Tuesday, 25 December 2012

25th December

Right, here we go. The iconic status of the TOTP Christmas Day show is assured - only 1964 (Christmas Eve) and 1966 (Boxing Day) have been missed out since the show started, including right past its end. In fact, as the Queen took 1969 off it's the big day's longest running unbroken fixture. The one thing this blog has tried to do throughout is not just post everything available but put things into context and only include links which have some layer of interest, but for the festive shows we can put that aside and just link to everything performed afresh in the studio on the biggest shows, or at least what can be found. So take a deep breath, strap in and stand by, this post's going to be a long one...

1965: The programme itself may not but couple of rehearsal clips survive. You probably could have guessed this wasn't broadcast material from the Sandie Shaw footage, where Sandie seems to have dropped her coat behind her - still barefoot, though, always keep up that image - and is what could best be described as distracted throughout, perhaps by that bloke sitting on the lip of the stage. Presumably the director is expecting people where those shots of empty bits of the studio go. That bloke's still sitting there for The Seekers, who aren't just going through the motions, and he's been joined by a friend. The rest of the programme, headed by a Savile/Freeman/Murray/Jacobs anschluss, featured Georgie Fame, Unit 4 Plus 2, the Kinks, the Seekers, the Hollies and Jackie Trent.

1967: Savile, Freeman and Murray, a combination we'll also, literally, see tomorrow, introduce Tom Jones, Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw, Jimi Hendrix (!), the Tremeloes, Anita Harris and the Who, with the Beatles, Beach Boys and Sinatra pere and frere on tape.

1968: Savile and Murray alone, a show that in audio starts like this and continues with Des O'Connor, Scaffold, Georgie Fame, Manfred Mann, the Beach Boys and the Go-Jos dancing to Esther & Abi Ofarim.

1969: Having been regular Savile stand-in for the 60s this was Pete Murray's last show of 98. Think how much of his screen time was binned over the years. A ridiculously floppy hat literally overshadows Marmalade; the Rolling Stones appear despite Mick's cape getting shredded in the wash. Also showing: Scaffold, Clodagh Rodgers, Blue Mink, Peter Sarstedt, Thunderclap Newman and Pan's People dancing to Creedence Clearwater Revival.

1970: Tony joins Jimmy at the big table and everyone scarpers off leaving them a set of repeats and videos, with Mr Bloe, Pickettywitch and Marmalade the only people who show up anew in the studio, plus Pan's People doing Tears Of A Clown.

1971: Jimmy solo with Dave Edmunds, the Supremes, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Clive Dunn (surely that act can't have been developed much from the performance that survives?), Middle Of The Road, T-Rex and Pan's People doing CCS. No, not that CCS track.

1972: The last lost 25th show, Jimmy with Ed Stewart this time, featuring Elton John, Slade, The Move, T-Rex, Rod Stewart, Lynsey de Paul, Pan's People dancing to Hot Butter's Popcorn - and how much I'd like to see how that went - and, just right for a Christmas family audience, closing with the audience dancing to Hawkwind's Silver Machine.

1973: Surely one of the great lineups, redolent of its era and as confused as that sounds. Fair way to kick off, though, Slade, with a Noddy hat replicator at the front - lots of hats around, actually - and Dave as some sort of kaleidoscopic peacock. Suzi Quatro's Can The Can followed before the Simon Park Orchestra not so much raised as completely altered the tone. "The year of glam rock" was marked by Sweet, Steve Priest in German helmet and full-on expressions to camera, and then, in quite a different way, Gilbert O'Sullivan. Yes, it's that Pan's People routine, with the dog that buggers off during the first line. Well, the ladies do what they can, grant them that, especially given Flick said the dogs stank the place out. Gary Glitter gets us back to performance, followed by the "highly meritorious" 10cc. A brief respite from glam from Peters & Lee only puts off the overdressed inevitable, Wizzard going the full hog complete with unconvincing jivers. How long must it have taken Roy to get ready for this one? Finally, seeing out the big day as it should be, Slade and a stage invasion that's far too early and far too populated, not allowing the camera to get anywhere near until after one of Wizzard has put the standard pie in Noddy's chops - presumably that's what the little cheer at 1:52 is for. Someone kisses Noddy at the end despite having seen the state of him.

