Top of the Pops Christmas 2011
Little Mix on Top of the Pops Christmas special
Editor's Note: Mark Cooper, Creative Head, BBC Music Entertainment, writes for the About the BBC blog about Christmas at Top of the Pops.
I guess Father Christmas must feel this way when he puts on the red coat and climbs into his sleigh. I am talking about the warm glow that returns seasonally once a year when BBCMusic Entertainment get out the glitter cannons and the reindeer hats and send for the neon signs that say 'TOP OF THE POPS'.
Of course each of those signs is from a different era of the BBC's weekly music show that ran for 44 years before being laid to rest on July 30, 2006. But that's only appropriate as the Christmas edition of Top of the Pops is not only a party and a review of the hits of the year but also the annual resurrection of the spirit of this great show for which the British public has so much affection, a tribute to all the many different eras of Top of the Pops, bang in the middle of Christmas Day, the day that every British household holds most dear and - even as time passes - wishes to be exactly as it always was. Although Top of the Pops the weekly chart show lies dormant, the Christmas edition of Top of the Pops has carried on regardless, returning annually at 2pm to ignite the party spirit just before the Queen's Speech as in time immemorial.
BBC Music Entertainment has produced Top of the Pops and TOTP2 since it was created in 1997 and are still sad to have been the ones who produced the show in its final years. And that is why when the studio is booked and we start scouring the year's charts for the right blend of artists to celebrate the year in pop music with all the broad church appeal of every proper edition of Top of the Pops, a spring returns to our step. Fortunately that glad smile is still shared by our wonderful presenters Fearne and Reggie and pretty much all the pop stars and bands and record companies out there. This was a great year for new young British artists with more artists scoring debut Number 1s in a year than I can remember and our Christmas show was the chance for them to confirm their ascent, to be able to say to their family, friends and fans - 'Did you see me on Top of the Pops?'
Ed Sheeran walked into our Xmas studio eyes agog, taking in the different stages with their Christmas trees, their baubles and their shining stars and positively glowed. He was fulfilling a life long ambition to appear on the show. Because that's what every artist who made it into the charts and onto the show always felt, that they'd really made it - 'Look ma, I'm on Top of the Pops!' Rizzle Kicks decided that they simply had to surprise everybody by jumping out of a couple of presents, Will Young wished everybody at home 'Happy Christmas' and Little Mixx performed with remarkable aplomb considering they'd had two hours sleep since the whirlwind of winning X-Factor. All of our live artists sang wonderfully and somehow avoided getting a mouthful of glitter or fake snow.
But as up for it as this cream of young British pop showed themselves to be, I don't think they are the real secret of Xmas Top of the Pops. OK, the beauty of making the show once a year is that we can field a cast of Number 1 hits, that we have a dream slot on BBC ONE on perhaps the key TV watching day of the year, that we belong in the schedule on Christmas Day like the stocking at the end of your bed or the sherry just before lunch. No, the secret of Top of the Pops is the great British public themselves. Top of the Pops was one of the very first TV shows to put the ordinary British public centre stage, on camera, right in front of the acts and all around the presenters.
And this Christmas here they are again, pouring into the studio chatting excitedly and then quickly coming to the boil as they are expertly 'frothed up' by the show's 'hype man' of many years standing, the extremely excitable Danny Stegall. And then in our relatively tiny studio with its Christmas trees and four stages, Fearne and Reggie who've grown up on TV and on Top of the Pops are right there amongst them, chatting between takes, letting them know they are amongst friends and then right there in front of everybody - so close you can almost touch them - are Example or Professor Green or The Vaccines. And the songs start and suddenly that whole audience is jumping up and down or waving their arms in the air or singing along like they just don't care. The announcement of the Christmas Number 1 live on the show can only add to the excitement this year but this intimacy between the pop stars and the public and the songs is the very essence of Top of the Pops and for an hour on Christmas Day, when dreams come true and Father Christmas has landed, Christmas Top of the Pops is what it ever was - pure Christmas magic!