Friday, 28 October 2011

TOTP 14/10/76 (tx 27/10/11): apocalypse Flipper

Should do open threads every week. But I won't.

What's with David Hamilton climaxing his intro about "number one sounds" with a heroic air punch? And anyway by Blackburn's lore they can't all be number one sounds.

Tavares – Don’t Take Away The Music
And we start with... a video. Would have been weird enough in the video age, here it just makes you wonder who pulled out too late to properly replace. Instead we get a video clip filmed in a right pea-souper of dry ice, Tavares' five members mere shadows in the mist from the opening angle. This despite the light refraction safety consciousness of wearing bolero jackets festooned with sequins. They can't quite decide whether their moves should be synchronised or not, leading to awkward moments where some are spinning and some ski-shuffling. They then approach the mikes a bar early and their shadows can't save them from awkwardness. With their afros those are some shadows too. The lead singer gets to hold his mike. That's how important he is. Diddy sticks his arm out at the end as if they were just across the studio, grin of gratification writ large.

Sherbet – Howzat
Or as Diddy and his starched collars pronounces it, How's Dat. It sounds like he's approximating an Australian accent, though of course it sounds more West Indian. Maybe he's channelling a concerned Pluto Shervington. This is a repeat from two weeks ago, which Diddy still animatedly clicks his fingers to before the beat has started.

Simon May – Summer Of My Life
Someone shouts something unintelligible over the applause, to which Diddy remarks "yes, more indeed". Didn't sound like anything that concise. According to David "it's always nice to welcome a newcomer to the top 30, especially when it's somebody who has written the song that they sing". REAL MUSIC. A pan out reveals Diddy is on a massive platform well above May's piano on the studio floor. It's little man syndrome. Spotting an audience very much in the shade and for the most part watching the monitor instead is more interesting than the Crossroads-originating song (which May's Wiki claims was "one of the best selling singles of the year", which I suppose is true if you count down far enough) which starts as a poor man's Gilbert O'Sullivan until a truck driver's gear change which turns him into a poor man's John Miles. The director has realised it needs spicing up so has wedged Lulu into a blue taffeta dress and got her to twirl round and fling her arms about a bit in overlay. Between times... well, you can see why May largely stayed off screen.

Wild Cherry – Play That Funky Music
Ah, time for Diddy's Tony Blackburn jibe. This time it's a crowbar in for the line "you've got the body of a 20 year old man". You know the rest, but it still gets huge laugh from techs and a decent one from the man who's just told it. So overwhelmed is he he forgets to namecheck the artist. So this is the final fling for Flick's dream of a mixed sex Top Of The Pops dance troupe (until Zoo, but not even their members remember them) and if you didn't know, which is likely given as expected we're given no hints, that Floyd and Philip's days were numbered the fact they're in casual gear and the girls are in nothing more than midriff/bra exposing shawls and dresses slit to constantly expose the stocking tops, and by the three second mark all three females have flashed their knickers at camera, might just give a hint. After an opening which invents vogueing a decade or so before it was ever necessary to do so there's some tight choreography going on on a massive stage. Go on, guess which member the first "play that funky music, white boy" is implicitly addressed to. Ah, you'll miss his boggle eyes to camera, admit it. As for the boys' only dual/solo moment they seem to be re-enacting, of all things, the Tiger Feet shoulder-lean back-other shoulder routine. Floyd does get a lengthy solo, his conditions for being in the mother goose costume presumably still being enacted right at the death. And off they sail into a forgotten status that will befall their unique presence in the show's storied history until a station the existence of which they surely could not have anticipated back then resurrects their entire oeuvre 35 years later. Wonder if they've deigned to watch themselves. "Some fabulous outfits there" Diddy approvingly nods, presumably not of the T-shirts. Or indeed Philip's jacket, which has something written on the back. From freeze frame I can make out 'WHEEL & BRAKE' and half a phone number. A fallback job already set up?

Liverpool Express – Hold Tight
"If you want more music on Top Of The Pops"... well, yeah, that's the idea. Kids must think Liverpool Express were one of the biggest bands of the era. On the set that some say looks like Blockbusters but I reckon looks more like giant Duplo bricks they've come as a slightly seconded Pilot. What the bassist has physically come as in a broad brimmed hat, wide lapelled black jacket with white lining over black shirt and big cream coloured bow tie one can only speculate. The person who's brought their Wolves scarf is keen, at least.