1974: Welcome to Jimmy and Tony's fireside lodgings! Admittedly it seems to be just a massive fireplace but everyone has to start somewhere. When you think of Mud on Christmas TOTP you think of Les Gray operating a ventriloquist's dummy for the spoken word part but that didn't occur to him until it was nearly too late, the first show of 1975, so he just has to awkwardly mime it at the piano. What a disturbing pose that is at the start as Jimmy introduces the over-purpleized Sweet Sensation. Trying to find as eyecatching an angle as the previous years Pan's People, dancing to The New Seekers, come dressed as... conflicted trapeze mice? What is that? Lyn Paul's having to watch all that as well. Then it's time to not understand the rock media with David Essex in his adapted dressing gown and with the Rubettes - who weren't even on until the second show - and Tony confirming he may not be much more than a pretty face. As civil war bubblegum popsters Paper Lace are followed by... well, some dubious racial stereotyping - it was the age - but then all the silver strips they could find for The Three Degrees, Essex's Joke Time and Ken Boothe, who's wisely not getting involved, you wonder where the weight is. Ah, ABBA, there you go, Bjorn borrowing a guitar from the Rubettes and the orchestra adding a Wall Of Sound feel. Agnetha's is a traditional peasant smock. Possibly. Charles Aznavour hides among the trees, Pan's People return in their best upper class dinner dance outfits for Barry White and, for the second year in a row, Slade's hardy perennial, managing to get an audience involved where there is no audience, sees us out.

1975: Ah, the golden age of comedy. After some Noel and Tony crosstalk come Pilot and Johnny Nash before Noel puts on his best RP to introduce Don Estelle and Windsor Davies. A trip to Pan's People's winter residence finds us in another special effort for the festive season, a very careful circling around to Art Garfunkel. With, unlike the first review show two days earlier, no audience Ralph McTell seems very lonely out there - even for Tammy Wynette they rustled up some trees - but at least the set doesn't seem as cold as it does for The Tymes, despite the best efforts of their suit colours. The Stepford Bay City Rollers are followed by a second time round for Mud, Les not bothered about the dummy this time round, instead showing us his creepiest smile right at the end. Guys & Dolls next, and then someone find a picture frame filter for Telly Savalas. What are the crew laughing at before Pan's People literally dressed in ribbins for the Stylistics? Amid the fish-eye lens frenzy 10cc's Kevin Godley's choice of jumper asks its own questions before David Essex sees us off into The Queen's speech's loving embrace.

1976: DLT acting like that in the first link doesn't give us the viewer much hope of commitment for the rest of the show. Slik's keyboard player's matey grin is that of the passing fancy and not, say, the studied ambition of ABBA, first represented by Legs & Co - a priapic DLT with a knife in his hand? Run! - in big white furry hats and not much else, then later in actuality. With all that going on down below Tina Charles and her huge scarf is put safely out of the way in the gantry by some scaffolding. The Wurzels take second place to some frenzied balloon batting about that at one point knocks Pete Budd's live microphone away from him. The same doesn't happen to Cliff Richard or Demis Roussos - oh, the joke, THE INTRO JOKE - looking straight at us as it comes to a close in a prolonged statesmanlike stance. Which just leaves us with Legs & Co's second outing to Hank Mizell, doing an Indian reservation wardance around a not unexpectedly perplexed Tony Blackburn before some Victorian theatre animal costumes flood into a tiny space.

1977: Along with Deniece Williams (who you can see a bit of at the start of this first clip), Hot Chocolate and Baccara, Showaddywaddy were the only people willing to come in and play on this most auspicious of shows this year so they got the whole festive buffet to themselves. At least Legs & Co remained reliable, donning first doublet and hose for Emerson Lake & Palmer and then underdressed silver reindeer with Ruby Flipper's Floyd as a very keen Santa for Stevie Wonder, onto which someone has chosen to dub sleigh bells. There's a reason why Stevie decided not to include any on the original mix, you know.

1978: The last Noel - literally, Edmonds left the rota to concentrate on telly after this - and in strained circumstances. This was due to be the second of the Christmas shows for the year, the first on the remarkably early date of the 21st hosted by Powell and Travis, but a strike over the use of casual staff which started that day blanked that programme out among others and meant an artfully downsized single review show. That would also explain the inconsistent nature of this line-up in hits of the year terms, if not all the prop gags. (That'd be Noel.) For all Darts' qualities, reduced by one here as this was just after Den Hegarty had left, are they really opening the Christmas show standard? In its own way Boney M are a bit more like it - Bobby in silver bodysuit, false beard and feathery cape! - later returning dressed for the Roman baths. In its own way is Legs & Co's John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's Sharks and Jets on a budget routine is more like "it" too. Yes, of course Floyd's there. The girls later return to be put on podiums for The Commodores. Brotherhood Of Man's satin jackets are just the further step towards cabaret and the men do look very uncomfortable with even the simplest moves. No such exuberance for Brian & Michael, who look like they've been stuck in the corner of a stairwell to make room for all of Showaddywaddy.

