Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The disappeared: 18/11/76

After the Legs & Co naming ceremony on the 11th another piece of TOTP history this week as David 'Kid' Jensen made the first of 69 appearances as host. While most famous for the sixteen with John Peel in 1983 and 1984 he turned into an entirely useable if not all that initially authoritative host (that'll be down to the nickname, I'll wager - he held onto it until 1980) He only joined Radio 1 in September in the drivetime slot but had made his name in a late night slot on Radio Luxembourg and more importantly had pop TV experience with ITV, firstly 45 alongside Emperor Rosko in 1974-75, so well thought of it got a Christmas Day special in 1974, and then parallel with this stint the Yorkshire TV junior quiz show Pop Quest alongside a pre-Tiswas Sally James - here's the 1976 final. And now he's graduated to the top table and been granted...

Mud – Lean On Me
Here we find the great loss of 1976. Not the song, on which the new kings of disco retreated to a limp Bill Withers cover, but the fact this was on the show three times, reaching number 7... and all three have been wiped. Perhaps out of pity. Don't worry, they'll surely make it up with the next hit sing... oh, there wasn't another.

Bonnie Tyler – Lost In France
As we've just seen.

Showaddywaddy – Under The Moon Of Love
As we've just seen. Though the element of surprise has gone.

Yvonne Elliman – Love Me
As with last week the studio work knocks off early and the rest of the show is videos and dancing. Elliman was a Broadway musical actress who'd have her biggest hit, If I Can't Have You from Saturday Night Fever, in 1977 but for now took another Barry and Robin Gibb song of desperation to number six.

Electric Light Orchestra – Livin' Thing
Jeff Lynne works through more of his Beatles obsession for what would become their biggest hit until 1979.

Dana – Fairytale
We'll see this video later in the year, but suffice to say it's not as balladic as you're probably imagining. Quite Cliff-like, actually.

Peter Frampton – Do You Feel Like We Do
Kind of guessing Legs & Co didn't do all nine minutes... They're on a run of being given rock songs to interpret, there's a cracker next week, but they haven't quite settled in enough yet. Also this is a really awkward pace for getting movement out of.

Chicago – If You Leave Me Now
Three weeks at number one, two of which have been wiped. How's your luck?

Monday, 28 November 2011

The disappeared: 11/11/76

We've done quite well for surviving shows recently, seven in a row, but now the meat of the wipings kicks in with four out of six lost perhaps forever. Luckily that's as many as are officially missing in the whole of 1977, but unfortunately this first one... well, we'll see. DLT hosts.

Eddie & The Hotrods – Teenage Depression
Another Hotrods opener! Much the same direct, raw post-pub pre-punk energy unaccustomed to 1976 TOTP, so you can imagine much the same tricks being pulled by the director to try and rein it all in.

Billy Ocean – Stop Me (If You’ve Heard It All Before)
We'll see this before long anyway. What lurid clash of colours can Ocean have envisaged this time?

Guys 'n' Dolls – Stoney Ground
A few recovered shows and fragments have come from Guys 'n' Dolls members, but apparently not on this occasion. Maybe they preferred the scaffolding staging of Supersonic.

Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
The video, presumably the one we saw the show before last.

Neil Diamond – Beautiful Noise
The video. Don't know if it's the same as this - the video bit, not the pensioners clapping along - but there's a lot more percussion there then the song suggests.

Dr Hook – If Not You
The video! Studio double booked for the second half? It had quite a while near the top so will be on again.

Hank C Burnette – Spinning Rock Boogie
And now, here's the crux. This is the week when ?????? became Legs & Co... and we'll never see it or what Flick did with this lightning bolt 1971 surf-rock instrumental. (In fact we may never have seen it at all as Burnette was invited to come over instead but refused to re-record, have re-recorded or mime.) But! Glancing through Once For The Dads we found the shot released to the Press Association of the girls, the displayed new name and the winner! Elaine Coombes, 16, of Salisbury, says the accompanying details, and she did indeed appear on this show this week and looks delighted to be there.

Chicago – If You Leave Me Now
And as if to come down from that excitement a new number one, with the video we've already seen shown.

Friday, 25 November 2011

TOTP 4/11/76 (tx 24/11/11): we've had lots of letters

Fourth last retained show before Christmas, but it looks like Noel has been a little ahead of schedule by surrounding himself with big sacks. Oh, no, it's the other possible gag: "tonight's programme is dedicated to everyone who wanted me to get the sack".

