Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #10: The Associates - 18 Carat Love Affair

This isn't a performance you see very often but it's a story that's told quite a lot whenever the Associates' blend of luxurious Europa pop and financial extravagance is retold. While the octave swooping Billy Mackenzie exudes his usual magnetism without actually bodily doing too much Alan Rankine, stage right, is playing a chocolate guitar, £230 all in from Thorntons, and you'll see he has two of them. You'll see it if you're quick, mind, as whether the director had spotted it or not is unclear but you don't get to see his confectionary instrument all that much, or at least a good look at its constitution. There's a brief shot at 1:29, then at 2:00 he's trying his best to give the first one away before realising he'd best get the other one and continue trying to look convincing. Would you willingly take a lump of chocolate cradled by a masculine gentleman for several minutes under hot studio lights?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Something to do this bank holiday

EDIT: News this morning that Flick Colby has died of cancer aged 65.

"Can you name the presenters (not including celebrity guest hosts) of BBC TV music show Top Of The Pops?"

Also from the online banks, for the 900th show in July 1981 TOTP introduced Yellow Pearl as its new theme, for which Jimmy Saville gave Phil Lynott his official title.

Friday, 27 May 2011

TOTP 20/5/76 (tx 26/5/11): disco stew

And in our weekly series of 'what are they playing at?', having skipped a Saville episode next week TOTP isn't on at all on 6th June, though it does definitely return the following week when of course it'll be back up to date, as it were. Why they couldn't have had a break next week for that purpose is their pregorative.

"This is one programme I can introduce standing on my head" quoth the Diddy. The picture flips. "See what I mean?" No, David, not technically.

Marmalade – Walking A Tightrope
And it's a jolt of anti-nostalgia immediately as Marmalade have a golliwog on their dual drum heads, shown in obliging close-up right at the start. No, Marmalade, that's Robinson's Jam there. (Obvious reasons, of course, but there's a huge character brand that hasn't made the collective memory leap despite being among the most famous there was in its day - I was watching Bob Godfrey's Oscar winning Brunel cartoon Great not long ago and he makes a cameo in that) Otherwise it's four grinning men of indeterminate hair volume, and in the case of the singer a luxurious full moustache, who'd had their big hit eight years previously, reformed in 1975 after that lineup fell apart, had scored a surprise top ten single in February and thought they could follow it with a slight concoction heavy on Radio 2 (as in what it was like back then) strings. They didn't. Plus point: the drummer looks like Noel Edmonds would had he been accidentally swapped at birth with a Bee Gee. "The only thing to offer Marmalade is a toast" says David, in a joke that looks far more workable written down than the way he delivers it. Then he tells a joke about a tightrope walker. He's on it tonight, ladies and gentlemen.

Tina Charles – Love Me Like A Lover
In blowsy frilly top and huge red skirt Charles comes across as less disco diva, more minor character in Little House On The Prairie.

Robin Sarstedt – My Resistance Is Low
David obligingly quotes the lyrics in introduction. With a costume and set borrowed from the Havana bureau, pot plants breaking out all over, and without dancing backup Sarstedt looks a little lost for staging, trying to exude international man of travel and mystery loucheness through being seated on wicker next to a table bearing a decent bottle and glass of rose. He just looks like he's waiting for inspiration to strike but this'll do for the rehearsal. Trying to add something to it a woman's face, presumably a Flipperite but we're no good at recognition, appears in overlay but all that does is make the director miss the appearance on screen of a camera. Then he takes a sip during the middle eight, after which he looks simultaneously sated, smug and distracted. Never a good look. As a last ditch effort, he looks to the side and grins to camera. By now he's clearly regretting not putting out the shorter single option. We get a brief look at him in the background once Hamilton starts again, and he's clearly broken down in laughter. He was a one hit wonder. You don't seem shocked.

Showaddywaddy – Trocadero
As a 'waddy guide we're well past Three Steps To Heaven but still six months short of kettle drum frenzy Under The Moon Of Love. Dual vocalists, one of whom sounds exactly like the R Whites Lemonade singer, but with just two guitars, one bass and one drummer, and it's one of their own so you'd think they'd have planned for that, two of the famously overmanned band are reduced to dancing duties, most of which the camera fails to pick up. Despite being a song about dancing with girls down the palais nobody would slash their cinema seat to something this thin. At this point in real life actual teddy boys were busy beating up punks. Showaddywaddy are still going with three original members, albeit two being a bassist and drummer. They're playing Summer Sundae festival in August on the same day as Wilko Johnson plays a smaller stage. It's like this very year all over again.

