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.
Love 'em or loathe 'em, you'll never forget 'em!
During their hey-day in the 1970's, these much-maligned 'Top of the Pops' LPs were a permanent fixture of the music scene. For budget conscious, semi-serious music fans, they were an ideal way to get hold of twelve of their favourite chart hits for about 75p a throw. For 'genuine' music fans however, these abhorrent albums were to be avoided at all cost. If one of these LPs were ever to be found lurking among a serious music fan's record collection, he or she would have a heck of a time trying to justify its presence there.
Despite the scorn thrust upon these LPs, they somehow managed to attain combined sales figures in excess of three million during their existence. At their peak in 1971, two particular issues in this series managed to top the UK album charts for a total of four weeks between them. When 'Volume 20' held on to the number one position for three weeks in a row, it was all too much for the UK album chart compilers. They immediately imposed a ban. From that point on, no budget priced LP would ever again be allowed to tarnish the revered UK album chart.
So how did these LPs come about?
Record producer, Alan Crawford, persuaded budget label Pickwick to follow in the footsteps of their main rivals 'Music For Pleasure' and produce a series of LPs that would feature cover versions of some of the biggest hit singles of the day. 'Music For Pleasure' was enjoying considerable success with its mainly 'Easy Listening' cover albums, but Crawford's idea of giving this 'Pickwick' series a name was a master-stroke. The name was, no doubt, 'stolen' from the most popular pop music television series of the day. Amazingly, the BBC hadn't bothered to trademark the 'Top of the Pops' name and were therefore powerless to prevent 'Pickwick' from using it for this series of cover version LPs.
The name obviously helped sales enormously, with a lot of people (myself included) assuming that these LPs were in some way related to the TV show of the same name. 'Music For Pleasure' soon decided that they too should give their series of cover version LPs a name, but probably realized that no name was going to trump 'Top of the Pops.' They settled on the rather catchy and alliterative 'Hot Hits'. Along with 'Hot Hits', there were many other similar offerings of cover version LPs for 'Top of the Pops' to compete with. Among them were titles such as '12 Tops-Today's Pop Hits', '16 Chart Hits' and 'Smash Hits' (another MFP series). None of these titles though came close to matching the sales figures or popularity of the 'Top of the Pops' series.
From 1971 to 1979, eight 'Top of the Pops' LPs were issued every year at a rate of about one every six weeks. Alan Crawford left the team in 1970 after finishing work on volume 14. Control of this series was then left in the capable hands of Bruce Baxter,
who had been a part of the 'Top of the Pops' faction (working as an arranger) since volume 3. In the
September 2000 edition of 'Mojo' magazine, Bruce
Baxter contributed to an excellent article covering the background of this 'Top of the Pops' series. In that interview he mentioned
that the session singers on these LPs were usually allowed no more than fifteen minutes to get their performance nailed. He went on
to explain how he would receive the 12 records to be covered on Wednesday, he would then have to score each track for the session
musicians, begin recording sessions on Friday, and deliver the finished project 'in a state of abject knackeredness' the following
After being solely responsible for 65 issues, Bruce Baxter bowed out after volume 79. By this time, stiff competition had arrived from the mid-priced labels such as 'K-Tel' and 'Ronco', who had started to issue 20 track compilation albums featuring the original artists. Consequently, sales of these budget priced, cover version LPs started to nosedive, and in 1982, after seeing off all of its competitors, 'Pickwick' decided to pull the plug on the 'Top of the Pops' series.
There was one ill-advised attempt at a comeback in 1985.
Linda Lusardi, a top glamour model of the day, was employed for the cover shot. Bruce Springsteen, Dead or Alive and Howard Jones were among the artists to get the 'Top of the Pops' treatment. But alas, volume 92, the very last 'Top of the Pops' LP to be released, sank without a trace. The series was finally laid to rest.
Today, I'm as surprised as anyone to discover that these LPs have, somehow, become quite sought after among certain record collectors. The big sellers from the early to
mid-seventies are, of course, relatively easy to track down, and can often be found at charity shops and boot sales for between 50p and £1.00 a
The very early issues from the late sixties however, and even more so, the much later, very poor-selling issues from the early eighties,
are now becoming quite difficult to find, proving themselves to be somewhat of a challenge for 'Top of the Pops' completists. It's not
unusual to see some of these early eighties editions in particular selling for more than twenty quid a throw on ebay these days.
But the real difficulty for most serious 'Top of the Pops' completists is finding the giant wall poster calendars that were issued with most of the annual 'Best-Of' compilations.
Even though the 'Best-Of' LPs themselves are in plentiful supply, most of them, unsurprisingly, have become separated from the free poster calendars that were included with every issue. On the quite rare occasions that one of these posters does come up for sale these days, thirty quid seems to be the general going rate for these much sought-after, essential 'Top of the Pops' accessories.
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