Saturday, 30 July 2011

Five years, what a surprise

Yes, it's five years today since the final TOTP was broadcast. It's not archived online but you can see the very end of it at the end of Top Of The Pops: The True Story (embedding disabled), the 2001 documentary on the show's history (with a bit added later so it jumps from positivity about the show's future to a coda about how it all went badly wrong)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

TOTP 15/7/76 (tx 27/7/11): look what the 'puss dragged in

First off, if you haven't clocked the sidebar or just didn't care, this blog has itself a Twitter account, not only with a feed of new posts on here but also daily (unless I'm away) On This Day In TOTP History YouTube posts. Go follow.

Here, then, is the sight and sound of someone who thinks they're clever about television. Noel is on the back of a camera gantry, headset and all. "I thought tonight's proceedings were going to be held in camera but in fact we're just mucking in" he explains. Presumably it meant something at the time, it's just with 35 years' hindsight they seem like a jumble of words. Is it to do with industrial action?

Sunfighter – Story Of The Drag Race Queen
Something we've heard a lot of in the shortish number of weeks we've been following 1976 is bands who heard one lot making a radio breakthrough three or four years earlier and thinking they can follow suit. Sunfighter and their hair metal coiffured singer (and 1987 Eurovision contestant) Rikki Peebles, proving they were ahead of their time in one respect if still the sort of cut one shouldn't be using near the word 'queen' lest it cause gender confusion to the near-sighted, obviously followed the Faces and Queen closely but once their big exciting power chord intro, uncomfortably close to that of the Manic Street Preachers' Australia, is over it might as well be a different song, one which Roger Taylor wrote, perhaps. The song is about a drag race driver, one who seems to enter every race convinced he's about to die in a crash which can't be good for positivity, and the sort of loose broad that generally only exists in 1960s coming of age B-movies. One of the surely overmanned three guitarists - maybe the one who is Sarah Harding off Girls Aloud's father, it's not implausible looking past his Noel Edmonds hair - gets the middle eight vocal. Maybe he won it in a bet. Tellingly, the band are all in white except the bass player, whose hooped T-shirt and jeans suggests a sessioneer ringer. Still, the audience are moving well, especially the five members dressed as sailors. Hamilton would have had them up on stage with him in no time.

Liverpool Express – You Are My Love
Them, and those visual flares, again.

The Beatles – Back In The USSR
"We Moscow, I'm sorry to Russia but we're off to see the Cossacks" Noel deadpans, or perhaps in retrospect finds as bemusing as the rest of us even if that sort of conceit is pure Edmonds. Doesn't work in print, obviously. Ruby Flipper time, and with something of literal heft to work with the costume department come up trumps - hammer and sickle flag, fake snow, barbed wire, big fur coats and woolly hats for the men, headscarves and big peasant dresses for the women with TOCG* grabbing the predominately/significantly virginal white dress. Beyond that it's a freeform version of lyrical expression, and yet again Floyd cops the worst of the first verse as he has to get across the concepts of reading and putting something on a knee while simultaneously prancing and - perhaps artist's own interpretation, this - expressing facial shock. The various chorus routines are wonders of combined movement, including some very decadent western twist-like moves. There's some pretend dragging to the gulags and a little chorus line hoofing but it's a full two minutes before Philip gets to unleash some cossack dancing before getting tired quickly. Sue gets to be Jojo, for the record.

* The Omnipresent Cherry Gillespie

Bobby Goldsboro – The Story Of Buck
Noel tells us that after Bobby's big hit Honey he'd been "sent many others in a similar vein". So much for diversifying. He also tells us this, which is also commonly known as A Butterfly For Bucky, is "a real heartstring tugger", which given we've only just got past the not all that dissimilar in lyrical tone No Charge is a bravura statement. It is admittedly hard to take in the emotional pull of a song when you're witnessing a camera charge through a group of people dancing much like they danced to Sunfighter - one gets a visible tap on the arm and makes off like it's a fire bell - but we're too cynical here in 2011 to really fall for a song about a blind child gifted sight by being landed on by a butterfly in a hospital, the moral being about the dreams of children or somesuch. Noel may reckon it's "as bad as peeling onions" - reaction, presumably, not the act - but the sailors are notably standing right behind the stage absolutely stock still for half the song, two of them eventually joining in for the clear sake of it. One hesitates to ever give Steve Wright the time of day, but there's a TOTP2 upload on YouTube and after Goldsboro has finished singing he bluntly notes "he lives in a world of his own, doesn't he?" Noel reckons with Tony Blackburn-like unerringness that this "could be very successful". It wasn't.

Dr Hook – A Little Bit More
"I fell for this song hook, line and sinker. I got rid of the line and sinker, here's the Hook". Oh bloody hell, Noel, just learn when to stop. Dennis Locorriere's beard is at ridiculous levels of length and depth, virtually two-tiered and topped off with shoulder-length hair that when put in a woodland glade as he is in this video makes him look like a native. Then at the end Ray Sawyer gets homoerotic with him, which nobody called for.