1979: Having dressed to the nines when they actually were number one, Ian Dury & the Blockheads went the other way come the other end of 1979 and showed up in navvy gear. Not very festively Janet Kay only gets bare trees for her set, but that's more than Gary Numan gets for decoration. Not much time for frivolity in such dystopia. Anita Ward gets Legs & Co, playing the old skin-coloured bodystocking trick, ringing their... bits of cloth? Whatever. Some fine post-modernism with Buggles filmed through the viewfinder of another camera, while the backing singers have their own fun. BA Robertson seems to have found a Santa-themed boxing robe while Rosie and Pauline Legs as drum majorettes relegate his actual band to a point far across the studio. This year's double set comes from Blondie, Debbie in her deckchair dress and the band kicking up glitter and dust for Dreaming. The concept arrangement theory returns through "number one in Thailand" M and co's woolly hats, logo T-shirts and Robin Scott and friend overlooking the scene before Scott pulls out a walkie-talkie purely for effect. No such affectations for Elvis Costello or Lena Martell. Squeeze's hit gets downsized, seeming surprised in the background at the end. Dr Hook provide the "Christmas cuddle spot" - thanks, Kid - before Numan returns in Tubeway Army mode and gets to use the gantry as his own. Clearly some of Legs & Co thought appearing with Racey beneath them. Understandable. Cliff Richard in multiple and with a decoration on his jacket plays us off.

1980: I don't know why the Nolans performance at the start here is excised, it doesn't seem to be elsewhere online and the less we dwell on the link out of it the better. That all leads on to Dexys Midnight Runners, who've already progressed a 'look' since this was number one. Everyone gathered around one mike at the start is very much an act from a bygone age, as are drummers who dressed like that. Liquid Gold keep on keepin' on, in a gold outfit too. Marti Webb by contrast stands stock still, Johnny Logan doesn't even go to standing up extremes, Sheena Easton standing and adding just a stripy outfit and some tentative knee bending, more convincing than Leo Sayer in that game show host jacket and marionette dancing. Speaking of which, sort of, Legs & Co have another stormer to Lipps Inc in the toy room. Logic says Flick must have worked extra hard at these Christmas Day routines as they'd have more time to record and refine. It may also explain why, having so much time to think things through, they're often so opaque.

1981: A full show and a full hosting complement as most of Radio 1's talent got a go, starting with Jimmy nearly smacking a bloke who really fancies himself square in the face. You'd think Part one wouldn't really recovers from that, but never underestimate Teardrop Explodes' efforts. Well, Julian was always bound to turn up in a dress eventually. Even less likely, Midge Ure as a biker. Was it a themed party and the BBC forgot to tell us? Part two gets arms aloft for Kim Wilde before the grand return of John Peel, who on his only previous hosting job in 1968 had forgotten the...oh, let him tell you. Still gets the Human League's name wrongly pluralised. For their own part the girls demonstrate those moves that got them noticed while three keyboard players attempt to quietly upstage each other. Godley and Creme kick part three off by sitting down. Like us all the pomaded bloke next to Adrian Juste is wondering what he's doing there of all people - his only other appearance was in 1982's Radio 1 fifteenth birthday celebration. What he's doing is introducing an electric Kirsty Maccoll. Just time for Simon Bates to chat to Adam Ant before part four. Poor Andy Peebles only gets Modern Romance to surround him as he introduces Dave 'the other one' Stewart and Colin Blunstone, followed by a Zoo quorum's energetic Jacksons routine. Adrian Juste has brought the Moody Blues. What a curious splitting of guests this seems. Linx, whose drummer would seem to be "a character", take up performance cudgels; into part five we go with The Beat, Spandau Ballet and their jiving horn section. The next part seems to have been muted on that account so elsewhere we go for a strident Toyah and Peel putting the hex on Altered Images. In between, something quite remarkable. No, not David Van Day taking mock umbrage where he's probably taking actual umbrage, the Zoo routine to Laurie Anderson. Just to run that past you again; Flick Colby choreographed a routine to the plainly undanceable O Superman. Yes, there's someone dressed as a judge. The rest is wild speculation. Back on the full upload at part seven with Depeche Mode, OMD with Andy McCluskey in a big overcoat and, for absolutely unaccountable reasons, a closing full studio singalong to an off-key cover of All You Need Is Love. Ours is not to question why.

