Here's the countdown from 40 to number 11...

NOWADAYS, THE BBC publicity department is all too keen to reassure us that The 'Pops is once again "tops with teens", but there's no escapin' the cruel fact that the seventies (and arguably the neon 'n' tinsel-soaked 80-83 period) was the show's vacuous, frapulent heyday. The 'Rollers, Slade etc., were made for it. Mirrorballs, mirrored top hats, bored audiences, Pan's People for when the band "couldn't make it", several fat blokes in yellow T-shirts standing at the back for no apparent reason, and of course cheapo chromakey, amateurish
"pointing camera at TV" visual feedback (witness ALVIN STARDUST degrading into infinity for "My Coo-Ca-Choo"), and "that" cheap video solarization all gave the show such a finely-wrought sense of place and time that you could almost smell the oil crisis. Theme for this period was CCS' magisterial "Whole Lotta Love" cover with added flutes. Then came punk (Pistols once with old-style mic, The Clash never, hence Pan's People dancing to Bankrobber etc.), but such ostensibly "second division" acts such as Tenpole Tudor, Sham 69 and of COURSE Jilted John were more than happy to fill in. The old analogue effects were dropped in favour of primitive Quantel "flippy screen", "paint" and "freeze frame" effects, and early videos began to appear on the horizon (The Police "playing" a rocket with drumsticks, and naturally the double-header of Once In A Lifetime and Video Killed The Radio Star). Music was now vocoder/synth oddity "Yellow Pearl" from Phil Lynott, accompanied by a pink exploding record. It meant nothing to me... Then the effects got (slowly) better, that wibbly-wobbly caption generator made the band's name inch across the screen ("NeW OrDeR nEw oRdEr NeW OrDeR...") and the videos became less amateurish, too. Eventually. Thank Christ, then, for New Romance. It made us want to dance. On a tin gantry. With dry ice. And those star/triangle/arrow neon installations. And that primitive laser tunnel thing. And PETER POWELL. Then, sadly, the theme changed to PAUL HARDCASTLE's wibbly squeaky "The Wizard", and it all started to go, with nary a thought for Men Without Hats, Baltimora or Boney M. Still, never mind, eh? Always UK Gold... uhnnnnh.


1970

A sixties Plastic Ono hangover - stylised Vogue covers fail to upstage Yoko's performance art weirdness.

1971

That's Gilbert O'Sullivan somewhere underneath that neon construction.

1972

Bring on the effects! For anyone who's counting, it's a) Roxy Music and b) Alice Cooper lurking beneath the keyed-up psychedelia.


Studio decoration is still sparse and simple - oversize chime bars do the business for Lieutenant Pigeon and Gary "puppies" Glitter.


The Osmonds parade their one decent hit in front of some National Express coach upholstery designs.

1973

Blockbuster! The Sweet camp it up in a jazzed-up municipal pool footbath. Dawn prefer to tie a yellow ribbon round... some old girders.


Alvin does Coo Ca Choo with a little help from the oldest visual feedback trick in the book. Nice one.

1974

The Rubettes and The Glitter Band outdo the sets for tacky glam shininess. For now...

1975

Supertramp need parasols to shade them from the chrome's lurid glare, and Sparks (Ron "Hitler" Mael just visible, far left) are lost under a huge Aztec pyramid thing.


Woah! Pan's People dance to "I'm Going To Barbados" in fornt of the ever-reliable blue screen and tatty potted plants combo.

1976

Some noncommittal op art stylings fail to do it for 5000 Volts (remember? Dr. Kiss-Kiss? Oh, never mind) and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.


Demis Roussos de-emphasises his ample figure with a gigantic polystyrene swastika.

1977

Rose Royce find themselves superimposed over proto-MacDonads arches, while the Pan's girls use recession knowhow to get them through "Calling Occupants..."


Two '70s genres get early Pops airings. Bob Marley looks through the round window. Next door, Billy Idol's Generation X sort out the timber for Jewson's.

1978

Nothing says "1978" like Darts. Or, indeed, the Boomtown Rats, lost amid gantries and star-filtered lighting.


Oh, it's Darts again, this time fronted to the "secondary" stage in the corner of the studio. No such problems for Racey, here bathed in gorgeous purple. Mmmm...

1979

A year of change and weirdness, both in government and set. Squeeze come under attack from giant paper darts, while The Police test out the new in-studio ceiling-mounted Scalextric.


Top disco combo Frantique (of "Strut Your Funky Stuff" semi-fame) pay homage to huge pseudo-Aztec Munchies. Anita Ward celebrates her one-off number one Ring My Bell with... some number ones.


Quantum Jump, of course. And some curly stuff.

1980

Shaky gets a cubist greenhouse to live in, but The Vapours have to make do with a huge spider's web-themed wall mounting.

1981

Bucks Fizz front that famous neon cascade installation. Altered Images were lumbered with a strangely subdued beams-plus-dry-ice affair.


A Human League number, illustrated with a miniature new town shopping centre? Yeah, it works...

1982

Kiss my arse, Dan Flavin! A veritable forest of neon all but obscure ABC. No such problems for Toto Coelo (featuring Bob Holness' daughter, second left), fighting a battle of wills with that weird stained glass thing on the left.


Wah! Are left pretty much in the dark. Right - The unmissable moment - Dexy's Midnight Runners fall victim to the then state-of-the-art projection screen as Jackie Wilson Says gets pictorial help in the form of darts legend Jockey Wilson. And no, it wasn't a genuine error - someone was "on a wind up".


Yazoo up against the ever-popular "Space Shuttle" scaffolding.

1983

An unusually low key effort throws Boy George into sharp relief, but Bonnie Tyler needs all the searchlights and dry ice she can get.


The Kids dance to Wham! against a prototype for THOSE flourescent roundels (see below).

1984

Those trademark '80s circular neon jobbies go into overdrive for Nik Kershaw and Wham! Andrew Ridgeley not pictured, strangely enough.


Debutante Madonna gets a simple lasers 'n' mirror tiles combo.

1985

Maddie again, this time dwarfed by huge chinese lanterns apparently designed on a Spirograph. Feargal Sharkey quivers his throat in front of by now standard big screen and suspect backing singers.


They've found another filter for those lights! It all helps to cover up the sight of the Rah Band...

1986

A slight lull here. Gregory Abbott (Shake You Down - remember?) rolls up those jacket sleeves for a half-arsed shopping centre shambles.

1987

A pointer to the future - Karel Fialka (Hey Matthew! Oh, you know!) sits in a minimalist tunnel with his TV set chums. Spooky. And we end with the unsavoury Clark Datchler of Johnny Hates Jazz, in front of that hellspawn late '80s logo. The decline started here...