Top of the Pops

Filmed: Wednesday 4 December 1974

Location: BBC Television Studios, London, UK

Broadcast: Thursday 5 December 1974, 19:21, BBC1, UK

Release status: This programme has not been included on any officially released video or DVD

Duration: 2:30 mins

Shown in: UK

Additional information

Top of the Pops was the longest running weekly, music chart show featuring videos and performances on BBC1, UK which ran for over 42 years from 1 January 1964 to 30 July 2006 and featured around 2,000 episodes in total. The show saw many changes through the decades, in style, design, fashion and taste. Due to the BBC's former policy of deleting old programmes, the vast majority of the episodes from the first ten years of the programme's history have been lost. Of the first 500 episodes (1964–73) only about 20 complete recordings remain in the BBC archives. That's why only four of the seven ABBA studio performances exist in their full-length episodes). The 1976 Mamma Mia performance exists only in a Christmas retrospective episode; So Long from 1974 has been found thanks to the help of ABBA fans c/o this ABBA on TV website (see below) but it is feared the performance of SOS from 1975 is wiped forever.

Episode Number 569.

The clip is not currently in the BBC Archive.

ABBA sang So Long  'live' on Top Of The Pops introduced by Tony Blackburn. As with all appearances in Britain (which was why they stopped coming to Top Of The Pops after Fernando in April 1976) they had to re-record their track using British technicians. So the song was re-done in the BBC studio and then lip-synched back to the new "hastily made" recording for the TV broadcast. So this performance isn't absolutely live, but a new recording just for the occasion.

Frida wore the full 1974-1975 tour outfit including the high collar which she doesn't appear to have worn on any other TV appearance.

Programme running order:

  1. Alvin Stardust - Tell Me Why
  2. KC & The Sunshine Band - Sound Your Funky Horn
  3. Bachman-Turner Overdrive - You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet (VIDEO)
  4. ABBA - So Long
  5. George McCrae - You Can Have It All
  6. Hello - Tell Him
  7. Mud - Lonely This Christmas
  8. Rupie Edwards - Ire Feelings (Skanga)
  9. The Rubettes - Juke Box Jive
  10. The Tymes - Ms Grace
  11. The Wombles - Wombling Merry Christmas
  12. Barry White - You're the First, The Last, My Everything (danced to by Pans People)
  13. Rod Stewart & The Faces - You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anythin" (crowd dancing) (end credits).

It has widely been suspected - due to the lack of familiarity and it actually being in the BBC archives, that this episode was never broadcast owing to a strike/blackout.

However, after the BBC Written Archives Centre was contacted (they hold information on what was actually broadcast on a particular date, as opposed to what was in the listings), they referred to their  “Programme as Broadcast” documents (PasBs) which provide a log of all transmissions on any given day throughout the year. They resonded, "I’ve located the PasB for 5 December 1974 and can confirm that Top of the Pops was indeed broadcast on this date at 7:21pm. ABBA were also one of the bands that performed in this particular programme."

So it would seem that this edition of Top of the Pops was broadcast after all and, if there was a strike or blackouts in SOME areas, at the very least this programme would have been seen in most parts of the UK.

So Long b
ecome the only ABBA song not to chart - even though it WAS broadcast on Top of the Pops.

It has been suggested that this could have been filmed at the same time as Waterloo from the Christmas episode of Top of th Pops, but the difference in their looks, particularly Frida and Björn is too pronounced to be exactly the same day:

  1. Björn's fringe is shorter and freshly cut in So Long than Waterloo in the Christmas episode of Top of the Pops where it's a bit more 'settled'!
  2. Frida's hair in So Long is more red-coloured but more brown for Waterloo and the shape/fringe is wilder for So Long
  3. Agnetha's hair was much wispier in So Long than Waterloo in the Christmas epiosde of Top of the Pops.
  4. Only Benny looks the same.


Thanks to 53 ABBA fans from all over the world ( NB, GM, PM/F, RK, HE, CP, KA, RD, GT, JR, SR, AS, RV, BA, KC, RK, EL, SL, SL, GS, FA, UE, DF, JC, GH, MJ, IS(JR),VD, RS, SM, GC, HJ, CW, FS, LG, JB, GH, DC, KC2, RC, IJ, GS2, YVR, DBks, WV, HA. DC, SB, GB, FH, JA, AG, MP) who contributed to a fund in order to buy the clip from a private seller, the clip was made available to fellow fans in June 2012. Now it can be seen and enjoyed nearly 38 years after it was first filmed. See below for the background story.