1982: The first image here is DLT covered in streamers and Peel wearing a 'SHEENA'S BARMY ARMY' jumper. Ah, TOTP 1982, a land of contrasts. As last year it's a Radio 1 DJs lockout, the action starting with Spandau Ballet, Martin sporting a haircut unlikely to go without comment these days, such as "bunch of six for a paahnd!" Then someone attempts to flatten Peter Powell with a tree. They've stuck Shakin’ Stevens in the lighting gantry but he and his friends seem to be having fun up there. We saw Bucks Fizz the other day with Cheryl Baker dressed as a GM strawberry; this time she's turned up in an adaptation of the same and looks by some distance the most regularly shod of the group. Mike Nolan as Carmen Miranda may haunt your dreams. There's some subtle instrument swapping and some image-conscious all-white uniforms for Duran Duran. Obviously Dexys Midnight Runners have uniforms too, if slightly less well kept. Captain Sensible, ever reliant on his parrot on a stick, makes up for his comparative lack of set - one octopus? - with some studio gallivanting. He'll have to clear off from up there soon enough, Soft Cell need to set up, Marc using the stairs to pose on rather than descend properly. Dionne Warwick live via satellite from New York seems like a big development, especially as it'd be the best part of a decade before they were able to do such a thing on a regular basis. Boy George's headdress seems to have slipped back, but it all goes towards making Culture Club a greater visual impact than, say, Haircut 100. Those streamers have been piling up all show and Musical Youth virtually have a carpet of their own. Cliff Richard adds the religious element, throw in Zoo dancing to Kraftwerk, Charlene and the Steve Miller Band - the dancer concept was history by the following Christmas - and that's a good fine show there.

1983: Some DJs must have demanded some Christmas time off as this year was reduced to Simon, Janice dressed as D'Artagan, Andy and Mike. The opening spot belonged to Freeez - redubbed clip, sorry - ahead of ab very elbowy Shakin’ Stevens. Bowl-shaped headgear never really took off even when Eurythmics were at their height; similary purple straightjackets despite Adam Ant's endorsement. Bucks Fizz's reversioning of Cabaret wasn't as successful as hoped, maybe because Jay Aston insisted on singing like Lene Lovich. "Heaven 17 have had a great year apart from working with Tina Turner" Long claims in a horribly backhanded compliment. UB40 pop by, The Flying Pickets make yet another mildly disturbing appearance and a big KC & The Sunshine Band singalong takes us to the end.

1984: This is the year when Michael Hurll got fed up with however many DJs could be thrown at the task and got the bands to introduce each other in turn - if you're not that interested in the music someone's uploaded just the links (plus, spoiler alert, those for the Boxing Day special) So we kick off with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's seventh performance of Two Tribes - jodphurs, Russian hat, they're just not trying in comparison to some of those earlier set-ups - after which Holly says hello, some people say hello back and he throws to Howard Jones, who has a band but is still willing to let his sequencers do the work while he bellows live and off-key in a very mid-80s suit. Big coats, they were another signifier of highfalutin pop of the time, as Andy Taylor of Duran Duran demonstrates. Simon's out of breath by the end as he introduces Nik Kershaw, who hasn't brought a band or a backing tape without vocals but has brought an occasionally touched guitar. Picking up an entirely different mike he links to Culture Club, George with one of his special and heavily accessorised foreign hats on again. See, not even he could resist acting as DJ for the moment, if in a slightly catty fashion, ahead of Thompson Twins. Alannah takes the honours to introduce Jim Diamond, whose own link (not here but in the specific video) leaves a little to be desired in logic terms, before Le Bon gets to shift events into Paul Young. The Fabulously Wealthy Tarts were presumably far too busy that day. A very pointed link back to Duran Duran, wouldn't you say? It's fascinating to see who'd been asked to double up - Duran obviously, but also Thompson Twins, who don't appear to have been afforded the extra time with their instruments. Frankie Goes To Hollywood, however, get three opportunities to match their famous three-from-three chart number ones start, The Power Of Love in a robe, then the unbanned just before the occasion Relax. And then everyone gets together for a mimed run-through of Band Aid. Nearly everyone involved was on the show anyway or waiting for the second special to be filmed but... well, "nearly". George Michael is replaced by Sting who's clearly not concentrating, and at 1:22 that pretty conclusively isn't Bono. Black Lace and Slade get in at the end; someone who pointedly doesn't, looking at the way his parts were filmed, was Boy George. No wonder Bob looks bashful.

1985: Well, they weren't going to try that sort of thing again if they could help it so back to the roundel of radio regulars for this year, and this was the first year the performances were interspersed with video clips of the year's hitmakers who couldn't make it. King start and Paul's really going for it, and then so is Dixie Peach by the looks of it before Colonel Abrams and then a surprisingly frightwigged Alison Moyet and a surprisingly unfestooned Pete Burns and Dead Or Alive. The tinsel on the bass headstock? Nice touch. Even "one of the all-time hits from this year" Baltimora just seems to have mooched onstage in his street clothes. Billy Ocean and Feargal Sharkey add the necessary class, the latter introduced by some Janice Long sauce. Despite fierce security someone let Jonathan King in to introduce Paul Young, who'd traded his reliable backing singers for a poor man's Temptations. Say goodnight, everyone!

