Just another day on Top of the Pops

HANDS UP who has wanted to meet rock superstars such at Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams or Tina Turner?

Or how's about rubbing shoulders with Welsh wonder Sir Tom Jones and former Army officer James Blunt.

Well that's exactly what one hard-working, former Valley Comprehensive pupil Julian Smith does, working on one of the top shows on television.

He is now the director on hit BBC show Top of the Pops which beams out live to homes up and down the country every week.

And last Sunday the former Worksop resident allowed Guardian reporter Matt Woodward special access to a filming of the show at BBC Television Studios on Wood Lane.

After a quick introduction to the rest of the team it was straight to the studio floor as some live acts were to be filmed for this Sunday's show.

Danny the compere was warming up the 120 strong audience, practising the cheering and clapping moves before matter of factly announcing Sir Tom Jones and Chicane on stage.

Sir Tom sang live, now a requirement for anyone appearing on the show, and belted out the song as if he were still a youngster in the Welsh valleys.

But once the cheers had died down after the song, it was announced that it would have to be done again.

"That was because of his record people, they didn't quite think it was right, so we had to do it again," Julian explained.

Not that anyone seemed too disappointed, it's not every day you get to hear and see Jones the Voice twice at such close quarters.

"Performers can be OK, but sometimes difficult as well. It's not usually them, but the people with them that cause the issues."

That was a statement that was to ring true later on in the day.

Immediately after the Tom Jones and Chicane show, the audience and cameras panned round to the second stage for a performance by the band Dirty Pretty Things, the new band fronted by former Libertines frontman Carl Barat.

In true rock and roll style, the band members were jumping up and down on stage, slide tackling each other, but still the music carried on, and the crowds loved it.

The studio is smaller than many people may think. It has to accommodate three stages, an audience of at least 100 screaming teenagers (plus the odd more mature fan) and all the cameras and lighting equipment.

After former Blur guitarist and Buddy Holly lookalike Graham Coxon had his turn on stage, guest presenters Fearne Cotton and Rufus Hound did a few voice overs for the trailers and the show was done and dusted.

"That all went OK, touch wood," said Julian, 34. "Now it's fingers crossed for the live slot later."

"We obviously can't do the whole show beforehand because things like the chart won't come out until the day."

After show one it was straight into the rehearsals for that day's show.

"It's all go, and everything moves quickly, but it's my job to make sure it all goes to plan, and if not to come up with something else."

As we are speaking, Goldfrapp are rehearsing their new single Fly Me Away below and everything is going well with Julian checking the performance on a bank of monitors in the office.

He then checks with all the crew to ensure they are happy and it's straight to presenter Fearne Cotton who is outside in the London rain doing a voice over for a set by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But it takes a couple of takes to complete as the famous presenter is speaking too close to the microphone.

Back in the studio the Pet Shop Boys are performing 'Im with Stupid' as the Worksop man at the helm gives out orders to the duo's dancers in order to get the right camera angles.

But there is a problem. The song is statement about Tony Blair and George W Bush, and the dancers are wearing masks of the two leaders' faces.

"We can't have that as it's a political statement, and the BBC has to be impartial," comes an order from the editorial department.

Two rehearsals later and the issue is still rumbling on, with frontman Neil Tennant upset about having to lose the masks.

A further problem comes when former The Verve singer Richard Ashcroft refuses to rehearse his performance.

"That's now a BBC policy - all performers, whoever they are have to be prepared to rehearse and if they don't then they can't be on," says Julian.

The issue surrounding the Pet Shop Boys is finally resolved -the dancers can wear the masks as long as they wear masks featuring the faces of the leaders of the other main political parties.

But another one rears its ugly head.

"For some reason Jamie Foxx's people have a camcorder, and there are issues over copyright," warns a crew member.

With Richard Ashcroft no longer in the lineup, there is a problem about how to fill his empty slot, but it is worked out that if presenters Fearne Cotton and guest host Jo Whiley can talk for a bit longer then everything should work out OK.

With two hours left until filming, The Flaming Lips rehearse the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song but there's a problem with the power supply and the band cut off half way through their final rehearsal.

Then the Pet Shop Boys do one final practice - Neil has changed out of his grey suit and put an undertaker's cloak and top hat on.

"There's still too much emphasis on Blair," storms Julian. "Try and equal the filming out a bit more," he says, as the mood becomes more heated and the show is only minutes away from beaming out to the nation.

With one minute left, the bank of tv screens has a picture of the highlights of the London Marathon coming to an end - the cue that the programme is about to begin.

"Its been a marathon day," muses Julian, as the 10 second countdown begins.

"Good luck everybody," he shouts.

Apart from Fearne Cotton getting one of her line jumbled up everything goes according to plan and another Top of the Pops is over for the former Worksop man.