Ask anyone who grew up in the golden era of pop what they were doing at 7.30pm on a Friday night, the answer would have always been the same – watching Top Of The Pops.
The BBC attracted the biggest names in the industry for its weekly chart countdown show, especially during the 90s, where the likes of Spice Girls, Oasis and Take That were regulars.
Of course, Top Of The Pops wasn’t unique to the 90s, airing for 42 years until it was pulled from the schedule in 2006 and replaced with an annual Christmas special.
But as we continue our celebration of old-school TV in HuffPost UK’s new nostalgia series Rewind To The 90s, we’re looking back at some of the most iconic TOTP performances from the decade.
And where else could we possibly start than with….
1. Spice Girls – Wannabe (1996)
This video marks perhaps the official start of Girl Power, with the Spice Girls’ very first performance on TOTP – dodgy miming included.
Of course, Top Of The Pops would later play a huge part in the band’s own history, as it was a journalist from the show’s magazine who came up with the girls’ individual Spice nicknames.
2. Take That – Never Forget (1995)
When Robbie Williams unexpectedly left Take That in 1995, many wondered how they would continue without him, so the pressure was on for the remaining members when they took to the TOTP stage for their first live performance without him.
As it was, they replaced him with a whole gospel choir, barely giving anyone the chance to notice his absence.
3. Steps – Tragedy (1998)
Steps were TOTP regulars in their 90s heyday, with each of their releases receiving a matching performance complete with choreo and coordinated outfits.
But our favourite? Well it has to be Tragedy from 1998 for the sheer amount of shoulder shimmying.
4. Mariah Carey – Emotions (1991)
Mariah’s first Top Of The Pops performance actually came nearly a year after she made her UK TV debut on Des O’Connor Tonight in November 1990.
As Mariah celebrated being number one on the US Hot 100 and number 10 on the UK album chart, she took to the TOTP stage to perform this husky rendition of Emotion.
5. Cher-Believe (1998)
There are so many things to take in from this performance. The tracksuit. The boots. The wig. The out of sync miming (which we’re hoping is just a glitch with this video, rather than what actually went out on TV). The fact Cher is even on Top Of The Pops. Incredible.
6. Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993)
While the 90s were characterized by BritPop and bubblegum pop, Lenny Kravitz proved there was still room for a bit of rock on the top of the pops stage when he served up this energetic performance.
7. Pulp – Common People (1995)
Long before Lady Gaga was dancing in a giant bathtub on the X Factor stage, one of Pulp’s dancers was throwing some shapes in an oversized supermarket trolley on Top Of The Pops.
8. Natalie Imbruglia – Torn (1997)
We have no idea why, but this performance makes us feel strangely emotional. Undoubtedly one of the best songs of the 1990s, and it still stands up over 20 years later.
9. The Fugees – Killing Me Softly (1996)
Killing Me Softly was one of the biggest hits of the 90s, and with performances like this one, it’s not hard to see why that came to be. Lauren Hill’s vocals are just perfection.
10. Kylie – Breathe (1998)
Admittedly, Breathe isn’t one of her biggest hits, but Kylie’s 1998 performance of it on TOTP serves as a reminder of her experimental indie era, which deviated from her previous string of pop classics.
For the record, we loved it just as much.
11. Robbie Williams – Let Me Entertain You (1998)
After Robbie’s solo career got off to a bit of a shaky start, he got to remind people of the showman they fell in love with upon the release of party anthem Let Me Entertain You.
His TOTP performance saw him take fans to “RobbieWood”, where he displayed the stage presence of an artist way beyond his years and set the tone for his future live shows.
12. All Saints – I Know Where It’s At (1997)
Many people mistakenly believe that Never Ever was All Saints’ first single, but it was actually I Know Where It’s At – the single that also saw them make their Top Of The Pops debut, where they exploded onto the pop scene like the Spice Girls’ cooler, more grown-up cousins.
13. Adam Rickitt – I Breathe Again (1999)
Adam’s performance might have been a more clothed affair than the video for I Breathe Again (if you’ve not seen it, it’s definitely worth a Google), but it was by no means any less sexy.
14. Whitney Houston – My Love Is Your Love (1999)
Whitney only made a handful of appearances of Top Of The Pops during her career, but treated fans to a double whammy in 1999, recording renditions of It’s Not Right But It’s OK and My Love Is Your Love, which saw her on fine vocal form.
15. S Club 7 – Bring It All Back (1999)
Having found fame as kids’ TV stars on their show Miami 7, S Club’s arrival on the TOTP stage marked their introduction to a wider audience before the band would go on to help define early 00s pop music.
16. Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On (1998)
Titanic fever swept the world in the late 90s, and as a result Celine Dion found herself sitting at the top of the UK charts in February 1998 with the film’s signature song, My Heart Will Go On, before giving this spine-tingling rendition of it on TOTP.
17. Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
Nirvana’s 1991 appearance went down as one of Top Of The Pops’ most memorable ever, thanks to the band’s unexpected rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Not only did Kurt Cobain do the whole thing in an unusually low voice, but the band ‘played’ their instruments in a mocking manner, presumably because they’d been made to mime to a pre-recorded backing track.
Curt also darkly reworked the opening, telling people to “load up on drugs and kill your friends.”
18. Oasis – Roll With It (1995)
Oasis also took a jab at TOTP’s tendency to have artists mime their live performances, when brothers Noel and Liam swapped roles on stage, with Noel miming along to Liam’s pre-recorded vocals and Liam pretending to take on Noel’s guitar solo.
19. Blur – Country House (1995)
Blur and Oasis’ rivalry was brought to the Top Of The Pops stage when Blur beat their rivals and their song Roll With It to the number one spot in 1995 with Country House.
Bassist Alex James took it upon himself to rub salt in the wound, sporting an Oasis T-shirt during their performance.
20. Hanson – MmmBop (1997)
Honestly, we don’t have much more to say than what an absolute tune.
21. East 17 – Stay Another Day (1994)
East 17 went all out when they made Christmas number one in 1994. Rather than just throwing on those white puffer jackets, they had a whole festive living room set built for their performance of Stay Another Day, which was introduced by fellow boy band Take That.
22. Peter Andre – Mysterious Girl (1995)
Does anything epitomize the 1990s more than Peter Andre sporting curtains and flashing his torso to a screaming audience while singing Mysterious Girl?