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Top of the Pops closes shop

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

London (Reuters): More than 40 years after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones featured on the first edition, the BBC is to scrap Britain's longest-running music television show, ''Top of the Pops''. From its 1964 launch at the height of Beatlemania, the weekly countdown of Britain's top-selling singles has tracked the ever-changing musical tastes of the younger generation. The rise of 24-hour music TV channels such as MTV and Internet downloads sounded the death knell for the show. At its peak, it attracted audiences of tens of millions in Britain and nearly 100 other countries.

But the BBC, Britain's publicly funded broadcaster, said the show could not compete with rivals which let viewers ''consume music of their choice any time night or day''. ''We are very proud of a show which has survived 42 years in the UK and gone on to become a worldwide brand,'' BBC Director of Television Jana Bennett said in a statement yesterday. ''But the time has come to bring the show to its natural conclusion.'' The Rolling Stones opened the first show with ''I Wanna Be Your Man''. It ended with a filmed performance by the Beatles of their number one hit ''I Want to Hold Your Hand''. BBC chiefs commissioned just six shows. There have since been more than 2,000.

Former presenter Paul Gambaccini said it was required listening for generations of pop fans, but has suffered because famous artists are releasing fewer hits each year. ''It was the news of pop music,'' he told BBC radio. ''Nowadays, the major artists don't release hit records more than once every two years consequently the news isn't very interesting.'' ''Top of the Pops'' attracted most of music's biggest names, from The Jackson 5 and David Bowie in the 1970s, Madonna and Kate Bush in the 1980s to Oasis and Britney Spears in the 1990s.

The mix of live TV and rock stars sometimes backfired. In 1991, Nirvana's lead singer Kurt Cobain sang ''load up on drugs, kill your friends'' during a performance of their hit ''Smells Like Teen Spirit''. During a mimed performance of ''Purple Haze'' in 1967, Jimi Hendrix was stopped in his tracks when an engineer accidentally played a tape of British singer Alan Price's song ''Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear''. Hendrix reportedly mumbled: ''I don't know the words to this one, man.''

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