Steve Miller, who we'll see later, gets a cutout that doesn't work in two dimensions, pointing the guitar head right at camera as he is. It's almost as alarming as the Pipe Smoker Of The Year Lalo Schifrin.

Showaddywaddy – Under The Moon Of Love
Since we last saw the 'waddy, in the real world singer Dave Bartram has retired and secondary frontman Buddy Gask has died, so consider this a tribute. The canned applause at the end of the countdown completely masks Romeo Challenger's big kettle drum intro, surely revival rockabilly's most exciting moment that doesn't involve Den Hegarty. There's a big concept to this one as it's been recorded twice, once in white suits, once in black suits, the former the default but with clips of the latter being cut in gradually more often. It's a neat method of confusion, not that a stage full of faux-Teds in Daz-sparkling suits really needs more visual gimmickery to stand out. Bartram makes an appealing frontman, lots of side looks to camera and for the bridge getting down on his knees on the lip of the stage so as to greater appeal to the girls who it turned out rarely returned the compliment in awestruckness terms, but they'd got to find something for the two auxiliary members to do other than BVs, handclaps and turning in circles. Everyone, after all, is already doing that step-forward-step-back thing. Lots of tipping of the shot to the side too, which we haven't seen since Dancing With The Captain, appropriately given in conjunction with the band's perpetual motion it threatens seasickness. Eventually Bartram sits on the front of the stage and then does so in black too, which spoils the impression of in-the-moment improvisation. As a crowning coda Challenger gives the timpani one last double whack after the playback has finished. That natural reverb goes a long way.

The Manhattans – Hurt
"The sound in the chart with the big deep voice at the beginning - no, not Lena Zavaroni!" Girls behind Noel actually laugh. One falls off a small ledge in mirth. He's found his level at last. Just nobody mention that Zavaroni was going to have had all the chart success she'd have by mid-1974. This video in all its overhead spotlit, dragging nature was on back in October. It feels longer, actually.

Steve Miller Band – Rock 'N' Me
Those sacks? They seem to contain a lot of letters of potential names for what Noel pointedly refers to as "our new all lady dancing group". In fact "you've ruined it, totally ruined it" - us, Noel? The problem is at your end, surely, if you can't find time to read and weight up all the suggestions. Leaving the announcement to "DLT next week" - yeah, about that... - he instead bids "see you next week for that announcement", which seems undue of him. For their third week of nameless wondering the girls are lost in a fog of dry ice amid a song that (knowingly) rips off the intro to All Right Now. Some patented strutting, shimmying and smiling follows in tops and skirts of a variety of lengths and glitteriness. Gill and Pauline get to do some backwards back arching work but in truth it all looks a bit of a mess of routines. Now, I got this wrong last week, but getting a bit of a solo at the end as everyone else retreats mysteriously into the gloaming... that is Patti, isn't it?

The Who – Substitute
This is fascinating for all sorts of reasons. Firstly, Noel is correct in saying the live footage shown is from their gig at Charlton Athletic's The Valley, but it's the show from 1974 rather than that from May 1976 that set a longstanding record for the world's loudest gig (and from which this marvellous piece of Moon/Townshend exchanging of views comes). In fairness Noel doesn't give a year so maybe he'd hoped nobody would look it up. Secondly, what's it doing back in the charts anyway? To promote The Story Of The Who, in fact, and perhaps latch onto that aforementioned gig. Thirdly, it doesn't seem the clip is that well circulated. Even to a BBC considerably better off than it is now when it's reduced to putting 35 year old stupid pop show repeats on its arts and learning channel, how much must it have cost to clear?

Bonnie Tyler – Lost In France
Noel's keen to mention Bonnie is from South Wales; I'm keen to mention that the hexagon backdrop has been redesigned so it looks even more Holnessised to our modern eyes. Can't work out if the lights coming back from its surface are CSO or reflections. Bonnie's enjoying herself alone on stage , which is far more that her audience are visibly doing. Noel, even by his own standards, is stretching things: "She obviously went Toulon, went to Rouen, Paris the thought". Nobody laughs at that.

Tavares – Don't Take Away The Music
The glittery bolero/matador jackets and even more dry ice than Legs & Co got are back.

Climax Blues Band – Couldn't Get It Right
Noel lets on that he'd only just found out that they're British, though in fairness otherwise would be your first impression. He then calls the song Couldn't Get It Wrong, because he's a wit. It's a new performance, as shown by the singer's heavy five o'clock shadow and a new band logo sign right behind the drummer's head. The letters flicker with lights! Though that may be visual editor majick, actually, as shown when the cardboard star for some reason attached to the bass changes shade. A group of kids near the back shuffle self-consciously in an attempt to look hip, grin and then just turn round and watch the monitor instead. At the end one of them, and someone else across the other side of the crowd, wave at the crane camera. Yes, we can see you.

