Thursday, 15 December 2011

TOTP 9/12/76 (tx 15/12/11): there's no-one quite like grandma

"Sometimes you see a piece of footage and think, "Oh that's why pop music exploded then". A perfect example is the series of Top of the Pops shows from 1976 currently being shown on BBC4: they are collectively so nauseating – badly shot, terrible sexist middle-aged DJs, awful novelty records – you can immediately see why punk had to happen." - Jon Savage

I'm not sure directorial quality is what drove Rotten and McLaren to the barricades, but never mind. Pops never really changed once punk did happen, of course, it just had a lot of second tier punk bands on instead of earnest singer-songwriters. Anyway, we begin this compressed run of the last four shows of 1976 in eight days (five TOTPs in eight if you count the TOTP2 Christmas special) in the company of a flywinged David Hamilton.

The Kursaal Flyers – Little Does She Know
Hang on, what? I wonder how many turned off thinking it was a repeat of the last show when this came on. Someone has to have pulled out late as it's rare enough that the same song opens the show twice, never mind on consecutive eligible showings. To make it even more jarring, even though they're in the studio with Diddy the set is different and the band are differently arranged everyone still seems to be wearing the same clothes - same check suit, same garland, same Panama hat. Perhaps they did that knowingly. Even the laundrette theme is kept up, this time with oversized fake big box powders. Obviously there's a Brand X, but primarily stationed at the back is Sudso, a washing powder brand later brought to life in Harry Enfield's Norbert Smith: A Life. Coincidence? (Yes.) Someone's learnt their lesson with fewer full-face close-ups of Paul Shuttleworth and more precisely the much discussed teeth, but we do get to see in fuller motion his filling during the instrumental break, involving a lot of back and forth pacing and wanton arm swinging, even a pelvic thrust at one juncture. At least someone's pleased to be back there.

ABBA – Money Money Money
Diddy seems restrained tonight - few jokes or even attempts, no Tony Blackburn references. The one time he does get to show off he's manaically throwing fivers back over his shoulder to somehow illustrate the central tenet of this song. Let's hope nobody was severely injured in the rush. It's the proper video this time, featuring plenty of iconic use of the satin all-in-ones alongside closeups of small amounts of money, which maybe defeats the song's purpose, and Annifrid laughing in the back of an open topped car, with all four in formal evening dress suggesting they got the suits and dresses on hire but couldn't think of anything else to do within the budget.

Jethro Tull – Ring Out Solstice Bells
Lock up your impressionable kids. The Tull hadn't had a hit for five years and apart from an unlikely top 40 placing for a reissue of Living In The Past in 1993 wouldn't again, which means there was a whole swathe of kids unused to Ian Anderson's ways. And oh, those ways are out in force tonight - not just the manaical flute playing on on leg, or the staring down the camera lens like a man possessed by many daemons even when it's not pointing straight at him, but the full neckerchief inclusive country squire outfit, the kicking out in time with power chords, some threatening pointing, the twice mid-held note readjustment of the hat to a rakish angle before pulling the flute over his shoulder as if off to battle with it as his weapon, which in the circumstances may be the case. And then the first verse finishes. The director, perhaps the only man thinking this could do with some visual aid, chooses to montage some kaleidoscopic circular lights around him, but those are seen off as Anderson removes his hat for final push emphasis. Most people, with a hat in one hand and a flute in the other, might limit their gesticulations. Not Ian. At the end, as some actual tubular bells are played by a man in a similar hat and expression, the keyboard player emerges in his crimson jacket to take up the handclapping slack in nothing that resembles strict time and Anderson remembers he was supposed to be miming that flute part, he's not even half spent.