Glamourpuss – Superman
See, Arthur, they did manage it. Well, Noel's clearly got in tonight.

WHAT IS THIS I DON'T EVEN. Making the Surprise Sisters look like Destiny's Child, this didn't chart and perhaps wisely there is nothing at all online about who these people were, unless the lead singer really is a bewigged Carol Vorderman. It's not all their fault, the backing is too brusque and someone's mixed the backing vocals over Carol, but someone decided that their best move would be for two of them to change places before the big finish. This might be why prime-time variety died.

Status Quo – Mystery Song
A live clip! The wind machine goes on full! The chords keep on changing between the three for basic boogie! Rick Parfitt shows some manly chest! Repeat to fade. It's not as good as Hugh Laurie's Mystery Song.

Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – Now Is The Time
The supper club Vagabonds are still in place, this time proving with a wah-wah guitar pedal and a disco hi-hat they can really coast along. For his part James is a consummate performer with a fine eye-popping expression, enlivening some slightly second division funk and enthralling suspiciously many kids in huge white caps.

Demis Roussous – Forever And Ever
"What is the really big thing in Greece at the moment? No, not a BBC hamburger". That doesn't even work, you don't get grease on hamburgers unless you're very clumsy. Interestingly it's not the same video as a couple of weeks ago, this one shot close in - very close in at times - at head height so we don't fully get to see what mighty outfit the genetic spawn of Danny Baker and Geoff Capes has on. Noel unsportingly calls him "the Greek Womble" before the Chanter Sisters' overtly blockbusting vocal on Sideshow sees us off into the night.

EDIT NEWS: Two moments of great interest. Second one first, there's Tavares' Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel as essayed by Ruby Flipper as angels and devils. Here it is, and note TOCG has the best fake crying in the business before later managing to stare out Floyd, who having had so much practice at becostumed indignity is on fine threatening form. For that he gets to take the last dance with TOCG and Lulu. All works out well in the end. Except, that is, for the Paul Nicholas-a-gram of television pop interpretative dance Gavin Trace, for whom this was his last show. According to Philip on the old TOTP2 site "Gavin, I think, was finding it hard to keep up, because of the pace and quick turn around. Flick again didn't make a big thing of it, she just asked whether he was happy in the group. He then just volunteered to leave. She dealt with it really well."

The other song not included in the pre-watershed version (and whether it was in the late night one I don't know at time of publishing, but let's treat this show as a fait accompli) was a cover of a Tavares US hit from the previous year, though it wouldn't chart here until 1986, which the more famous version of would be released much later by Take That. Now.. how are we going to tackle this? Bluntly?

Odd thing about that intro, which is largely why it's embedded here, is a suddenly reticent Noel is presenting this as King being revealed as the man behind the record, but in the rundowns both last week and this there's been a big photo of him and the 'band' have been referred to with his name in brackets afterwards. Not entirely surprising, that footnote's presence, King having gained the level of fame which meant Noel could introduce him as a mystery (despite the vocal style being recognisable) knowing the viewers would instantly know who he was through a certain level of projected self-regard running through his prolific work as recording artist, A&R, manager, producer, label boss and general man about town. Lulu gets a backup dancing gig still in her Back In The USSR gear. This was his last appearance as a singer on the show, though in the early 80s he'd occasionally pop in with a US chart update. And a million letters to Paul Dacre remained unsent.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

TOTP 8/7/76 (tx 20/7/11): last night before the Proms

Well, there's the first proper row this blog's stoked up. Even in such unfortunate circumstances, glad to find out that Popular, the fine UK number ones blog by Guardian/Pitchfork contributor Tom Ewing, is hosting a lively TOTP debate itself in its comments box. Also, hello back to the One For The Dads forum.

Tony Blackburn in charge this week, and he pretends to forget the show's name... until reminded by himself in a thought bubble. Cliche, I know, but this really isn't too far from one of the set-ups in Smashie & Nicey: End Of An Era. Really did their research, they did. Still can't work out what Archie Bell and the Drells are doing in their chart still. They seem to be doing laps of an inflatable boxing ring.

Sutherland Brothers & Quiver – When The Train Comes In
We start on a close-up of a 'SBQ' badge, which is one way of self-identifying. Since we last had them round Iain Sutherland has solved the problem of his receding hairline rather too well with a Breton fisherman's cap and a fulsome beard while his band have gone in for Doobie Brothers-style funk rhythm guitar, if that's not too much a suggestion led on by the train theme. Also, Bruce Thomas looks even more like Chris Langham than last time. There's plenty of dancing going on to their hi-hat heavy FM rock which from its middle eight's interplay sounds like the last chorus is just getting in the way unnecessarily, with the crowd giving each other plenty of space. Tony is so excited he bellows his link out. "Gonna be a smash, that one!" It wasn't.

