ISBN: 978-0-9561439-1-4 / 180+ pgs + cvr / Softback 210 X 210mm. 2024

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Anyone who ever went to a disco or party in the seventies will remember them; Top Of The Pops, budget priced monthly collections of chart hits with a difference – these were all cover versions!

With their cheap but memorable logo and sleeves featuring glamorous models, the albums were affordable for one good reason; they were cut by session musicians, chosen for their ability to get as close to the real thing as possible.
Back then major record labels didn’t want to cheapen their big acts by licensing tracks to budget labels. So budget labels were forced to improvise, and cover versions were the way forward. Of the many labels which started out in the late sixties, Hallmark set the standard with their Top Of The Pops collections.

Every six weeks the producers met, trying to predict what would be the best selling singles. Session musicians would listen to the originals and work out the parts. 12 tracks were laid down in a day and mixed that same evening.The album would be in the stores just three weeks later.
Top Of The Pops records went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, and were licensed to Europe, America and Australia. So successful did they become here that they soon started charting (on one memorable week keeping the new Led Zeppelin album out of the top ten), until spoilsport industry bigwigs had them banned from the charts!

This is the first book to tell the story of how these albums came about. The rise and fall of the Top Of The Pops phenomena makes a fascinating read – aided by author (and music archivist) Tim Joseph’s eye for detail and dry humour. The heroic efforts of the session players month in and month out are compared to the chart hits they sought to emulate. The text details many of the session singers who cut their teeth on them (step forward Elton John!), while guitarists scratched their heads trying to work out how to replicate Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile on a telecaster. Meanwhile producers trawled London’s streets looking for their missing Irish bagpipe players, who’d spent their session fees up front on Guinness and forgotten where the studio was. In the office upstairs the label boss’s wife was busy censoring the cover girl pictures if she thought they were getting a little too revealing and many of the cover models are at last identified.

French edition of the series, the cover model in a chic outfit

When operators like K-Tel began to compile original chart hit albums, Top Of The Pops fought back and it was only in the eighties that the series came to an end, unable to compete with newcomers like Now That’s What I Call Music, and lacking the budget to replicate the huge production values of many newer chart recordings.
Fifty or so years on however, the colourful, sometimes sexy and often kitschy sleeves have made these albums very collectable. This book covers the UK series as well as many of the rare foreign editions and associated releases. It is a book which can be bought just for the images, yet which carries enough detail to please anyone interested in this largely forgotten and ignored part of our pop music history. Author Tim Joseph (who has taken part on a Radio 2 documentary on the albums) has collected a load of great memorabilia; adverts, reviews and articles from the industry trade press at the time. The book is designed by Simon Robinson, writer of the very successful Easy On The Eye Books title Art Of The Bizarre Vinyl Sleeve, and will be subject to the same meticulous design and layout.

Unfortunately Tim has also had a long period of serious illness which has really delayed this title, while Easy Books have been hammered by Brexit, struggled through covid like everyone else (well, almost everyone else!) and also had critical health issues to deal with. But now we have all been signed off by the Doctors we can relaunch the title anew! 

We also have a limited number of stylish in-store promo posters for the title which will be available to buy from the Easy Books store shortly.

Susan Shaw, cover model on many album sleeves including Top Of The Pops, passed away in 2021. There is a page about her album cover career on Easy Books’ designer Simon Robinson’s LP cover art site ST33.

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