Top Of The Pops (The Cover Version Albums)

From 1968 to 1984 there were a huge number of cheap vinyl LP’s released that contained cover versions of popular songs of the day, and they were cheap, much cheaper than buying the 7″ singles themselves. I know we had a few, and I suspect most households in the UK that had a record player had at least one copy. They were everywhere.

The original idea came from a fellow called Alan Crawford, who called the series Top of the Pops after the most popular music program on British TV at the time, which, surprisingly, the BBC hadn’t copyrighted. A lot of people assumed the albums and the TV show were linked, but they weren’t, and it was great free marketing for the records. The price difference between a regular album and one of these was fairly hefty, with TOTP albums selling for £0.75 and a regular album selling for about £2.10. I suppose some folk didn’t realise they were all cover versions and some didn’t care. A couple of the albums even topped the album charts in their own right.

Probably chief among the cover artists who performed on the albums was a chap called Martin Jay, who recorded over 200 cover songs during the life of the series. According to Jay, it was his responsibility to go out and buy a copy of the original song and write the lyrics down by hand. Then it was into the studio where they would record 12 tracks a day. I found a video of several of the tracks that Martin Jay recorded for the series and you really can tell the difference, but I don’t think it mattered all that much as these albums were targeted at the parents and the younger children, who weren’t as precious about having the original.

Now I am a big fan of Ian Dury & The Blockheads so when I saw TOTP Volume 71 opened with it I thought I’d investigate the album and managed to find the actual version. If I am completely honest, I wish I’d never heard it as it’s bloody awful, but judge for yourself.


Top Of The Pops Top Of The Pops Volume 71 released in 1979

1. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
2. Just The Way You Are
3. Don’t Hold Back
4. Car 67
5. Woman In Love
6. This Is It
7. Desire Me
8. Ain’t Love A Bitch
9. September
10. Hello This Is Joannie
11. Y.M.C.A.
12. A Little More Love
13. One Nation Under A Groove
14. Don’t Throw It All Away
15. Get It
16. Chiquitita

Oh God my ears are bleeding. More of a parody than a cover, and my ears can never unhear what they just heard.

I suppose these records served a purpose at the time, bringing cheaper music to the masses who couldn’t afford to buy everything that they may have wanted to in the charts, but what I remember most about these (apart from the scantily clad girls on the covers) was a sense of disappointment every time I heard one because when I was a kid I didn’t know they were covers and they always felt slightly wrong, which is what they were of course but sometimes I’d hear something on the radio or on TOTP on a Thursday night and then a little bit later the same track would be on one of these albums and I wouldn’t like it as much and not quite be sure why.

Nowadays they are quite collectible, or rather people do collect them, though if they ever listen to the damn things I’d be surprised.

The Greatest TOTP episode ever

The greatest Top Of The Pops episode ever was in 1980 and my memory of it was wrong. I was absolutely convinced Kraftwerk were on it but having done some research it would appear they weren’t. There were, however, a load of songs that I loved (and some I really, really didn’t, but TOTP was always like that). I think it was the 13th March 1980 episode, which ran as follows:

(23) Rush – Spirit Of Radio (and charts) *
(39) The Dooleys – Love Patrol
(6) The Police – So Lonely (video) *
(20) The Detroit Spinners – Working My Way Back To You – Forgive Me Girl (Medley) (danced to by Legs & Co)
(25) Brothers Johnson – Stomp (video)
(40) Secret Affair – My World
(14) Liquid Gold – Dance Yourself Dizzy
(5) Rainbow – All Night Long (video) *
(8) The Vapors – Turning Japanese *
(36) Siouxsie & The Banshees – Happy House *
(18) The Gibson Brothers – Cuba
(4) Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers (video) *
(3) Marti Webb – Take That Look Off Your Face
(35) Genesis – Turn It On Again *
(1) Fern Kinney – Together We Are Beautiful
(7) Captain & Tenille – Do That To Me One More

They were confusing times. I liked Punk and I liked Prog and it was illegal, or something, to do that. There are 7 songs on the show that I liked, 7 was a lot, 2 or 3 was the usual. I’m convinced Peter Gabriel appeared on the show and it wasn’t a video but I looked it up and his only ever appearance on the show was two months later with a different song (No Self Control) so I’m pretty sure this is the right episode.

I was at a friends house and had to watch it on a little portable TV in his parents bedroom as they were watching something else on the big TV downstairs. Despite definitely having watched this episode there are songs I really don’t remember at all, such as ‘Stomp’ by The Brothers Johnson and ‘Dance Yourself Dizzy’ by Liquid Gold. There are also songs I didn’t know I remembered, like ‘Cuba’ by The Gibson Brothers and ‘Together we are beautiful’ by Fern Kinney. Memory is a delicate thing.

Here is that Top Of the Pops reconstructed for your viewing and listening pleasure (some of the performances aren’t from that actual dates show but from the one before or after but it’s near enough, oh, and the way they included Rush is really very disappointing)

So it may not be the greatest TOTP ever, but it was pretty good apart from Steve Wright being on at and being dick, at least there was no Jimmy Saville, the scumbag. .