Candi Station – Young Hearts Run Free
"Listen to the words of this one" Tony advises, good advice given nobody could have been concentrating on the track when presented with Flick's interpretation. As with Thin Lizzy it's awkwardly shuffling audience members intercut with a performance clip in which Candi seems to be wearing a dream catcher, which cocks up when the director fades back in seconds too early for the second chorus and we see another audience, this time American ergo confident, which had clearly been intercut by whichever US programme Staton was recorded for. Both her and the kids prove there was lots of elbow movement inherent to 1976 dancing.

The Champ's Boys Orchestra – Tubular Bells
Tony gets a head and shoulders shot with the studio lights above him, which just means loads of empty blank space as if Rusty Goffe had taken over the camera. And what's the song, Tone? "From Tubular Bells, it's called... from Champ's Boys". Idiot boards are called that for a reason. This week's big idea is to take advantage of the long hot summer and send Ruby Flipper to the Blue Peter garden, not running roughshod over the flowers Les Ferdinand-style but in fact on a big square of carpet in the middle of a dug out patch of soil. Six in white sitting in a circle being liberally doused with petals and confetti out of a big wicker bowl by Patti. There's a lot of outstretching of arms going on before the inevitable running around. It's quite paganistic in a way that doesn't suit a poor attempt to mix Mike Oldfield's theme with Love To Love You Baby. Coupled with that for further oddness, one of them is wearing inappropriate dress, a sheikh's outfit, and for once it's not Floyd lumbered with it (Philip, in fact). Some continuity kept, though - The Omnipresent Cherry Gillespie has the shortest skirt and thinnest top of all four women. Tony attempts a joke about a dead garden. It dies. Appropriately.

Billy Ocean – L.O.D. (Love On Delivery)
If all else fails, stick a soul singer in front of keen teens on the tiny tiered stage and let the orchestra do their worst. Billy's chosen to make himself known by sporting a bright pink top. One girl in the audience attempts oneupmanship in the awkward fashion stakes with triple denim (jeans, shirt, waistcoat) and a Wurzels memorial neckerchief.

Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
The video in a pretend studio, which you used to see a lot but is always worth appreciating to see just how smug Elton's face between lines is.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – The Boston Tea Party
For the second time the introduction makes specific reference to the 200th anniversary of American independence, which must have been quite a big thing in that case. And in case we'd forgotten another long running perennial, Tony notes this is "just about the same age as David Hamilton". Just about the only act Tony doesn't actually call "sensational", they're back in the studio to scare the children. Harvey, with bloodhound eyes, fulsome beard and habit of staring down the lens as if it's offering him out, looks like he hasn't been to sleep since his last studio appearance. This is entirely plausible. He has, after all, chosen to appear on prime time BBC television in denim hot pants and a massive hat. There's a small cannon in front of the drumkit but we don't see it go off, and no wonder as you fear what Harvey might have thought it was and what his reaction would have been. Further point: the keyboard appears to be of that Casio-rivalling brand Professional Piano. Surely a Ronseal offshoot. "Showing a pair of sensational legs" Tony lies.

Dorothy Moore – Misty Blue
More Soul Train setpiece, this time far too slow for anyone to appreciably dance to in anything but a sway. "I've never known a time when there's been so many great records about" claims Tony, despite the evidence of this run so far.

5000 Volts – Dr Kiss Kiss
And here's another oddity that, while the records claim it made number eight, seems so out of place it's possible it never actually existed beyond osmosis. A couple of people are seen walking away from the stage after one line, which isn't that sporting but does demonstrate the folly of linking a huge voiced country singer in Linda Kelly sporting a heavy secretary-goes-clubbing fringe with a band who start out tentatively disco-funky - and only a tentative disco-funk band would pose for promo shots like this - before going the full sub-Fox. And by that we mean the most televisually ostentatious talkbox playing we've ever seen, the guitarist gurning to camera and wrapping his lips round the pipe where others (alright, Frampton) do it casually as if we might not notice. Meanwhile the bassist produces a stethoscope and for some reason checks Kelly's shoulder. I'm not making this up. After that's done with Tony introduces "a very surprise guest", which must be a superior level of surprise. It's Ian Mitchell, who seems to be about twelve but is the new bassist for the Bay City Rollers, who in a highly stilted fashion and while sporting an open shirt lets Tony know they played to 50,000 kids in America and they'll be touring here in September. Once Tony has to introduce the next performance he really doesn't know where to look. FYI, Mitchell left in November claiming he was "getting out before I stick my head in a gas oven", not that that stops him playing in America as The Bay City Rollers Featuring Ian Mitchell.

The Real Thing – You To Me Are Everything
A new number one! Presumably the three silver objects are meant to be the stars Eddie Amoo wants to take out of the sky for you, but they look more like forward planning a performance for the Christmas show. Costumes still haven't been synchronised, Eddie in a flat cap, one bandmate in butcher's pinstriped dungarees, another with the magically returned guitar apparently in a woman's orange halterneck top. Awkwardly someone is occasionally clapping along too close to a mike, unless that was an orchestra member wanting to make a point about union rates. Marvellously, at the end Tony facilitates a stage invasion, though once up there none of the kids really know what to do and end up looking like lemons, which is easy enough anyway given they're taking inspiration from Tony Blackburn. War play us out, "see you on Saturday for Seaside Special".