Mike Oldfield – Portsmouth
Well, there's only one way Legs & Co can approach Oldfield's sailor's hornpipe and that's full doublet and hose. Except with microskirts, obviously. And big hats with a feather in the top. And knee length boots that look like they're made out of cricket pads and carpet underlay. And then getting the whole audience to wave blue ribbons for some reason. Hang on, they're not supposed to represent the sea's waves, are they? Given there's a model palm tree at one end of the rectangular stage they must be. So why are the Middle Ages Legs doing their routine on a mock desert island? While Portsmouth is technically an island, there's nothing in Oldfield's score that suggests underlying Robinson Crusoe tendencies. There's some leapfrogging and Pauline jumping on someone's (commenters!) back who then hightails it back off to the wings before come collective can-can strides, another Patti solo before the routine takes on hat-twirling and jumping properties. And then... cue parrot! Not that it does anything other than sit there looking away from the action slightly bemusedly, but that's really pushing your concept routine to its cliche potential. The climax comes with all six throwing something small, plentiful, shiny and round into the willing if tired of arm by now audience. Possibly sweets, probably not money maybe secret memory wiping drugs. Who can say. Diddy makes sure to credit the parrot. Chalky, apparently. Bought off Jim Davidson, perhaps.

Tommy Hunt – One Fine Morning
As Legs & Co tidy up and remove hats in the background Diddy makes sure to mention Hunt's previous hit, which we didn't see. "He's right over there so let's meet him" he then suggests. We can't, Diddy, he's on television. We're at home. Against a backdrop of red light shells with some sort of dark gauze over the middle, lighting tips straight out of a bordello, Hunt's attire also seems to be inspired by the Middle Ages, this time a long brown smock with a single large attachment in the middle which seems to have been sewn on seperately to both sides, part-Robin Hood follower, part-medieval knight school play. Hunt, bubble permed and ready for action, keeps threatening to break into full body popping when he gets a couple of seconds, but when he gets a proper musical break that allows him to start really moving his extremities atop the wedding cake stage he looks less like the James Brown he is in his mind and more attempting to stamp out a small fire. If only his mike technique was as advanced, as he keeps pulling the mike away from himself mid-line.

Dana – Fairytale
Diddy has company, "some young people who've come over from Northern Ireland". They're from the Youth Peace Group, which Diddy doesn't touch on in favour of mentioning they're spending part of a week they won in London at the studio instead of shopping or furthering their cause or something useful. Having questioned them on what they make of it (kids: "brilliant!" Diddy: "terrific!") they get to wave at the camera as their compatriot is introduced. As followers of the comments will know, this was on a recent wiped show and went down well. Basically it's simple, classy 70s pop with a hint of Cliff and a video for which, after a light blue colour fill effect at the start and after the first chorus, required very little outlay, Dana and her neckerchief seemingly doing the whole thing in one or two takes with one or two cameras in an otherwise empty studio. She puts her all into the singing, credit her with that.

Paul Nicholas – Grandma’s Party
And from simple concept to this... thing. If, as the Rezillos would maintain two years later, TOTP is "a stock market for your hi-fi", here's our Eurozone. Instead of Diddy in vision we get a shot of a pastel Christmas card scene against a blank screen - did someone forget to record this link and he have to fill afterwards? - as he introduces "some very lively grandmas". And yes, it's that man and his bowler and cane again. Just in case we hadn't spotted, the first line is "I brush my bowler and I grab my cane". That's creating an image. No mention of why he's chosen a mid-length towelling robe instead of proper clothing as he's not getting ready for the party, he's on his way or actually there for most of the song. Behind him Legs & Co in hats, glasses, long coats and skirts are your partying grandmas. Who says Flick was too literal? Excellently, during a section of freeform gran dancing one of them - Lulu, it's reckoned - struts across the lip of the stage in front of Nicholas and to his evident double take surprise while he's singing. Got to take those standing out opportunities while you can.

Showaddywaddy – Under The Moon Of Love
New number one, sort of. Diddy concludes his description of the band with "from Leicester!" as if it's an actual selling point. It's the black/white suits routine from last time, even though they were man enough to come in and film a new setting for the Christmas show, of which more next week as you know.

Special bonus material
For probably the first time all re-run, possibly under the guidance of latest producer standin Stanley Appel (who'd permanently take the show over in 1991 and give it an ill-fated revamp) there's a proper outro this week rather than credits over the number one or shots of some lights. Remember the days when not everyone was expected to be into football and those who were weren't shy about mentioning it? Look how uncomfortable this girl is being propositioned by the man who is still Fulham's matchday announcer before a chance to... no, not 'see', more 'experience' the audience dancing on camera. Levels of comfort and proportion of people watching the monitors just in case seem to have remained constant throughout the years. Watch for the forearm-first style of the well fed kid in the big scarf and huge flares, the girl inventing Phil Oakey's hairdo about four years too early and those Northern Ireland peace corps really moving.