Prior to that, we had a hard task trying to identify the programme for which we had only two pictures (below). The mystery was another collective fan event with several theories and thoughts being put into the mix until the pictures were confirmed as being from Top of the Pops. Now that we have the clip that all seems rather trivial, but it really, really wasn't prior to June 2012! See below for the theories identifying these pictures as being from an appearance on Top of the Pops.

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Obtaining the clip that was never broadcast

In 2012 I was contacted by a TV clip collector who claimed to have the full appearance of ABBA on Top of the Pops from 1974 singing So Long which the BBC do not have in their archive any more and it was believed lost forever.

The seller wanted £300 (UK Sterling) for the clip. I proposed that if many of us ABBA fans contributed a very small amount then together we could try to obtain this.  Word was spread via Facebook ABBA groups.

At 2 June 2012, £300 was worth: 370.54 EUR / US$ 460.75 / AUS$ 475.41 / 3,339.76 SEK / 2,753.448 DK.

There were two other sources who apparently had the clip, but:

  1. there was no news forthcoming from this alleged seller and
  2. the second one would apparently only swap for something equally rare and would not share it or sell it.  They provided this very, very short clip to prove he had it. It was only about 4 seconds. NOTE: This was not the same person who was selling it for £300 so the quality couldn't be guaranteed but at least we had proof the clip existed and it proved that they sang live (which we previously did not know).

I proposed that many ABBA fans contributed a very small amount - around £3-£4 UK Sterling MAXIMUM in order for me to pay for this clip (if I were rich I'd have bought it outright - but I'm not!).  By sharing the risk, no-one would lose much money if the seller did not deliver on his promise to provide the clip in exchange for the money.

It seemed like a risk worth taking.

I provided the following notes so that all potential contributors would be as informed as possible:

ABOUT THE SELLER
He is not an ABBA fan but a collector of lost material including lost episodes of Top of The Pops and BBC missing programmes/episodes. He has a huge collection of rare stuff but he is aware how unique this clip of So Long is. It is not known where or how he obtained this clip. His website is here: http://rare-tv-archive.webuda.com/ (website no longer works).

The BBC are aware of this man and the clip's existence but they won't pay because "it's policy". As unfortunate as that is, you can understand why a corporation like the BBC would not wish to be held to ransom by one individual. It's not just ABBA, this guy has dozens of clips from many, many other big name artists. The BBC would apparently clean it up, re-master it if came into their hands, but won't buy what they consider is their property in the first place (notwithstanding the fact that they lost it in the first place!).


COST
The asking price is £300 (that's AUS€477 / US€462 / Euro €374 (as at 31 May 2012). Yes it is a huge amount of money for approximately 3 minutes but he has something we want that we thought was lost forever ... so he can charge what he wants.

WHY PAY HIM?
It is so important that such rarities are safely in the hands of true fans before they are lost forever. If we band together we can see this for next to nothing.

QUALITY
The seller provided a screen grab. I had asked for one to prove he actually had the clip. It's hard to tell the quality from that screen grab because ABBA are obviously moving/dancing. But to my eyes, it's already better than nothing and far superior to some of the videos I've got from the 1980s!  In an update on 2 June 2012, I had asked the seller how big the file size was and he replied that it was 200MB and could supply by download or DVD in post. To be honest I wanted to ignore the DVD in the post option in case it never turned up. Apparently that size file is indicative of pretty good quality.

DISTRIBUTION
The seller would accept payment by Paypal so I asked for an Invoice and said I would pay him via Paypal. That way, there's a better chance of some sort of protection if he does not deliver - which I said I would pursue in that eventuality. He would provide the clip by download. According to his website (above but now not working), post was an option but to my mind that added another level or risk with it not being delivered. I asked for the clip via download and then would email the download to all paying contributors within 24 hours of receiving it myself.

SHARING
Some fans will believe (some of them quite strongly) that only those contributing financially to this venture should be allowed to see the clip. However, I believe that all ABBA fans will want to see this and that it should be widely shared. If it ends up on YouTube, as it probably will, I have no problem with that. Bear in mind however, that the BBC may make a request for it to be removed because it's their clip (putting aside the fact that they lost it in the first place!).