EDIT NEWS: There isn't any, it was only ever a half hour long show this week. Makes this gig a lot simpler.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Pan's People Sing!

Just wanted to stick this here apropos of little. From 1974 a dictionary definition of pop-rock, written by Mike Batt and recorded with his studio band, Chris Spedding and all. And despite being credited to the whole trouple who's that notably sole singer? Why, it's The Omnipresent Cherry Gillespie!

Monday, 18 July 2011

The disappeared: 1/7/76

As previously mentioned, eight shows from the second half of 1976 are missing from the BBC archive, which is why we're getting these Sky At Night breaks once a month so we all hit Christmas together. But what was on these shows? Playlists survive, and with those we can all fill in the gaps with linkage and speculation. In this Saville-fronted week, then...

Hello – Love Stealer
Don't you sometimes wish Noel or Diddy would walk on and straight off like that German host does? Another in that thankfully now broken but still bitty run of show openers that never chart, odd given they'd had a top 10 single at the end of 1975, but disturbing stomping glam was on its way out by mid-1976. I mean, look at that stare, slightly brought down by the underwritten and overlong phone break. Hope that involved the borrowing of a trimphone at TV Centre. (EDIT: it was in the public domain all along! See the comments for YouTube link)

Liverpool Express – You Are My Love
Of solarised sub-10cc fame. We hear that after its first showing it made possibly the biggest leap up the download charts of any song so far shown in this re-run. Does that prove anything? Not sure.

Dr Hook – A Little Bit More
The tremendously hairy and homoerotic video will be shown in a future week, but this sappy FM ballad got the Ruby Flipper treatment. We're picturing Lulu, Cherry, Gavin and Philip slow dancing in fake moonlight.

The Manhattans – Kiss And Say Goodbye
Despite reaching number four this is the only TOTP appearance for this big heartbreak ballad by the standard issue singer plus four blokes adept at turning in a circle soul group lineup.

T-Rex – I Love To Boogie
Not the same performance as two weeks earlier but I doubt Marc looked much better.

One Hundred Ton And A Feather – It Only Takes A Minute
A Ruby Flipper moment, a solo Lulu in fact, which is presumably what's overlaid at the start of the later studio appearance. As those who saw the TV Hell video post a couple of weeks ago will know the artist was ostensibly secret (though actually wasn't, as will be discussed come the time) and would turn up to perform in the studio the show after next. What will BBC4 do? Stay tuned.

Bill Oddie & The Superspike Squad With John Cleese – Superspike
Oh, nothing here.

Hot ChoNO, NO, HANG ON! It's Britain's foremost ornithological funkateer! Having been Britain's fourth most successful songwriter in 1975 the Goodies' hits suddenly dried up but Bill still felt a need to get on the one somehow and got the opportunity with an Olympics tie-in fundraiser for the International Athlete's Club, whatever that is. Cleese acted as commentator, Oddie as a running shoe with sentience. It didn't chart. You know what makes this show's loss all the more unfortunate? They showed the video, which apparently featured cameos from the top athletes of the day. Imagine how much of a modern talking point this could have been. Who cares about those Doctor bloody Whos when this has gone missing from the BBC archives?


Hot Chocolate – Man To Man
What a letdown this might have felt. With string interjections and toytown organ there were plenty of opportunities for the BBC orchestra to get the arrangement hideously wrong, and with spoken sections chances for Errol to look overbearing.

Our Kid – You Just Might See Me Cry
Pre-pubescent junior showtime, as seen before.

Don Williams – I Recall A Gypsy Woman
Britain liked its country in mid-1976, didn't it?

The Shangri-Las – Leader Of The Pack
Ruby Flipper, and you can probably see in your mind's eye what this might have been like.

The Real Thing – You To Me Are Everything
The Amoos and friends raid another dressing up box to mark the second of **SPOILER** three weeks at number one.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

TOTP 24/6/76 (tx 14/7/11): fuck Art, let's dance

Firstly, because people are starting to question this and I had an email about it since we all last met up (hello David), the issue of missing weeks. Despite what was made known at the start of the run there are eight shows missing believed wiped from the year, especially in its last couple of months. In fact I think 1976 has been chosen because it's the first year they've got a good set of unbroken runs of retained shows for. As it stands they're showing The Sky At Night once a month in that slot, which works because... well, because it's a well known monthly programme, but for our purposes it actually works out that missing out a week a month means hitting the last pre-Christmas show of 1976 on the Thursday before Christmas 2011. There's no official confirmation of all that but it works out so well it's the most likely explanation. The first lost programme is in fact next week, which is annoying if only because it contains a failed comedy single that sounds fantastic, and we will be covering that absence.