Before we get to number one, Noel has guests of some standing joining him by those kettle drums. Terry Kath, Peter Cetera and Danny Seraphine of Chicago, in fact, whom Noel soft soaps by going on about how their number two sound should be number one. Behind his back Peter is doing lots of pointing that he imagines is self-effacing. Noel's interview technique makes Jools Holland seem like David Frost, starting with asking the wrong person what inspired the song ("experience") and then failing to get anything of note out of anyone. Noel consciously mentions jet lag. Not sure that's the half of it.

Pussycat – Mississippi
It's right at the end of their little chat that the real gold comes as the music starts, maybe out of producer blind panic, and we get the sight of Kath, a large man, starts dancing. I say 'dancing', he kind of bends at the knee while air guitaring and making an appropriate face, one part meaningful to at least four parts downright mocking. The director cops out and cuts to a close-up of Noel's face lest the moment of a fourth week at number one (for a song placename "nowhere near Chicago") be spoilt by his full move set. God knows it would have been far more entertaining than that video again.

Friday, 18 November 2011

TOTP 28/10/76 (tx 17/11/11): there's a whole Lalo Schifrin goin' on

Shocking news with which to start this week, as thanks to singer-songwriter and Paul Weller bassist Andy Lewis it turns out the silver mics were more often than not complete fakes (read down the end). I don't know what to believe any more.

Some confusion this week, as BBC sources claim this was screened on 27th October but nowhere seems to back up a move to Wednesday night. Unless of course you know differently. Tony Blackburn in charge this week and he's wearing a blue T-shirt on which is the slogan to end all running gags, 'I HATE DIDDY DAVID HAMILTON'. Now, I doubt this story was well known at the time, but just over a year earlier the future Johnny Rotten was spotted by Bernie Rhodes (who was co-conspirating with Malcolm McLaren at the time) on Kings Road wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt with 'I HATE' written above the name. The idea, however fleeting, that this may not be mere coincidence opens up fascinating alleyways of thought.The chart rundown is worth noting for Harry Nilsson having a new entry with a pointless reissue of Without You (which we won't see on the show), because a) they've spelt his name 'NILLSON' and b) he looks almost exactly like Bon Iver.

Alan Price – Kissed Away The Night
This is a prosaic way to start, a solo single by the former Animals organist, who for reasons best known to himself is wearing an off-yellow T-shirt with a drawing of Andy Capp in the middle. Must be a northern unity thing. The song aims at being a treatise on community and the working day but gets drawn back by some horribly clunky rhyming. The actual opening verse requires archiving in full:

Overhead morning planes are roaring
Under the bed the dog is snoring
Down the street rolls up (something) taxi
Boy, am I glad I'm not on my jacksie

That's roaring/snoring and taxi/jacksie. Lord preserve us. To make matters worse during that last line he delivers a look to his band that equally says "I can't believe I'm being allowed to say the word I'm about to say" and "look at me about to use a very mild curse!" The performance never quite recovers. Tony, duly impressed, looks into the wrong camera and then calls it Kiss Away The Mild Nights. He then remembers to suggest we get a pencil and paper. Actually, Tony, a postcard would be more immediately helpful than paper.

Chicago – If You Leave Me Now
"Doing so well in the charts at the moment" Tony somewhat pointlessly adds. This is the plain studio shot performance video about which little can be said except for noting Peter Cetera's hair, as long and lustrous as on any Head & Shoulders model.

Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
But first, comedy. Tony chooses this moment to point out his T-shirt slogan, at which Diddy himself creeps out from behind him in an 'I HATE TONY BLACKBURN' T-shirt. It's a battle for hearts and minds alright. They exchange some light remarks about "the new look for 1977" before indulging in a swift shuffle on the fade into the clip, Diddy with the broadest shit eating grin on his face. Difficult to tell whether this is the video or a specially shot piece, but the presence of a shadowed mike might be a clue even if there is no audience in sight. Sayer begins in silhouette like the start of Bohemian Rhapsody, of which this might be a polar opposite of a song. After that he and his yellow cardigan gets shot in mirror image then standing in the middle of what seems to be a huge soundstage, nobody else visible even when carefully peering into the dark. As for the title he may feel it but doing it is another matter, unless some sort of knee bending or twitching like Alf Ippititimus counts. Then there's a cut back to him with some frantic backlighting, which is what passed for excitement then.

