The Beatles and Jimmy Saville

Top of The Pops 

Top of the Pops was the premiere pop music show on British television during the sixties and seventies. It wasn’t as cool as Ready Steady Go, it wasn’t as prescient as Oh Boy, or as early as 6.5 Special. What gave it the premiere position was that it was on BBC TV at 7pm on a Thursday evening. If you were a fun-seeking popster, or teen, or adolescent, you no longer had to catch bands on odd programmes, like Crackerjack. Suddenly pop music was all bundled up in one place just as we started buying televisions as a nation. Most importantly of all it created passionate conversations in the school playground on a Friday morning and drove us to buy records right away!

Jimmy Saville, who has just passed away,  and is lying in state in a gold coffin, was a nutter from Leeds & the first DJ on the first BBC Top of The Pops on January 1st 1964.  It was broadcast from a converted church in Manchester (Rusholme) and, planned to last for 6 shows, ran for 40 years. Jimmy Saville was the King of Bling in the early sixties, arguably the first Brit DJ and just the shock jock to make Top of the Pops, based on his Teen & Twenty Disc Show on Radio Luxembourg a hit.  The BBC weren’t very committed to it, as Jimmy put it; “The BBC had a studio in Manchester [on Dickenson Road] which was a disused church and, anything they didn’t want to do in London, they slung up into this old church.” Even so the irrepressible Saville introduced the opening track to us ‘guys and gals’ and created a broadcasting phenomenon. Written by The Beatles, but played by the Rolling Stones, ironically the first ever song played on Top of The Pops was I Wanna Be Your Man; 

The Beatles and Top of the Pops; It was The Beatles unprecedented, and unequalled, success in 1963 that lead to the BBC launching Top of The Pops. The timely release of their second album With The Beatles in November 1963, along with the taster EP All My Loving, combined with the epochal I Wanna Hold Your Hand meant that, instead of being a brief flash in the pan as predicted (“guitar groups are on the way out”), The Beatles established new norms in popular music. They had shaken up the Royal Variety Performance, had a good relationship with Granada TV in Manchester and the BBC were missing out on this national phenomenon. When Top of the Pops started The Beatles had 5 records in the Top 20; 1 album With The Beatles at number 19, 2 singles in the Top 10 I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You and 2 EP’s Twist & Shout and Beatles Hits which featured Thank You Girl; 

Beatles EPs; Twist and Shout EP is the biggest selling EP ever and the highest placed in the charts. In 1963 it was the 4th largest selling record of any kind with 800,000 sales, and it was taken from an LP that had already been Number 1 for 10 weeks. One reason for its success is that LPs were very expensive in the early sixties, which accounts for the explosive sales of singles at that time. People, like me, who couldn’t afford the album settled for the EP. My mum bought it for me as a Christmas present which helped it reach Number 2 in the singles chart and kept it in the EP charts for 64 weeks. The Beatles legendary performance of Twist and Shout itself on the Royal Variety Performance meant it was, for a time, the most notorious song in the UK. However the EP also had mellow tracks on it like There’s A Place; 

The Beatles and Jimmy Saville; both made their name in the North of England, Liverpool and Leeds respectively, and met halfway in Manchester where Saville was a DJ (at the Oasis) and where The Beatles got their first TV exposure on Granada TV. Saville had become a DJ in 1947 buying two turntables and a microphone and inventing the ‘Wheels of Steel’ concept. Fast-talking, cigar-smoking and brash he invented “bling”, was larger than life and well capable of matching the Beatles wit. So much so that in the early sixties Brian Epstein employed him as the DJ on the Beatles Christmas Show

Meet With The Beatles; Released on November 22nd 1963 this became the biggest selling album of 1963 in just 6 weeks as it was a perfect Christmas present, for reasons of cost, celebrity and topicality. Consequently it reached number 11 on the singles charts and was mentioned on the very first Top of the Pops by Jimmy Saville and Samantha Juste as it was in that very first Top 20. All My Loving;

They Want to Hold Our Hands; Fortunately for the Beeb the opening show, was a mssive hit. People were fascinated by the mad Savile, delighted by his ‘dolly-bird’ assistant Samantha Juste and stimulated by seeing the teenagers in the audience. We all thought “I could be there too“, standing next to the Beatles (or the Stones or Dave Clark Five, or Who ever came next). The show always ended with the number 1 single in the UK, and so ended its first show, despite Savllle’s joyous attempts to upstage everybody, with the Beatles current number one single I Want to Hold Your Hand; 

 

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