Wings - Silly Love Songs
Ruby Flipper's only appearance this week, and Diddy obligingly points out that it's just Cherry, Patti and Lulu. The whole male angle of the new team being sidelined three weeks in, then. That said, the girls are wearing bikini bottoms they might well have been shoehorned into and tops that pretty much do their intended job and use up no extra material. A group of candles is what passes for a backdrop. Before long the curse of Flick Colby Short Lead-In Time Choreography kicks in, quizzical looking around for "I look around me" a particular highlight amid the flailing and shaking. Meanwhile Ms Gillespie is confirmed as the queen of the cutaway close-up facial expression.

Mud – Shake It Down
David has two Mud fans with him, insomuch as they're wearing tinsel encrusted stovepipe hats and rosettes with Les Gray's face on. Somehow, and I'm fully aware of Rob Davis' subsequent CV (he's co-credited for this song), Mud doing funk disco is even more ludicrous a concept this week. This clip is from their Noel-fronted first appearance, but let the record show what was going on here.

IT'S JUST LIKE STUDIO 54. No green trousers this week, but the bassist still has that glove on and the guitar solo and breakdown are overlaid with that girl Cherry in some sort of Spanish influenced dress shaking that thing of hers again. The band look no younger or less cab driver-like either. They bow at the end, which is nice of them. "Have you ever shaken it down? You wanna try it some time, you could get to like it" David says, propositioning a much younger girl.

The Four Seasons – Silver Star
Same performance as last time. Check the tags for that.

Cliff Richard – Devil Woman
Not the same performance. Just before two of the girls surrounding him nearly contrive to throw themselves in front of a marauding camera David seems to think said woman is Cliff's confidante, even though the song clearly states that's really not what he wants. Worth noting Cliff's 'I'M NEARLY FAMOUS' T-shirt (over a wide lapelled blue shirt) promoting his album, which he distributed around his most famous friends so they could be seen wearing it at social functions, and indeed David is wearing a badge with the same slogan on. Now that's a level of viral marketing the likes of which that agency group Lost In Showbiz and Caitlin Moran are always going on about need to look into. Cliff's jeans are still far too tight for someone of his age and experience. "I think we've made 64 entries" he boasts afterwards. Neither host nor performer has anything else to say.

ABBA – Fernando
Again with that bloody fire. Still, won't be up there by the time we catch up with the series again. Diddy signs off with as many people as he can find from the show surrounding him. Les Gray is clearly eyeing up Tina Charles. Tina Charles, while maybe not having spotted him, is clearly terrified. I need someone from our fantastic commenting community to look at this and confirm what Hamilton says to Charles immediately before introducing the O'Jays playout, because it sounds spectacularly rude to me.

EDIT NEWS: Sutherland Brothers again, the Stones again and, with the re-run's third talkbox, a promo for Peter Frampton coming alive with Show Me The Way with his name in huge lights over the stage.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #9: Elvis Costello and the Attractions - I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down

He's a very serious artist, you know. (Also: free rundown of a chart from February 1980. If the wind changes Keith Michell will stay like that)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Reggae like it used to be: a special Yes It's Number One investigation

Didn't you feel there was something important missing from this week's TOTP half hour edit?

Ruby's Flipper now. Well, he's getting there. And again, Mr Travis, is this your show or music's?

Thing is, we feel the Johnny Pearson orchestra aren't quite reflecting the roots riddim fullness of the recorded version.

Paul Nicholas - Reggae Like It Used To Be

Still not exactly Trenchtown and there's still that sax solo, but the percussion and organ are getting there. That look to camera, however, is just unnerving. Nobody can say he isn't making full use of that cane, though.

That song's popularity with prime time music fans made us think. Perhaps due to its loping nature and relative novelty, inauthentic reggae was quite common in its day. We all know about Sting and post-Labour Of Love UB40, but as far as white westerners getting their I and I on and celebrating the act and art of reggae in a way reggae never requested they are the Beatles by comparison...

Let's start with 1971's Ben Sherman shirt of a song Johnny Reggae by the Piglets, written and produced by a man we daren't name not out of PC-ness but because he has a habit of turning up on forums and suchlike where he's mentioned in whatever context. This is a common cause of Nicholas-style inauthentic reggae, the belief that that third beat emphasis rhythm and going 'reggae' a lot makes a record automatically irie. Much as the narrator being called Mavis ages it exactly, even Lorraine Chase blanches at that much of an accent. "He's stupid over football and he looks me in the eyes when he shoots"? I see.

