Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Waiting for Posh; 'Over-18s but No Wrinklies' Says the Invite for Top of the Pops, Now 37 Years Old Itself. Nick Curtis Inveigled His Way in to Tonight's Show - and Found Himself Backstage with the Extraordinary Mrs Beckham

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Waiting for Posh; 'Over-18s but No Wrinklies' Says the Invite for Top of the Pops, Now 37 Years Old Itself. Nick Curtis Inveigled His Way in to Tonight's Show - and Found Himself Backstage with the Extraordinary Mrs Beckham

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK CURTIS

LAST night, I fulfilled a childhood fantasy when I attended - with backstage access - the recording of tonight's Top of the Pops. Think before you smirk at that statement. Now 37 years old, TOTP is exported to more than 90 countries, and has spawned a website, a magazine, a sister series called TOTP2 and - this year - its own awards. Forget MTV, Top of the Pops has been compulsory teatime viewing, even at its worst, for four generations of British music fans. Any decent band you can name has appeared on it. It is, as producer and director Chris Cowey says, "a British institution, a national treasure".

Stalking the stages, the corridors and the dressing rooms of TOTP is a strange experience.

The programme is so deeply embedded in my innocent youth, I still half-believe that each eight-song, 29-minute show is shot as seen: the revelation that many of the turns are recorded in advance, and that presenter Gail Porter's links are scripted, taped and edited in, is a shock.

The backstage areas of Riverside Studios in Hammersmith - which TOTP will vacate on 18 October for a purpose-built studio at Television Centre - are downright shabby. The atmosphere is casual, the crew businesslike and offhand, the invited audience a meagre 150.

Yet every act generates absurd, undeniable excitement. Even Steps.

During the recording, everyone - the crew, the audience, the other artists, and me - is waiting for a woman who will mime an awful single that has already been spanked down the chart by the sublime Kylie. We are waiting for Posh, for Victoria Beckham.

An hour before recording, though, the only artist in evidence is David Cassidy. The Seventies teen idol is attempting a comeback via a new album and a slot on TOTP2. He sits in Riverside's bar, pointedly strumming a guitar, while the audience flows around him, oblivious. Their tickets state "over-18s, but no wrinklies". Most of them weren't even born the last time Cassidy was famous. Any older fans that do get into the studio will have their grey heads edited out of the broadcast. Inside the empty studio, on one of the four Top of the Pops stages, Ian Brown, formerly of the Stone Roses, is rehearsing his song, F.E.A.R. He has an extensive, allfemale band, but he is the only one performing live. In TOTP terms, this is called "Live Vox".

What Steps do is called "Full Track", meaning, they mime. Some artists, like Samantha Mumba, can handle pure live performance, but many can't. One extremely popular female singer cannot, according to a TOTP insider, sing a note. Similarly, the members of one boy band were so nervous on their fist appearance that after three or four tries at a live rendition, the producers "forced them to mime".

(The stage that Brown is standing on, by the way, is known as "Paul". …

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