1986: Worth keeping this intro clip because a) it's preceded by continuity for the Queen's speech, b) you get to see the silly Christmas BBC1 animation for that year and c) I quite like the Christmas graphic you briefly see at the end of the titles. Too much detail for too little screen time. The introduced Billy Ocean seems to have fallen offline but not so Doctor & The Medics, the good Doctor having taken makeup advice from Roy Wood. Boris Gardiner's white suit sharpness is somewhat compromised here by being preceded by the video for The Chicken Song, but no matter. Are Simply Red a great communal singalong band as Bates seems to think? Pet Shop Boys make the first tentative steps towards dressing up. Janice dedicates Chris De Burgh's performance to his daughter - a future Miss World, remember - which seems a bit forward given the song's thrust. Now, one shouldn't have to give away how far in advance the show was recorded, but in the last section the Housemartins are presented (on video) as the likely Christmas number one only for an emergency edit featuring a rushed Bates voiceover to have to reveal Jackie Wilson beat them to it. I know Janice then confirms it but I imagine that's the crew at the end as there only appear to be about twelve people in that shot making the noise of a full crowd.

1987: A bittersweet intro as Andy Gibb reappeared in public for the first time in a while after a period of illness for various reasons and only three months before his death to introduce The Bee Gees. Mike Smith may get excited over Rick Astley but it's Pet Shop Boys who are working the oracle for this special, appearing twice and captioning themselves throughout. The Snowman drops in on Johnny Hates Jazz and on T’Pau and thanks to bad tethering that's meant rather too literally for the latter, the drummer having to keep pushing him back - see 2:13 for the best shot of him doing so. Imagine the insurance claim if it had completely come down and demolished the kit.

1988: And again Pet Shop Boys make a double stopover, even starting with one of the same songs, during which the cameraman threatens to give away Chris' trade secrets. The second is notable for the people in the background who seem to be wearing bits of cardboard on their heads. Speaking of which it's pork pie hats all round for Aswad, apart from the keyboard player who looks like he's wearing some sort of leather cap. Having started by prioritising eating over accurate miming Fairground Attraction's Eddi Reader feeds the not quite five thousand. Late 80s dance modernity is represented by the absent S-Express, Yazz and, in their own way, The Timelords, adding to the Glitter beat with actual Glitter, even if the director is so interested in a visual effect he misses his actual appearance onstage. The link between contemporary and retro continues with The Hollies and Wet Wet Wet's Beatles cover being preceded by a chat with Robin Gibb. Conflicted days, little more so than when ending with Bros doing Silent Night.

1989: That's one disturbing snowman at the back of the stage. Along with Mike & The Mechanics and Lisa Stansfield, Erasure kick off, Marc Almond & Gene Pitney make for an odd couple, Jason Donovan adds some very sporadic and pointless rhythm guitar, Bros reveal what ills befell shell suit graphic design back then, London Boys take their jackets and caps off mid-song for no good reason, The Beautiful South have a whole host of those big-beaked snowmen, Sonia is irrepressibly bouncy in front of a drawing someone's spent far too much time on given its screen time and Black Box's 'singer' has donned some very red and furry gloves. Those would never fit in at any rave.

1990: This is where actually finding clips hits a bit of a lull, caught between 80s nostalgia and non-degraded VHS tapes. Alongside Kim Appleby, Beats International, the Beautiful South, Bombalurina (one dreads to imagine), Adamski and Londonbeat, John Leslie for some reason introduces Kylie Minogue performing in front of some sort of crossover Buddha/stormtrooper/Santa and Status Quo appear because that's what they do on big TOTP party occasions.

1991: Seal, Nomad, Chesney Hawkes, OMD, Kenny Thomas, Erasure, Right Said Fred, Oceanic and The Scorpions, but chiefly for our purposes James and a record "Del Boy, Rodney and all the Trotters love", whatever the hell that means, 2 Unlimited with lots of people, maybe one of whom seems to be one of the actual duo.

1992: A special message from Richard Fairbrass later, the kids go mad for Wet Wet Wet, Marti keeping up the unofficial tradition of a Scottish act's singer wearing some form of tartan on the festive show. Santa hats for Jimmy Nail's band and a massive sprig of holly in his jacket pocket, which could be uncomfortable. This was the first time they'd really pressed the satellite option for foreign acts, meaning Shanice, Charles & Eddie and Boyz II Men could get on the show, but with Right Said Fred, KWS and Undercover (and the blameless Tasmin Archer) on the big family Christmas show it didn't feel like a great year.

