It began on New Years Day 1964 in a studio set in an old disused church in Manchester. The first show was presented by DJ Jimmy Saville. It featured (in order) The Rolling Stones with "I Wanna Be Your Man'", Dusty Springfield with "I Only Want to be With You", the Dave Clark Five with "Glad All Over", The Hollies with "Stay", The Swinging Blue Jeans with "The Hippy Hippy Shake" and The Beatles with "I Want to Hold Your Hand", that week's number one.
It was originally intended to have only a few programmes but has been going for almost forty years. It was traditionally shown on a Thursday night, but was later moved to a Friday, a change which caused some controversy.
This chart show has seen many changes through the decades: in style, design, fashion and taste. It celebrated its 2000th show in 2002. The show is closely associated with the BBC radio station Radio 1, usually being presented by DJs from the station. In its heyday during the glam rock era of the early 1970s, the show featured the tightly choreographed dance troop Pan's People (later succeded by Legs & Co.), something which has been widely imitated on similar shows ever since.
In November 2003, the show was radically overhauled in what has been widely reported as a make-or-break attempt to revitalise the long-running series. In a break with the previous format, the show is to play more up and coming tracks ahead of any chart success, and also to feature interviews with artistes. The new show is hosted by Tim Kash, formerly of MTV. The BBC say this is to to try to reverse the trend of falling ratings, and is the most radical makeover of the show in its history.