December 10th 1972

“(Arguverge)” / “Sold 2 of T.O.T.Pops Records – 60p”

Sleeve images snagged with thanks to http://www.EasyOnTheEye.net

Imagine, if you will, a time when songs could not be downloaded for next to nothing.

A time even beforeNow That’s What I call Music” compilations.

A time when, despite your best efforts at bargain hunting, you could not buy all the singles from the pop chart that you wanted.

A time when there was just ONE alternative to sitting in front of the radio with your cassette recorder at the ready for the Top 30 countdown on Sunday evenings.

That alternative was……. Top of the Pops albums!

How can I spin my admission at originally owning several of these without sounding completely lame?

OK, let me state that I was FAR from the only person who ever bought these albums. They were constantly stacked high and wide along with all the other “budget” LPs in Woolworth’s music department.

They were comparatively inexpensive, each release featuring not just a dozen or so hits, but also a scantily-clad dolly bird of debatable sexual morals on the cover! (Yes, the cover girls were *ahem* mass debated by us teenage ‘men’)

Why were they cheap? Welllllllll……. because they contained … erm… mere cover versions of the hit singles.

Admittedly, some of the cover versions were quite faithfully rendered. Others were….well, lets just say the current craze for karaoke would make many of them seem ‘underperformed’.

Hallmark was the label that unleashed these parodies of pop, and for everything you could say against them, they actually took the process very seriously. Stars such as Elton John (or Reginald Dwight as he was then) were amongst some of the early session musicians deployed to re-record the hits of the day and the production standards were kept as high as finances would allow. A recent BBC radio documentary (sadly, no longer available to hear – bugger!) about the “Top of the Pops” album phenomenon was both extremely enlightening and funny at the same time, explaining how a hardcore team of beleagured producers and musicians would crank these suckers out once every month or so.

Of course now the albums are considered “kitsch” and have become quite collectible amongst connoisseurs of such corny ephemera. (Admission: Yes, I have thought of trying to get hold of some of them again so as to display the sleeves as a kind of discreet tribute to the “garish 70’s” in a corner of our home!)

These things – and I say “things” with as much genuinely admirable respect as I can muster – continued to exist long into the 1980’s.

Sadly, my research failed to uncover listenable clips of any tracks. However, I was shocked – maybe ‘stunned’ – to discover that there is a collection of Best Of Top of the Pops” CDs available, highlighting the worthiest (worst?) of each year’s recordings.

……and I found this …. it isn’t from one of the 70’s releases, but someone has made a YouTube video to highlight the “Top of the Pops” album version of O.M.D.’s 1982 hit “Joan of Arc”. If you listen to it I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of what these albums were all about…. and why to sell two for 60 pence in 1972 may have been one of my better early business decisions!

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