Mind you, it's not just fly by nights wanting to make a chart buck that went for it. Here's Sandie Shaw.

From 1972 and a show called 2G's And The Pop People, a LWT vehicle for The Second Generation (the difficult second TV dance troupe after the Lythgoe-spawning The Young Generation). They could stage a performance - Scott Walker, for instance - but someone, even in an age where The Black and White Minstrel Show was still going, green lighted an inexplicable mix of Shaw's uncomfortable RP-from-Jamaica, a version of music hall standard Burlington Bertie, hats and the lyric "reggae is alive, you can ask Leeroy and Clive". Sandie Shaw retired from performing later that year.

And then... then, there's comedy reggae.

Russ Abbot, or as the track is credited on the 1983 Madhouse album King Wilf and the Rastaplasts, with Burnley Is Babylon. It's that mixture of ITV sitcom theme horns, dub echo, northern slang and the idea of Russ Abbot laying down references to "smoking the 'erb" that makes it such a winner, I feel.

So there's our candidates. Feel free to leave comments adding links to examples of similarly non-roots reggae that can match up to all of the above.

Friday, 20 May 2011

TOTP 13/5/76 (tx 19/5/11): have you ever sung about a harvester before?

Last time I posted about a missed episode it turned up anyway, but it seems the episode to be shown on June 2nd according to current advance schedules will be that originally broadcast on 3rd June, missing out the 27th May broadcast. Again, if this is true we can only speculate - has host Jimmy Savile blocked his shows from the run? Has the tape, shown on UK Gold in the dim and distant past, been lost? Who knows, because we'll never conclusively find out after the start of May shenanigans. What we'll miss if it's not shown, as well as a lot of repeats including JJ Barrie and a band who make their notable TOTP debut in this week, is this Ruby Flipper masterwork.

Also, turns out someone else is also doing this show blogging business.

Dave Lee Travis in an all black outfit, including gloves, that he doesn't wear for the rest of the show. Also, a full head gorilla mask. The reason is unclear, except perhaps to the family conscious what with the possibility of having to be exposed to his features for half an hour at a time. At least he doesn't mention the already falling Laurie Lingo & the Dipsticks at all. Not even subconsciously.

City Boy – The Hap-ki-do Kid
Glossary required here. Hap-ki-do is a Korean martial art that seems to have died out in the west apart from with Wesley Snipes, which at its best looks like this. City Boy were a Birmingham-based pop-rock band in the finest tradition, led by the future leader of the Maisonettes, who'd have a big hit with 5-7-0-5 in 1978 and would be one of Mutt Lange's first successes as a producer. Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas had been eighteen months earlier and record labels weren't quite as quick back then. Neither were City Boy at adapting to television - singer in white suit and neckerchief looking like Bob Mortimer when he did a sketch as Noel Edmonds, guitarist in top hat who clearly wants to be the frontman instead, bassist in leathers, keyboard player resembling the modern day Roger Daltrey a huge head of late 70s footballer/early Princess Di hair. The lyrics, by the way, are entirely about a kid who's good at hap-ki-do, but to an AM radio funk-rock backing that nobody would do faux martial arts moves to on the dancefloor. "An exciting new sound", apparently.

Lee Garrett – You're My Everything
"Alright! Laid back!" Garrett starts, rather too urgently. No, not illfated teen idol Leif, but the co-writer of Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours and Stevie Wonder collaborator (also blind, apparently, though it's not apparent from his stage style) Fairly standard pop-soul by rote, actually, up until out of the second chorus when he takes advantage of live vocals and breaks into a monologue that isn't in the published lyrics: "yeah, for a kid that got thrown up, beat out of radio stations a million times I think I've done pretty good - you have faith in yourself and I'm pretty sure you'll be on Top Of The Pops too, ha ha! All you have to do is have faith in you and you can make it baby, believe it, take it from me!" Nobody cares. Perhaps they lost him at the bit where he was beaten for throwing up in radio studios.

