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Top of the Pops
Top of the Pops is the name of a series of records issued by Pickwick Records on their Hallmark label, which contain anonymous cover versions of recent and current hit singles. The recordings were intended to replicate the sound of the original hits as closely as possible. The albums were recorded by a studio group comprising session musicians and singers who remained uncredited, although they included Tina Charles and Elton John before they became famous in their own right.
Record producer Alan Crawford conceived the idea for Top of the Pops, having noted several UK labels such as Music for Pleasure pioneer the anonymous covers format during 1967 and 1968. Crawford's key idea was to create a continuous series of albums with the same title. The Pickwick label agreed to undertake Crawford's idea and the first volume was issued in mid-1968, containing versions of twelve hits including "Young Girl", "Jennifer Eccles", "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" and "I Can't Let Maggie Go". A second volume appeared later in the year and included versions of two Beatles songs.
In 1969 new volumes began appearing at generally regular intervals, with a new LP released every six to eight weeks. Volume numbers were not stated on the record sleeves, each edition simply called Top of the Pops, the name derived from the un-trademarked BBC television show of that name, with which there was no direct connection.
From 1968 to 1985, Hallmark Records released nearly 100 albums consisting of covers of Top 40 hits. According to session singer Tony Rivers, "In those days, more often than not, you had to do three songs in three hours then you were out of there!! Not much chance of getting good at it!".However, he also notes that "there was good and there was bad", and that the studio singers and musicians usually tried their best. Dave Thompson for AllMusic stated that "it becomes apparent that the trick is not to look upon the songs as straightforward attempts to copy the hit song, but as interpretations rendered in the style of the hit". Part soundalikes, part true covers, the series sold well, and two of the albums reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart. In 2002, Hallmark Records went back to the master tapes, re-issuing several of the original albums, and releasing compilations using the recordings, which have a following of their own.
During the early 1970s, the Top of the Pops series enjoyed considerable success and buoyant sales. Budget albums were accepted into the main UK album charts for a few months in 1971, during which four Top of the Pops LPs charted, and two made No. 1. However, they were disqualified in early 1972 since their low price was perceived as giving them an unfair advantage in the market.
The albums continued to be released at regular intervals throughout the 1970s, with the general theme and cover art largely unchanged throughout. The cover designs featured female models in period attire, some with the models in skimpy clothing such as miniskirts and bikinis.
There were numerous similar album series in existence in the 1970s, put out by other labels. These include 12 Tops on the Stereo Gold Award record label, Hot Hits on the Music for Pleasure label, 16 Chart Hits on the Contour label, and Parade of Pops on the Windmill label (and, later, the Chevron label), plus several others. Some of these were also commercially successful.
In addition to the central series of Top of the Pops, Hallmark issued an annual round-up for each year starting in 1969 and ending in 1981, plus another in 1984 (which was recorded specially, the main series having been wound up by then). Pickwick also assembled tracks from Top of the Pops for several other spin-off album projects, including collections themed by particular artists (such as Top of the Poppers Sing & Play the Beatles' Golden Hits) and a series marketed at children, under the name Top of the Tots.
The main albums also sold well in Europe, and in the early 1970s a short-lived series of special 'Europe Editions' were recorded and released, with different tracks to the contemporary UK albums.
In a retrospective AllMusic review of The Best of Top of the Pops '81, Dave Thompson felt that "of the three John Lennon songs wrapped up within, either "Imagine" or "Woman" could have given Roxy Music's version of "Jealous Guy" a run for its money in the brokenhearted sincerity stakes".
In the late 1970s the main studio band behind the recordings was dispersed, and both the group's leader Tony Rivers and the regular producer Bruce Baxter left the fold. As a result, from about 1978, Pickwick compiled the LPs from material recorded by external companies. The series ceased in 1982 with volume 91, though a one-off volume (92) was released in 1985.
The end-of-year compilations have been released on CD, as have four of the original 92 sets. Pickwick have also issued a number of themed compilations made up from Top of the Pops recordings, with CDs such as Disco Fever, When They Was Fab, and Knowing Me, Knowing You, an Abba tribute album. In addition, most Top of the Pops albums have been released on iTunes in several countries, credited to the "Top of the Poppers".
Sam & Dave were an American soul and R&B duo who performed together from 1961 until 1981. The tenor (higher) voice was Sam Moore and the baritone/tenor (lower) voice was Dave Prater (1937–1988).
Mary Hopkin, credited on some recordings as Mary Visconti, is a Welsh folk singer, best known for her 1968 UK number one single "Those Were the Days". She was one of the earliest signings to the Beatles' Apple label.
Stars on 45 was a Dutch novelty pop act that was briefly very popular throughout Europe, and in the United States, and Australia in 1981. The group later shortened its name to Stars On in the U.S., while in the UK and Ireland it was known as Starsound. The band, which consisted solely of studio session musicians under the direction of Jaap Eggermont, formerly of Golden Earring, popularized medley recordings made by recreating hit songs as faithfully as possible and joining them together with a common tempo and underlying drum track.