Oh yeah, and for at least the next couple of weeks the live Proms coverage shoves TOTP back onto Wednesday. As for this week we're back in the 1970s one-liner and dubious hairline realm of Diddy David Hamilton, sporting huge badges on *both* lapels, one reading 'I'm In The Mood For Love', the other as far as I can tell 'It's No More'. "I'd like you to meet my fan club" he begins. I don't need to fill in the details, apart from how he ends by doing a pointless but flirtatious fall back aided by a Nicola Roberts lookalike, right down to the complexion and nervous half-smile. Her, not him. Though it could easily apply to him, actually.

Pilot - Canada
First things first, this is the fifth time in six weeks the show has started with a record that failed to make the top 50 at all. Not only that, but this is a run that will become eight in nine weeks. What's causing this? You have the marketing opportunity of the prime position in the country's top music show and it turns out to be a poisoned chalice? In further contemporary news, the director has brought in a wobbly fade. It doesn't achieve much other than a showy way of getting from one shot to another but it's more interesting than the band, who weren't going to chart again now the days of Magic and January were gone. No wonder, given this is a song maybe trying to hitch a ride on the Typically Tropical-esque ticket of marvelling at things across the Atlantic but choosing to deliver them in the medium of plodding AM rock, which doesn't wash when the best specific toothy Paul Whitehouse lookalike singer Billy Lyall can come up with is their "snow peaked mountains tumbling down, you had them from birth". There's some guitar solo duelling with Ian Bairnson cheating by using a twelve-string, even though he only seems to use half of it. The bassist has an open shirt, maybe attempting to cement a status as Pilot's looker.

Bryan Ferry - Let's Stick Together
"What more appropriate? In this weather we can't do anything else" chortles Diddy, our first reference to the long hot summer of '76. You've seen this video already. Spiv tache, Jerry, all that, though it must be stated for permanent record that a red spotted tie does not complement a suave look when worn over a suit jacket. Diddy claims everyone's wearing white suits as "we're all doubling as ice cream salesmen". Having already begun the link by extending a hand towards an imagined stage, it seems he's trying to convince us that Ferry was there all along.

Mistura - The Flasher
Ruby Flipper time, and anyone making reference to how it should have been a literal performance can get out now. In fact it's as opaque a raiding of the dressing up box as any TOTP dance troupe ever got, and they get to do it in the round too. So that's the girls in tiara and evening wear (long gloves inclusive), already retro white polka dotted skirt and flower garland taped to chest and hula skirt (Cherry, inevitably, and for the vidcappers' record it should be stated it stays in place when she's turned upside down) and the boys in cossack wear, flying suit and full tiger catsuit with appropriately painted face (Floyd, inevitably - was he just slow to rehearsals every week? If he were a footballer he'd be spending years only driving a yellow Robin Reliant). And, well, they get into a circle and perform one by one in the middle. Occasionally some expressive lifting occurs, ending with the girls on the boys' shoulders in an ever decreasing circle. At other times they all come in together in formation and do a move. It's Wigan Casino meets speciality suit hire £15 a night.

Demis Roussous - Forever And Ever

"It's been quite a long time since we had an EP in the charts" says Diddy enticingly. We get a live in concert clip featuring a particularly glistening kaftan and the biggest mike head you've seen. In the original stage version it was José Feliciano's version of Light My Fire and it was changed for copyright reasons, you know.

The New Seekers – It’s So Nice (To Have You Home)
"A lot of people were very sad when the New Seekers split up and no doubt they'll be glad to know that they're back together now." Really? Well, it's possible, but then so is that fans will spot that two members have changed. Very much an air of ITV LE, all forced jollity and smiley handclap and sideways movement from the two female singers as if Abba had never happened with a comparatively brave brief middle eight attempt at falsetto harmony. They seem to have an extra acoustic guitarist where the drummer usually sits. This didn't reach the top 40, by the way, and co-founder Paul Layton later said "I think that with hindsight we identified less with that song than the others". Given it features a new member proclaiming "it's so nice to have you home again and you're looking just exactly as you looked before" I can understand that.

Osibisa – Dance The Body Music
Ooh, Noel's turned up for this one, he's there in the back of shot...oh, wait, this is a repeat of the performance from his most recent show and the producer didn't spot him. That cheap champers won't drink itself.

Art Garfunkel – I Believe When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever
Having been given something the shape and about the size of a wedding cake base to perform from, Art's a bit stuck for things to do as he overemotes a Stevie Wonder song that threatens to carry on for as long as John Miles' Music. With thumbs in pockets he chooses to stand stock still. At least one girl in the audience is prominently doing likewise. In fact, the big wobble just before the final panning out camera shot might well be its operator falling asleep on the job. No, this didn't chart either. Sackable work by the editors at the end as an audience almost entirely in shot sway noncommittally yet are clapping on the soundtrack.