Diana Ross – Love Hangover
DLT has a plastic duck wearing either a sombrero or woolly hat tucked into the top buttoned up button of his shirt. Wacky, see. He then pretends to introduce Groovy Kipper instead of Ruby Flipper. Two weeks in and already the presenters don't have faith in them. It's a fascinating routine with a story, starting with some interpretative arm waving on a bed before the disco section kicks in and everyone else turns up in outfits straight from The Stud. We can't work out whether one of the awkward looking males is Paul Nicholas or a Flipper ringer. He looks similar and has the curly head of hair, and in a white ten gallon hat he's not really dancing much, just... exuding.

Slik – Requiem
Everyone's remembered their baseball gear this week, and Midge's plaintiveness to camera lessons are coming on a treat, before the director goes and misses nearly all of his solo. It gets a bit too jaunty for a true requiem, it has to be said.

Andrea True Connection – More More More
The story of how a hardcore porn actress, stranded in Jamaica by political unrest, chose to spend her downtime making a disco classic is well thumbed. Not unreasonably for someone involved in the most underground of filmic arts she's not a natural performer in this promo clip. Squeezed into tremendously tight hotpants and a fringed pale shirt she may be, but her idea of dancing to the funky rhythm is swinging her arse a bit. She also looks about ten years older than she was, but that's unforgiving yellow lighting for you.

Jimmy James and the Vagabonds – I’ll Go Where Your Music Takes Me
Some jaunty dancing leading with the elbows by a man in a hat down the front momentarily distracts from a set of Vagabonds - supper club chancers, as mentioned when this was first on the show - whose choice of yellow shirts and pale blue suits both makes them blend into backing band background and makes them stand out next to their sharper suited leader. In the instrumental break there seems to be some spoon against bottles percussion in the middle of the mix. Perhaps it's there because someone in the orchestra was under-utilised that week.

Gladys Knight and the Pips – Midnight Train To Georgia
Afro'd effortlessness from Knight, Pips in choreographed swinging to either side in 1930s design style suits. You'd expect nothing less. And then "me hearties, it's time to grunch your groats". No, Dave, that's pirates.

The Wurzels – Combine Harvester
What are we to do with this?

The classic banjo/sousaphone/accordion power trio line-up there. The badges say 'I'VE GOT A BRAND NEW COMBINE HARVESTER' disappointingly. This was the Wurzels' national breakout, local heroes who'd got this to number 33 already, so if you think it looks odd now imagine what sort of culture shock it must have been to people with no prior knowledge of band or record, even if they were more likely then to know what Brand New Key sounded like. We do wonder if the orchestra had a go at recreating this backing, being as it is banjo, some sort of basic percussion, occasional tuba and piano and no accordion at all as far as we can tell. Disappointingly online sources aren't keen to tell us which one's which, so we can't sympathise with the comedy oversized brass wielder by name seeing his obvious less chuffedness c

ABBA – Fernando
Still round that fire. DLT introduces this standing inside a cardboard skyscraper with a full New York-style skyline behind him, which given the Ruby Flipper performance it was required for has been edited out just makes him look like he's calling too many shots in the name of weak comedy set pieces. Then, prior to a playout featuring Melba Moore's all too forceful This Is It, he finishes the show draped in sousaphone and accordion with badge on forehead. Yeah, maybe he's thinking about his own place in entertainment too much for pure linking's good.

EDIT NEWS: The Bellamy Brothers performance from the other week, Ruby Flipper dancing to Archie Bell and the Drells' storming Philly sound Soul City Walk (which is on YouTube but WMG had it muted when they used to do that sort of thing) and... Paul Nicholas! As this was his last diagnosis of reggae pneumonia on the show, we shall discuss this more in a few days.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #8: Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want To Have Fun

When it was said of Goody Two Shoes that it was only one of two performances on the show I could think of, the floodgates didn't exactly swing wide open but the notion was disabused none the less. There was Fun Boy Three and Bananarama facing off like a percussive pop chanting Jets and Sharks, and of course the studied chaos of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, but most glaring of the walkabouts was Cyndi's debut. She's fully committed to acting it out from the start, though the audience members up there seem surprised to find her among them despite the presence of a cameraman already. Then there's some comedy percussion that may have influenced Vic and Bob, and down the other side to a stage at right angles to the rest of the studio with some dancers behind her who must have won a raffle or something, they're definitely not there for their interpretative ability. This was suggested by Paul Dumont, who points out that its sense of occasion was heightened as it was number two in a week TOTP couldn't play the number one, Relax, as it was banned.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Long form

In case you were wondering how to put May 1976 into pop cultural context, this was what was happening in the album charts in the week of that TOTP broadcast:

1 ABBA - Greatest Hits
Yes, already. Despite two proper albums from which came six UK singles to pick from this was spending the first of nine weeks at number one, plus two more before the year was out, and it stuck around until mid-1978. There's been eight proper ABBA hits collections now.