David Essex – Coming Home
"This is Bev and you can all see who Bev likes - who is it, Bev?" Diddy enquires of a girl in big glasses, Rubettes cap and, tellingly, Essex monographed pink scarf. "About to do his new tour" Essex's chirpy charm, aided by a large red with white spots handkerchief rakishly tumbling from his breast pocket and silver musical note brooch on the other lapel, has every effect in the book without resorting to effects thrown at it - fish eye, overlay, picture-in-picture (capturing David in the throes of elbow dancing) turning the lens round, unforgiving extreme close-up. Then at an appropriate moment the director finds a girl singing along to it. The producer threw a lot at the song too, incorporating both sleigh bells and two clarinet solos, both played right down the camera. If only TOTP76 was 3D retrofitted. (FAO BBC: never do this) The player is wearing shades and sports a tache too. Still the song feels like it lasts hours. David Essex and Simon May on the same show. Who'd have thought, so far down the line, there'd be a more direct connection.

J.A.L.N. Band – Disco Music (I Like It)
You'd think such shows would have standard audience waiting list procedure, but along with a bunch of early 30s women surrounding Diddy for his link, two of whom start it by indulging his desire for an arm in arm jig as if he'd been listening all along, are two sailors. What was it with sailors and these links? Had they been waiting around all week just in case? Did Jimmy invite them and they got the dates confused? One of them looks about eleven years old. As the disco funk drops the women get their dance back on while Diddy graduates to pretend clicking with both hands. The Brummies are really not bad at the fat grooves thing either but the attention is taken by their huge scarf-wearing singer's perpetual motion, running back and forth, sometimes on the spot, his bandmates that can move vainly attempting to do so in the style of a good soul revue. It's supposed to get across the restless energy of the genre. Instead it reminds the modern viewer (me, anyway) that Buster Bloodvessel also moves like that, though he was less keen on the jumping from left to right the singer has broken into by the end. Also worth noting is the saxophonist using a break to put in the least effort ever put into playing bongos.

Pussycat – Mississippi
"I'll see you on Radio 1 and Radio 2 tomorrow afternoon" - ah, those were the days - says Diddy before announcing the new number one, receiving a snatched kiss from a woman and reacting with the time honoured swoon and faux-faint. Where would you stage a video for a Dutch country band with harmony female vocals? Yeah, on a paddle steamer, thought so - 'Crazy-BOAT', in fact. To mix the visual metaphors even further cowboy hats and pretend guns are in evidence. The slide guitar player ends up using one of the latter's barrel in close-up. One of the men, presumably the drummer, basically spends the video sitting around looking distant. More interestingly, so far there's been two rundown pictures and two performances by Pussycat and they've had a different look in each. You'll never gain a lasting image that way.

21 comments:

Steve Williams said...

People take the piss out of Jailbreak, but surely Disco Music takes the biscuit for its inane lyrics, the first verse seeing the singer enquire of a DJ what type of music he's playing in a disco, and expressing his surprise that the type of music played in a disco is disco music. It is fun, though, I like the guitarists pacing up and down like Wilko Johnson. A Sir Peter Waterman Production, of course. Brit-disco is a great genre, I like how it's always so homely. Can't wait for the likes of The Olympic Runners and Hi-Tension if we carry on to 1978.

That David Essex song never seemed to end. I've never seen a clarinet played in such a terrifying fashion.

I like how Dave points in the direction of every act even if they're on video or a repeat. It was a bizarre running order, a video, a repeat, a performance without an audience and Ruby Flipper without an audience. Was there a traffic jam or something and the audience turned up late?

Someone on The Mausoleum Club pointed out that this episode also revealed when copyright dates changed from numbers to roman numerals, so we went from 1976 to MCMLXXVI. What a great observation.

wilberforce said...

first of all, as someone pointed out to me, did diddy and terry wogan go to the same hairdresser?

next, simon may... or should that be simon fey? apart from the sheer awfulness of his song, he possesses perhaps the weediest voice ever to be heard on TOTP (worse than even twiggy!) - perhaps no surprise that he stuck to background duties after that... but who was insane enough to let him anywhere near a microphone in the first place? as you all probably know, he later composed the theme tune for "eastenders" that has been heard a billion times since, but hopefully unlike lord david dundas and his channel 4 ident theme he was only paid a one-off fee...

liverpool express with their equally-awful effort were still looking about 3 years out-of-date, and as for david essex, his face is clearly his fortune rather than his strained singing... and yet the man would go off on successful tours for decade after decade entertaining the faithful female fans growing old with him without ever having to try too hard, just like neil diamond, barry manilow, cliff and so on, which i suppose is an achievement of sorts if somewhat baffling to me...

the dreadfully-named j.a.l.n. band (apparently standing for "just another lonely night" which doesn't really give any justification - anyway me and my chums always referred to them as if "jaln" was a word in itself ha ha) were by far the best act of the show, even if their effort isn't quite in the same league as wild cherry's all-time classic (and it didn't help that the vocals were a lot louder than the music). i used to love their cover of the fatback band's "street dance" (better than the original) that got us all stomping away at the disco at the time - years later and post SAW i remember digging my copy out and wryly noting that the record was produced by one peter waterman...