The Real Thing – You To Me Are Everything
This week's mix and match of outfits is less pronounced, though it does seem to incorporate a crimson butcher's apron and matching trousers. Or maybe they're stylised dungarees. Eddie meanwhile rocks a choker and satin suit, the latter in the future style of Lenny Henry's Theophilus P Wildebeeste. Are the other three meant to be clapping in unison? They appear to be not so solid about whether they should be a backing singing trio in unison - no rhythm guitar this week - or just some mates mucking in. Again we hear applause but don't see it, but one of the girls flocking to Diddy's side for the last link is dancing along nevertheless. Maybe she got confused. Another of his companions seems to be an exact cross between Kathy Burke and Rebecca Front. They get to hear Diddy's introduction to the Beach Boys record that was this week's pointless reissue first hand - "if you want to get good vibrations for yourself try sitting on the washing machine after the show, it works wonders for you". Burke/Front grins. The dancing girl is too preoccupied with the middle distance to take it in.

EDIT NEWS: All studio work - the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (back in the studio very, very soon) and the monologuing Lee Garrett repeated, Cherry alone (see what we mean?) doing Dorothy Moore's Misty Blue (One For The Dads archive and, losing out to the vagaries of how easily the edit can be made, Johnny Nash, again in the studio, covering (What A) Wonderful World.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #25: Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)

24 was an awkward number to end last week on, so to make up for the nature of last week's inductions, a barnstorming live performance allied to the sort of fish out of water (and it definitely was at the time) appearance that would once upon a time have had the nation in raptures the day after. Or at least it might have been had it not come from a Sunday night show in the last year of the show's life, the Age Of Cotton. What is it she says just before naming the band, and why? From there all manner of valhalla eruption before Suggs just ploughs on with a bit of autocue feed that doesn't really make sense.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

"We were not being given everything that was out there and certain decisions were being made on our behalf"

It's a prime-time music show, Paul Morley. Come on. Anyway, for the next week you can see The Story Of 1976, the season-launching BBC4 documentary that is basically 50 minutes all about how the show, the presenters and nearly all the music was shit, but why not enjoy our thorough re-run anyway. Plus it supposedly strives to cover everything the show did but only mentions Pan's People as show dancers despite their being axed at the end of April.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #24: NOVELTY WEEK: Streetband - Toast

Wherever I lay my browned bread, that's my home. What's he got against chocolate spread?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #23: NOVELTY WEEK: The Brat - Chalk Dust - The Umpire Strikes Back

Impersonation is a tricky thing to pull off on stage in front of lively punters when performed at a comedy club, so it's no wonder impressionists who score surprise hits can seem a little exposed. Look at Rory Bremner doing The Commentators' N-N-Nineteen (Not Out) - a record secretly produced by Paul Hardcastle himself, by the way - at once at front of stage and yet somehow also laissez-fair distant from the act of performance, having to funnel his big prime time opportunity through the canvas of Jim Laker. For Roger Kitter's loosely defined John McEnroe parody no expense is spared - umpire chair, net, picture on the big screen just in case it's too subtle - and he's giving his all, yet the people sat behind the action for atmosphere seem to have spent the filming breaks coming up with a collective Blockbusters Hand Jive-like routine for their own amusement. Perhaps they realised Kitter doesn't actually sound like McEnroe, just a generic New Yorker.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #22: NOVELTY WEEK: Vic Reeves - Born Free

Nobody seems to remember I Will Cure You, the sole album by Britain's top light entertainer and workshy fop, but it's the answer to the great untold pub quiz question "which 1991 top twenty album features contributions from Phil Oakey, The Grid, the Wonder Stuff, free jazz legends Evan Parker and Steve Beresford, proper jazz favourite Tony Coe and pedal steel one-stop shop BJ Cole?" This was its first single, and I have no idea why it's co-credited to The Roman Numerals (and as far as I can tell neither has anybody else). Luckily Vic has come prepared with props, if not prepared for the drastic edit. A good quality chart rundown afterwards too, apart from the host's cloying showiness. What a terrible man. A terrible man. A terrible, terrible, terrible man.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #21: NOVELTY WEEK: Alexei Sayle - Ullo John Gotta New Motor

Alternative comedy. In Young One terms Nigel Planer's endlessly entertaining two performances for Hole In My Shoe are justly celebrated, but it's Alexei and his wayward attitude to miming that shows the fuller committment. Alexei admits he hadn't really thought of anything to do once he'd gone through with the car, presumably the IBA regulations preventing much of his stage persona being brought to the fore. I'd love to know who those two dancing people in pork pie hats at the back of the stage are, they can't be Zoo as that had been disbanded the year before but they appear to have thought out moves. Just the right man to introduce it, and you'll see he's sporting the Ravenscroft family tartan.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #20: NOVELTY WEEK: Star Turn On 45 (Pints) - Pump Up The Bitter

Appearing on Top Of The Pops as a comedy act is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you're in music because as a child watching the show you dreamt of being able to perform your work in front of millions of family viewers. On the other hand, you've done it through something you'd think twice about admitting to your potential children. It's also reliant on your audience. Stars On 45 and such medleys were a comfortably passed phenomenon by 1988, jokes about working men's club entertainment by whatever year The Wheeltappers And Shunters Social Club was cancelled. The late Steve O'Donnell and friends gave it a good go over more than a decade, though the source material has somewhat outlived the act in terms of usefulness. Well, it was around the same time as Morris Minor and the Majors. Special congratulations to whoever is responsible for the sound mix that makes the vocals inaudible for quite some time, and for the specific graphic at the end.