20 comments:

Suefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arthur Nibble said...

A couple of ‘so nice to...’ thoughts came into my head tonight. Firstly, so nice to watch this re-run uninterrupted, whereas the original editions would be punctuated by my dad saying “What’s this crap!” during what would inevitably be my favourite song of the show. Secondly, although Mike Oldfield’s effort isn’t proper Crimbo - it really needed a festive title – it’s so nice to hear other Xmas songs that you rarely catch on the radio. I could name a good half-dozen modern standards that I hear every day and can’t stand due to the monotony (Slade, Wizzard and Elton John apart) and if I hear that bloody Mariah Carey again...!

Interesting to see The Kursaal Flyers drummer relegated to the back with his prominent position taken by that babe magnet, Car Salesman. Subliminal plug for thinking man’s stadium band Brand X within the props, though I don’t recall any prog rock band called Sudso.

A nostalgic moment when Diddy flashes what I wrongly thought were pound notes. Sob sob, I miss those! Much better Abba video this time round (though I don’t get the relevance of the judo outfits) and Frida gives it her all – no miming there, you can see her tongue and lips wavering tunefully.

Next comes the scariest man ever to grace the show, apart maybe from Julian Cope, wielding the flute like a cane – eat that and take note, Paul Nicholas! – and using it to much greater effect than Jesse Green’s flautist mate Super Mario. Proper Christmas number, this. The only down side was yet another drummer in shorts!

I agree about ‘Portsmouth’ - I understand the pirate theme, but remind me, which tropical paradise is Portsmouth located on? Did they get Southsea mixed up with the South Seas? I’d have preferred a good morris dance scene complete with hankies myself.

Looks like they had one pirate outfit left over and lent it to Tommy Hunt. An obvious crowd pleaser, the girls liked this one. Unusual thumb-almost-covering-mic stance but some lovely sashays. This was one of Spark Records’ self pronounced Northern Soul releases – they managed to get eight or nine such numbers in the top 50 – and I actually thought the orchestra made a good fist of the backing.

As pointed out by Simon in a previous rundown, I can imagine Cliff hearing ‘Fairytale’ and going “Damn!” – well, maybe not quite, but this cracking little tune would have been perfect for him at the time. Dana’s last big hit, though she returns with a quirky, humorously written minor hit later on.

From the sublime to the ridiculous – that bloody hat / chest / cane / grin ensemble which, thankfully, is coming to the end of its chart career. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Mud’s last hit’s been swept away, Legs & Co nick their Tiger Feet dance for the instrumental part!

And so our host does one of his customary points way yonder to...that same Waddy clip. Where were the lazy arses? Can’t believe they only bothered to make one studio appearance to cover all the countless screenings this song got during its chart ascent. Almost as lazy as Elton and Kiki in that respect.

We get another of Diddy’s classic lines – David, we won’t bee able to SEE you on the radio tomorrow! – soon followed by a pneumatic woman in a Carry On-style T-shirt, some chubster in black frugging away, and an entire play for Billy Ocean’s second best song in my opinion – a rare treat. Christmas arrived early!

Steve Williams said...

I really enjoyed this episode, it was great fun. I like how Diddy's jumper seemed to have the same pattern as one of the sets.

The bonus dancing was fantastic. These shots were on TV Heroes of course but I never knew what episode they were from or what they were dancing to. The finger-clicking bloke in the stripy V-neck looks so much like my dad in 1976 - the wedding photos confirm that - that despite his denials I'm still not convinced it isn't him. Funny how they were able to fit all this in as well as eight other songs whereas in recent months we've been play-out-free. It certainly got a move on this show, anyway.

I love the Jethro Toe song and the performance. The first time my sister and I saw the performance for The Witch's Promise we were in hysterics, this one isn't quite so manic but still hugely enjoyable.

The fat bloke from The Kursaal Flyers was at least in the same postcode as the rest of the band this week but still didn't look like he was actually properly in them, I don't think he looked at his bandmates for the entire performance. Must have been some kind of row.

Angelo Gravity said...

Alright I'm going to defend the bowler hated one here - I liked Grandmas Party at the time and I still think its a good song!
But watching it made me wonder if Legs and Co could have had any idea that 35 years later this routine would be repeated when they actually looked like the grannies they were portraying!

