Pick of the Pops

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Pick of the Pops
Genre Music, Talk
Running time 2 hours
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Home station BBC Light Programme (1955–1967)
BBC Radio 1
(1967–1972, 1989–1992)
Capital Radio
Capital Gold
BBC Radio 2
(1997 onwards)
Hosted by Paul Gambaccini
Produced by Tom Du Croz, Phil 'The Collector' Swern
Narrated by Paul Gambaccini
Recording studio Wogan House, London
Original release 1955 – present
Audio format 88–91 FM, DAB digital radio, TV and online
Opening theme At The Sign of The Swinging Cymbal by Brass Incorporated
Website [1]

Pick of the Pops is a BBC Radio programme, originally based on the Top 20 UK Singles Chart and first broadcast on the BBC Light Programme in 1955. It transferred to BBC Radio 1 (simulcast on BBC Radio 2) from 1967 to 1972. It was revived for six years in the 1980s. Its current production run started in 1997.

Original format (1955–1972)[edit]

Initially the show did not feature the charts, but in September 1957 Alan Dell introduced the format of running through the charts of the week, playing the top tens from various music papers plus entries to top 20s.

David Jacobs brought the first averaged BBC Top 20 to the helm on Saturday, 29 March 1958. Alan Freeman took over in September 1961, taking the show to a regular Sunday slot in January 1962. The programme ended in September 1972, while the Top 20 continued as part of "Solid Gold Sixty".

Freeman, who presented the longest and whose name is probably most closely associated with Pick of the Pops, had been a radio announcer in Melbourne, Australia. Freeman arrived in Britain in 1957 and joined the Light Programme in 1961 to present Records Around Five. That same year he replaced David Jacobs for Pick of the Pops, which was then part of a Saturday-evening programme called Trad Tavern, after traditional jazz which had a following at the time. Pick of the Pops became a separate programme in January 1962.[1] It was produced by Derek Chinnery.

Denys Jones (producer 1961–1972) and Freeman split the programme into four: chart newcomers, new releases, LPs and the Top 10.[1] The programme attracted a large audience as the BBC had restrictions on "needle time" and could play relatively few commercially available recordings each week. Freeman continued with the show when it moved to Radio 1 and stayed until the programme ended in September 1972.


Freeman revived Pick of the Pops on the local London station, Capital Radio, from 1982 to the end of 1988 as Pick of the Pops – Take Two, combining the new chart (Top 15s compiled successively by Record Business, the NME and MRIB) with a chart from the past. In 1989, Freeman returned to Radio 1 where the show featured three past charts each week, and was produced by Phil Swern through March 1992, and for the rest of 1992 by Sue Foster.[2] Freeman's final programme, at the end of 1992, stated that he would never present it again, and signed off with the Beatles' "The End".

From April 1994 to January 1997 Freeman revived the show once more on Capital Gold as Pick Of The Pops – Take Three, featuring two vintage top 12s, and the "Battle Of The Giants", and on other occasions featuring three vintage top 10s, two vintage top 20s and a rock request, along with competitions on Saturday mornings.

BBC Radio 2 era (1997–present)[edit]

Pick of the Pops returned to the BBC as an independent production by Unique Broadcasting on BBC Radio 2 on 5 April 1997, with Freeman now counting down two archive charts each week, interspersing trivia about the records, again researched by producer Swern.

Dale Winton (2000–2010)[edit]

In 2000 Freeman retired for health reasons, and the show was taken over by Dale Winton. The regular weekly edition ended in August 2004, with limited broadcast of special editions.

Pick of the Pops then returned on a weekly basis in September 2005 with Winton at the helm. The BBC announced moved Pick of the Pops to a Saturday slot in April 2009.[3]

Winton bowed out of Pick of the Pops on 30 October 2010 owing to other work.

Tony Blackburn (2010–2016)[edit]

On 24 September 2010, it was announced that Tony Blackburn would take over Pick of The Pops, and be continued to be produced by Swern. Although the show was pre-recorded during the Winton era, from January 2011 the show was mostly broadcast live, which allowed Blackburn to interact with his listeners. In August 2015 Pick of the Pops got a new producer Tom Du Croz after 18 years of Phil Swern producing on his own. Tony featured 1956 to 1992.

Mark Goodier (2016)[edit]

Blackburn was fired by the BBC in February 2016.[4]

Paul Gambaccini (2016–present)[edit]

Paul Gambaccini took over Pick of The Pops in July 2016. Later that year, it was announced that the show was now being produced by 7 Digital Productions. Paul also features Billboard charts over the Christmas Holidays, he has featured 1965, 1970, 1975 & 1982. He features charts from 1958 to 2006 and also tells listeners what was number one in America giving a nod to his long running show America's Greatest Hits. On 6th January and 24th February 2018, Paul missed Pick of the Pops for the first time since 1992 when Tommy Vance & Simon Bates sat in for Alan Freeman who had flu and the show was covered by former host Mark Goodier.


Theme music[edit]

The theme tune (1961–1966) was "At the Sign of the Swingin' Cymbal" written and performed by Brian Fahey and his Orchestra. It was later replaced (1966–1970) with "Quite Beside The Point" by the Harry Roberts Sound. Since April 1970 the show has used a new version of "At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymbal" by Brass Incorporated.


  1. ^ a b "BBC Radio 1 People – Alan Freeman – Not Arf!". Radio Rewind. 28 November 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  2. ^ BBC Genome listings
  3. ^ "Press Office – Radio 2 announces new weekend schedule". BBC. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin; Sweney, Mark (25 February 2016). "BBC 'parted company' with Tony Blackburn over Savile inquiry evidence". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 

External links[edit]