Top of the Pops 1981

Aside from compiling listings from Sport on Freeview, one of my other programmes I like watching regularly is the BBC4 Top of the Pops repeats!  They started five years ago, in April 2011 – with episodes from April 1976 onwards.

And now, in 1981, we reach the year I was born!  Last week I said to my Mum whilst watching the April 2nd episode “Just think Mum, this was the week  was conceived – to the likes of Bucks Fizz and Shakin’ Stevens!”.

And there’s some great songs which I’ve discovered whilst watching the TOTP repeats.  Take 1981 for this example – I’ve discovered XTC’s ‘Sgt Rock’ and The Look’s ‘I Am the Beat’ – songs which you don’t tend to hear on the radio anymore, take a look for them on Spotify, great tunes.

If you haven’t discovered them, repeats are now mostly twice weekly on Thursdays and Fridays on BBC4, in a 30 minute slot – these are normally edited, with a late night repeat showing the original uncut episode.  This is the version I normally watch – if you normally see the earlier version, set your recorder, it’s worth seeing what you missed.

Tonight’s episode is from April 9th 1981 hosted by Mike Read – then no episode tomorrow as there’s a live Eurovision show.

Two episodes next week – Thursday’s is from April 16th 1981 – then we go forward a month to May 14th 1981, and a 20 minute episode!  The reason for this is because BBC1 made room in their schedule to show the 1981 FA Cup Final Replay straight after the episode – Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City.

April 23rd and April 30th episodes are presented by Dave Lee Travis and Jimmy Savile – these are being left out of BBC4 repeats. The May 7th edition was hosted by Peter Powell, as was transmitted live – so why is this not being shown?  The BBC confirmed today to me “…unfortunately we don’t have a copy of that episode of a quality we can send out.”  Continuing their response, the BBC said “…The original spool for the 7th May 1981 has sadly been damaged beyond repair, which means we are unable to produce a version for transmission.

Have any more live episodes from 1981, 1982, etc been lost?  The 900th episode was ‘live’ but as Savile hosted, it wouldn’t be shown anyway.  Sept 3rd and Dec 24th were also live episodes, do these still exist in the BBC archive in full?

I’ve asked the BBC – I’ll let you know if they have.  Either way, check out Top of the Pops 1981 – great music and I hope repeats continue into 1982.  P.S  On March 10th, confirmed that the May 28th 1981 episode will be shown, as May 21st was hosted by DLT and is being left out.

Incidentally, the number one when I was born was Human League with ‘Don’t You Want Me’.  The 1st Top of the Pops after my birth was the live Xmas Eve show – which was followed on BBC1 by a Christmas Special of ‘Are You Being Served’ where all of the cast apart from Wendy Richard ended the show by performing in blackface.  Times indeed change…



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