Book review: ‘Top Of The Pops: The Punk & New Romantic Years 1976-1986’ by Peter Checksfield

Hot on the heels of Peter Checksfield’s previous Top Of The Pops book (which covered the show from its inception in 1964 through to 1975) comes this second volume taking us from 1976 through to 1986.

Again, it’s a similar format with a rundown of the acts on each episode and various titbits such as brief pen portraits of each artist, chart history and various reminiscences from some of those who performed on the show. It’s a slightly expanded format this time, including stills from each episode broadcast, resulting in a massive telephone directory -sized tome.

Unlike the first volume, where I was either yet to be born or a very young toddler for a good chunk of the episodes covered, this volume covers the entirety of my teenage years where Top Of The Pops went from something being on in the background to something I avidly watched each week.

I was ten in 1976 and vaguely starting to become aware of changes in the musical landscape. This book, however, is a timely reminder that for all of punk’s year zero rhetoric, change was gradual rather than something that happened overnight. Slade, Sweet, Mud and Gary Glitter were all still regulars at this point (even if their chart positions were somewhat lower than previously) sharing the Top Of The Pops weekly chart run-down with the likes of The Jam, The Stranglers and The Sex Pistols.

I was a bit too young to get caught up in punk and new romantic was never really my cup of tea either. But the early 1980s also saw a real renaissance for hard rock and heavy metal, which had been in the doldrums a bit in the second half of the 1970s. At the start of that new decade, bands like Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon became regulars on TOTP – not just making the album charts but making a serious mark on the singles charts, too. The period even saw a big commercial revival for Slade. Their appearance on 29th January 1981 as Checksfield notes, being their first TOTP performance in four years. It was a pivotal moment for me, instantly transforming them from being a group I remembered from my childhood that did that Christmas record to being my number one favourite band.

People will have their own particular highlights but this book, as well as being a useful and well-researched reference work, will trigger many affectionate memories, even though the less we dwell on some of the show’s past presenters the better.

Published 2022

Visit Peter Checksfield’s website here

Related reviews:

Book review: ‘Top Of The Pops: The Lost Years Rediscovered 1964-1975’ by Peter Checksfield

‘Look Wot They Dun! – The ultimate guide to UK glam rock on TV in the 70s’ by Peter Checksfield

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