I feel the fluttering of the wings of history in this decision. Cultural history, anyway.
Top of the Pops is being relegated to BBC2 after 40 years as BBC1’s bastion of chart music, the broadcaster announced yesterday.
Once required viewing for generations of teenagers, a slump in viewing figures has pushed the pop music chart programme on to the second channel. In the 1970s the show had audiences of 14 million but last week it pulled in just 3.1 million viewers.
The first episode, broadcast on Jan 1, 1964, was presented by Jimmy Savile and the first act to perform were the Rolling Stones with I Wanna Be Your Man.
Since then, the theme music and presenters have changed but the formula remained the same, with artists considering an appearance on the show a sign that they had officially “made it” in the British pop world.
Although a relaunched edition was watched by 5.5 million viewers last November, nearly three million had deserted the show by the summer.
Now the BBC hopes that it can win back audiences with a new version which is to go out next spring on Sunday evenings.
Historic? Yes, I do truly think so. For I think what this is a symptom of is the end of the Age of Pop Music. Internet downloads, computer games, and the fact that half the tunes were composed when your granny was in her teens mean that Youth, as it has been for some time now, is wandering off into different directions altogether, of a nature that I, and the kind of people who run Top of the Pops, cannot possibly divine. Taste is fragmenting, and what is now Number One is no longer a matter for the BBC to decide on behalf of the Youth of the Nation. We each decide for ourselves. It no longer matters to each of us what anyone else likes.
Personally, I have just lately been listening to a terrific little country and western tune called “Tell Me About It”, with great c&w guitar and drums backing by who knows what instrumental combination of musicians, and in which the vocals are shared by the glorious Tanya Tucker and one Delbert McClinton, of whom I had not previously heard. It is track number 13 on The Very Best of Tanya Tucker (“Another European compilation – I don’t think there’s anything unusual here” – Amazon.com). This is my current favourite pop tune, but you will not hear it any time soon on Top of the Pops, because none of us any longer need Top of the Pops to find out about our current favourites.