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Bring Back Top Of The Pops!06 Jun 11

It’s always more than a little cringeworthy listening to credible musicians and songwriters attempting a diplomatic defence of X-Factor as Nerina Pellot did recently.

“You know there’s so little music on telly, and it’s prime time telly, with music on it, which for me as a musician is really important”

It’s verging on a valid point. Jools is all well and good, but it’s on late and has developed over the years such a cliquey, muso-ish quality that it seems really to be preaching to the converted. But for me, clutching on to X-Factor as if it’s some kind vehicle for music seems to have about as much credibility as advocating the casting of Matthew McConaughey as a character with any kind of personality purely on the merit that he is a human being. Surely we can be more ambitious as a public and demand more from our TV producers than the annual wheeling out of 12 soon-to-be nobodies constantly resurrecting progressively less and less palatable versions of “You Raise Me Up”.

So I have a radical and controversial new idea! An idea to bring new and (occasionally) exciting but mostly rubbish music to the screens of millions across the nation!! An idea to replace the tawdry procession of limp and falsely emotive cover versions with a tawdry procession of limp and badly performed new music!!! An idea that I’m now going to stop building up on account of the fact that any of you who have read the title already know what it is!!!! Yes ladies and gentlemen, the solution is obvious:


Now I’m not going to over-romanticise it, because it was mostly rubbish. We all knew it then, and we all know it now. But it least it was a program (in keeping with the BBC’s mandate as a public service broadcaster) whose primary objective was not to make vast sums of money for TV production companies and the telecommunication industry, nor the cynical manipulation of music licensing and publishing rights for short term financial gain. No indeed! The primary objective of TOTP was simply to bring current popular music into the homes of millions once a week.

And to be fair, amongst the bad music, irritatingly “funky” editing, primitive “special fx” and of course those embarrassing fade outs where the performers were forced to humiliatingly press on with the lip-syncing charade while all semblance of feasibility was disappearing before everyone’s eyes and ears… Amongst all of the laughable mediocrity we, as a nation, shared in just a few great performances and seminal moments that X-Factor and the like just cannot provide. Probably the best known was Nirvana’s great piss-take performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. But Blur wearing Oasis T-Shirts at the height of the Britpop war and Shane Macgowan’s drunken stumble through “Fairytale of New York” also make for a worthwhile youtube re-visit.

Having its playlist largely governed by what was in the charts also meant that TOTP had the kind of diversity that X-Factor would never allow. As well the standard pop/rock/ballad stuff that we see on X-Factor, Metallica and Iron Maiden performed several times on the show, significantly helping to raise the profile of metal music in the UK. There was also plenty of airspace for dance music of all kinds, as well as hip-hop, funk, soul and R&B. It could never offer the musical quality and variety that Jools does, but it was never meant to – it was for a much wider audience and it did the job.

So the doomed crusade by the caring minority continues; the crusade for a fair share of good music to be injected into the public consciousness. Some of us have grudgingly accepted that this ideal can never be achieved, and that we have to settle. But even us, who have lost faith will never be prepared to settle for Cowell’s turgid dynasty. If we must settle, let it be for a more worthy vessel, let us not rest until we hear those words once more, that mighty battle cry that once rang out so clear and true across the living rooms of a nation…

“It’s Friday night, it’s still No.1…”

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