The Man said...

If you based your perception of pop on totp 1976, then Paul Nicholas would be one of the biggest stars.

Bizarre...

Arthur Nibble said...

Angelo, did you mean to say bowler hatted or bowler hated? Both seem to fit! Actually, I quite liked the follow-up, Heaven On The 7th Floor, which made top 40 but only just. As for The Man's comment, indeed true, just as Bill Oddie was amongst the top five most successful songwriters in 1975.

More sad news about a recent TOTP artist - after Buddy and Andrea, and of course Jim'll, we've now lost Billie Jo, setting up her blanket on a cloud somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Middle aged djs? Edmonds 28, DLT 31,Blackburn 33?

The Man said...

Re: Billie Jo

The curse of totp 1976, Arthur?

Arthur Nibble said...

I don't think so, it's just the way it is, as Bruce Hornsby once put it.

Looking forward to the turkey in the next regular unwiped edition!

Wellieman said...

Another half-decent episode. The 'Flyers performance looked and sounded much better; but still an odd-looking bunch.

Agree with comments above that Mike Oldfield's Portsmouth always, in my mind, goes with Christmas along with last year's In Dulci Jubilo (and even the Blue Peter theme he did that sounded the same).

As mentioned previously love the Dana track, and, yeh, she still ticks all the right boxes. Funny how she ended up in politics - didn't she just miss out on the Ireland Presidency last month?

Now I'm not the most musically-able but wasn't Grandma's Party exactly the same song as Dancing With The Captain but with different words? At least the dancin' Grandma's provided some visual distraction from this pap. Funny but my elder brother used to buy his records, the same lad who within six months would be sneaking in a copy of God Save The Queen!

Talking of which can you imagine how surreal it would have been if Diddy had gone on to introduce an up and coming band who had just entered the chart at No. 44 with their new release, 'Anarchy In The UK'? By rights he should have done as it was one place above Tommy Hunt and four above Jethro Tull. At least we can look forward to Tony Blackburn's body language when he finally gets to introduce some of the punk and new wave bands he so loathed in the coming months.

I now find Ian Anderson's theatrical performances very entertaining, but he sure scared the pants of young kids who were watching.

Then, yes, we finally got to the best bit which was the play out song. Now compare all the hot chicks gyrating wildly in cages in the 1970 episodes with the plain, lifeless, dowdy bunch we watch now. What the hell happened? Honestly it was just like one of the school discos I used to go to at my comprehensive school in Grimsby! Fascinating viewing none the less and, yes, that Billy Ocean song is growing on me too. Roll on next week....

Noax said...

Po-faced idiots like Jon Savage really annoy the hell out of me. All this endless blah about punk, honestly, what is wrong with liking pop music?!
I thought this week's was a good'un, but then this must be the period when I first started watching TOTP as I have vivid memories of several songs (and even performances) from around this time so I may be biased.

Kursaal Flyers - A much better performance this time around, and I'm impressed that they got 2 different themed sets.

Jethro Tull - I think I'm well known as a hippy-hater round these parts (!) so no surprise that I can't stand this then. I dare say this will be on the TOTP2 Christmas show as it is every single year.

Mike Oldfield - Hooray, I love this! Were they dishing out chocolate coins at the end? That would make sense. By the way Diddy, it's not Legs and Company. Had nobody actually told him, do you think? He hadn't been on for a while at this point I don't think.

Tommy Hunt - For a non-hit, this is pretty bloody impressive and really should've been Top 20 at least. Tommy looks really excited to be there but how old is he? Must be 40 at least.

Dana - Hooray again! Shame this was her only decent song. Shame also that she's now a bit of a silly cow regarded as a joke of a politician by most sensible people in Ireland. She wasn't even close to beating the Worzel Gummidge-alike that got voted in.

Paul Nicholas - Poor, really, though I think I liked it at the time. Same routine, same props. Boring.
The Christmas card intro was a bit weird - I half expected a dissolve into Diddy. I wonder if they had to bin a link for whatever reason.

Bonus dancing - When this has appeared on various shows over the years I always assumed the footage was from about 1973 (imagine Jon Savage saying this is why punk HAD TO HAPPEN at this point if you like) and I like the chubby kid best. Suspiciously, he's wearing a black and white scarf - did Diddy get all the Fulham fans in?!

dunkiep said...

