Parish notice first: were you in the audience for a TOTP recording in 1977? A BBC4 team are putting together the launch documentary for next year's rerun fun and want to hear from you if you were, by emailing david.maguire(at)bbc.co.uk
"Ello darling!" Yeah, of course he'd start like that. Well, here's a turn-up, it's Ed 'Stewpot' Stewart. He was a very occasional visitor to the presenting roster, doing thirty shows between 1968 and 1977, of which still exist... wait for it... three! The last show of 1971 (for which he wears an eyepatch for some reason), a last hurrah in September 1977 and this one. In fact having done 21 shows in 1971 and 1972 he had a three year gap before returning for three in 1975, two in 1976 (a second in December - wiped, of course) and a last hurrah in September 1977. This latter period coincides with his time on Crackerjack*, and he did Junior Choice until 1980, and indeed still does on its annual Christmas Day morning revival on Radio 2. Is he proud of that CV? Will he lose his bearings and attempt to introduce Windmill In Old Amsterdam? Let's see.
Making a return to the countdown is the black and white cutout, this time of Lalo Schifrin smoking a pipe - that was the best promo shot that could be offered? - against a lurid purple backdrop. That sort of low-tech associating got us through that troubled decade together.
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – (I Believe) Love's A Prima Donna
Some rousing organ from a man in the early stages of attempting to look like Roy Wood shepherds in Harley in a red suit, casually leaning on the mike stand before launching into a full set of studied interpretative gestures, never losing eye contact with the camera. So the director decides to test him on that with three sudden and unrepeated wipes to other angles. He nearly misses the first, immediately catches the second and decides not to bother with the third, intenion of staring into your very soul denied. The latest of several things we haven't seen for a while to turn up this week is the punctuative intercut shot of some lights rotating. Unusually, it's the lights rather than the lens that are rotating, though you have to say the studio could do with jazzing up in that respect, it's either moody spotlighting or full-on. As we enter the final stages the guitarist, who looks a bit like Art Garfunkel, comes over to have an arm draped round them Mick Ronson-style, except the effect this time is somewhat different and, had Boy George seen this one instead, might well have turned him straight. "Some lovely guitar work in that as well" Stewpot offers before somewhat ungrammatically suggesting "before you can say Cockney Rebel that'll be up in the charts, I'm sure". It peaked at 41, outside the countdown range. Ah, the TOTP presenter kiss of death.
Demis Roussos – When Forever Has Gone
There's a big announcement and big thread running through the show this week as Stewpot promises a competition, one which "everyone watching this evening has got a chance of winning", as if someone unaware of it might guess the address and question. "Get a pencil and paper within the next fifteen to twenty minutes" he further advises. Now, you know how sometimes Jimmy Savile (RIP) will just carry on for ages at the end of an intro because the timings aren't as they should be? Stewpot seems to have a similar problem here, in that he finds himself needing to string out an intro because the music isn't coming in, but instead of spewing forth filler babble he finds himself going uncomfortably staccato. "Lots of good records. Lots of lovely people on the show. And what better. Next. Number two. In the charts. Demis Roussos." It's like his circuitry was breaking down. This is a different performance to that made at DLT's table side and amid shots of a vast space-like blackness perhaps borrowed from Whistle Test after being shorn of their logo it's the grand return of the Noddy Holder's Hat Memorial many mirrored stage backdrop. Standing here stoutly, someone comes up with the idea of training three cameras at him, one profile, two from either side of the face, capturing every glance aside. He gives his all, we'll say that for him.
Paul Nicholas – Dancing With The Captain
Stewpot is flanked by two young blonde girls in ties, white trousers and untucked shirts, looking vaguely like sailor costumes in fact. "You might recognise two of the faces here" - actually, Ed, there's only two people there, so in that you're asserting nobody recognises your face - "they're two of the daughters of the Beverley sisters, Teddy and Joy", pointing to each in turn. Teddy and Joy were two of the actual Beverley Sisters, so clearly their daughters didn't deserve publicly given names yet. I have consequently no idea if these are the precise daughters of Teddy and Joy who formed a close harmony group called The Foxes,, but from the matching dress you'd imagine so, which would explain why, even in 1976, anyone bar Ed Stewart should care about two of the daughters of the Beverley sisters being introduced to a Top Of The Pops audience. Why might we recognise them anyway if the best Stewpot can come up with is identifying them by their mothers? You might go on to rhetorically ask why a 1976 Top Of The Pops audience should care about the bloke from Godspell prancing in a bowler hat singing about having a party on a ship, but such is pop life. In fact how Stewpot actually ends is "...Teddy and Joy. Here's Paul Nicholas!", so clearly he can't come up with much either. Paul's back in the studio, white jacket and bowler as per, nobody else out to help him this time. This means he has no fallback when he finds he can't help himself on the ad libs. All I'll say is the captain seems to have developed a Jamaican accent. Reggae like it used to be, indeed. Audience members try their best but Nicholas still effortlessly laps them for enthusiasm at this stuff. Orchestra and overmiked Ladybirds make a mess of this, by the way, though it proves they had a specialist penny whistle player.
