Friday, September 01, 2006

Goodbye, Top of the Pops

Tomorrow is the last-ever episode of TOTP, a show indelibly tattooed into the psyche of my generation. It was a once-a-week summary of what was happening in the Top 40, and back in the days before MTV, it was pretty much the only place on British TV to see music videos and band performances.

I still remember the first time Culture Club was on, singing "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?"--Boy George looking like nothing I (or, as I discovered the next day, none of my classmates, among whom there was a heated argument about his gender) had ever seen before. I watched every one of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's multiple appearances for "Two Tribes"--by their fifth time on the show, they'd all switched instruments (doubtless bored by the routine of it all).

I remember when the theme tune changed from "Whole Lotta Love" to "Yellow Pearl" to some synth-pop thing written by Paul Hardcastle; I remember when Pan's People (the dance troupe who would interpret, sometime hilariously literally, the lyrics of songs when a band couldn't appear in the studio) morphed into Legs & Co.

I remember watching the video for "Ashes to Ashes" and wondering if that was really Bowie's mum he was talking to on the beach; I remember how Adam Ant's crossing-the-wrists dance from the "Prince Charming" video became a staple at school discos; I remember feeling both envy and schadenfreude for the girls who made it to the front of the stage but still danced badly in Marks and Spencers sweaters.

Of course, I haven't seen the show in 13-some years, so I haven't observed its slow decline from mandatory injection of pop culture to sad, marginalized dinosaur. And, having found this tribute to its heyday, I can't help suspecting I spent most of my teen years with a distinct lack of taste.

Still. I know I wasn't the only one glued to the TV on a Thursday night.

Here are more memories, from some of the musicians who appeared on the show over the years.

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