We take you behind the scenes of Top Of The Pops Christmas show
It’s a good job these are rehearsals; on one stage boyband The Wanted’s lead singer Max George is choking after inadvertently swallowing a bit of fake snow. ‘That’s rank,’ he spits out. ‘Like really revolting soap.’
Meanwhile over on the ‘reindeer stage’ Olly Murs hoarsely sings through his act.
Although it’s warm in the studio, he has a large beanie hat which unfortunately for him does not quite cover the whole of his face. Everyone can see how pasty skinned and red eyed he is. ‘He’s really hungover,’ whispers another member of The Wanted (they are interchangeably handsome).
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And on the ‘snowflake stage’, going over their steps as if their lives depended on it are Little Mix. It’s their first day as fully fledged pop stars as they only won the X Factor the night before.
They have had two hours sleep but you can see the determination in this band as they practice, practice, practice. Surprisingly, sweet little Jade Thirwell appears to be the bossiest member of the band. ‘We’re surviving on Red Bull today,’ she tells me.
I’m behind the scenes of this year’s Top of the Pops Christmas Special and there is a palpable sense of excitement. Top of the Pops itself was disbanded in 2006 after dwindling audiences but this generation of pop stars are still old enough to be genuinely excited to appear on it.
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In between their sound checks many of them have their pictures taken next to the old show’s signs which have been dotted around the studio.
‘I would watch it every week on a Friday and I remember being really upset when they stopped it,’ says Harley Alexander-Sule of the Rizzle Kicks who is walking around in a pair of giant dog shaped slippers. ‘I’m so, so excited to be on the show. I am actually trying to subdue my emotions otherwise I would burst.’
He’s not even being sarcastic.
For generations of Brits, since Top of The Pops had its first appearance with a risqu band called The Rolling Stones in 1964, appearing on the BBC1 show was a sure sign that you had made it.
All star: Olly Murs made it through a hungover rehearsal to perform at the recording
‘There is a real sense of occasion,’ says producer Mark Cooper, who oversaw the weekly show’s dying days and remains in charge for the Christmas specials. ‘When the acts come in and see the Top of the Pops neon signs they get really excited.
Because it is only once a year this is an even more unique opportunity and they all appreciate it. Once it was week in and week out but now if they have made it onto Top Of The Pops, where we celebrate some of the year’s best singles, there should be a real sense of achievement.’
Just like in the old days there are dozens of screaming girls outside the BBC Television Centre. This year most of them are there for The Wanted.
‘I remember thinking that if someone was on Top of the Pops they were massive,’ says the band’s Tom Parker. ‘They must have made it; they were rich and famous. How wrong I was.’
Front of stage may be all glitz and glamour but that’s all for show. Behind the scenes it’s pretty grim.
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The old ‘Star Bar’ – where once upon a time celebs would down champagne and snog each other has been revived for one night only.
Normally it is now used to store costumes for Strictly Come Dancing. The floor is dirty lino and the corner couches show the odd bit of foam. There is even an Alan Titchmarsh sign propped up by the door.
But there are at least mince pies and mulled wine which The Wanted boys jump on hungrily before starting up a food fight. Their tour manager bears the brunt of it, as the boys stuff so many mince pies in his face that the poor man is left gagging.
Once upon a time pop stars would get the proper VIP treatment on Top of The Pops.
When Jennifer Lopez appeared she had her dressing rooms (always more than one for this diva) draped in white with dozens of orchids to decorate them. Now they are lucky if they have an old television in their grey shabby room.
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‘That’s BBC budgets for you,’ says Mark the producer.
Indie band The Vaccines are not impressed: ‘The fridge was empty and we struggled to even get a bottle of water,’ says lead singer Freddie Cowan. ‘We did eventually get a tuna sandwich. Thanks for giving us this cup of mulled wine!’
The Wanted are equally miffed: ‘We had to ask someone to go to Nandos for us and even then we had to pay,’ say Max. They try and work out how bands like JLS manage to get free Nandos.
They would all love Top of the Pops to come back – even The Vaccines who are keen to distance themselves from the pop acts. ‘It is such a British institution and is sad that is not on anymore,’ says Marcus. ‘Music is intrinsic to all our lives but there are so few music shows on television.’
But when I mention this to Mark he is sanguine. ‘There is a sense of nostalgia about Top of The Pops but I think that is partly because it reminds people of their childhoods and they are getting that confused with the show itself.
‘Bringing the show back is easy to wish for but not very well thought out. It’s like Father Christmas. We’d all like him to be real, wouldn’t we But (turn away now kids) I don’t think he is.’
• The Top of the Pops Christmas special will be on BBC1 at 2pm on Christmas Day.