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(the albums not the tv show!!)

“In an age where innocent civilians parade their pop approximations of Jarvis Cocker and Judy Garland every Saturday night on Stars In Their Eyes, the Top Of The Pops albums phenomenon now seems strangely contemporary.”
Kieron Tyler, MOJO 82, September 2000

  EVERYBODY seems to remember these albums, some with fond memories (usually the boys!), and others not so fond. When I was standing at the microphone in DeLane Lea studios, (mid-70’s) singing, (in my best Norman Wisdom voice) “there’s no point in asking, you’ll get no replyyyyy”, it would never have crossed my mind that, all these years later, I would be taking part in a documentary on BBC TV (shown on Xmas Eve 2000) to talk about that recording and others, in the ‘Top Of The Pops’ album series from the 1970’s. This followed on from the Mojo magazine article, on the same subject, a few weeks earlier. These albums  regularly sold between 200,000-350,000 copies, every few weeks, and one, even reached the top of the ‘album charts’!

"Weíre so pretty oh so pretty aahh!!"
This in turn, prompted the ‘major’ record companies to get together and force the powers that be, to change the rules, so that these ‘budget albums’ would never appear again in the regular ‘pop’ charts!!! Eventually K-Tel would come along with their ‘original artists’ collections, which in turn would lead to the demise of the ‘TOTP’s’ albums.

To me, having just left Harmony Grass, and starting to ease my way into the world of ‘session singing’, they simply meant that I had a regular income, and great experience (and a lot of fun) in the recording studio.
Twelve newly released records, chosen by a selection committee as being ‘potential hits’, were ‘covered’ every six weeks!!
I  probably gained more studio experience in five or six of these albums than in all of the recordings we made in the 60’s.
In those days, more often than not, you had to do 3 songs in 3 hours then you were out of there!! Not much chance of getting good at it!

Bruce Baxter was the reason I ended up doing the albums.
We bumped into each other at a recording studio in London, sometime around 1970/1, and I suppose, got around to talking about what we were doing etc.
We had met some years before, at Butlins Holiday camp at Clacton in Essex. I was a stores clerk, and he was lead guitar player in the Terry Young Six, doing the summer season, in the strangely named ‘Rock’ n’ Calypso’ ballroom’!! I would sometimes get up and sing Ricky Nelson, or Cliff Richard songs with them, and I was impressed with Bruce in particular, because he could play  the guitar solo’s just like James Burton or Hank Marvin, oh, and on bass was future ‘Shadow’ John Rostill.
Bruce told me he was now producing the ‘T.O.T.P’ albums for Pickwick, and having exchanged telephone numbers, went our separate ways. Not too long after, I got a call to come and do some vocals on one of these albums. I’m reliably informed (by journalist, Kieron Tyler) that this was album number 22 (all the albums are numbered) and I sang my first lead vocal, on a typically ‘duff’ British pop song, Chicory Tip’s ‘Son Of My Father’.
I took along my ‘team’ of John Perry (ex Castaway and Grapefruit) and Ken Gold (who not too many years later would write the ‘classic’‘You To Me Are Everything’ for the Real Thing, and some great songs for Cliff on his I’m Nearly Famous album). I think the first sessions were at Elstree studios. This turned out to be the first in a long line of recordings beginning in 1971 (No.22), right through until at least album number 64 recorded in 1978! (by this time we weren’t always available to do the albums, having met up with Bruce Welch, and Cliff, and things were starting to go mad, touring the world with Sir Cliff, and recording with lots of different artists, but if my sums are correct, that’s still at least 42 ‘Top Of The Pop’s albums, + ‘The Best Of’s,’ i.e. ‘Osmonds, Simon and Garfunkel’ also the yearly ‘Xmas Best Of’s’.

Itís number 1 Itís Top Of The Pops!

Harmony Grass

Ken Gold, John Perry, Tony Rivers


Photographs © copyright Tony Rivers