Top of the Pops
BBC Studios
Dickenson Road

From a pilot show called 'Teen and Twenty Record Club' based loosely on the BBC's radio show 'Pick Of The Pops' this was purely a top of the charts show and has become the longest-running British pop vehicle, arguably reaching its greatest heights in the early and mid-Seventies

It was originally booked for only six programmes, but due to its immediate popularity was extended indefinitely after only the second. Transmitted on Wednesdays, later Thursdays, the entire show had to be put together in about 24 hours as the week's chart was released at 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. The original four DJ presenters were Jimmy Savile, David Jacobs, Alan 'Fluff' Freeman and Pete Murray who were generally considered to be the country's best at the time. They compered the show in strict rotation, with the following week's DJ appearing in a cameo 'handover' at the end of the show. Assistants included Diane Hefforan, Denise Sampey ( who span the discs on the first programme ) and Samantha Juste ( who took over the role from Denise and eventually married Monkee Micky Dolenz after they met on the show ).

The original producer was Johnnie Stewart who was responsible for the show's incredible success and growth during the Sixties and early Seventies. His trademark logo silhouette always appeared beside his name on the closing credits.

Photograph taken in the late 1960s by (and with permission of) Malc. It shows his cream and green 1960 MG Magnette parked outside of the studio, early one morning in 1965.

The first show was broadcast on 1st January 1964 from a disused Wesleyan church in Dickenson Road, Manchester, (because most of the other BBC studios were busy at the time) which had been acquired by the BBC and fitted out as a tv studio some years earlier. The studio, though, had a long history pre-BBC and was the original home of Mancunian Films.

At 6.36 p.m. a new era in Pop was born with Jimmy Savile introducing The Rolling Stones performing 'I Wanna Be Your Man'.

The first show also featured other 'live' acts Dusty Springfield (I Only Wanna Be With You), The Dave Clark Five (Glad All Over), The Hollies
(Stay) and The Swinging Blue Jeans (Hippy Hippy Shake). Discs and filmed items shown were Cliff Richard and The Shadows (Wonderful Life), Freddie and The Dreamers (You Were Made For Me), Gene Pitney (24 Hours From Tulsa) and news clips of the Beatles to the sound of 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Generally, the acts mimed their songs - not because they couldn't play / sing (although this was questionable in some cases), but to achieve a higher transmission sound quality. This changed in 1966 after a Musicians Union ban on artists miming to their actual records. Following this, the Top of the Pops Orchestra, directed by Johnny Pearson, provided live backing to specially recorded tracks by the artists. Vocal backing was provided by The Ladybirds (Maggie Stredder, Gloria George and Marian Davis).

As with Ready Steady Go, a live studio audience were able to dance to and, in the early years, meet and mingle with the stars.

By mid 1967 the Manchester studio had become too small for the increasingly complex production and it was moved to Lime Grove studios in London.


Info generously supplied by - a great site for all things 60s

These images were taken outside TOTP by Brenda Stickland - thanks Brenda
Manchester's Saint Louis Union outside Dickenson Rd Studios (images courtesy Brenda Strickland)
The Walker Bothers Tony Hicks of the Hollies
Lek Leckenby - Herman's Hermits Stevie Winwood - Spencer Davis Group

Brenda and Ian Thompson of the Black Velvets, who were a warm up band at TOTP.

The Overlanders    


It was a time when ....

  • Even the top bands turned up in the band van
  • The bands openly mimed to records
  • The show was broadcast live
  • You could stand outside and the band walked past you to get in
  • The Mockingbirds were the warm-up band
  • Not sure, but think studios were also used to film "Pinky and Perky"
  • The show had a set resembling a coffee bar disco and the DJ's sat at turntables
  • Denise Sampey span the records for the first few programs before being replaced by model Samantha Juste - who, in 1967, left for California to be near her husband, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees)


Sir J. Savile at Top of the Pops
in Dickenson Road, Rusholme

Many thanks to Harry Goodwin - Official B.B.C. "Top of the Pops" Photographer - for his permission to use this photo.
This photo is copyright.


As a schoolboy of 14yrs in 1964 living in Longsight I was unbelievably fortunate to be part of the Top of the Pops studio audience, during 64 and 65.

I went to school at Xaverian, which was only 10 minutes walk from the BBC studios in Dickenson Rd.
My schoolpals and Iused to hang out at the studios during our lunch break in the hope of seeing "someone" arriving for a recording, which happened fairly regularly when an artist couldn't make it for the Thursday show.

We then set about catching the attention of Cecil Korer (now happily NOT deceased - thansk for the info Cecil - and apologies!) who was then the assistant producer for TOTP's, by hanging about outside the local pub where he used to go for lunch, then quizzing him about the show when he emerged.

He was such an amiable and approachable bloke and more or less gave us an invitation to be on the show. Yeah Yeah Yeah!

Cecil Korer got to know our faces and then whenever there was an audience shortage, he would appear at the studio entrance to pick the lucky few from the crowd outside.  Recognising our faces (usually Bernard Ellis, Peter Haddon and myself) he would invariably select US week after week. Heady stuff!    

I remember Cecil directing the cameras. As he was quite a tall man, he used to crouch slightly when he was on the studio floor so he would blend in. He also had a balding head, and would don a longish brown wig. He looked so comical  and quite surreal.