Noax said...

I must say that this week was particularly fast-forward friendly from my point of view. Still, here we go...

Tavares - One of those songs that I always forget is actually quite good. I think when people remember their songs the ones that stick in the memory are 'Heaven must be missing an angel' and 'More than a woman' rather than this, and 'Whodunit' which is hilarious.

Simon May - Awful, but I can forgive this man anything given that the Howards Way Theme was the finest thing ever released on BBC Records. Mainly because it has the beginning bit AND the ace end bit.

Wild Cherry - I thought Diddy did announce the artist? (though not the song) At least the Flipper went out on a decent enough routine. I will miss Floyd, especially as Cherry's gone. I don't remember finding any of the newcomers in Legs & Co particularly attractive either.

David Essex - Not exactly a great song, but what a showman! You can see why he kept the music career going for so long (what a waste of his talent Eastenders is then) and although this is rubbish we have some quality Essex to come if the repeats carry on for another 4 years (hmmm, that might be pushing it...)

JALN Band - Am I the only one who didn't like this? I just found it really bland to be honest.

I was quite impressed that Diddy was wearing something relatively sober by 1976 TOTP standards this week, although the obligatory Blackburn joke was poorer than usual. Did the constant laughter of the crew inspire Kenny Everett to do the same on his Thames shows. On balance I'd say....probably not.

Arthur Nibble said...

My my, weren’t they hairy times back then? Imagine the amount of ozone layer zapped by the levels of hairspray the performers must have used. Not to be outdone, Diddy seems to have secured a deal with an underarm deodorant manufacturer, judging by his constant sticking one arm up in the air.

That Tavares video reminded me of the classic Cliff Richard performance at the London Palladium when the dry ice machine went in overdrive and obliterated Cliff before the first chorus of ‘Some People’. I half expected to see Sherlock Holmes or Jack The Ripper lurking on backing vocals in that routine.

“How’s Dat?” “HOW’S DAT?” Like the early days of Ruby Slipper...er, Flipper, two plays on the show for Oz’s finest and neither DJ names their hit properly. Useless.

Liverpool Express and David Essex were dire, but even they were hit for six over the bowler’s head by Simon May. Surely the most appalling song of the run so far. ‘Aria’ had better words than that. It made me shudder at the memory of other May horrors such as ’Benny’s Theme’, the Crossroads tie-in where the Brummie bumpkin bemoans the loss of his beloved Maureen...er, allegedly.

As for the best song on BBC Records, I'll raise you and say 'On The Move' by the Dooleys, the theme to that Sunday night illiteracy programme starring Bob Hoskins.

Was the choice of Wild Cherry as the dance number a tribute or dig to Miss Gillespie in any way? Was Patti’s skirt split meant to be that far front? She’ll catch her death like that. Not that I’m complaining, though - I think I’ve found my new favourite!

Decent enough British wine standard disco by the JALN Band, though the singer mucks up early doors by not getting the mic passed round his back quick enough to reach his mouth for the next line. Another call for Archie Bell to iron out the creases.

No, Diddy, we won’t SEE you on Radios 1 and 2 tomorrow, we’ll HEAR you. How many more times? And then we’re left with images of Pussycat’s drummer sulking in the corner, having lost a round of paper-scissors-stone for that coveted two feet of space behind the front row.

Angelo Gravity said...

Did no one at the time notice that Elvis had been slowly climbing up the charts for the past 4 or 5 weeks? And did they not know he had less than a year left of his reign in the mortal realm? So how come he didn't get on the show - not so much as even a Flipper dance. Was 'the girl of my best friend' full of effing and blinding or something?
I noticed that Rod Stewarts 'tonights the night' seemed to be similarly ignored earlier in the year too.

Steve Morgan said...