Friday, 1 July 2011

TOTP 17/6/76 (tx 30/6/11): Boogie down production

The big news of the week on this particular corner of the TOTPsphere is a repeat-specific Twitter account - not me, but unofficial and with the mission statement "Who wishes Top Of The Pops 1976 had pop-up captions like TOTP2? (Puts hand up) Well, we're gonna fix that via the magic of Twitter!" Actually, no, the good thing about this run is it doesn't feature captions that are either bone-dry or too postmodern for anyone's good. Luckily, this is neither. Unfortunately, it has far more readers and, thanks to tweets from the likes of Gideon Coe and Pete Paphides, far more awareness than this blog has ever managed. And while I'm championing the competition, another recap blog has popped up.

Did you see that interview in which Aung San Suu Kyi criticised the way the BBC World Service has been marginalised and turned into a rolling news and current affairs network, dropping the vast majority of the entertainment and interest programming that provided succour to her during her years of captivity and in doing so running down its core services? No, you didn't, as BBC Enterprises span it into a "DLT LOL" story. Suu Kyi clearly has no concept of snooker on the radio but merely grabbed onto something where "the listeners would write in and I had a chance to hear other people's words. It made my world much more complete". And it might not have been his show after all, although that Suu Kyi partly remembered Travis' name in the interview and specified the music requests element (and that the letter is from the producer of the other show) suggests otherwise.

DLT, anyway, reading the name off a medallion - a medallion - around his neck, with unhilarious consequences. Notable point in the chart rundown is the reappearance in The Wanderer's wake of Leader Of The Pack at 21, illustrated not with a Shangri-Las shot but with a stock photo of a moped. Not a particularly raucous machine either.

T Rex – I Love To Boogie
Fronted by the man the EPG called Marc Bowland - though it was the name he used when first recording, so maybe they were onto something. T Rex were doing better critically than commercially at the time and Bolan wasn't in the best of health, positively anaemic in appearance with shorter hair and no great commitment to the vocal delivery cause. Sounds slightly Dylanish in his vowels, actually, plus the odd sheep noise. He's got the rest of the look nearly down pat, though, a wide tie with no shirt over a luxurious velvet jacket and widening face augmented with cyan eyeshadow. It's just the energy was being saved up so Billy Elliot could expel it.

Gallagher & Lyle – Heart On My Sleeve
On the other hand, a look that always ages. Not the beard, the cloth cap, and doubly the swept back mullet and accordion. It's the latter's deathly bellows that puts the colour in a slip of a slow song's cheeks but also means it can never attain whatever emotional touch it was going for, not with that always going on in the background. Gallagher and Lyle clearly believe in filling a stage, though, as while the drummer seems to be in an adjoining postal district the bassist has to share a backing vocal mike with two blokes of indeterminate use, one in polo shirt and floppy hat, looking for all the world like they work in lighting and got called in to stop the wide shots looking so barren. The audience are up for it this week, though, swaying like it means something to them. Two are prominently wearing gypsy bonnets.

Peter Frampton – Show Me The Way
"Some amazing, amazing things done with a tube in the mouth and all sorts of goodies" DLT promises of the video clip as seen on the full version a couple of weeks ago without ever specifying what those goodies might be once the appeal of a talkbox has palled. Maybe he means the massive red lighting sign above the band spelling out 'FRAMPTON'. What a manly 70s man Frampton really was, with his aftershave commercial open shirt and glorious mane.

Brotherhood Of Man – My Sweet Rosalie
First band to have two songs on the TOTP repeat run, if I'm not mistaken. Having apparently topped "all the charts around the world" they have a new single which DLT thinks will "go right to number one". (SPOILER: it didn't. It went right to number thirty. This, though, was not the last we'd hear of the band, not by a long chalk, but we'll cross that flagrantly Fernando-shaped bridge when we come to it) It's probably fair to say that having lightning strike twice was foremost on the minds of songwriters of both songs Tony Hiller, Lee Sheriden and Martin Lee, though. It starts with a xylophone melody followed by a Martin Lee solo spot while everyone else takes part in synchronised light movement. Then there's some collective arm swinging on the chorus as Lee seems to be telling us in the light variety harmony style about his undying love for... hang on, we've been here before, haven't we? And so on the last line the music winds down, one of the girls makes "me?" signs at Lee's shoulder and "she's the only one for me, the cutest little puppy dog you'll see..." Bloody hell. Brotherhood Of Man - the M Night Shyamalan of 70s lounge pop and with a similarly wayward quality detector. It's not even a cute dog. Though how they got the dog on stage, given the other two had it in their arms for the climactic pose immediately and surely the music and movement would have scared it away were it untethered on stage, let alone risk being spotted by the camera and the end ruined, remains a mystery.