Rod Stewart – Sailing
Stewpot, sitting at a piano briefly wearing a top hat with an unidentifiable picture in it, reminds us of the pressing need for pencil and paper before promising "lots of good sounds and lots of good sights". If we hadn't been primed by its first appearance his next statement would make for a spectacular non sequitur: "A lot of you saw that marvellous documentary on the HMS Ark Royal. Here's Rod Stewart again". This is the proper video, shot in cinema verite style as Rod in various combinations of often open shirts and tennis shorts wanders around a barge, looks pensive on an aircraft carrier, hangs around with a blonde woman (EDIT: Britt Ekland! Of course!) and talks to some people.
When that's done, we get to the burning issue. Stewpot declares himself "a thorn amongst six roses", the new TOTP dancers. They even get to introduce themselves, all in cut glass RP. Now, given Ruby Flipper (three of whom made the leap across, of course, not that they're treated any differently) were just introduced as if we should know them and have now been got rid of like so much Greek currency this seems effusive, but then again Pan's People did eight years' service and then as far as viewers could see were just handed their cards without warning. Someone must have got the unions involved. The competition is to give them a name, the required details of your postcard entry - Stewpot just said get some paper earlier, if we had to go to the extra expense of a postcard he should have said so - displayed on the time honoured huge replica complete with cartoon of a stamp - 'DANCERS COMP.' via BBC Television Centre W12 8QT, of course. All entries must be in by first post 1st November and "a set of judges" will make the decision, the winner somehow giving the group their name "formally". By decree? How does that work? It's something of a surprise all this made the edit, actually, with modern BBC compliance structure you wouldn't have thought a repeat could go around giving out addresses.
John Miles – Remember Yesterday
Oh blimey, another man and his piano and his earnest plaintiveness. Miles is wearing far too tight a shirt and far too shaggy a blonde haircut for a man of his balledic standing. As is his trademark it changes pace between the verses and chorus, it being unfortunate that both speeds are pedestrian.
Average White Band – Queen Of My Soul
"Some lovely girls around me" - does that count the bloke at the back? - "we've got some lovely girls for you now". It's the debut of Dance Troupe To Be Named but not that auspicious a beginning, stuck out on a tiny stage in tops that are attached to long bits of fabric they have to keep hold of throughout. All six get their turn at smiling at their own close-up twice over before some spinning and general veil waving. Still, it's something to build from.
Climax Blues Band – Couldn’t Get It Right
Or as Stewpot goes and calls it, Gonna Get It Right. No, that's the exact opposite. The Musician's Union demand to re-record everything before air really drives a coach and horses through this one that no amount of green flare solarisation or the tremendous volume of hair on show can cover for, as the groove develops leaden boots and Colin Cooper sings the whole thing as if he has other things on his mind. Perhaps it's the saxophone he holds onto like a pacifier throughout. Buy a strap, man. When he does actually play it it's both in melodic tune with and in the mix completely overshadowed by the guitar solo so ends up pointless.
Pussycat – Mississippi
"Time to introduce our number one, and who better than the number one boxer in Britain and Europe, Joe Bugner!" Well, Stewpot, there's you, given that's what you're there for. Bugner had in fact won the British and European belts off Richard Dunn nine days earlier, a year after being KO'd by Ali, which supposedly made him ideal for going "Pussycat, Mississippi" as if he wasn't expecting to be asked. And, bar a wave, some standing around looking useless and the regulation comedy sparring on the fade to the video - Crazyboat again - that's the whole of his contribution. Hope he had other things to do within TVC that day.