2 Rock Follies Original Television Soundtrack
The first album since the Beatles to enter at number one. Little Ladies' back catalogue by Roxy Music's Andy Mackay, novelty of the time supplied by a rock band heavy on women, even if it was fully acted.

3 Various Artists - Instrumental Gold
TV advertised covers of instrumental hits, including Popcorn, Apache and Telstar as much as A Walk In The Black Forest or Stranger On The Shore.

4 The Rolling Stones - Black And Blue
Ronnie Wood's first Stones album, promoted with this extraordinary billboard poster.

5 Various Artists - Juke Box Jive
It was when I started looking these up on eBay just for pack shots and tracklist ideas that I started wondering what I was doing with my life. Unsold, even at 99p.

6 Led Zeppelin - Presence
7 Wings - Wings At The Speed Of Sound
8 Eagles - Their Greatest Hits 1971-75
9 Diana Ross - Diana Ross
10 10cc - How Dare You
11 Rick Wakeman - No Earthly Connection
12 John Denver - The Best Of John Denver
13 John Miles - Rebel
No, really, John 'music of the future' Miles called his album Rebel.
14 Sydney Devine - Doubly Devine
"Scotland's very own rhinestone cowboy" says Wiki. "He is sometimes referred to as 'Steak and Kidney'" too.
15 Gladys Knight And The Pips - The Best Of Gladys Knight And The Pips
16 The Four Seasons - Who Loves You
17 Bob Dylan - Desire
NME's album of the year. The one with Hurricane on.
18 Pat Boone - Pat Boone Originals
19 John Denver - Windsong
20 Various Artists - Great Italian Love Songs
21 Pam Ayres - Some Of Me Poems And Songs
There's something wonderfully quixotic about finding this in here, especially with that couldn't-make-it-up title.
22 Status Quo - Blue For You
23 Brotherhood Of Man - Love And Kisses From
24 Genesis - A Trick Of The Tail
25 Santana - Amigos
26 The Beatles - The Beatles 1962-1966 (The Red Album)
27 Brass Construction - Brass Construction
27 Gallagher And Lyle - Breakaway
29 The Drifters - 24 Original Hits
30 Bob Marley & The Wailers - Rastaman Vibration

Friday, 13 May 2011

TOTP 6/5/76 (tx 12/5/11): No Charge, some change

This is the first week we've had an uncut version very late on Thursdays and Saturdays (11.35pm if you're quick), but for the time being we'll stick with the prime-time showing if that's alright with you. Noel's on, and his pidgin-Russian accent is what people on TV message boards would call "delightfully un-PC". Silver Convention are still going up the chart, making them the soul harmony Trotskies of the BBC cuts. And bloody hell, look who's not number one!

Mud - Shake It Down
Truth be told, looking at the tracklisting we thought we'd struggle to get anything out of this. But no, it's Mud gone disco! Obviously they haven't smartened up much for all the Diana Ross-style glissandos, heroic trumpets and falsetto backing vocals and gang shouts, having gone for the obviously none more Studio 54 combination of green shirts and vests, green trousers and white jackets. Les Gray still looks the same as he did when doing Tiger Feet, that is to say suspicious. Bassist Ray Stiles is giving it a go with Michael Jackson-presaging black glittery gloves and some extravagant swaying, and on the breakdown Dave Mount leaps from his kit to batter a pair of tom-toms while leaping about like a cartoon villain sneaking after the girl. No matter, it still looks like the teachers doing an end of term revue.

Frankie Valli - Fallen Angel
Robin Nash gets a mention from Noel, it being the already veteran LE producer's last show with only directing Bread, Goodnight Sweetheart and Harry Hill's Channel 4 series in his future. What he gets for his trouble is the soppiest of emotional grandstanding ballads, Johnny Pearson's orchestra on syrupy overtime. "What a sad story - tripped over her harp and over she went" Noel interjects, still working to his own agenda.