Chubby kid dancing at the end looks suspiciously like Grange Hill's Pogo Patterson. I used to love that Paul Nicholas song, but I was 5 years old at the time. Yeah, I enjoyed this week's show more than most. I've got to a point where I reckon I can remember watching them 1st time round.

wilberforce said...

regarding "middle-aged" DJ's - as barry cryer once said: how many 120-year old people do you know? as such at 50 i am now what you might call "late middle-aged"... even though i'm still 15 in my head ha ha!

bearing in mind the haircuts and musical styles, shouldn't the singers in the kursaal flyers and showaddywaddy have switched bands?

was the "tull" keyboard player in the red jacket the same one who later had a sex change?

like other contributors i find myself quite liking dana's "fairytale" even though i tell myself i shouldn't, but in the video i noticed a more-than-passing resemblance to sheena easton - have they ever been seen in the same room together?

when the boys and girls get down to billy ocean at the end there's a brief shot (at 55sec) of a couple of fantastic-looking glamourous blondes (especially the one in the low-cut gold lame top), that are sadly soon passed over in favour of the speccy dowdy types that normally comprise a TOTP studio audience ...

Stephen said...

Bowler hat. Cane. Bad dancing. Smug grin.

I'm really starting to despise Paul Nicholas...

Erithian said...

Angelo – re Legs and Co looking like the grandmas now – dunno about the rest but Sue (born 1955) is only 56 now, and I’d reckon she’s still a looker. People don’t age like they used to!

Wellieman – I treasure the memory of the time Tony Blackburn was doing the Top 40 rundown the week the Dead Kennedys entered the chart with “Too Drunk To F---“. The sheer contempt in his voice as he said “at number 36 is a record by a group who choose to call themselves The Dead Kennedys.”

Noax – a contributor on Popular reports having seen Tommy Hunt at the Forum three or four years ago and says “he was in great voice ... most impressive for someone in his mid 70s”. So 40 in 1976 sounds about right. (Oh, why don’t I just Google him? Wow – turns out he was born on 18 June 1933 – so 43 on this TOTP – and had a huge hit in the US in 1958 as a member of the Flamingos with a version of “I Only Have Eyes For You” – see www.tommyhunt.co.uk .)

wilberforce said...

a thought has occurred to me: maybe the chubby dancing kid with the fulham scarf is diddy junior?

Chris Barratt said...

I'm starting to think that singer out of The Kursaal Flyers may represent a certain pinnacle in "so bad it's good" stakes of 70s TOTP... He even looks fantastically ridiculous in the Chart rundown photo of the band.

Lee said...

I've pretty much remembered every song from these 1976 shows, but for some reason I had never heard of Tommy Hunt??

wilberforce said...

i don't remember tommy hunt either... but then again northern soul is sheer anathema to me so maybe that's why?

Bamaboogiewoogie said...

I remember Tommy Hunt very well. I bought Loving On The Losing Side at the time. I missed this one back then but it's very good. I love his trick with the mic where he keeps threatening to pull it away from his mouth to break into an impromptu dance but leaves it until the near end. He overdoes it a bit mind you and it's in danger of looking like a Jack Douglas-Alf Ippititimus nervous tick.

The Kursaal Flyers weren't all dressed the same, the lead singer was wearing a nasty satin suit with cummerbund last time, here he is wearing a loud checkered lounge suit but the others are all dressed more-or-less the same.

Legs and Co dancing to Mike Oldfield - the audience were not only waving blue ribbons to represent the sea but some were holding imitation fish and lobsters. Bizarre!

Surely the 'Seasons Greetings' caption for Paul Nicholas is supposed to represent an invitation to Grandma's party.

Loving the extended crowd dancing at the end. This is my fave Billy Ocean track (even if it is obviously based on The Stylistics' I Can't Give You Anything). The Pogo Patterson lookalike was really going for it big time with those fists and that determined look on his face - such confidence to make a prat of himself 'live' on TV. I also like the Deidre Barlow clone with the scarf tied to her wrist and the two couples all wearing the 'I'm Yours All This Weekend' tee shirts, I've seen them in the crowd before (I notice quite a few regulars - must be mates of the producer).