Embassy Records was a UK budget record label that produced cover versions of current hit songs, which were sold exclusively in Woolworths shops at a lower price than the original recordings. The original label was active between 1954 and 1965, after which it disappeared when its parent company, Oriole, was taken over by CBS Records.
Pickwick Records was an American record label and British distributor known for its budget album releases of sound-alike recordings, bargain bin reissues and repackagings under the brands Design, Bravo, Hurrah, Grand Prix, and children's records on the Cricket and Happy Time labels.
"The Name of the Game" is a 1977 song by Swedish pop group ABBA, and was released as the first single from the group's fifth studio album, ABBA: The Album. It became a UK number one, topping the UK Singles Chart for four weeks in November 1977.
"The Christmas Song" is a classic Christmas song written in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé.
"Sugar, Sugar" is a song written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim. It was originally recorded by the cartoon band the Archies. This version reached No. 1 in the US on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969 and remained there for four weeks. It was also No.1 on the UK Singles chart in that same year for eight weeks. The song became a hit again in 1970 when rhythm and blues and soul singer Wilson Pickett took it back onto the charts with his own version.
Music for Pleasure and Classics for Pleasure (CFP) were British record labels that issued budget-priced albums of popular and classical music respectively. Albums were subsequently released under the MFP label in Australia (MFP-A) and South Africa.
Elvis' Christmas Album is the third studio album and first Christmas album by American singer and musician Elvis Presley on RCA Victor, LOC -1035, a deluxe limited edition, released October 15, 1957, and recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. It has been reissued in numerous different formats since its first release. It spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, and was the first of two Christmas-themed albums Presley would record, the other being Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, released in 1971. The publication Music Vendor listed Elvis' Christmas Album on their singles charts for two weeks in December 1957 – January 1958, with a peak position of No. 49.
Wall of Hits is a compilation album by the British rock band Slade. It was released on 11 November 1991 and reached No. 34 in the UK charts. The album was issued by Polydor and included the last two singles to be recorded by the band: "Radio Wall of Sound" and "Universe".
RCA Camden was a budget record label of RCA Victor, created by 1953 to reissue recordings from earlier 78-RPM releases. The label was named "Camden", after Camden, New Jersey where RCA Victor's studios, offices and factories had long been located.
Separate Ways is a 1973 compilation album issued by RCA Records from American singer and musician Elvis Presley.
Chartbusters Go Pop is a compilation album of cover versions by Elton John.
Burning Love and Hits from His Movies, Volume 2 is a compilation album by American singer and musician Elvis Presley. The album was released on November 1, 1972 on the budget label, RCA Camden. The contents of the album consist primarily of soundtrack recordings from various Presley films of the 1960s, augmented by both sides of his 1972 hit single, "Burning Love". Presley's recordings were generally issued by RCA on the standard Victor label, and not the budget Camden label; a similar compilation album, Separate Ways, was issued a month later, which also featured a recent chart hit leading a collection of older, non-hit soundtrack recordings. Upon its release, the album reached number 22 on the Billboard chart. In the mid 1970s, RCA Records leased the rights to reissue certain RCA Camden recordings by Presley and other RCA recording artists to the budget reissue label Pickwick Records. Burning Love was reissued with the same cover art on the Pickwick label. After Presley's sudden death in 1977, his recordings were in great demand and RCA promptly reclaimed the rights to their Pickwick/Camden recordings, and reissued and repackaged several of them. Burning Love was first reissued on compact disc on the RCA Camden label in 1987. The album was certified Gold on March 27, 1992, Platinum on July 15, 1999 and 2x Platinum on January 6, 2004 by the RIAA. RCA reissued the album on CD again in 2006 as part of a reissue series featuring most of Presley's RCA Camden albums.
Budget albums were low-priced vinyl LPs of popular and classical music released during the 1950s to 1970s consisting either of previously released material or material recorded especially for the line. Prices ranged from as low as 59 U.S. cents to $2.98. In the UK Pickwick Records' Top of the Pops record series, which operated between 1968 and 1985, was the most successful budget album range.
Hallmark Records is a British record label.
"Messages" is the third single of the synthpop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), released in 1980. The song originally featured on their eponymous debut album, but a re-recorded version provided OMD with their first Top 40 hit single in the UK, reaching number 13. As with debut single "Electricity", "Messages" features a melodic synth break instead of sung chorus.
Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits Volume 2 is the second greatest hits album recorded by American vocalist Barbra Streisand. It was released on November 15, 1978 by Columbia Records. The album is a compilation consisting of ten commercially successful singles from the singer's releases in the 1970s, with a majority of them being cover songs. It also features a new version of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", which was released as the collection's only single on October 7, 1978. Originating on Streisand's previous album, Songbird, the new rendition is a duet with Neil Diamond who had also recorded the song for his 1978 album of the same name. The idea for the duet originated from DJ Gary Guthrie who sold the idea to the record label for $5 million.
Arcade Records was a British record company specialised in multi-artist compilation albums, founded in 1972. In the 1970s, it found itself in direct competition with K-tel and other compilation labels. In the 1980s, the original company was sold to Dutch entrepreneur Herman Heinsbroek, who expanded it into a worldwide multi-media company.