1993: And the something that had to happen turned out to be Take That. Screams from nought to 100 in a millisecond, Robbie stepping aside from the dancing and a huge stained glass window at the back. A quick change of set, clothes and pretty much everything sees Gary Barlow dressed as a pageboy and Robbie already stealing the attention in one of Jay Kay's leftover hats despite the close competition of Howard in a huge coat with Joseph-like lining. Did the audience really not guess with that big framed doorway-shaped gap at the back that Lulu would be on her way out soon enough? Keeping with the theme of fancy dress dancing, Roman centurions Highland fling behind 2 Unlimited, next to a snowman that looks uncannily realistic. Nearly kilts all round for The Bluebells, here depicted in a typical London street scene. Well, fog-like dry ice and a lamp. Tony Dortie promises a brand new dance routine from Ace Of Base but one of the singers appears to have lost faith in it before the first verse has started. Also appearing: West End featuring Sybil, Snow, Gabrielle, Bitty McLean and M-People.

1994: Ah, the year of Doop. Having pretend singers at the front and costumes dancers at the back and having both sets do different routines seems a bit ill thought out. As the start of the Blaxill era Take That were your celebrity presenters, and the dynamic between the two key members is perfectly demonstrated before a satellite-bound Mariah Carey. Stiltskin's success enabled Ray Wilson to buy a big ermine cloak that people inevitably begin pulling at whenever he gets to the front of the stage. Surprising that Wet Wet Wet and their kajillion years at number one is thrown away mid-show but impressive work nonetheless to get that many candles positioned and lit in time and still have a couple of candelabras left over for All-4-One, which get shoved to the back to make room for Eternal's personal mini-orchestra. Whigfield, like Toni Di Bart looked down upon by the angels, still isn't acknowledging those behind her. D:Ream, Let Loose and Pato Banton also pop by before Howard shows off and, possibly under duress, our hosts announce East 17 as Christmas number one, the first time it had ever been properly announced for the first time during the show. Lucky someone else didn't come with a late run to the top, isn't it?

1995: One hesitates to say "the unlikely presentational pairing of Jack Dee and Bjork" because that's precisely what they'd want us to say but there you go, and no, they never do quite gel. This selection from its early stages features an unnecessarily gothic-set N-Trance and a wet-look Gary Barlow with the quartet Take That. Annie Lennox's theatrical inclinations are given free reign and then brought back down to earth by the unexplained and image-ruining Minnie Mouse ears. Not so much fuel burners as actual live fires with what seems little in the way of preventative measures back Boyzone. That's what happens if you mess around with loads of candles on your set. Britpop is represented by Pulp and Blur, with a huge singalong and Damon messing about come the realisation he's about to namecheck Prozac on a big Christmas family show. Songs that were really popular during Britpop, like the Outhere Brothers and Robson & Jerome (twice!), aren't online at all. I smell a rat. Simply Red aren't either but there is a special message from Michael Jackson, seemingly recorded while he was being held hostage.

1996: Rather than, say, Lee Hurst and Jarvis Cocker the following year's show went back to people they could almost trust, namely a shouty turn by the year's big event the Spice Girls. And look, here's the whole thing, complete with baffling intro and the bit where Geri calls Michael Jackson sexy. New studio performances, in order: Babylon Zoo in no doubt metaphorical two-tone outfits right down to the keyboard player's mask (OK, so which band was he supposed to be in?), 3T with preceding joke about the bushy eyebrows they don't have, Robert Miles on an unconvincing even by the usual standards white baby grand, Mark Morrison (yeah, jibes about "profound lyrics" from the Spice Girls there), Gina G, the Fugees twice via satellite but not forgetting about the candles decree, the Girls introduced by Robbie three times, vice versa once and fish out of water Babybird. "He is gorgeous, isn't he" says Mel B of Stephen Jones. Think she might have misinterpreted the song.

1997: Having toyed with chronological order after two decades of 'whatever we can fit in' the production settled on a chart of the year format. Not in chart order, obviously. That might have been considered sensible. This, though, does coincide with the part at which pop stars started to make less of a show of themselves and where the show design itself seems to have become much less Christmassy - you'll look hard for onstage trees and tinsel, not just now but for years to come. You may see these write-ups becoming a little shorter from now on, and not just because of tiredness. Although it is a little to do with a lack of available clips for the next decade or so. New performances therefore came from Eternal - what's the whistling at 1:10 for? - Hanson, Gala, who hasn't become any better at both singing live and dancing without knackering herself out, Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli for the grandparents and the swayers, Natalie Imbruglia, Shola Ama with ill-fitting dancers, All Saints specialising in the audience giving them rounds of applause at very odd times and Spice Girls, plus Ultra Nate, Texas and a Sash! Megamix.

1998: A way to make things seem more festive really isn't to put novelty Christmas hits on the show. It's a wrap-up of the year, not another place for Denise van Outen and Johnny Vaughan's Especially For You or Jane McDonald's Cruise Into Christmas to be plugged. Otherwise the roster features the Spice Girls, Boyzone on a revolving stage, Celine Dion, The Tamperer, Robbie Williams, B*Witched, Mousse T and Leann Rimes.

