Collecting music had long been a hobby of Peter Bollen’s, but it turned into a true labour of love when he starting hunting down and restoring music clips from TopPop. Over the years the television broadcasters turned out to have wiped countless clips, a disproportionate number of them featuring Dutch artists. “Cleaning up clips and restoring them to their full glory gives me a real kick.”
A senior lecturer at the School of Business and Economics, Bollen wasn’t the first music enthusiast in his family. His father used to record music using a Grundig tape recorder and a cable attached to the radio. “He recorded dozens of bands that way”, recalls Bollen. Meanwhile, his eyes wander to a big screen showing music clips from the 1970s. Windjammer sings Harbour light, followed by appearances by Champagne, Teach-in and Babe. His commentary is focused on the technical: “See how good that is? Better than DVD quality.”
For Bollen, it all started with cassette tapes. He and his friends used to pretend they had a radio station with their own programmes, helped along by a classmate who had made a mixer. “We recorded the Nationale Hitparade by Felix Meurders, cut out the commentary and made compilations of our favourite songs. Including home-made jingles in between. When you’re young and have limited resources, you can be very creative.”
Once he got a job, he began collecting: first LPs and singles from the sixties and seventies, later TV series on DVD and CDs. He has about 5,000 of these, tucked away in a safe. At the heart of his collection are the clips from TopPop, a popular music programme for young people that aired from 1970 to 1988. Every week, against a backdrop of bubbles and glittery curtains, it showcased a curious mix of artists: the Zangeres Zonder Naam (Singer Without a Name) with her latest ballad or whoever happened to be having their 15 minutes of fame, but also international bands and world-famous stars like ABBA, the Bee Gees and The Jackson Five. After being introduced by the presenter Ad Visser, they would lip-synch to their tune while Penny de Jager danced.
Bollen can’t get enough of it. “I have a real emotional connection with many of these clips. I was a teenager in the seventies. At that age you’re learning so much about life. At school parties we’d do that awkward slow-dancing to Je t’aime moi non plus by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin and Du by Peter Maffay – now there’s a record that still gives me goose bumps. Not the ‘right’ music in those days, but so much emotion.” His bedroom walls were covered in posters of bands like Slade and Mud. “I also recall a centrefold of Silver Convention, a German girl-group known for their ‘Munich disco’ style. I had broad tastes in music.”
Another favourite music programme from the seventies was Van Oekel’s Discohoek, the brainchild of artist and enfant terrible Wim T. Schippers. Performances were interrupted by shelves toppling over or the presenter Sjef van Oekel throwing up. Controversy arose following episodes involving bare breasts and queen Juliana cleaning sprouts. “We loved that sort of chaos. It was really anti-establishment.”
In the nineties, the many repeats of TopPop prompted Bollen to start collecting the clips. “That’s when I discovered that only a small fraction of all those broadcasts had been preserved. The official line is that because the tapes were expensive they had to be reused.” In a suspiciously large number of cases, however, the clips that were lost happened to be those of Dutch artists. “Look at this clip of the Meteors. One of the best Dutch bands from the seventies, and the broadcasters just don’t have it any more.”
Back from the brink
Gradually, Bollen’s hobby turned into a quest to unearth the missing clips. He has since managed to recover around a thousand of them, not only from TopPop but also from other programmes, such as Veronica’s Countdown and the Tros Top 50. His aim is to save them from oblivion for contemporaries who, like him, “still live culturally in the seventies”.
The clips are often of poor video quality. With the cooperation of lenders and the help of a technically minded fellow enthusiast, he learnt to digitise them and clean them up. The rescue mission takes place at home in his ‘cave’, a messy studio crammed with all kinds of equipment. “I get rid of annoying streaks on the images, remove the background noise and add stereo sound.” With some 90% of the recovered clips to go, there is still much work ahead. But Bollen is determined: “Restoring these clips to their full glory gives me a real kick.”
Peter Bollen (1959) joined the School of Business and Economics in 1986, obtaining his PhD on management information systems in 2004. He is now a senior lecturer at the Department of Organisation and Strategy, responsible for courses in IT project management, operations management, operational strategy, modelling of business rules, and business management games.
This article is reprinted with permission from UM Magazine.