Monday, March 4, 2013

Top of the Pops tracks appear on 5th Avenue cassette

I have just acquired the cassette shown here, which was released on the 5th Avenue label in (probably) 1977. It was put together as a cash-in on the film, Star Wars, and contained several hit songs with some sort of space connection - "Life On Mars", "Rocket Man", "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft" and so on. I bought it since I had a hunch that these would be soundalikes from the usual LP series, and that turned out to be mostly correct.

The 5th Avenue label was the successor to the Avenue label of old, and so my initial thoughts were that songs like "Starman" and "Rocket Man" would be pulled from the Avenue LPs. However this was not the case - only "Life On Mars" is the original Avenue version. ("Starman", however, is very close - and no doubt features the same vocalist.)

Of course, I couldn't help noticing that several of these titles crop up on other covers albums as well, and in fact I was able to identify two Top of the Pops recordings on the cassette: "Star Wars Theme" from volume 62 and "Space Oddity" from the older volume 48 (which 5th Avenue accidentally called "Space Odyssey"!).

Both of these Top of the Pops recordings were made during the classic Bruce Baxter era, so how they ended up here I don't know - especially since other songs in the Top of the Pops canon, like "Oxygene", "Rocket Man" and "Calling Occupants" are not reproduced on this cassette. These tracks and the others are from unknown sources, and the first two on side 2 are probably both in-house compositions credited to North/Daly.

It might seem a bit strange now, but in the late 1970s the space thing was a big deal among youngsters. Indeed, Top of the Pops themselves collected tracks together for a couple of themed spin-off EPs on the Mr Pickwick label. Note how many of the songs cross over with the 5th Avenue tape - not really a coincidence - it's just that pop hits which fitted the bill were fairly thin on the ground!


  1. What if sometimes, due to certain unforseen circumstances, Bruce Baxter was unable to deliver the full quota of twelve recordings? If so, then Pickwick may have licenced in content to make up the difference. This would explain TOTP tracks from that era tracks appearing elsewhere.

    Great find, BTW! I gave up looking for 5th Avenue cassettes.

  2. It's a fair point. However, the recordings we are talking about on this cassette, "Star Wars Theme" and "Space Oddity" have not, to my knowledge, appeared anywhere other than Top of the Pops in the intervening years. Avenue, for example, seem never to have issued "Space Oddity" themselves, so personally, I think it's more likely that they were bona-fide TOTP tracks.

    What you say does make one other recording spring to mind though: "Eye Level" from Top of the Pops vol 34. The same recording also appears on the then current Parade of Pops (Windmill) and 16 Chart Hits (Contour) - and I assume it's because of the monetary demands of having a crack pianist and orchestra, leading to the labels to agree to share the same version. So, it did happen, sometimes!