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Music

Watch ‘lost’ footage of The Rolling Stones appearing on ‘Top Of The Pops’

@TylerGolsen

Throughout the early days of broadcasting, the BBC had a policy in place to save money on expensive videotape: wipe and reuse. Before the technology was in place to digitally record broadcasts, it wasn’t uncommon for broadcasters to take shows and content, judge them based on their perceived value, and organise them based on importance. The most important work was archived, and the work deemed least important would be erased so that the tapes could be used again for future programmes.

This led to a wide array of gaps within the BBC’s history, most notably for what would become one of the most iconic shows of all time, Doctor Who. The series is now a beloved cultural touchstone of Britain, but when it was first broadcast starting in the early 1960s, Doctor Who was seen by the higher-ups at the BBC as little more than a slight science fiction programme. Between 1967 and 1978, BBC policy required tapes to be either reused or destroyed so that more space could be used for new programmes. Thanks to that decision, there are currently 97 episodes from Doctor Who that are missing and presumed lost.

It wasn’t just Doctor Who that fell victim to the destructive policy. Classic shows like Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army, and Not Only… But Also had their archives decimated to make room for new broadcasts, and when it came to deeming certain programmes more worthy of preservation than others, Top of the Pops was one of the many shows that found itself on the side of erasure.

Starting on New Year’s Day of 1964, Top of the Pops was the flagship music programme on the BBC, featuring all the most popular artists on the British charts for more than 40 years. Even though some of British music’s most iconic moments happened on the programme, Top of the Pops was not exempt from the strict policy of wiping tapes, with over 500 of the 2,271 total episodes of the programme missing from the BBC’s archives.

That includes one of the only appearances The Beatles ever made on the show, miming to ‘Paperback Writer’ and ‘Rain’ just after they officially ceased touring in 1966. Performances from the likes of Pink Floyd featuring Syd Barrett and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were also erased, only later to be salvaged through bootleg recordings. Up until the BBC decided to prioritise preservation, a number of legendary performances were lost to time.

The Rolling Stones were actually the first band to appear on the show and just the second performers ever to play on the programme after Dusty Springfield. Thanks to their frequent placement on the UK Singles Chart, the Stones made frequent appearances on Top of the Pops over the years, performing and miming some of their best-loved material. A particularly memorable appearance came in July of 1969.

The band were there to perform their latest single, ‘Honky Tonk Women’, which was set to be released a day after they filmed their appearance. ‘Honky Tonk Women’ was the first song to feature new guitarist Mick Taylor, who had replaced original member Brian Jones just a few weeks earlier. The Stones recorded their appearance on Top of the Pops during the day of July 3rd, later trekking over to the studio to record a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Don’t Know Why’.

While they were in the studio, word came around that Jones had drowned in his pool the night before. The Stones were just two days away from their return to live performance at Hyde Park, a concert that was later dedicated to Jones’ memory. The band continued on, even as a new eerie atmosphere surrounded them. In no time, the Stones would be crowned The World’s Most Dangerous Rock Band.

The band’s appearance on Top of the Pops aired on July 10th, by which point ‘Honky Tonk Women’ had already debuted at number nine on the UK Singles Chart. Just two weeks later, the single hit number one, giving the Stones their eighth and final number one song in Britain. Sadly, their performance on Top of the Pops would be lost for decades, only for a rebroadcast of the clip that aired on the Swiss programme Hits a Go-Go to be discovered a number of years later.

Check out The Rolling Stones performing ‘Honky Tonk Women’ on Top of the Pops down below.