Thursday, 4 April 2013

Top Of The Pops

Imagine a cross between the Now albums, the compilation of chart hits of each year released annually, and Stars In Their Eyes, the old TV series in which ordinary joes with an ability to mimic the vocals of music stars perform, and you have the Pickwick Record/Hallmark label's Top Of The Pops series.

Oh and then throw in a hell of a lot of dollybirds and the notion that sex sells for the record sleeves

The popular misconception about the Top Of The Pops albums was that they were in some way linked to the BBC1 TV series and weekly chart rundown of the same name. It wasn't. Cannily Pickwick realised that the BBC hadn't copyrighted the title and saw the chance to cash in producing, from 1968 to 1985, a series of compilation hits, albeit sung and performed by a series of session musicians and singers mimicking the original artistes. 

I say misconception because in the 70s (before the aforementioned Now existed) virtually everyone who first bought these records and tapes were at first amazed that such a compilation of all their favourite new songs and acts existed and more, existed at such a bargain basement price. Well, you get what you pay for and hearts would inevitably sink as they placed the vinyl on the turntable or the cassette in the tape deck to find a rubbish cover version instead!

Still, music lovers were faced with a tough decision back then as you could buy a couple of Top Of The Pops albums featuring diverse knock offs for the price of one genuine album featuring just one of the real mccoy acts. 

And of course as I said, sex sells. The average pubescent boy may have hated to listen to the murdered versions of their favourite chart hits, but they would love to stare at the scantily clad girlies on the sleeves!

Nowadays the albums have a kitsch value. For a long time they were perennials of car boot sales before re-releases to CD in the late 90s/early 00s still at the same bargain price. What makes them so kitsch and now much loved?  Well, it's the naffness of the cover versions - and sometimes the occasionally spot on 'am I hearing the real thing?' covers (Elton John, pre fame, was one of the session singers attempting to imitate the chart successes of Cat Stevens say) and the dollybird 'glamour' of the sleeve design, featuring models like Caroline Munro and Penny Irving, which of course I'll celebrate here...

Ultimately it was the Now series that killed Pickwick's Top Of The Pops; the chance of being an entire compilation album featuring the real deal or buying one littered with impressions was a no brainer and Pickwick folded briefly in 1982 before attempting once more time in 1985 producing one final compilation. Now of course is till going strong today.

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