And that's despite featuring it in the introductory documentary. I SIGNED THAT PETITION AND THIS IS WHAT THEY DO? What did they consider appropriate?
Noel Edmonds going meta, for starters. Rattling his watch, bemoaning how he might miss Top Of The Pops if we don't get on with it, this is but the start of one of those weeks where his idea of presentation runs to nobody else's wise idea.
Rude reggae man of yore Judge Dread is at 30 with Y Viva Suspenders. We will not be seeing this at any point.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band – Blinded By The Light
No, he doesn't say "revved up like a douche" (it's "duece", as in the common name for the 1932 Ford coupe the Beach Boys popularised. Well, it's a Springsteen song, he'd be nothing without an ostentatious blue collar car to rev) A future radio friendly mini-classic to begin with, and a curious array of men to perform it. Firstly we see Manfred himself, looking about as Dutch as a man can in a half undone sailor top, but that's as nothing compared to singer Chris Thompson. Not only is he sporting long hair in curls and a purple hat with his glasses, but he's accessorised his T-shirt with a multicoloured Colgate stripe across with rainbow coloured braces. It's as if Rod, Jane and Freddy had lost a member to commercial prog. With the drummer stranded right across the far side of the stage from Mann's keyboard set-up about as far as he can go there's never a comfortable all-in camera shot of the whole band, let alone their massive banner which covers the mirror backdrop. Perhaps it was rustled up in a hurry after some of them fell off. The really long vocal fade halfway through seems to briefly confuse the director, pulling back about as far as he can. Noel calls it "accessibly sensible". Rock and roll!
The Bee Gees – You Should Be Dancing
Ruby Flipper, of course, the first of many appearances tonight. It seems someone is trying to make a go of them at the death, especially the whole controversial mixed gender thing, as here we have three of the girls on podiums behind, up front on his own, an attempt by Floyd to assert his own credentials. Obviously having women gyrating bits in turn, Patti especially judging by the regularity of the close-ups of her hot pants, behind him means he's going to be playing second fiddle no matter where he stands, which might explain why his head bobbing, limb flailing turn is so manic, at least three times the speed of the females. Surely nobody choreographed this as much as just wound him up, possibly literally with reference to his tightly wound hair, and let him go. In a couple of weeks he'll be back... no, that would spoil things. The audience repay his energy by sitting down swaying while clapping to a much slower rhythm.
Robin Sarstedt – Let’s Fall In Love
The difficult second single, eh? For this sap beyond reproach Sarstedt has elected to wear the highest waisted trousers known to man and a lothario's slightly opened white shirt. However, he's still Robin Sarstedt, and as such it always seems he's making up in hair volume what he lacks in appeal. The Ladybirds taking off in a different key isn't helping either.
Acker Bilk – Aria
"What a beautiful song, what lovely words" Noel enthuses. Actually, he said it about a song that was edited out, but we doubt he'd have truly meant it in either case as it's just a device for him to go "if you really like lyrics... if you like to see someone singing words and really making them meaningful" and link into an instrumental. Yes, Mr Acker Bilk in the teeth of 1976's family pop roundelay is a very odd thing, especially as it's at funereal pace until joined by the sort of studio strings and drumbeat buskers these days have on a tape playing behind them. Noel is at pains to point out that Acker is "the one with the bowler hat, the one with the white dress was Sydney from Ruby Flipper". Patti, actually, Noel. Unless that was a joke, and if it was that was obscure even by your standards tonight.
The Chi-Lites – You Don’t Have To Go
Making an impromptu video out of 1930s cartoons used to be done quite a bit on the BBC and the Chi-Lites aren't exempt, their storming groove given this one, a Tex Avery no less, in a really ropey print. "Some delightful creatures on that film" Noel marvels.
James & Bobby Purify – Morning Glory
So engrossed is Noel in his concept intro about autumn fashion ("note the see-through jodphurs" he specifies, even though nobody is wearing them) that he forgets to name the song or artist. Finally Ruby Flipper are back to full strength, but Cherry's clearly in the doghouse after her leave of absence as she's pushed out to the side for most of the performance and covered in scarves and sashes even though her costume is as flimsy as those of her female colleagues. One of them manages to land over her face in closeup. Being Cherry, of course there's A Look To Camera, a boggle-eyed one at that. Although clearly enthusiastic to be back under the Colby yoke for a bit she also seems to be a little out of step with the choreographed moments for a lot of the time, and this is Top Of The Pops so they were hardly difficult. The men get shirts and plus-fours of a slightly glittery hue and Philip gets to work his Camp Walking Man schtick with a little bit of Bruce Forsyth Thinker thrown in. He keeps cutting into shot as if he knows the future of mixed sex TOTP dancing is under threat and after Floyd's spectacular affair earlier has to keep his face in the frame.
Cliff Richard – I Can’t Ask For Anything More Than You
Cliff Richard doing falsetto. Once heard, never to be forgotten. He seems to be on a stage of a new design being watched by nobody, which suggests nobody else wanted a part of it either. There's an odd moment towards the end when someone claps five times in quick succession and then stops, and not at a point where it could obviously have been finishing. Flick coaching her charges in the background in the art of simultaneous movement?
Gallagher & Lyle – Breakaway
I'm not going to attempt to transcribe Noel's entire intro here, in which he claims the duo are "more unpleasant than you could ever imagine human being being", because not only does it come from nowhere and have no punchline but he has to go on around the same subject for ages, growing progressively more tiresome than he already was. The restrained adult drivetime duo are the only ones lit at first, apart from a bassist caught in the reflected light, making it look as if they've turned up with a drumkit but no drummer. The secondary keyboard player has a triple decker of boards for no audible reason. Lots of slow pans from a high rostrum camera angle fill things out. Noel pretends to receive a wad of cash a little late in the sentence, and frankly the wrong side of the song, to 'change his mind'. Someone giggles.
Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
The last time we'll get this (bar Christmas), thank goodness. It's at this point that Noel finds out what command he has over his audience. With Ruby Flipper warming up in front of him, he suggests they can't show the video again only to get shouted down before he's completed his sentence. That's how popular all that fake studio business was back then. Noel extricates himself from that cul-de-sac, just about, with "we want to dance!" Still in their Morning Glory gear Ruby Flipper oblige, paired off into two girls for every man before forming a big kicking chorus line, throughout which Floyd and Philip mime all the lyrics, the latter even when not clearly on camera. The girls meanwhile keep up their fixed rictus grins, except Cherry who appears to be on the verge of collapsing in helpless giggles. The manly men in the crowd have no reaction to the girls in their bras and tight pants right in front of them. In the background Noel is at first awkwardly shape shifting with the best of those around him and later when clearer in shot, though he can't surely have known, attempts to put two seperate girls off their jigging stroke through chat for which Noel still seems to be proffering his dead mike, and he has an arm around the second victim. What business could he be plotting? Whatever it's not immediately obvious as Noel throws from performance to credits by describing a room packed tight with people giving it the full kick-to-the-left-kick-to-the-right as "the retreat from Moscow set to music". The battle of Stalingrad, more like.
EDIT NEWS: Well, Can, as I just said. Editor permitting it should be on again in three shows' time, but you won't then get to see Noel calling them "an absolute wow" or specifying how they've come "a very, very long way indeed" as if they've never had Americans in the studio. Also a Stylistics video in which nobody is sitting down, and which looks like this. Oh, Noel. Noel, Noel, Noel.