Multimedia killed the video star

An era in British music will come to an end on Sunday when the final curtain falls on the BBC’s weekly Top of the Pops chart show, after 42 years of bringing music performances to an eager audience.

Launched in 1964, the world’s longest-running weekly television music program – a format copied worldwide – has been given the coup de grace by 24-hour music channels like MTV, Internet downloads and other media outlets.

Former BBC Radio One disc jockey Jimmy Savile, who presented the first show and co-hosted the 2,204th and last show filmed this week, said he was neither sad nor "surprised in the slightest" that it was all coming to an end.

"In those days you would have to wait until Thursday night to get your fix and you don’t need to do that anymore," Savile said on the BBC’s website.

"Top of the Pops has been overrun by video of music on television."

However, it will be a miserable day for many others, including fans abroad.

"I’m more than sad over the fact that this, the best pop show on television ever, will go off the air after 42 years," wrote Oliver Roemer from Bremen in Germany in an email to the BBC.

From its modest start in a converted church in the northern English city of Manchester, it has featured some of the most prominent names in the business and attracted audiences of 15 million in its 1970s heyday. Top of the Pops was originally commissioned for only six episodes but celebrated its 2,000th show in 2002, even if audiences had fallen to just three million by then.

When it was first aired on New Year’s Day 1964, The Rolling Stones performed "I Wanna Be Your Man". They have been followed by The Beatles, Slade, Elton John, Madonna, Nirvana, Oasis, The Spice Girls and scores of other stars.

It became a worldwide brand with broadcasts in Europe and the United States.

In the days before music videos, dancers would perform to songs by artists who couldn’t make it to the studio. To make it easier for stars to appear live, recording switched to London early on.

By the time the BBC announced last month that it would finally stop making the program, the corporation had tried a number of face-lifts to no avail.

BBC director of television Jana Bennett said in a statement that the broadcaster had "concluded that in a rapidly changing musical landscape, Top of the Pops no longer occupies the central role it once did."

Bennett said the show could no longer compete against the rise of 24-hour music channels, the Internet, and other outlets which were far more flexible and accessible.

Mark Lawson, a columnist writing in The Guardian newspaper, summed up the end-of-era feel. "Top of the Pops belongs to a time when young viewers ‘couldn’t wait’ for Thursday to come around, but knew that they had to," Lawson wrote.

"Increasingly, those who can’t wait for TV programmes won’t have to. Accordingly, the TOTP of the future will be a programme – or, more likely, a network – that puts videos of bands online as soon as their songs are released," he said.


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Multimedia killed the video star