I used to pick up scripts of TOTP's after the show, detailing all the camera shots, along with the DJ's comments and the words to the songs in the show. There were always a few generally lying about.  They were my prized possessions in those days, before they got lost whilst moving house. Ebay dreams aaah!

Artists we got to see at TOTP's:
Remember Jimmy Saville arriving in a bubble car one week, then the next week in a Rolls Royce.
Roy Orbison, Pretty Things, Nashville Teens, Dusty Springfield, Gene Pitney, Brenda Lee, Lulu (sat next to Lulu but was too shy to speak) John Lee Hooker, Sandi Shaw, PJ Proby, The Four Pennies, Twinkle, Honey & The Honeycombs, Wayne Fontana (he put two fingers up at the crowd outside, through a staircase window. That was well before punk, never liked him since!). There is probably more I've missed.

The whole TOTP's experience was such a complete gas for me and was probably formative in my eventual career choice! Making Music.

Gradually lost interest in Top of the Pops during the 80's. Not really sure why, perhaps because it wasn't any longer the music.of "My Generation".

Think it would be could be revived successfully as a top 20 albums show.

 Bob Mallon

I used to go to Top of the Pops in 1963, 1964 and 1965.  It was a fantastic show, I wish I could watch the old  shows when The Rolling Stones, Hollies, Beatles, Swinging Blue Jeans, etc, were on but I believe the films from them have been lost.

On entering the old church we had to put little plastic heel covers on our shoes, bottles of coca cola were given free and lots of times my friend and  I use to go round the back and look into the dressing rooms where we would meet the bands.  I sat with Mick and Brian while they use to get ready for the show.

There was and never will be a show like it again  - they were wonderful days and would do anything to bring them back - lol.

Wynne Dixon (I lived in Withington, Manchester at the time)

Me and my mates were on Top of the Pops.  One of my mates, Terry Etchells, worked at photograph agency, working with models from various companies.  One was a girl called Samantha,who worked with the late Jimmy Savile, so he got us tickets.

I remember the coca-cola and the huge cameras they had.  They told us at the start get out of the way when they start moving.  We were on with Jimmy and David Jacobs in 63/64.

Peter Byrne

Every Sunday night myself and two mates used to go to The Top Ten Club in the New Elizabethan Ballroom at Belle Vue, Manchester. Cecil from the BBC used to walk through the dancers looking out for good dancers and handing them tickets for the following weeks Top Of The Pops recording.

We managed to get a ticket each and duly turned up for the show. We saw P J Proby and Twinkle. We knew that the No. 1 was always the last to be played each week. That week it was t The Beatles and we knew that they would not be there. There was no such things as Videos back then and we knew the Camera would be trained on a very large photo of the group all the way through the song. Therefore, we planted ourselves dancing in front of the Photo and managed to be on TV virtually all the way through.

One funny thing about the recordings that the main camera was mounted on a massive four wheel trolley complete with a hydraulic system to lift the camera operator up above the crowd to get a Looking down shot of the artist The trolley had a guy crawling in front of it to clear a path through the dancers by sweeping his arm to and fro against the legs of the dancers. This led to many shots of startled people suddenly looking indignantly down to the floor behind them!

Bernard Judge

Such an awe-inspiring event. Even though I only went once to the Top of the Pops studio I even remember what I wore that night - pre mini days. A friend at school, Marilyn Boydle, had got tickets for us. We were 16 at the time. I lived in Moston so it was quite a trip to make on buses. I remember the cameras were on tracks and the dancers had to move out of the way as the cameras made their way forward. This is obvious by the startled looks on the faces on the very few saved films from the time. It was very noticeable when the programme moved 'down south' as the fashions and style of dancing was very different.

I also remember all the clubs in Manchester - signing in at aged 14, saying my date of birth was '44, and that I was an airhostess!! Also Jimmy Saville at the Three Coins announcing if any girl was 'in trouble' to come and see him (I wonder what he meant!!) Just great memories!

Beryl Cadman

I was that man (Bernard Judge, above)  Or, at least, one of them, a junior trainee cameraman at Dickie Road studio in 1964, whose first job was to gently push kids out of the path of camera 1, the main camera, on its Vinten electric crane, as it tracked through the dancers.

Later, the studio got a Vinten Heron hydraulic crane, which could move in any direction around the studio, and by 1965 I'd been promoted to driving it, under the instructions of Gordon Addison, the fine cameraman who was on camera 1 for almost every TotP from Manchester.  Gordon died last year, 82 years old.


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Comments (34)

Topic: Top of the Pops
First < 1 2 3 4 5 > Last
Vaughan Wilkinson says...
Actually, Dave, it was the rights to Ready Steady Go that Dave Clark bought up; and many TOTP tapes were wiped so doubt if you'll see them again, sadly.
20th April 2016 8:58pm
Vaughan Wilkinson says...
Apologies, it was Mick I was addressing in my last comment.
20th April 2016 8:59pm
Jeannette says...
Hi Gwen I live in did you become to live in California..?
23rd January 2016 9:17am
Jeannette says...
Sorry meant San Francisco Gwen..
23rd January 2016 9:21am
Gwen Mehta says...
I have lived in numerous countries and was working in Israel where I met my future husband who lived in CA, voila here I am. Have been here for 15 years
23rd January 2016 9:30am
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