The Stylistics – Can’t Help Falling In Love
And a big hello to Ruby Flipper! Sadly none of them are sitting down. Wisely they start with just the two Pan's emigres before introducing the multi-gender collective to almost do as they please in a line. Here's Noel's full explanation: "Top Of The Pops have made a little move on the dancing front, Pan's People have sort of moved slightly stage left, stage right we've got Ruby Flipper, and you might recognise two of the faces there but five new faces and they're going to be doing various dance routines throughout the Top Of The Pops series". And that's it. Eight years of the People cast aside with no aforethought. That was, in fairness, pretty much what levity Flick Colby and Ruth Pearson gave the change too, just deciding to change the concept without even telling Bill Cotton according to Pearson. But, as we will discover over the coming months, you just weren't ready for men dancing on TOTP.

Barry Manilow – Trying To Get The Feeling
His stool is far too high, that's the first thing to note. The angle of his mike must be adjustable. It's... well, it's a Barry Manilow song, one that didn't chart at that - in fact he didn't have a top 50 single between Mandy in 1975 and Can't Smile Without You three years later. Even the album of the same title did nothing. He's really putting his all into it by the end too, slapping his hands against the keys, the arms of his white suit jacket trembling.

Robin Sarstedt - My Resistance Is Low
Nobody anywhere is giving it their all to this. With the female four-sevenths of Ruby Flipper in ballgowns behind him, one of whom is idly miming to half the female vocals, Peter's kid brother smarms for his country. The Bernard Cribbens version might be better.

Sutherland Brothers & Quiver - Arms Of Mary
"From one of my records of the week to one of my artists of the week" says Noel, neatly linking into his breakfast show. Funny, he never made a thing about his musical spotting worth usually. Iain Sutherland looks like Jack Black trying to deny his fashionable long hair is fast receding, a look the drummer has taken to its natural next stage. You can tell this is earnest folk-rock from his scrunched up facial expressions on the meaningful words. Lots of white suit jackets this week. Oh, and on bass looking exactly like the young Chris Langham that's Bruce Thomas, later to produce rather more complex lead basslines for Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

JJ Barrie - No Charge
Or, as the chart caption calls him, JJ Barry. The edit here is extraordinarily good, comparing the lyrical content of this to that of a song we haven't heard but could equally have been the one we just saw. Anyhow, this is one of the worst songs ever made and you'd better get used to it, from a man who somehow looks exactly as you'd think he would, right down to the massive collars in a pattern more often seen on grandparents' curtains. Noel overly pretends to wipe his tears away with the mike, commenting "quite amazing" as he does so. Difficult to tell if he's being sarcastic. "On his way to a monster success" he predicts, not inaccurately.

Cliff Richard - Devil Woman
And apparently Barrie's wife wrote this. Cliff actually hadn't had a top 40 single for two years until Miss You Nights in February, so this was his attempt to reconnect with AOR. It's not actually about the devil or loose women, by the way, it's about a voodoo cat or something. All that gets pushed to one side by first a shot from beneath which uncomfortably reveals which way Cliff dresses and then a glimpse of the bass player, who is sporting magnificent mutton chops and huge glasses giving him the air of a friendly tobacconist. Noel seems to take it literally and personally.

ABBA - Fernando
Number one. Thank christ! It's the one with everyone sitting around the fire again. Then Noel promises "an awful lot of good sounds" in the morning and we're out with Johnny Taylor. Someone on Twitter pointed out that for the last two links the huge flower in Noel's lapel changes colour from white to red. He's playing with us, the tinker.

EDIT NEWS: Fox! The big success story, as we always say... but it's just the week one performance again, as memorable as it was. Noel's introductory comment is worth considering: "I suppose if you call a number Single Bed then you're bound to have to get up and make it at some point". Tina Charles' Love Me Like A Lover seems to have Mr Punch on backing vocals and, to push home how much more integrated Ruby Flipper are going to be, features one of them dancing in inset while wearing yellow tartan trousers. Charles for her own part is wearing a daffodil and several plants in her lapel, which just makes it look like she got caught in a hedge just outside the green room. Noel claims two girls in the audience brought the carnation in his own suit. After a live Rolling Stones performance of much pouting and little stickability Noel commends how the charts are "full of variety and records of many different sorts of appeal making it" before being drowned out by Mac & Katie Kissoon's blaring horns. As if to deliberately disprove his point it turns out to be Studio 54 disco of a sort we've already seen a lot. Then Noel refers to a "relationship of a very different sort", and cue JJ...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #7: The Jam - The Modern World

