very casual. The floor manager was a man called Cecil Korer. He was a likeable chap, but he didn't have much hair. He seemed old at the time, but he was probably only in his mid-thirties. Anyway, when he was mingling with the crowd, Johnnie made him wear a toupé, so that he wouldn't stand out as being the wrong generation, and his head wouldn't shine in the lights.

The Beatles had the No 1 that week, but they only appeared at the end of the show. All the rest of us mimed to the track, sang along to the record, as you did on all the shows those days. It was quite fun making it look convincing. When I played the drums, I had a trick of hitting just the rims, but it looked as if I was hitting the actual drum. I quite enjoyed trying to look like I was playing the record.

All us bands knew each other, but out of that TOTP line-up, we knew the Stones best. We were both coming out of the period when we were just travelling in a van. We had both had a couple of hits, and we had graduated to having a van and a car - getting a roadie to drive our gear in the van, and a personal roadie to drive all of us in the car.

But you knew everybody. As everybody was queuing up for a cup of tea you'd swap stories. I think, at some stage, the Blue Jeans got into some sort of kerfuffle with the Stones in the canteen. Apparently, some sort of argument over a ball-point pen.

And Dusty Springfield was there, too, obviously. She was a very sweet lady, pretty shy, but you could talk to her fine. At the end of the show, I didn't go out - I just went home to my parents' house just outside of Manchester.

Now I look back on that show, which is a part of broadcasting history, with a lot of pride. But at the time I thought it was a stupid name for a programme, and I didn't think it would last.

We were on that show so many times during the Sixties and the Seventies, and my only regret is that some clever old soul from the BBC wiped all the video tapes from Top of the Pops, from 1964 to 1968. He was not a very popular man.

Bobby Elliot

The Rolling Stones: I WANNA BE YOUR MAN (NO 13 IN THE CHARTS, 1ST ON THE SHOW)

The Hits

Having started when old primary school mates Keith Richards and Mick Jagger ran into each other on Dartford station and realised they were into the same blues artists, The Stones were about to become massive by the time they performed this Lennon-McCartney song. In 1968 they were called "The Biggest Rock'n'Roll Band in the World" and they have had a seat at rock's top table ever since. In February this year, the band, who have sold now sold 240 million albums, played to 1.5million people on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

The Splits

Rolling Stones line-up changes are like hens' teeth; the original line-up of Jagger, Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts lasted until 1969 when the drug-addled Jones was replaced by John Mayall guitarist Mick Taylor. Taylor, in turn, was replaced in 1975 by Ronnie Wood of The Faces. In 1991, Wyman left the group without a bassist, however old friend Darryl Jones tours with the band.

Dusty Springfield: I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOU (NO 5 IN THE CHARTS, 2ND ON THE SHOW)

The Hits

She was born Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien, but, since 1960, the world had known her as Dusty Springfield, a name she acquired when she joined a folk trio called The Springfields. She became a solo performer in 1963 after touring America and hearing soul acts such as Martha and the Vandellas. Her white soul readings of classic pop songs soon made her a massive recording artist in the UK, America and Australia. By the time she performed on TOTP, she was already a favourite of ITV's rival Ready Steady Go! She followed "I Only Want To Be With You" with a string of top 10 hits, including "Anyone Who Had a Heart", and "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself."

The Splits

Springfield enjoyed the lion's share of her success in the 1960s. The 1970s and the early 1980s were comparatively lean years, but she enjoyed a revival in the late 1980s and early 1990s, triggered by her 1987 collaboration with The Pet Shop Boys. In 1994, her hit 1969 single "Son of a Preacher Man" had a chart revival thanks to its inclusion in the film Pulp Fiction. Throughout her life, she battled with public perceptions of her bisexuality and her strict adherence to the Catholic faith. In 1995, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died in 1999, aged 59, 10 days before she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Dave Clark Five: GLAD ALL OVER (NO 2 IN THE CHARTS, 3RD ON THE SHOW)

The Hits

Dave Clark, drummer, and eponymous founder of his toothsome quintet, has a reputation for being a better businessman than he was a musician. Nevertheless, by the time the Dave Clark Five performed on TOTP, they were developing as a rival to The Beatles. His band were just behind the Liverpudlian quartet in the "British invasion" of America, and, after the first TOTP performance, knocked them off the No 1 spot with their hit "Glad All Over". The band had 17 top 40 hits in their golden years which stretched between 1964 and 1967.

