This section of the Noize Solution website is devoted to those "Awe Full" Pickwick "Top Of The Pops" budget LPs, that were so loved and so loathed by so many during their "Oh So Brief" lifetime.

A HATE-LOVE RELATIONSHIP

My first introduction to these curious LP's came early in 1972. I was 12 years old and had recently blown the whole of my weekly £1.00 pocket money on two 7 inch singles. This had been the first time that I had ever spent my own dosh on records, but over the course of the next few weeks, I would develop a habit of using all of my disposable income to feed my growing addiction to music.
When I use the term 'disposable income' I'm talking about my £1.00 pocket money, subsidised by my weekly 60p school dinner money (my desire to buy records soon became stronger than my desire to eat!).
7 inch singles at the time would set you back 50p a shot, while full price albums were priced at about £2.10 each.
The two singles that I had splashed out on were "Telegram Sam" by T.Rex and "A Horse With No Name" by America. I had decided on these two records after seeing both songs performed on that week's edition of "Top of the Pops".

Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve SHM 780.

After a couple of days of persistently playing these two tracks, along with their excellent B sides (amazingly both of my purchases included two B side tracks apiece), I decided to take them along to my cousin Martin's house to show-off my new possessions.
I knew that Martin had also started to buy records recently and was curious to see how his choices compared to mine. Martin looked suitably impressed as I presented my two records for him to play on his record player.
"I bought this last week," he said, handing me a copy of the "Top of the Pops" LP shown here.
Wow! an LP. How the hell could he afford this, I wondered.
This was the first time that I'd ever seen one of these "Top of the Pops" LPs, and assumed (wrongly) that it must be associated in some way with the television programme of the same name.
"How much did it cost you?" I asked.
"75 pence," he replied.
I was now reading through the track listing and starting to feel quite sick as I realised that both of my records were included on this LP. I was suddenly convinced that my first investment in music had been a bad one.
I had no idea that it was possible to buy an LP of this calibre for 75p. I had always assumed that the only albums that could be bought at that price were those crappy budget LP's at "Woolies".
"Where did you get it from?"
"Woolies," he said.
"It's not the original artists, all the songs are played by different groups," he added.
This went a long way in explaining the price tag. But I was still sure that it had to be a good buy at just 75 pence. Look at all these great tracks. Boy, was I eager to hear this LP. Coincidentally, the first two tracks on side 1 happened to be "Telegram Sam" followed by "A Horse With No Name."
The stylus clunked and the opening riff to "Telegram Sam" was soon blaring out.
Something was wrong.
This didn't sound right at all.
In fact, it sounded flippin' awful.
When the vocalist began warbling "Telegram Sam, Telegram Sam..." I was unable to contain my laughter. "Oh no, this is abysmal," I cried. "Quick, stick the next track on." Things didn't get any better. After sampling no more than a few seconds of each track out of curiosity, this abomination of an LP was removed from the turntable to make way for my two singles.
A few minutes earlier, Martin had been hoping that his LP would impress me enough for me to want to swap one of my 7 inch singles for it. He now realised that I was even less impressed with it than he himself had been, and had now abandoned all hope of striking a deal. I, on the other hand, was now very thankful that I'd discovered these LP's in this way. Otherwise, I may well have spotted one of them on a rack at "Woolworth's" and wasted 75 pence of my own money. I was very clear in my mind, that from that moment on I would never again have anything to do with these awful LP's.

THE RE-APPRAISAL

Fast forward to 2005. I had now been buying and selling vinyl since 1997.
A common practice for all record dealers is to buy up whole record collections from sellers who no longer feel a need to hold on to them.
Once purchased, the collection is then sifted through to separate the sellable records from the less fortunate skip-bound items. In retrospect, it now seems quite bizarre to me that it wasn't until 2005 - after seven years of performing this separation work many times - that I finally became reacquainted with these awful LP's.

Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve SHM 780.

One evening, while flicking through my latest batch of recently purchased vinyl, the two LP's, pictured here to the right; caught my attention and admittedly brought a less than convincing smile to my face. "Have you ever heard any of these Top of the Pops LP's?" I asked Julie (my wife and business partner). I was a little surprised to discover that Julie had somehow managed to avoid any aural contact whatsoever with these atrocious LP's.
"They are absolutely abysmal," I assured her.
"Really?"
"Complete and utter crap," I continued.
"They can't be that bad surely?"
"Oh yes they can," I insisted.
I started to feel a little nervous as Julie removed what I now know to be volume 64 of this series from its sleeve. "Stick it on then," she requested, as she handed me the platter. I examined the shiny black disc carefully. It was in mint condition. I quickly deduced that its previous owner had received it as an unwanted gift from a well meaning friend or relative, but had refused to let his appreciation stretch as far as actually playing the damned thing.
"Are you sure about this?" I asked, realising I wouldn't be able to use the "it's scratched to bits, it'll ruin our stylus" excuse.
"Yeah, shove it on for a laugh," she said. I suddenly had a vision of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect enduring a recital of Vogon Poetry. Nevertheless, I went along with the "let's have a laugh" slant and carefully lowered the stylus onto the record.
I braced myself.
I hadn't bothered to check the track listing, but instantly recognised the a cappella introduction to Abba's 'Take A Chance On Me'.
Something was wrong.
This didn't sound right at all.
In fact, it sounded...
Errr...
Quite good actually.
The harmonies were perfect. The timing was spot-on. As the musicians joined in to accompany the more than proficient vocalists, I felt I could easily be forgiven for thinking that I might be listening to a well respected Abba tribute band. (I do feel at this point that I should apologise for using the terms "well respected" and "tribute band" in the same sentence. I absolutely abhor tribute bands, but that's another story). I sat there somewhat dazed throughout the whole track. As the song faded out I gazed at the somewhat puzzled expression on Julie's face.
"That wasn't too bad was it," I conceded.
"I thought it was quite good," she said.
By now I could feel myself slotting into the groove of Bill Wither's 'Lovely Day'. Again, the band sounded great, as did the vocalist. As the end of the song approached Julie and I were both wondering whether or not the vocalist would attempt to hold the E note for seven and a half bars as Bill had done on the original.
He did.
We sat through the whole album, and to be honest, we both enjoyed every track. Even the attempt at covering Dooley Wilson's 'As Time Goes By', complete with cheesy Bogey impersonations, had a certain charm to it. Don't get me wrong, I was well aware that the production on some tracks left a lot to be desired, and the whole album did have a certain rushed feel about it. But knowing what I know now, that's not at all surprising. When I consider the pressure these session musicians must have been under to knock out these albums in the time allotted, I feel a great deal of admiration for the quality of this particular album.
The other LP was a much earlier example from 1974. It wasn't quite as good, but it was far from awful. Before we knew it, Julie and I were both fans of these once dreaded (for me at least) LP's and started to actively seek them out at charity shops and car boot sales. I am now well on my way to owning a full run of these albums and have even been known to pay a premium for some of the more difficult to track down later issues, as well as the much sought after wall calendars that were issued with the annual "Best Of" editions.

As I started to actively collect these LPs, the one issue I was desperate to track down was Volume 22. Yes... that dreaded LP from January 1972 that had caused me to hate these records so passionately in the first place. It didn't take me too long to find a copy.
My intention now is to review every one of these LP's - in no particular order - on this website. I've decided to start by re-appraising Volume 22.
You can read my review of this particular issue by Clicking Here.

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