Rest in peace, Top of The Pops: 42 years on, BBC announces the demise of an institution

It has entertained generations of young pop fans with performances from such illustrious acts as the Rolling Stones, The Who, Nirvana and Oasis, but last night the BBC confirmed that after 42 years Top of the Pops will finally be laid to rest.

Jana Bennett, the BBC's director of television, announced the chart show would be broadcast for the last time on 30 July.

In a statement, the BBC admitted that the decision to axe the programme - part of its wide-ranging Creative Review - had not been taken lightly, but said it was failing to deliver in the face of increasing competition from multimedia outlets.

The music show has already suffered a demotion from its heyday, after being shunted from BBC1 to BBC2 last year.

Over the past decade, audience figures have fallen from nearly 7 million to around 1 million. The final show will be episode number 2,204.

Ms Bennett said: "We're very proud of a show which has survived 42 years in the UK and gone on to become a worldwide brand but the time has come to bring the show to its natural conclusion. Although we bid a fond farewell to Top of the Pops we remain as passionate as ever about reflecting the vitality of contemporary music across all our channels."

Originally transmitted from a converted church in Manchester, the BBC only commissioned six episodes of Top of the Pops.

It went on to become one of the most successful shows in UK television history - helping to launch the careers of numerous pop stars and presenters.

Jarvis Cocker once commented that he considered himself a failure until he appeared on the show. The Kinks even named one of their songs after the programme.

Jimmy Saville presented the first episode on 1 January 1964, when the Rolling Stones performed on the show, followed by Dusty Springfield and the Dave Clark Five.

In the late Sixties, the show moved to London to make it easier for artists to appear, and a new raft of presenters, including Kenny Everett, joined from their day-jobs at the fledgling Radio 1. Dave Lee Travis, Tony Blackburn, Simon Mayo, Noel Edmonds, Sara Cox and Fearne Cotton have all presented the weekly programme.

Janice Long, the first female presenter, said: "My memories are just feeling so incredibly lucky. For me, the main thing was to be standing there next to the bands you'd worshipped for such a long time.

"Top of the Pops was such an institution. But now there are so many alternatives - computers and music channels. My kids don't think to watch it. It's a shame nevertheless."

The BBC statement said: "The decision to bring the show to an end after 42 years has not been taken lightly and over the past few years every effort has been made to maintain the quality and distinctiveness of the show.

"However, the BBC's Creative Review Music Strategy has concluded that in a rapidly changing musical landscape Top of the Pops no longer occupies the central role it once did."

The show recently received a further blow when the audience had to be filled with staff, after it emerged that the BBC had failed to comply with the new licensing regulations for live music.

End of an era

* Top of the Pops proved to critics it was not just a haven for anodyne tunes when Jimi Hendrix performed in 1967. Only instead of Purple Haze, Hendrix was seen miming to an Alan Price song that was inadvertently played.

* April 1968 saw the inclusion of a studio dance group, Pan's People, who were replaced eight years later by Legs & Co, who danced to tunes when the artist was not available. They would often only have a few hours prior to the show to choreograph their moves, but it was Pan's People's scanty clothing that led to objections from Mary Whitehouse.

* 1978: The Boomtown Rats, the first of the New Wave bands to appear on Top of the Pops, were so pleased with their achievement of knocking the Grease duo John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John from the number-one spot they tore up pictures of Travolta during their performance of Rat Trap.

* One of Morrissey's first appearances was on the show in 1983, performing This Charming Man with The Smiths. The gladioli he waved around in homage to his hero Oscar Wilde left presenters bemused.

* The 1980s saw John Peel presenting with Kid (David) Jensen. Peel's descriptions of artists were at times more memorable than the songs themselves, describing David Grant as a "fire hazard" and after Haysi Fantayzee performed John Wayne is Big Leggy, he observed: "They're so good doesn't it make you want to spit."

Geneviève Roberts

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