Their first appearance, but just wanted to put this in for Peter Powell's link out, really.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Fox news

As Fox's S-S-S-Single Bed was the widespread breakout hit of repeat number one (and is on again next week, and it definitely will be with the unedited repeats) we were interested to see the story of former member Herbie Armstrong on Britain's Got Talent this week. Herbie, having done the requisite heart melting of Amanda Holden and got through to the final stages, was outed by the papers (by the way, Sun, "despite saying he had "never broken through as the front man", only last year Herbie released his own solo album". Yeah, and did he break through with it? Well, no, given he was selling it himself). According to the Sun, "Several of his previous telly appearances, on TOTP with both his old bands, are available on YouTube. A young Herbie is clearly visible playing guitar."

On YouTube? How quickly they overlook a rerun when it's no longer Trending Topic enough.

Summarily, Steve Williams points us at Armstrong's following band Yellow Dog's sole TOTP appearance, from February 1978, an appearance giving us plenty to admire even if they are clearly The Jags before their time. Flying goggles and shades were clearly someone's idea of the fashion zeitgeist, and keep on for the bit of fadeout-related comedy crosstalk at the end:

Now, according to that Sun article screengrab Herbie is the central guitarist in that clip, wearing a customised T-shirt of his own band, or if you like the acoustic guitar playing one behind Noosha here. If someone could then point out to us which one in both clips is founder of both bands Kenny Young we'd be grateful because there doesn't seem to be much overlap between what the members look like, Herbie aside, and it's not helping that yet another guitarist, Jim Gannon, and bassist Gary Taylor were also in both.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #6: Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes

With Adam back in action and pretty much playing wayward gigs for anyone who'll have him it's high time his big production number for his big solo hit was revisited. So first there's some girls inventing vogueing in yellow taffeta - Zoo? It's not clear - the presence of a small harp suggesting some sort of angels motif. Then it's full-on regency bawdiness, and then he previews future single Puss 'N Boots with the aid of big hats. And in the end, collective prancing in the round. It's the Citizen Kane of sub-Hot Gossip arm-swinging man and girls in variety dancing girl costumes, and it explains why accidental BBC bringer-down Georgina Baillie is in Ant's band these days.

The only other TOTP performance we can recall using more than one stage is Mick Jagger's spectacular studio-traversing solo spot for Let's Work, but the only instance of it we can find has been muted. Anyone?

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon Special: Pan's People

"As a dance group, Pan’s People have always had ‘something to say’. And this, I hope, shows in our dancing." (Flick Colby, Top Of The Pops Annual 1974)

So while there was clearly no need for the BBC to mention it at the time or anything, Pan's People ended eight years of Pops service at the end of April 1974. The idea of an in-house dance troupe is very much a hangover from 1960s letting it all hang out extravaganzas from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In downwards, with a hefty dose of British variety tradition of giving it a go - most of the more literal interpretations were such because Colby was only given a few hours to drill the girls in their moves. That kind of making do and mending is what led to a good amount of the classic Pan's People routines - Get Down, Monster Mash, all those.

The rest of them are when they weren't wearing much clothing and, y'know, home masturbation. Sorry, had to be said.

With all that ungainfully in mind, here's five belters of little regarded routines of theirs we found where the choreography is basically being interpreted on the hoof.

Fan service first, as the 1975 Christmas Top Of The Pops calls upon the girls to enact both the depths of the season and the sunkissed nature of reggae (admittedly reggae in the Paul Nicholas sense - hey, maybe this is what he meant all along). Typically Tropical were, by the way, two white men from north London.

From the same show, DLT does his act before the girls become intergalactic air traffic controllers to Space Oddity. That the following year saw Bowie retreat from pop commerciality Station To Station's release is perhaps not coincidental.

Sly And The Family Stone's Runnin' Away is on There's A Riot Goin' On, an album famously recorded in the depths of Sly's darkest urges, even sounding burnt out as a result of Sly's compulsive overdubbing. To a TOTP audience, this is reflected in prancing round a department store. The pointing at big shoes bit especially get across the message of the death of the Sixties liberation dream.

"Philadelphia? Why, that's in America, and they have majorettes there, so..." Wonder if those specific flags have any greater meaning.

And some quintessential Flick uncertainty - Pan's Labyrinthine, if you will - as CSO makes a break for the border and Papa Was A Rollin' Stone finds handclaps becoming its major instrument. Look at her, she really understands that sentiment.