Mud – Shake It Down
"Mud stands for Maniacs Under Demolition..." Hang on, what's this? The admittedly piss-in-the-wind two plays unless you're number one rule for the edited version has been broken! Admittedly there's much less worthy songs it could have been done for than Disco Mud - and it wasn't falling as everyone seems to think, it was heading down but then rebounded to 12 for no good reason before resuming its stately progress out - but we lost a Ruby Flipper routine for this. And then to compound matters the second verse is completely edited out, meaning we lose a bit of fresh comedy business involving bassist Ray Stiles (see the whole thing here - the green trousers are back, then). Then the reason why we've got it again becomes clearer as DLT lumbers onto the stage, only Stiles dealing him a brief glance, and heads behind the drumkit. Once there, while Dave Mount makes excellent confused faces, he finds he can't think of anything to do. Join in? Sway? Pretend strangulation with his mike cord? It's a dilemma. Oh, Les has taken his shades off. He means business. So does the director, if business is good in giving the unwary photo-sensitive epilepsy. Don't mind telling you, I'm going to miss this song. Were it up to me I'd launch a BBC supportive campaign to get it up the charts on downloads. Les Gray certainly missed it as he re-recorded it with his solo band, and it's on Spotify and various download sites (some of which credit it as a 2010 release but in fact it came out in 2002, Gray being detained by rigor mortis well before last year)

Murray Head – Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat
Earnest man, Grand Old Opry shirt, song that's delivered in the style of the Inkspots, largely because it's a cover of one of their songs and Head clearly has no better ideas about arrangement, essentially dreaming of being Robin Sarstedt. He does rescue it with the single most awkward looking backing band of all, ageing jazz men mixing with a Bob Carolgees-a-gram on over-florid double bass playing. Eventually Head puts his guitar down and goes for the jazz standard extemporising while a man with 'GET UP AND BOOGIE' on the back of his cardigan is being a traitor to himself. By close he's threatening the audience with a large pot plant. That's one way to make an impression if all seems lost.

Candi Staton – Young Hearts Run Free
Oh, he's got Ruby Flipper's name right at last. This is a right dog's dinner even by Flipper standards.

Yeah, maybe they were right when they said it should never be done on TOTP. Cherry on lead again, you'll notice, taking the lead in interspersed clips of her and the Paul Nicholasalike as the titular young hearts, but clearly BBC4 are going all out to annoy the PC BRIGADE message board, um, brigade. Floyd Pearce actually finds a role more off-beam than the TVC15 jockey, seemingly dressed as the housekeeper from Tom & Jerry. He doesn't lift up his pinny to reveal multicoloured stockings at any stage, but maybe that's being saved for the routine for the 12" mix. He's giving the literal interpretation a good going over, though, as are two of the girls in bonnets ("you'll get the babies but you won't have your man") and the third bloke in flat cap and blacked out teeth ogling a clearly visible Page Three ("while he is busy loving every woman that he can"). And yes, Floyd "just can't break away" when his ankle is grabbed. It's a story of many layers, this, the dream (of a completely different looking woman) to return to the days of youth when nothing else mattered. Cleverer than it looks after all, and they got six of the seven in for once. TWEET OF THE WEEK: "i want ruby flipper on.totp 1976 a similar dance routine to a lady gaga song!" That'd be prescient of the show.

Liverpool Express – You Are My Love
"We have some nurses from Great Ormond Street here". Yes, Dave, they were the people in nurses' uniforms grabbing onto your elbows in the last link and you forgot to specifically mention them then, didn't you? This one "could well be a monster hit sound" - closer this time, it reached number eleven. That might be because the image of the performance was burned onto the retinas of a generation of viewers, the VT editor having been granted a solarisation effect and been overkeen to use his new toy. More of an impression than the record, which sounds like someone not quite understanding 10cc.

The Wurzels - Combine Harvester
Of course DLT introduces it in a pirate voice, with the suggestion we "get out to the garden sheds, get hold of the tools, throw them around". He does know what the country is, doesn't he? Doesn't he? It's the first performance again, if you're keeping notes, Pete Budd giving it so much suggestiveness to camera he felt moved to comment on it. Yeah, the Wurzels are on Twitter. I think I may have stumbled across social media's black swan event. Say what you like about the logic around these lyrics, but at least a combine harvester and its key have more in common than a key and some rollerskates. He's still not properly playing that sousaphone. DLT does a poor Tommy Cooper impression that's more growling than catchphrases apropos of nothing, visibly delighting the girl next to him for quite some time, before Rod Stewart's Tonight’s The Night plays us out.

EDIT NEWS: the Dolly and Lizzy videos again plus a Ruby Flipper routine to Sold My Rock ‘N’ Roll by the unrepossessingly named Linda & The Funky Boys that looks like this. Basically, many and varied ways of going round in a circle.