A lip-synching ship
June 21, 2006 3:26 PM   Subscribe

'Top of the Pops' is set to end on 30th July, 2006 after 42 years on television in the UK. The show has been loved by some and criticized by others for having bands mime their own tunes on the air, but was a mainstay up until a recent ratings slide. Over four decades TOTP saw its fair share of odd incidents and even inspired a few tunes. Presumably this bodes ill for the proposed second US version of the iconic program.
posted by ktoad (28 comments total)
Huh! Does this mean that awesome Gnarls Barkely performance that was all over the web a week or so ago was mimed? After all that talk about what a great performance it was?
posted by freebird at 3:30 PM on June 21, 2006

A cursory YouTube search turns up plenty of clips, obviously. I've always enjoyed the bizarre Nirvana performance from 1991.
posted by ktoad at 3:30 PM on June 21, 2006


I believe the Gnarls performance was live. I'm not sure what percentage of stuff on TOTP is live now but it still can't be much?
posted by ktoad at 3:32 PM on June 21, 2006

"Top of the pops" is fun to say in a high-pitch british accent.
posted by puke & cry at 3:34 PM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I blame Andi Peters (a rare mistake on his part) - it was never the same after it got given magazine-format style interviews and "back stage" exclusives. It will be missed.

(I will always remember Symposium - short-lived Britpop wunderkids - trashing the stage in a live performance around 1996. Rock and roll!)

posted by greycap at 3:36 PM on June 21, 2006

I prefer the Scotsman headline: Top of the Pops finally flops
posted by smackfu at 3:37 PM on June 21, 2006

posted by ob at 3:39 PM on June 21, 2006

That makes me sad. I've only recently started watching it and quite enjoyed it.
posted by wallaby at 3:58 PM on June 21, 2006

Top of the Pops has always been awful. It was incredibly uncool when I was a kid, and my dad reliably informs me that it was incredibly uncool when he was a kid.

It was one of those programmes that everybody reminisces about, but no-one actually watched. Like Last of the Summer Wine. Or the Antiques Roadshow. They've been on TV forever, but they've always been shit.
posted by afx237vi at 3:59 PM on June 21, 2006

I was a bit of a musical snob when I was at school, always said to my friends I would never go on TOTP no matter what they paid me.
When I was a 1st year student at University and behind in my rent, I was offered TOTP with Annie Lennox at Musicians' Union rates. I think it was about £500 for 2 shows. I went for it.
I got to eat in the canteen with the cast from Eastenders, but seeing all the 'musician' posers backstage really put me off the music business. I do remember Billy Ray Cyrus (sp?) was a great chap though, and Annie Lennox was a true professional.
The egos of all the other no-talents were through the roof.
My gf told me an amusing story of the singer from 2 Unlimited in the dressing room who was doing extensive vocal warm-ups in preperation for singing 'no no, no no no no, no no no no' etc.
I couldn't believe how slick everyone looked on the monitors compared to how crap they were right in front of my eyes.
It's an institution though, and it will be missed.
posted by BobsterLobster at 4:01 PM on June 21, 2006

I'm amazed to discover it's still going. It was near-essential viewing in the seventies but by the eighties it seemed pointless, tired and unnecessary. Last time I saw it must have been back in the early nineties and in spite of some clearly desperate attempts at makeover the format swas still profoundly embarrassing.

It always had plenty of shite on it but at least in the seventies you'd get the odd absolute classic moment coming on every now and then. I have very fond memories of The Stranglers totally sending up the whole miming thing. And who ould forget "Jocky Wilsom Said"?

I won't even go to the Pan's People place. Too disturbing.
posted by Decani at 4:38 PM on June 21, 2006

Ugh. Must proofread before posting. Sorry, I've been away.
posted by Decani at 4:40 PM on June 21, 2006

was there ever a time when people actually sang for real on it?
posted by amberglow at 4:41 PM on June 21, 2006

(and Top of the Pops lasted longer than American Bandstand, so that's something, at least)
posted by amberglow at 4:42 PM on June 21, 2006

amberglow: I'm pretty sure it went through phases. In the (mid?) late 90s everything was live I think and then the labels rebelled as their manufactured pop acts ended up sounding terrible. Later with Jools is all you need really.
posted by patricio at 4:54 PM on June 21, 2006

Top of The Punks: Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, The Jam, The Ruts, The Adverts, The Damned, Gen X, and I'm sure there's more, all gloriously faking it.

(And the Rezillos, who performed their song Top of the Pops, a critique of TOTP, on TOTP, in 1978. This is, unfortunately, not the link to that performance.)
posted by milquetoast at 5:02 PM on June 21, 2006

Woah, that nervana performance was pretty weird. The vocals were obviously live...
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on June 21, 2006

I found it! That Stranglers performance where they totally took the piss! God, I love YouTube. Too much, too much...
posted by Decani at 5:09 PM on June 21, 2006

Trivia: The video for Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (cited as being the first 'music video', but isn't) was made for the sole purpose of allowing Queen to appear on TOTP while they were touring.
posted by bruzie at 5:13 PM on June 21, 2006

Ktoad, what the heck was that?
That Nirvana video was really weird, but I can't figure out why. Great find! I'd love to hear more about it.
posted by phyrewerx at 6:01 PM on June 21, 2006

phyrewerx: Apparently, Top of the Pops asked them to simply mime a performance, but Cobain didn't like that and asked that he at least be allowed to sing. And so he does! His voice is mocking the whole institution, while they make it clear that they are not even playing their instruments.
posted by RGD at 6:05 PM on June 21, 2006

At a certain point in history, no band was safe from drug-induced lip synching mishaps.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:51 PM on June 21, 2006


For a brief period in the early 1990s, as patricio mentioned, they started allowing live vocals with fake backing tracks. Cobain's lower-register performance, he later claimed, was an attempt at Morrissey's vocal style! I believe that performance is on Nirvana's "Live Tonight Sold Out" video, which still hasn't seen the light of DVD.
posted by ktoad at 7:10 PM on June 21, 2006

Top of the Pops has died because of changes in the music business. The singles chart is now meaningless, because record lables manipulate it to ensure each record gets to #1.

The days when it took several weeks for a record to climb the charts, and when we all tuned in to see if a record had gone up or down the chart are long gone. Singles are released at half price during their first week, therby ensuring an instant entry at the top of the chart, followed by a rapid descent. Record companies also collude with one another, releasing tracks from well known acts on different weeks, to ensure each has its week at #1. Again this has removed any interest in rival bands songs being released concurrently and people to see which had got the highest that week.
posted by bap98189 at 1:18 AM on June 22, 2006

Okay, I know I totally slagged it off further up the page, but I do remember being totally in awe of this performance of "Faster" by the Manic Street Preachers, which elicited the biggest number of complaints ever for a TOTP performance. Apparently 25,000 people wrote in a complained about the IRA balaclave.

Ah, the good old days when the Manics were still an excellent band.
posted by afx237vi at 4:21 AM on June 22, 2006

It was one of those programmes that everybody reminisces about, but no-one actually watched.

I watched it religiously - for a while, when I was 13/14, it was the only place to see those new fangled video things.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:54 AM on June 22, 2006

the weekend starts here...

only seen the reruns of the '60s version on cable...quite enjoyed it.
posted by aiq at 8:17 AM on June 22, 2006

...to the toppermost of the poppermost!
posted by jonmc at 9:07 AM on June 22, 2006

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