It’s Number Two Hundred, It’s Top Of The Pops!

Top Of The Pops opening titles (BBC1, 1967).

As you will doubtless be only too aware if you have read the pieces on the two hundredth editions of Jackanory here and Play School here, back in the sixties the BBC – or ITV for that matter – did not tend to make a song and dance about such ‘milestones’. Even for song and dance programmes. Anything that came anywhere near clocking up anything like two hundred editions was almost certainly a workaday year-round programme that viewers may have enjoyed but would hardly have been putting out bunting and squabbling over cut-out masks from Radio Times when they reached triple figures, and which for the cast and crew would have been little more than another day at the office – well, Television Centre or Lime Grove – with a possible plate of biscuits or two afterwards. Only Morning Coffee, though. Let’s not go wild here.

There was one programme, though, that infamously used every single excuse for a party – probably even including its second week on air – to throw a party, doubtless because it was more or less a televised party every single Thursday. Top Of The Pops was already a razzle-dazzling whirlpool of frenziedly-frugging audiences, long-hair-shaking ‘beat groups’ and a barrage of tin foil-enhanced flashing lights that retired colonels and stuffy middle class parents appeared to believe would ‘have someone’s eye out’, so a couple of balloons, party hats and streamers really only added to the, erm, balloons, party hats and streamers that they had already. Anniversaries, milestone programme numbers, far-sighted technological innovations like The Beatles having made a film for them on film, Top Of The Pops would waste no opportunity to hand out the virtual Vimto to viewers; and then, when the party was over, they’d wipe the tape and move on to the next week’s Hit Parade.

You probably won’t be too surprised, then, to learn that outside of the Boxing Day special and a handful of stray performances – including, most famously, Pink Floyd doing See Emily Play – barely anything survives of Top Of The Pops from 1967. Gone – possibly forever – are key early performances by psychedelic scamps like The Move, Traffic and Cream; a rare television appearance by The Spectrum, arguably better known as the band who did the closing theme song from Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons; culture-clashing visits from Stateside sensations like flower-power toting family harmony troupe The Cowsills and the reliably off-script The Turtles; and any real chance of figuring out how The Jimi Hendrix Experience managed to mime to The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp. Not to mention the two hundredth edition itself, originally broadcast 9th November 1967 but quite possibly recorded over with an episode of Slim John before the decade was out. Probably nobody has really much cared about what went on in it from that day to this, but we’ve committed ourselves to trying to work out now, and what better place to start with the original Radio Times listi… oh.

Radio Times billing for the 200th edition of Top Of The Pops (BBC1, 1967).

Well, we’ve got a bit of a problem here. A problem that doesn’t so much present itself as leap out brandishing a cigar shouting ‘eueureurgh’ and demanding that we keep in mind that it’s got us a lot of machines. Yes, there’s no getting away from the fact that the two hundredth edition of Top Of The Pops was presented by TV’s Scrawny Old Bastard himself, and as such the fact that it no longer exists is essentially entirely academic; if it did, then it would have been locked away by now anyway, Savile-free pop performances and all. If you’ve caught one of BBC Four’s repeats of BBC2’s pioneering 1991 series Sounds Of The Sixties recently, then you’ll be all too aware that certain numbers now have huge whopping great mid-verse chunks cut out of them to remove Thin Johnson frugging away in the background, to the extent that Gerry And The Pacemakers now appear to have conducted their Ferry Cross The Mersey by speedboat.

There’s an extent to which you can understand this, even if it is taken to such ludicrous extremes as, say, an entirely innocuous documentary on an unrelated subject being prevented from using a clip of The Faces performing on television on the basis that it originated from a Savile-fronted Light Entertainment show, even though he wasn’t in shot and it looked as though it might have been a pre-recorded insert anyway; maybe the producers had been afraid that they were going to say ‘BEERS’ and kick a football or something. At a time when both lunatic fringes of the political spectrum and plenty of people at differing points in between are screaming ‘BIAS!!!!!!!8’ if the BBC so much as repeats an edition of Richard Wilson’s Britain’s Best Drives with signed subtitles at a million o’clock in the morning on a channel that even they didn’t realise existed, not to mention taking the feelings of victims into account – although as we all know the men with columns are somehow apparently the real victims in all this – it’s understandable that they should have to go to such seemingly needless extremes, and in any case, nobody should be bowing to the droning blabbermouth moanings of entitled archive television blowhards who want to see any and every Top Of The Pops repeated in full just because they feel like demanding it and Simon Cowell something something anyway. That said, there is a case for arguing that nobody is really protecting anybody by preventing them from seeing a mimed music performance without a single second of Sir James in shot, and that pretending that he just didn’t happen is actually kind of similar to how he was able to get away with whatever he did get away with in the first place, but it’s probably not my argument to make – or yours in response on Twitter, incidentally – and especially not in this context. So, with this in mind, here’s a screengrab from another extant Savile-fronted Top Of The Pops that in no way presents a bleakly ironic metaphor for how the establishment might have drawn a discreet veil over his activities to suit their own ends.