So, it's the Flipper's last dance is it? Not before time really, they weren't that good were they. They did do a couple of good routines in their short tenure, The Champs Boys routine in the Blue Peter Garden back in the summer is a favourite of mine, as is their routine to KC and the Sunshine Band's Shake, Shake, Shake where I thought they'd finally got it right and that disco music suited them best. Alas their days were numbered and it seems they bow out with a Wild Cherry.
This weeks show, geared to a Disco audience, suited me fine, I always liked the black groups and Disco was right up my street.
A couple of duffers here this week though, I could never stand that Simon May track, my sister bought the single back in the day, I much preferred the instrumental b side, playing that meant you got away from May's god awful vocal. I don't recall that Liverpool Express single, sounded a bit like Pilot to me, I think someone's already pointed that out though.
Loved the David Essex track, and his performance, and I'm really enjoying the singalong that is Pussycat's Mississippi, although I'll be fed up of that in a week or two, roll on Chicago.

Bobby Morrow said...

David Essex had had the first real flop of his charting life earlier in 1976 when the 'mature' 6 minute plus 'City Lights' had stalled outside the Top 30, so I'm sure 'Coming Home' was a calculated attempt to get his teenybop audience back on board. Not his best effort, but reasonable enough. The man was just a hat and cane away from Paul Nicholas, so he did well to pop up on the charts for the next 10 years or so.

Simon May. Makes you wish you weren't so hard on Randy Edelman, eh? I vaguely remember it, but it was probably too soppy to make much of an impression on even my MOR/pop loving young ears. His vocal was appalling. I'm not sure if he was singing over the single version live, if you catch me, or if it was just badly double-tracked originally.

Liverpool Express. A bad time for a Pilot homage when the 'January' songsters were struggling themselves. Rightly a non-hit. I have absolutely no memory of it, but at least you couldn't accuse them of doing a carbon copy of 'You Are My Love'.

Still love 'Howzat' and still can't believe that turkey-necked singer was only 27! One of those odd songs where the verses were catchier than the chorus, I always felt.

Finally, a bit of 5000 Volts. In an old Record Mirror from Oct 1976, I found a small article on the band who were about to release a new single, 'Light The Flame Of Love', presumably a flop, and their debut album in November. The piece stated that Linda Kelly was expecting her first baby at Christmas. What I wanted to know is, does anyone have any further on Linda, or her child, for that matter? I know she died in 1998 but I can't find anything else about her at all on the internet. I'm afraid I've become somewhat consumed...

wilberforce said...

angelo - maybe "the king" was invited to appear on TOTP, and maybe his manager (the notorious "colonel" parker) declined the offer? after all, he never allowed his charge out of his sight as it might then have been pointed out to elvis that he was being taken for a patsy, and of course the colonel would never travel abroad as he didn't have a passport, and wouldn't apply for one as his shady past might then have come to light...
but then again, maybe the producers considered that by then elvis was just an old has-been who wasn't worth featuring on the show anyway...?

one thing i can't say i'm looking forward to in the 1977 editions is the king's constant presence on the show (in aural or celluloid form) just because he croaked on the crapper! (perhaps the ultimate case of death being a good career move...)

wilberforce said...

bobby - sadly i can't help you with anything more on 5000 volts, other than bring to your attention a fantastic funky disco track they later recorded called "you're looking good" that sadly failed to trouble the chart-compilers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJQ4dDhjyzk

Bobby Morrow said...

Thanks, wilberforce.

BTW, I should correct myself after checking in my trusty chart book that Mr Essex's 'City Lights' actually peaked at #24. Ironically, so did the far more commercial 'Coming Home'. Damn those fickle teenagers!

Simon said...

Given Elvis famously only ever set foot in the UK on a refuelling stop in Prestwich he wouldn't have been on TOTP anyway. He's danced to twice in 1977 while still alive. Maybe there was no footage and the dancer changeover confused matters. You could equally ask why they didn't do James Brown's Get Up Offa That Thing which had just peaked at 22.

Looking at the top 50 from this week, at 34 is Soul Dracula by Hot Blood. Wonder what that could have sounded like, though I imagine Flick would have stayed away from Halloween thematic songs post-Monster Mash.

Arthur Nibble said...

'Soul Dracula' by Hot Blood was on Creole Records. Given that Creole also gave us John Asher's copy of 'Let's Twist Again', The M&O Band rip-off of the 'Latin Hustle' and 'Danger Games' by The Pinkees (admittedly a good song but recorded a bit weedily for my liking), you have an idea of the quality.

wilberforce said...

simon - i live quite near to prestwich (in north manchester) and for a moment thought "how come i wasn't aware the king made his only UK visit there"... but then i realised you meant prestwick in scotland ha ha!

