Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Side Wins

The removal of Top Of the Pops from its original Thursday night slot through to its eventual cancellation was one of the greatest pieces of cultural vandalism ever perpetuated in the UK. I believe that it should be reinstituted immediately.

"Kids watch videos on Youtube now," goes the old saw. But look at the UK pop charts. A democratic yet moribund parade of played-out album tracks, TV-promoted groaners and club-ready trifles. So what is new? Was it not ever thus? It was. But that wasn't all it was.

The disappearance of Top Of The Pops has removed a large section of the record-buying public as-was from the conversation. Music was tribal. You approved, or disapproved, of the horrors before you. The suspects were lined up in numerical order. A side wins.

When Top Of The Pops was moved from Thursday to Friday, everyone still in the pub after work, or already out for the night, was gone. Their votes were spoiled. When it was moved from BBC1 to BBC2, its place in the national living room was lost. Its move to Sunday nights to be more "relevant" to the chart "as it happens" missed the point by a country mile. Top Of The Pops was music TV for people who didn't care about relevance. People who cared about that were listening to Radio 1 on a Sunday night pressing record and play.

The British pop institutions withered in the wake of TOTP's abdication. Smash Hits crumbled. The NME could neither feed on young bands' prime-time exposure nor build new heroes and now operates a kind of ghost-town faux scene of lillywhite young men that almost no one has ever heard, to diminishing returns. The charts are more teenage now than they were in the early sixties. "Popularity" exists in a vacuum.

The Internet changed everything, of course it did. Everything is splintered. There are proliferate niches. There is a "long tail". But in an age of too much information, surely a digest is needed now more than ever. With the iPlayer, it would be there for a whole week, a half hour window into whatever the hell is going on in the charts.

UK music needs the natural selection of the charts, vital, red in tooth and claw. It has become a shop with no window. Top Of The Pops was frequently awful. But in its original form, I would argue that it was also essential.


Strictly Kev said...

The Thursday slot was also important because people saw a song on TOTP and went and bought it on Saturday, the biggest retail day of the week, which then fed into the total for Sunday's countdown. Midweek charts showing a band at number one could be shot out the water by an appearance on TOTP on Thursday.

Krusty said...

What is your opinion on Jools Holland?

John A said...

Decent piano player, Krusty!