1999: As I say, the problem with this era of Christmas Pops is they could be any shows, full of repeats and on standard default sets so they can be reused abroad or on future weeks. To start at the end of the programme, after the knocked-off message Britney Spears could have been filmed in February for all we know, and probably was. The Christmas TOTP is for celebration, not repeat and international resale value. What else? That the characterless likes of Alice Deejay and ATB had big hits doesn't augur well - even Eiffel 65 beyond summer hit novelty are just a bald bloke and a synth. The Offspring via satellite gets something going, but that thing is an Offspring crowd, which is not the same as a Westlife crowd. Ricky Martin, Martine McCutcheon, Robbie Williams, Steps, TLC, S Club 7, Lou Bega and Boyzone complete the picture.

2000: Something telling about that lack of festivity in among this year's links. No, not the special message from Bob The Builder or the weird bit after Craig David where they appear to be suggesting the whole audience is trying to get at the camera, the bit in which Sara Cox mentions the show (more the franchise, surely) will be seen in 88 countries. So that's why they won't make the programme for the one it's aimed at. From that lineup we can find S Club 7 with a celebratory confetti fall that briefly confuses half of them vis a vis the dance routine, Spiller, Sonique, Fragma, Ronan Keating, Kylie Minogue's Santa Baby and All Saints.

2001: Theakston, Cox, S Club 7, Wheatus inciting the politest stage invasion in television history, and this is by TOTP standards, Atomic Kitten, Shaggy twice, Westlife, Geri Halliwell, Afroman, Hear'Say, So Solid Crew, Kylie and, for some reason which defeats me, Jocelyn Brown singing Happy Xmas (War Is Over).

2002: Atomic Kitten (wonder if the black stripes on white at the back for a Blondie cover were deliberate?), Ronan Keating, Girls Aloud as part of a supersized Airfix kit, Holly Valance miles behind on the choreography but ahead on the dancer shoulder-stroking, Will Young literally among evergreen trees - no decorations on them, obviously - Pink, Gareth Gates, Darius, Liberty X and Enrique Iglesias.

2003: Well, this is Christmassy, though clearly the programme had expected The Idols' cover of Happy Xmas (War Is Over) to be bigger. The first festive season of the Kash era meant a return to Girls Aloud's Underground, Michelle McManus ending in far too much white light, Junior Senior, Gareth Gates, Jamelia, Rachel Stevens, Will Young, Black Eyed Peas and Christmas chart topper Michael Andrews and Gary Jules to bring the mood down.

2004: Kylie Minogue's Minogue Medley didn't even include any songs from 2004, so that's the show's USP wrecked already. Actually representing the year were Anastacia, McFly, Michelle McManus again, Franz Ferdinand, Shapeshifters, 3 Of A Kind and Robbie Williams.

2005: Well, at least Pussycat Dolls remained more covered up than normal knowing families were watching this one together. But look! A tree next to Westlife! An actual Christmas tree! Obviously there's nothing anywhere near Robbie Williams of a festive bent, but one step at a time. Also featured: Charlotte Church, Kaiser Chiefs, James Blunt, McFly, Sean Paul, Tony Christie, Shayne Ward and, as you may have spotted, Shane Richie as host during the time when the BBC imagined he could do anything.

2006: With the proper TOTP cancelled this was the first Christmas show as a heritage industry, kept alive as lunchtime filler for the kids as much as for name recognition. With that in mind the festive angle starts being played up again, rather too much if you're McFly and you're covering Rockin' Robin under a massive snowstorm in front of practically rows' worth of Santa hats. Girls Aloud get a turn under the confetti cannon too. I suppose Lily Allen's outfit could look like a Mrs Santa if you squint, certainly more in keeping than the worryingly brown number sported by Emma Bunton. Corinne Bailey-Rae and Leona Lewis keep up the soul side, The Ordinary Boys keep that time in the sunshine alive, while soft rock is well catered for - Orson, The Feeling, The Automatic, represented here by some cameraphone footage shot from side of stage, which isn't quite what anyone finding it would really primarily want to see, and an entirely percussive Sandi Thom. Well, as far as the title goes.

2007: With Edith Bowman quietly disposed of in a skip it's Fearne and Reggie all the way, perhaps until the end of time itself. Now being a special occasion as it is, as well as some trees and stuff and the multiple logos reflecting the show's storied histories the ratio of uplodaed performances is better too. The singalongs are improving too if Kaiser Chiefs are any yardstick. Does Kate Nash think at any stage she's a little underdressed without a Santa hat? The Pigeon Detectives' Matt Bowman understands, but if that audience wants a clap and chant along they just have to wait for The Proclaimers. Katie Melua covers Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, but in the middle of the show which doesn't seem in keeping. Elsewhere there's Just Jack, Robyn, The Hoosiers and a Girls Aloud performance without a theme or some backing blokes that suddenly become dancers, which feels wrong.

