Words by Jesse Serwer
In light of this Cockney & Yardie trip we’ve been on recently (for better or worse), we thought we’d take a journey through the reggae/dancehall archives of the British hits showcase Top of the Pops, which aired on the BBC every Thursday night from 1964 until 1996 (and at various other, less-watched timeslots until 2006). Brits have better taste than us Yanks, or at least they did at that time, so while you’d be hard pressed to name any reggae acts who ever appeared on American Bandstand (or even Soul Train), TOTP‘s history is littered with memorable appearances, lip-synced or otherwise, from Jamaican and homegrown British reggae acts. Among those who gained some of their greatest exposure from the show are Dave and Ansel Collins (One of the first Jamaican acts to appear, in 1971), Althea and Donna (Their delightfully off-key rendition of “Uptown Top Ranking” might be the most thrilling of the bunch), and the late UK dancehall pioneer Smiley Culture (Doing”Police Officer,” a song that has just now taken on new meaning given the circumstances of his death on Tuesday). The series, which also hosted two of Bob Marley’s only network-TV appearances, fortunately lives on in Top of the Pops 2, which still airs classic, OG TOTP footage on BBC Two to this date. Here are some gems that have made it to Youtube, in chronological order.