Let’s carry on the story shall we…
1991-1995. Of course, everyone has their own view on the day that Top Of The Pops went rubbish, but it seems that most people would choose the one in October 1991 when there was possibly the biggest relaunch yet, as the show was finally brought into the 90s with a Year Zero approach. New theme music (“Now Get Out Of That”), new studio, new presenters, new songs, new everything.
There was a wave of presenters new to TV who weren’t also on BBC Radio 1, but not many of them hosted more than a few editions, with only Tony Dortie and Mark Franklin enduring. The flashing neon lights were now gone, with most performances now in front of a drab curtain, it suddenly felt like the show was coming from a cheesy nightclub, way-hey! The Top Ten countdown was reintroduced though.
There was also a rule introduced that acts had to sing live (although the policy on this seemed to change every six months). As this was the time when there was rather a lot of rave music on the scene, a lot of these songs were rather hard to replicate in the studio, as they featured a lot of samples and were usually put together by anonymous dance producers. So it seemed that every act independently of one another thought that it would be really funny to just have some bloke who made the tea at the record label on stage shouting the lyrics as viewers really wouldn’t have known one from the other.
By 1994 it was decided that it was time to bring back the Radio 1 presenters, but most of them who hosted up to 1991 had been “Bannistered” by this point, so the likes of Simon Bates and Gary Davies had long gone, but Nicky Campbell, Mark Goodier and Simon Mayo returned, and there were also a few guest hosts. In 1994 a companion show launched on BBC2 called TOTP2, which featured the biggest hits of the week along with some classic performances from the archive, and an out-of-vision presenter, which would run for many years.
1995-1998. It was time for another new look and theme (“Red Hot Pop”) as Top Of The Pops entered the Britpop era. In the summer of 1996, the show was moved from Thursdays to Fridays for coverage of the Atlanta Olympics, and it was never moved back, this was one of the many reasons that caused the alarming slump in the ratings. Also, a few editions were shown on BBC2.
In 1995, a monthly magazine was launched (which is still going!) featuring all the usual interviews and features with the hottest bands around plus loads of free gifts. A few long-serving presenters including Simon Mayo were finally dropped from the lineup by this point and some younger Radio 1 faces were brought in to host the show. There was also an increasing amount of unlikely guest hosts who had their turn with the golden microphone.
1998-2003. Another year, another relaunch, including a new dance version of the “Whole Lotta Love” theme that was originally used in the 70s, and a title sequence that was modified after a few years (by which point The Chart Show had ended). Presenters now included Jamie Theakston and Jayne Middlemiss from The O Zone, Margherita Taylor and Sarah Cawood from ITV’s Videotech, plus Zoe Ball, Jo Whiley, and others.
Now this is rather interesting. Most people say that their favourite era of pop music is when they are in their teens, so even though I had watched the show for about 15 years by this point, this was the time when I was most interested in what was happening in the chart, including the rise of UK Garage, and when there were 43 Number One singles in 2000 and it was hard to keep up with the turnover.
I remember being particularly excited when the Sugababes appeared to perform one of their Number One singles as they were among my favourites at the time, and hopefully it was still considered an honour to appear on the show. To expand the show’s reach even more, during this era there were some compilation CDs released, along with the ongoing magazine and TOTP2. And even more spin-off shows were launched including Top Of The Pops Saturday.
Another thing that is noticeable about this era is that there were very few music videos shown during this time, the emphasis was back on live performances, and the Top 20 was announced at the end, but now usually by a Radio 1 presenter out of vision. The show kept on going though and in 2002 the 2,000th edition was celebrated… oh, and leave the useless Liquid News-style features to Liquid News itself!
2003-2006. Maybe it was time for another relaunch. Andi Peters, who had produced various music shows in the 90s including The O Zone and The Noise was now in charge, and he pretty much killed off the show altogether. Again, just like in 1991, there were wholesale changes to the format, including reintroducing “Now Get Out Of That” as the theme, causing flashbacks to that era.
Also, “All-New” as added to the title (always a clear sign that a show is on its last legs), another wave of little-known presenters including Tim Kash came and went, and the show was extended to an hour, being padded out with things like a phone-in competition (although famously the first time they did this all three possible answers to the question were incorrect).
And there seemed to be something of an emphasis on pre-chart exclusives, with most editions not even covering what was in the Top 40, more like what would be in it in about three weeks’ time. And only the Top Ten was announced at the end by some disembodied voice, making it seem like if your song wasn’t in the Top Ten, then it didn’t matter. This wasn’t attracting new viewers though, most people who watched by this time simply did because they had every week since they were children and were now out of the target audience, and I suppose I could include myself in that group by this point. Could the show survive in the era of dedicated music channels?
One major change in 2005 was when the show was moved to Sundays, so the new Number One single could now be announced straight away, rather than almost a week after the latest chart was revealed. One of the regular hosts by now was Fearne Cotton, who was usually joined by someone rather unlikely, such as Jeremy Clarkson, Phill Jupitus and Jeremy Bowen (it honestly couldn’t have been any worse by this point if they had got Jim Bowen in).
By 2006 though the format had become so tired though after being on TV every week for almost 42 years, the decision was made to bring the show to an end, concluding with one last look back at some classic moments, although I felt that it went out with something of a whimper. It’s still number one? Not any more it isn’t. However, TOTP2 and the Christmas specials do continue to this day.