Some Top Of The Pops presenters in 1968.

Having said all that, there can be little doubt that his links in this edition would have consisted of little more than a handful of repeated catchphrases and putting his arm around young girls in the audience in a worryingly forceful fashion, so we’re not really missing much there. What’s more interesting, however, are the actual missing performances, although it turns out that some of them are perhaps not actually as missing as all that. The repeated footage of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick & Titch performing their proto-psychedelic gibberish World Music mantra – which ironically still makes more sense than the average Tweet by Jacob Rees-Mogg – Zabadak is presumably the same performance that does still exist from the 5th October edition, which is good news for all fans of girls with big hair doing that shimmering arms dance in a manner that suggests they may have ‘had something’, while Donovan’s Zen-explaining ode to using insects for DIY or something There Is A Mountain was represented by an official promo film which is presumably still sitting in a record company vault somewhere. The Who’s similarly repeated rattle through I Can See For Miles may be gone but their undoubtedly more thrilling performance on late night satire/magazine show hybrid Twice A Fortnight still exists, the hardly exactly act-varying Gene Pitney and The Kinks did Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart and Autumn Almanac on plenty of other shows that managed to dodge the big magnet, and while this was a different performance of Baby Now That I’ve Found You by The Foundations to the one that shows up on Top Of The Pops 2 every three seconds, you can be fairly certain that it wasn’t that different.

Audience dancing to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick And Tich performing Zabadak! (BBC1, 1967).

On the totally lost side – and, let’s be honest, thankfully – there’s The Dave Clark Five doing Everybody Knows, which as it was a ‘ballad one’ probably saw them doing ‘meaningful’ choreographed swaying in lieu of their usual risible trooping onstage routine and then leaning from side to side with their instruments in a manner that suggested anything other than actually playing them. This would normally be the cue for Dave Clark to remind us that they sold almost as many records as The Beatles back in the sixties, but there’s a crucial difference; during the course of a handful of years, which they both began and ended as the most famous individuals on the entire planet, The Beatles underwent an astonishing and never-emulated artistic evolution which became an artistic – and social – revolution, fundamentally shifting and redifining the way in which the entire world saw not just music but cinema, literature, art and even class division, religion and drugs, whereas by 1970, The Dave Clark Five were still trotting out inexcusably pedestrian covers of Get Together in the hope that they could score a hit before The Youngbloods had a chance to release their original over here. So, all in all, the only real loss here – and in many ways probably the best performance – is Val Doonican doing If The Whole World Stopped Loving. Sadly, he never did get to do O’Rafferty Went To Cheshire.

So did the audience have party hats and streamers, was there a big tin foil ‘200’ positioned weirdly eight feet behind and to the right of the stage, and were those deeply un-sought after ‘links’ simply a barrage of yodelling about how my goodness me we are ‘aving two of the hundreds ‘ere on Top Of The Pops? Well, nobody really knows, and nobody really cares, but it does appear that this was really just another regular straightforward edition of Top Of The Pops, and what’s more one that’s not even really that ‘lost’, as you could easily recreate it in your own home with the aid of YouTube, a mop, a vomited-up barrage of meaninglessly deployed catchphrases, and the sound of a police car pulling up outside your window. Or Boris Johnson.

Audience dancing to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick And Tich performing Zabadak! (BBC1, 1967).

Buy A Book!

You can find tons more about sixties pop music on television in The Camberwick Green Procrastination Society, an anthology of some of my columns and features. The Camberwick Green Procrastination Society is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.

Alternately, if you’re just feeling generous, you can buy me a coffee here. There probably is a blend called ‘Zabadak’ after all.

Further Reading

Through The Two Hundredth Window is a feature on the equally lost two hundredth edition of Play School and you can find it here. Similarly, Out In The Dark is an attempt to work out what might have happened in the long lost two hundredth edition of Jackanory, which you can find here. There also further theorising about lost sixties television pop performances in Did You Watch The BBC2 Thing? here.

Further Listening

There’s a lot more about the BBC edits of The Monkees – and why they came to be edited in the first place – in Perfect Night In here.

© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.