DISADVANTAGES
There are many. By paying for this clip we're fuelling him and others to charge similar amounts instead of just uploading to YouTube etc. But this is Top of the Pops, none of us have ever seen it and so it has real merit. Paying for the clip may reduce the chance that footage such as this will make its way to a proper archive. There's a risk that we'd not be sent anything. There's a risk we could be stalled for ages and then be sent an inferior copy to what he actually holds - only to find a better copy later on etc. This is a gamble - and it may not pay off but I think it's worth a try.

SOS
Just for information, the seller does not think SOS is out there at all which is a real shame. But at least we have the audio - see 1975.

UNIVERSAL
This exercise has nothing to do with Universal. They, and even the BBC themselves, do not have this footage. And as the clip is LIVE, the audio is not Universal's.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF CONTRIBUTING:
By contributing £3, £3.50 OR £4 (your choice) you are agreeing to the following:
UPDATE 2 June 2012: £3.50 is 4.32 EUR / US$ 5.37 / AUS$ 5.54 AUD/ 38.96 SEK/ 32.12 DKK

a) you accept the quality "as is". An indication of that is shown in the above screen grab.
b) if the seller fails to deliver, you accept that this was a risk worth taking and that you should not contribute more than you can afford to lose.
c) you will not hold me, Sara Russell, responsible in any way if the seller fails to deliver
d) anyone contributing is free to do with the clip whatever they like ie. share with others who have not contributed
e) I shall probably make an attempt to return it to the BBC myself (in the hopes that they will clean it up and re-broadcast it in superior quality)
f) if you contribute more than the suggested £3, £3.50 or £4 then you understand it is your risk.
g) the clip will apparently be delivered to me as a download (via a site like YouSendit.com for example). This is also how you will be able to receive it once I have received it.
h) I am doing this to get to see the clip myself and to help fellow ABBA fans to see it. I have no hidden agenda. I am not trying to rip people off. I am trying to help!
i) I will not buy this clip until I have £300 in definite contributions ie. received into my Paypal account. I wll put up a message on THIS PAGE to confirm I have received £300 to prevent receiving too much.


HOW TO CONTRIBUTE

As the seller will be paid by Paypal, I would prefer contributions to be made by Paypal to me c/o www.paypal.com

I don't think you need to have a Paypal account already set up - you can still send money via Paypal by credit card without an account.

Note that there ARE charges associated with sending money via Paypal (and I may well incur charges receiving the money too).

I started to receive contributions from fans (NB, GM, PM/F, RK, HE, CP, KA, RD, GT, JR, SR, AS, RV, BA, KC, RK, EL, SL, SL, GS, FA, UE, DF, JC, GH, MJ, IS(JR),VD, RS, SM, GC, HJ, CW, FS, LG, JB, GH, DC, KC2, RC, IJ, GS2, YVR, DBks, WV, HA. DC, SB, GB, FH, JA, AG, MP).  £323.00 was collected.  

UPDATE: 5 June 2012: THANK YOU EVERYONE! Now that we've got the £300 total, I have emailed the seller (at 13:32 (UK time) on Tuesday 5 June 2012) asking for instructions where/how to pay him and whether he can also send a DVD - now waiting to hear back from him. No more contributions please. I'll update this as soon as I can once I've heard from him but please note I am not around a computer for most of the day on Wednesday until late afternoon. Re: the excess, let's wait and see what happens and then see what we have left for refunds.

UPDATE: 6 June 2012: Have heard back during the day today and he's confirmed the email address to send Paypal payment to. He also says "download files are supplied via 4shared. a copy can be sent by DVD through the post as backup" (a man of few words!). I shall therefore make payment now and get the DVD sent to my home address. Perhaps the extra £23 can cover the copying and postage of a DVD copy for everyone who contributed - what are your thoughts on this? As I don't have the ability or capability to copy DVDs I will need help with that ... but one step at a time!

UPDATE: 7 June 2012: Payment was made yesterday evening.  File received this morning.  I have now seen it and it's fabulous - and a good strong vocal performance.  I am sure it won't be long before it's on YouTube or shared around.  Thank you to all contributors who have made one little dream of mine come true!

