ISBN: 978-0-9561439-1-4 / 160 pgs + cvr / Softback 210 X 210mm. Due Spring 2018
Anyone who ever went to a disco or party in the seventies will remember them; Top Of The Pops, budget priced monthly collections of chart hits with a difference – these were all cover versions!
With their cheap but memorable logo, and sleeves featuring sexy models, the albums were affordable for one good reason – they were cut by session musicians, chosen for their ability to get as close to the real thing as possible.
Back then major record labels didn’t want to cheapen their big acts by selling the rights to budget labels, so they were forced to look elsewhere for the hits of the day, and cover versions were the way forward. Of the many labels who started out in the late sixties, Hallmark set the standard with their Top Of The Pops collections.
Every six weeks the producers met, trying to predict what would be the best selling singles. Session musicians would listen to the originals and work out the parts. A one-day session would see 12 tracks laid down and mixed that evening.The album would be in the stores just 19 three weeks later.
They went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, and were licensed to Europe, America and Australia. So successful did the Top Of The Pops discs become back home that they soon started charting (on one memorable week keeping the new Led Zeppelin album out of the top ten), until spoilsport industry bigwigs had them banned from the charts!
This is the first book to tell the story of how the albums came about, and now comes out to mark the 50th anniversary of the first album release. It details many of the session stars who cut their teeth on them (step forward Elton John!). The rise and fall of the Top Of The Pops phenomena makes a fascinating read – aided by author (and music archivist) Tim Joseph’s eye for detail and dry humour. The heroic efforts of the session players month in and month out are compared and contrasted to the chart hits they sought to emulate.
Session players scratching their heads trying to work out how to replicate Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile guitar FX on a telecaster; producers trawling London’s streets looking for their missing Irish bagpipe players, who’d spent their session fees up front on Guinness and forgotten where the studio was; the label boss’s wife censoring the cover girl pictures if she thought they were getting a little too revealing.
Talking of which, many of the cover models are identified, while all the sleeves are shown in colour. Top Of The Pops fought back when operators like K-Tel began to compile original chart hit albums, but it was only with the eighties that the series came to an end, unable to compete with newcomers like Now That’s What I Call Music, and lacking the budget to replicate the huge production values of many newer chart recordings.
Thirty or more years on however, the colourful, sometimes glamorous and often kitschy sleeves have made these albums very collectable. This book reproduces all 92 Top Of The Pops sleeves in colour, as well as many of the rare foreign editions and associated releases. This is a book which can be bought just for the illustrations, yet which carries enough detail to please anyone interested in this largely forgotten and ignored part of our pop music history. Author Tim Joseph has collected a load of great memorabilia; ads, reviews and articles from the industry trade press at the time. We’ve located album sleeve out-takes, scanned oodles of great sleeves, spoken to the guy who designed the original cover, taken part on a Radio 2 documentary on the albums, had features in a Scandinavian magazine, an article in Record Collector (which they’ve still not published!) and got HMV knocking at our door to stock the title. There is a special edition planned as well.
UPDATE • July 2017. As some of you know Tim has not been very well for a long while but has been signed off by the Doctors and shoved out to work once again. We have kept in touch with Tim and been over to visit a few times, and met up again recently. The upshot of our discussion is we have decided relaunch the title anew in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of these iconic album. The title will also be tweaked ever so slightly to “When Cover Girls Ruled The World”! Obviously this will affect bookshops etc. but not this website.
We have a limited number of stylish in-store promo posters for the title are now available to buy from the Easy On The Eye store, which feature all the sleeves. Once there, click on the books section, click on the promo posters category and check it out.
Sample pages from the book. Please note these are subject to change and revision. Click on any image and they can be viewed at a larger size in a gallery. Sample pages with cover are also available as PDFs – click here
PDF downloadable colour sample pages and book cover. File size approx 450KB.
Book cover and sample pages