BBC1’s “Pop Quiz”

BBC1’s “Pop Quiz”

This may just be one of the greatest days ever. After a friend of a friend posted something amusing on Facebook regarding Morrissey’s appearance on this game show, I have since gone down an amazing musical rabbit hole, uncovering much footage from the fantastic UK trivia show “Pop Quiz.”


Until yesterday, this American girl had never heard of “Pop Quiz,” and I can’t believe what I’ve missed out on. Hosted by British radio DJ Mike Read, and originally airing from 1981-84, the show featured two teams of three famous musicians; each team cycles through an array of topics regarding pop music. Players performed both as a team, working together to do things like “list five Number One singles from the Rolling Stones”; but also performed individually, to do things like name a particular song based on lyrics that the host reads aloud.

In one particularly fun segment, the contestants watch a series of videos of various songs, but different music plays over each video (for example Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” video is shown, but David Bowie’s “Changes” is heard), and the contestants have to try and name all of the videos that they’ve seen as well as all of the songs that they’ve heard. It’s easier said than done at times!

What’s really wonderful about this show is that, in addition to having celebrity contestants in general, you get to see first-hand the passion and knowledge that many of these musicians have for their chosen trade. Let’s be honest, it really increases the excitement factor when you watch a game show with multiple celebrities (think: Hollywood Squares); I think we’re all kinda curious to see what sort of knowledge these celebs have about things).

And the list of celebrity contestants is both immense and impressive. Such musical luminaries as Robert Plant, Nick Lowe, Jools Holland, Elvis Costello, Phil Collins and Tim Rice appeared on the show (some making multiple appearances over several episodes during the show’s 3-year run).

A very young Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode competes in a team against Robert Plant and his team! There’s an entire episode where Duran Duran compete against Spandau Ballet! If we had access to this show in the States, I would have taped every episode that aired. Instead, I’ll have to settle for entire days spent viewing episodes via YouTube. Speaking of which, I’m so thankful for the fans of “Pop Quiz” who had the foresight to tape the program, as many of the YT clips include the complete quiz show (including all of the videos used during game play). Although, there must have been some later-day re-airing of “Pop Quiz”, since some episodes I’ve found online have been stripped of the music video elements of the games (I’m sure securing the rights and permissions to rebroadcast the footage was a problem in later years).

Following the show’s popularity, in 1985 they even released an at-home board game of Pop Quiz:


The following clip is just fantastic. The teams are: Nick Lowe, Midge Ure from Ultravox, and singer/songwriter John Martyn, versus Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, and Elvis Costello! The game is as amazing as the lineup implies.

If you grew up watching this show in the ‘80s, I’d love to hear some of your fond memories about it!


It's all just pops and clicks within the vinyl groove I'm listening to. Music, movies, commercials, action figures, cassette tapes...anything that you left in your parents' attic when you moved. I want to talk about it. -DJ Darko, Your Pop Culture Mixologist

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Loved that show when I was young but you’ve missed a trick in not putting a Youtube link up with this post. There are so many to choose from but one of my favourites is the 1984 Christmas special featuring Toyah Willcox with her 80’s hair, Meat Loaf, Noddy Holder and Roger Taylor.

    I love the terrible Christmas tree, Mike Read’s lovely jumper and the way the episode ends with the classic “Not the Nine O’Clock News” sketch – Nice Video, Shame about the Song, featuring Griff Rhys Jones, Pamela Stephenson, Rowan Atkinson and Mel Smith.

  2. odd, I submitted the post with a YT link. Maybe it was unembeddable? In any event, thanks so much for linking one in your comment!

  3. Yes, a video had been attached. Somehow the bumbling, but well meaning and surprisingly adorable person who was entering it into the system cut if off.

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