The Splits

The original line-up of Clark on drums, Mike Smith on vocals, Denis Payton on saxophone and harmonica, Lenny Davidson on lead guitar, and Rick Huxley on bass, stayed together until the band split in 1970. In addition to considerable royalties from recording and performing, Clark was to become fabulously rich after he set up a successful media company that acquired the rights to TOTP's great rival Ready Steady Go! In 2003, Mike Smith formed Mike Smith's Rock Engine, but the enterprise was beset by tragedy - Smith's only son was killed in a diving accident just weeks before Smith was permanently paralysed by a fall at his home in Spain.

The Hollies: STAY (NO 18 IN THE CHARTS, 4TH ON THE SHOW)

The Hits

With their clean-cut image and close harmonies, The Hollies were commercial gold. The band had only been together a year when they performed on TOTP, and "Stay" was their first hit, rising as high as number 8 in the charts. But it was not until 1965 that they had a number 1 hit, with "I'm Alive". Between 1964 and 1969, only two Hollies singles failed to reach the top 10.

The Splits

Two months ago, The Hollies released an album, So Damn Beautiful, their first since 1983, and they are, in their own words, "still a working band".

Over 43 years, their line-up has changed many times. Only two members of the original line-up have played non-stop: Bobby Elliot on bass, and Tony Hicks on guitars and vocals. Allan Clarke fronted the band on guitar and vocals for two periods, from 1962 to 1971, and 1973 to 1999; Graham Nash played guitar and sang until he left to form Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1968; Don Rathbone played drums in 1962, before becoming manager; Eric Haydock played bass until 1966, leaving the band at the same time as Terry Sylvester (guitar/vocals), whose role was taken over by Alan Coates. (Even this account omits a host of people who have played for The Hollies, and others who have made guest appearances.)

The Swinging Blue Jeans: THE HIPPY HIPPY SHAKE (NO 10 IN THE CHARTS, 5TH ON THE SHOW)

The Hits

The Swinging Blue Jeans were an integral part of the "Merseybeat" sound, with their own show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool and a legion of fans in the North-west. They shot to prominence in 1963 with their top 40 hit "It's Too Late Now", but "The Hippy Hippy Shake" was their biggest chart success, climbing to No 2. It would later be covered by The Beatles. The band also had success with memorable rock 'n' roll numbers like "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "You're No Good".

The Splits

The Swinging Blue Jeans' moment in the sun was short-lived. But the original line-up of Ray Ennis on vocals and guitars, Terry Sylvester and Ralph Ellis on guitars, Les Braid on bass and keyboards and Norman Kuhlke on drums stayed together until 1968, when Terry Sylvester left to replace Graham Nash in The Hollies. The Blue Jeans were already well on the downward swing by that point, but Ennis has persevered to this day on the oldies gig circuit, despite the death of his bandmate Braid last year.

The Beatles: I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND (NO 1 IN THE CHARTS, FINAL ACT)

The Hits

When "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was released on 26 December 1963, it sold a million copies in 10 days, and Beatlemania was born. The Beatles were already a big act by the time the record hit the stores, but by their TV performance on TOTP, they had become a phenomenon. Over the course of their career they have had 40 number 1 chart hits, and EMI estimated that by 1985, The Beatles had sold over a billion records. They are, by any definition, the world's biggest-ever band.

The Splits

John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at a parish fete, and in 1958, joined forces with George Harrison, playing under a series of names that included The Quarrymen, The Blackjacks, Johnny and the Moondogs, Long John and The Silver Beetles. They eventually settled on The Beatles, experimented with drummers, including Pete Best who left the band in 1962, to be replaced by Ringo Starr, and you know the rest.

Comments