Contributors were sent by download or DVD their copy of So Long with the extra £23 being used to fund that.  Anything left over (very little) was used to fund the admin and upkeep of this site.

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BACKGROUND THEORIES: What is this TV programme?

The aim was to establish what TV programme the following two colour ABBA pictures are from:

  1. This one from Sounds of the Seventies ABBA magazine
  2. This photograph

Remember that before this So Long picture emerged, we did not know what the performance looked like at all.

THEORY 1
- Kid Jensen's 45
We only have a couple of pictures to compare with (back in 2009) but in the absence of anything else .. who knows? Notice that Björn wears the same (lack of) outfit in this programme as he does in the colour pictures above ... but I think the background is not the same. Kid Jensen's 45 has scaffolding in the background, this mystery picture is more of a stage setting.

THEORY 2 - Top of the Pops

  1. Could it be the missing So Long from Top of the Pops from 1974? Look at the background/set on this picture of Supertramp on Top of the Pops in 1975. Do you think it's the same or similar? Personally I think this is the answer, but would like to encourage a few more ideas to the pot.
  2. Look at this performance of The Bitch is Back by Elton John on Top of the Pops from 1974. Again, some of the set in the distance (what Elton would see from his piano) and behind him too) looks similar to the ABBA picture above, especially here and here.
  3. Another performance from December 1974 shows Sparks performing This Town Ain't Big Enough (For The Both of Us). In the distance there is a set which looks very much like the one ABBA are in front of in the picture (1) above.
  4. Two more performances from Top of the Pops around that time show staging that, while not a perfect match, look "typical" of Top of the Pops sets at that time, just fuelling the idea that the two pictures (1) and (2) are from Top of the Pops (and of So Long).  The first one is Mud's Lonely This Christmas and the other is The Wombles' Wombling Merry Christmas. What doesn't make sense to me though is why there are so many clips of all these other acts from around December 1974 but no ABBA. What happened to the ABBA clip? Why do other clips from that programme exist and not the ABBA one?
  5. There is a photograph of Queen performing (Killer Queen or Seven Seas of Rhye?) on Top of the Pops from 1 November 1974 taken by David Redfern who took many, many studio photographs of performers on the show. Once again, the set behind them is in a similar style to the ABBA picture (1) above, but at least we know that this Queen picture IS Top of the Pops, once again adding weight to the theory that the two pictures above ARE from the missing So Long performance on Top of the Pops.

Conclusion: it *IS* Top of the Pops!!
Thanks to contributions from ABBA on TV regulars, the mystery of which programme the two photos (1) and (2) above came from has now been resolved. The irony of this is that it took a performance of ABBA's own Honey Honey by Sweet Dreams to seal the deal! The set you can see in the background is the exact same as in the ABBA pictures (1) and (2). Whilst the YouTube clip of Sweet Dreams says it was filmed in August 1974 that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that the set is from Top of The Pops and it's the programme itself we needed to identify. We already had the information about So Long. It's quite possible the same background was used four months earlier for Sweet Dreams after all.

THEORY 3 - Super Club
According to ABBA Annual ABBA were in Paris for three dates around 1 February 1975 and "They sang So Long on Ring ParadeWaterloo and So Long on Super Club and they were invited on Système 2.  Or was Super Club a radio show because there's no evidence of of a TV programme called Super Club in the French TV archives. The phrase "were invited" on Système 2 sort of implies they were invited but didn't perform - or is that not the case?

THEORY 4 - a completely new programme we don't know about!

THEORY 5 - Midi-Première (1975)
Contradicting the move to 1974, could it be Midi-Première during trip to Paris in April 1975? French fans, does this look like the set of Midi-Première? I think this is a long shot but I'd like to hear from some French fans with long memories before completing dismissing this theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lyrics available on the Official ABBA site

Thanks to Dean Morrison, Jozsef, ABBA Annual, Henk, Karin, Richard Knight, Philip Muytjens, Alex Jones, Karin Angeleyes, Petri Kaasalainen, Julian Körner, Ian Jones, Pat5rick Mulkern and Carl Magnus Palm
And my never-ending gratitude to every one of the 53 ABBA fans who contributed to the So Long fund so that we could finally see this clip.
YouTube c/o mozpiano2

Got any information to add?
Spotted a mistake?
Contact me at abbaontv@yahoo.co.uk