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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Nov-18 > Thursday Night fever

Thursday Night fever

TOP OF THE POPS TRANSFORMED ITSELF INTO A NON-STOP PARTY SHOWCASE FOR THE 1980s POP EXPLOSION. THOSE WHO WERE THERE, INCLUDING HEAVEN 17’s MARTYN WARE AND DJ JANICE LONG, LOOK BACK ON THE SHOW’S GLORY DAYS…
Top Of The Pops ran from 1964 to 2006, enjoying its heyday in the 80s and having its lifespan extended by a ‘Year Zero’ revamp in 1991
© Alamy

At the dawn of the 1980s, Top Of The Pops was faced with a dilemma. “It was a mechanical operation, very well run, but there was that BBC cleanliness to it that wasn’t quite right,” remembers Judd Lander, a plugger who worked with ABBA and The Jacksons on the show. “If you got a young band like Bay City Rollers on with a young audience, then it worked, but it was full of these weird moments where the audience wasn’t responding to what was happening onstage.”

This problem became even more acute as the 70s drew to a close. The charts were brim-full of variety, from Blondie to Madness to Chic, and singles such as M’s Pop Muzik and Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star. In 1979, sales of 45s hit a record high. The previous year, Smash Hits reached the magazine shelves, celebrating the chart-bound with trivia, humour and colour. The seeds of the 80s were already being sown, but TOTP was stuck in the past. This was obvious when the future shock of synth-pop collided with the BBC’s light-entertainment aesthetics; cameras languidly panning across an unmistakably 70s stage, slowly zooming in on starburst lights. “It was a transitional time. People like Gary Numan were having hits, but when we went on the show doing Rock ’N’ Roll, there was the same sparse crowd boogalooing and being shepherded around,” recalls Martyn Ware, still then part of The Human League.

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About Classic Pop

Issue 46 of Classic Pop magazine is on sale now! In the latest issue we have an exclusive chat with the new line-up of Spandau Ballet – their first major group interview as they relaunch themselves with new frontman Ross William Wild. We also have a must-read interview with Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet who look back on their fractious past life in Yazoo. The legends just keep on coming, too, as we speak to Nile Rodgers about his 40 years of classic tracks as a billion-dollar hitmaker and Chic's hotly-anticipated new album, It's About Time. Elsewhere, we look back at the 80s heyday of Top Of The Pops through the eyes of those who were there – DJ Janice Long and a whole host of TV insiders. Our classic album is the Stone Roses' imperious debut and we also meet Stephen Hague, the producer behind hits by Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Robbie Williams and many more besides. Need a buyer's guide to Michael Jackson? We look at the King of Pop's complete career in our Lowdown feature. As we delve into David Bowie's 80s boxset Loving The Alien, Classic Pop catches up with his closest collaborators who tell us how the legend's most divisive decade made him a global star. New albums from Boy George And Culture Club, Chic, Robyn, and The Prodigy get the once-over alongside reissues including OMD, Bronski Beat, Ultravox, The Police and Massive Attack. We also review Soft Cell's celebratory farewell O2 show plus Kylie Minogue's Golden Tour and more.. Enjoy the issue! Steve