2008: Thanks, Gary. Take That came back with a vengeance and a forest of trees, most of which remained unadorned. It's not the season for them. The other stage was a carnival of light with Duffy, who seems to have formed her own girl group trio while waiting around. Then it Sam Sparro and his big shades followed by the foil freeze-packed Girls Aloud followed by Kaiser Chiefs looking almost exactly the same as the previous year followed by Pussycat Dolls who since their last appearance really had become Nicole And Her PCDs followed by... oh, just Dizzee Rascal. Still, never mind, it's Peter Kay as the already justly forgotten Geraldine, which already apparently doesn't require any explanation to the likely baffled. Then as if to counteract Leona Lewis throws everything at Run, including the dramatic entrance of a choir, which doesn't make for much fun especially with McFly then in enhanced seriousness followed by Adele. So the call goes out to some two decades-plus old songs via the cast of Mamma Mia, the film version of which had been the big hit of the year. The audience here are the rub. In one of the earlier links you'll have seen Fearne talk about a singalong option on the red button and you can't help feeling they were booking bands and songs around that from now on rather than getting the hits sorted. The reflected audience in Coldplay's kettle drum is a nice shot. Now, notice that Reggie doesn't actually introduce Alexandra Burke as the Christmas number one, just says that the big hit is next. Ah, late editing.

2009: Bet Reggie doesn't need those glasses. Alexandra Burke does at least get a proper namecheck the following year, which is something. Dizzee Rascal's hypeman is wearing a T-shirt with Dizzee's face on it, which isn't going to help his self-esteem stay down. The Saturdays in their two-tone dresses get the first indoor snowstorm of the year, the second in a highly singular performance by of all bands Muse. Nothing says conspiratorial paranoia like a drummer in a Santa suit, cheap shades and dancers. (So unlikely does it seem that just to keep us on our toes they recorded a second version for the new year special) Beating even Matt Bellamy to the dressing up box are the snowman, elf and... fairy? La Roux, anyway. Two misery guts having a good time - You'd have imagined on that scale Florence & The Machine might have joined in, but no luck - and conversely Sugababes covering Santa Baby is almost entirely humourless. This is the fun the majority don't get to have every week of the year any more, see. JLS are getting everyone to put their hands up alright. This year's Mamma Mia is the Michael Jackson tribute - where once there might have been film clips, now there was street dancing, these being the days of such. Kasabian and Shakira in bling overload lead up to Robbie Williams, who as usual drags someone up. The snowstorm he seems less sure about.

2010: Subtlety, see, Cee-Lo Green's whole band are in red with white trimmings... er, except Cee-Lo himself, though I can't imagine he'd be too flattered by white trousers. Ellie Goulding makes it two out of two for ceiling drops, which Jason Derulo can't keep up but he does have to supply his own laser light show. Olly Murs restores the balance, though little of it seems to be landing on the stage. Eliza Doolittle got the wrong end of the stick and dressed her band for the Henley regatta while she visually schlepped off to the beach, Cee-Lo emerging after a quick change of gear. Neither presenter seems to notice his contribution. He's big enough. And more confetti. Fulfilling the band member in Santa coat and beard quotient are Scouting For Girls... and yes, more snow. None for Tinie Tempah, which seems an oversight no matter how urban he is. If Plan B doesn't mind it, or Santa hats then there's no reason why he can't. Confetti is back with a vengeance for JLS. Look at it all underneath Coldplay, there's literally no more to give which is why they've had to string up some decorations in lieu. Seriously, the audience must have been finding bits of paper for days after filming.

2011: And continuing the theme there's a ceiling drop a minute into Example's show opener. Talk about getting it out of the way early. Oddly Professor Green's performance isn't online so we pick up at Will Young and dancers doing a weird hair thing, Olly Murs with extra Rizzle Kicks, Ed Sheeran with extra... nobody but with the long awaited return of the ironic Christmas jumper wearing, The Wanted with a snowstorm that misses them and covers the front row and, oh lord, this isn't Saturday morning kids' TV any more, Jessie J, you don't need to do a sensitive acoustic version of your hit. Noah & The Whale couldn't seem any more out of place. More glitter for Pixie Lott, followed in that clip by the Vaccines for... well, no reason. The album wasn't a top seller, the single didn't breach the top 30. They were on, frankly, to shore up Fearne's credentials. Not only does the snow never stop for Rizzle Kicks but they seem to have taken the whole concept to heart, from outfits to appropriate lyric changes, and some running on the spot dancing to close. It's more fun than Little Mix, in fairness.

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