Steve Morgan said...

One thing I noticed about that Tavares vid is that it starts with swirling harps mixed into the intro, while the camera pans upwards in a haze of red light and dry ice. Echoing their previous hit maybe.

Wellieman said...

I tend to think David Essex's 'City Lights' one of his better efforts. Particularly notable for Jeff Wayne's production on this song, and his orchestration which is a practice run for War Of The Worlds. In fact the similarities between between the Eve Of The War and the long ending to City Lights is striking. Have a listen from about 3:00 mins in folks....

Mikey said...

I think the Blockbusters set is the one that the JALN Band used.

I remember that the Pussycat video in this edition was cut shortly after the final credit on its original 1976 transmission. Only on the 2nd and 4th weeks at number one did the song play to the end. The 3rd week was a studio performance that was shorter.

Opening with a video was unusual. Apart from the asbestos-affected edition in June 1988, the only other instance I recall was 20th October 1988 when the D-Mob video opened the show - possibly because the only studio performances that week (Enya and Kylie's Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi) were considered to be too low-tempo to open the show. Incidentally, that edition was also produced by Brian Whitehouse.

Arthur Nibble said...

Woh! What asbestos-affected edition, and how come?

Mikey said...

@Arthur Nibble:

The edition of 2nd June 1988 was broadcast at a time when it was discovered that some studios at TV Centre contained asbestos - this affected several shows, including TOTP, while the problem was sorted out. Consequently, that edition of the Pops could not feature any new studio performances (although repeats of Aztec Camera and Wet Wet Wet were featured), and the whole show was linked from the production gallery (or somewhere similar). The show opened with 3 videos, starting with Aswad.

seekenee said...

Wow that's bizarre I worked as a naive 17 year old on removing asbestos from parts of the gilette factory in London sw, in June 1988.
I thought this week's show quite good, that was a fine run of studio material from the flipper to jaln, or maybe i'm in the mood for it again having become jaded with the repetitious flavour of the Kiki elton era.
Always liked david essex and excited about legs and co I must confess, no I mustn't .

Anonymous said...

That's not a young Sheena Easton on Diddy's left in the last couple of intros??

Bamaboogiewoogie said...

Those rundown pictures, why are the figures in white this week, perhaps a sign that Flick had surrendered? I see one of The Real Thing is wearing those dungarees that looks like a butchers apron. Acker Bilk has nicked Paul Nicholas' bowler.

The Tavares video is okay once it gets going but the dancing at the start looks very amateurish. That ballet move the lead singer is attempting

Christ Simon May was truly dreadful, so bad it was almost good. I collect bad records and recently found a copy of his debut (possibly only) album that includes this song and it features an unused 'personality poster' of Simon in flared jeans looking supposedly sexy (NB he isn't). This song is a piss-poor copy of John Miles' Music which was in turn a piss-poor copy of Richard Harris' MacArthur Park. And as someone above has pointed out we still have the worst of the lot Paul Henry's Benny's Theme to come in January 1978 (although thankfully this never made TOTP despite reaching number 39). I believe this was also in some way a spin-off from Crossroads as was Stephanie De Sykes and Steve Bent of 'I'm Going To Spain' fame.

It's not just Mr May's thin, flat double-tracked vocals (which in truth are not far short of the Pet Shop Boy's Neil Tennant - close your eyes and listen it could be the same person) but also his sweaty face, the self-satisfied looks to the camera and that damn over loud piano glissando that comes in every time starts the chorus - and he isn't even playing it! I feel sorry for poor Lulu forced to make shapes like a doll atop sweaty Simon's grand piano while he whines about the 'last drops of the summer wine'.

David Hamilton is a complete Twonk. He holds holds arm out when Tavares finished even though they weren't in the studio but when Liverpool Express finished he held out the wrong arm. His days were numbered.

The David Essex song was pretty good in retrospect. Sung in a typical effortless style and he audience seem to love it, the guys almost as much as the girls judging by the dancing. Mr Essex's guitarist seems to have invented Freddie Mercury's moustached gay clone look three years before Freddie did.

The JALN Band song is a superb funky groove, I found myself dancing as soon as it came on. I like the two lads with their arms around each others shoulders dancing and punching the air for all their worth at the front of the crowd. They li-i-ike it!

Pussycat come across as a little more animated in the video than they do in the studio even if the drummer is left skin-less. But none of the backing band smile once, perhaps they never got paid.