Joan Armatrading – Love And Affection
Now faced with the prospect of jazzing up some lovingly wistful acoustic-led folk-pop, the director goes the close up on strings route with Joan's head superimposed over the sound hole. After about a minute of that followed by slow head and shoulders and top half of body shots the graphics people give up waiting and decide to superimpose many reflected images of that one shot over and over from different distances, because they can. There's an awkward moment during the sax solo when, with our man wailing on one half of the screen in CSO, the main shot stays tight on Armatrading's head instead of following the guitar playing or cutting to a wider angle as would happen now, as after all the singer's face is unlikely to be doing anything when not singing.

Lalo Schifrin – Theme From Jaws
Please remember, this competition is now closed, and has been such since 1st November 1976. "You don't have to have one quite as big as that."

Lovely stamp drawing. Meanwhile the dance to Schifrin's lounge-disco cover is a triumph of staging, as first we get some cut-out waves with a hopelessly realised fin moving around and about over which is superimposed our six new friends expressing facial shock. That's save for Lulu, who when scared for her life apparently reacts by sucking her cheeks in. Then there's some sort of bare legs and feet kicking in mid-air motif, following which comes the meat, those we must either call Our New Dancers or ?????? in short, somewhat figure hugging all in one wetsuits. That's what they paid the money and got shot of the boys for. Not much teamwork is going into the troupe's work yet, there being a lot of jumping about and running around but not much actual evident choreography in front of the sea representation with the fins still moving about as if by magic or underpaid stagehand. Patti gets a lengthy solo spot to close, which is somewhat upfront when attempting to press a favourite on us. "Fins ain't what they used to be" Tony retitles it, which somehow doesn't earn him a solar plexus punch from one of the two girls flanking him. "I wonder what you're going to call them next week" he wonders. Same as we'll call them for years afterwards, Tony.

Simon May – Summer Of My Life
As with Chicago and Leo Sayer Tony presses home that this was his record of the week, which doesn't reflect as well on him as he'd like to think. At last an audience turns up to watch him plod through this again while staring right down the camera, the hint of a smug smile on his lips. Not with that weak a vocal you're getting away with this sort of thing, May. Tony gets caught in a titular reverie: "Didn't we have a lovely summer? All that lovely sunshine, not like all the terrible rain we're getting now. Still, we could do with it, couldn't we." Always the cheaply populist DJ, Tony.

Wild Cherry – Play That Funky Music
The faux-live video, and Wild Cherry's frontman is dressed as 1976 funk men should be - reflective jacket, no shirt, semi-hairy chest, medallion. Textbook "really feeling it" facial expressions for his guitar solo too. Also the drummer's yellow T-shirt reads 'DRUMS'. The amazing self-captioning man there.

Pussycat – Mississippi
Only its third week at number one but it already feels like forever. This week they're back in the studio and keen to show off their new kimonos. The lead sister seems to have a little trouble hitting her correct notes at first but before long we're back into the professionally delivered country lament we know oh so well. Professional delivery is of course no use.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

It's like punk happened

I made this list for a comment a couple of months ago but as I've seen it brought up in some places since, especially given the announcement BBC4 are continuing on to 1977, it may be worth bringing it to a proper audience. Although conventional British pop history has it that punk was born in 1976 and revolutionised the whole country the following year, it's a music press fallacy to some extent. There were no punk singles until late October 1976 and certainly it was something largely being chased up by a faction within the music press - the Sex Pistols were on the NME cover dated 2/10/76 but only as an adjunct to then-supposed fellow travellers Dr Feelgood, while in the first half of 1977 there were as many covers featuring Dolly Parton and Genesis as there were the Clash and Damned, while the five covers from July of that month, according to Wikipedia, mix 'Murder at a punk festival' and 'Anti-Punk violence' with Frankie Miller, Steve Harley and Nick Lowe. And when they did go for it they put the MC5 on the cover twice in seven weeks despite that band having been inactive for nearly five years.

In our little prime-time enclave certainly initially there was little appetite yet for getting pissed and destroying. The record buying public continued on their way unhindered - David Soul, Leo Sayer and Brotherhood Of Man all appear in the year's ten best selling singles - and given not so long before then punks were being seen as a credible threat to the national way of life it's not like TOTP was going to bend to their will, especially with the Clash refusing to appear, the Damned briefly fizzling out (Music For Pleasure got bad reviews and they split up for a year or so), the Buzzcocks either considered too independent (Spiral Scratch) or too banned (Orgasm Addict) and the BBC in general still unsure about which way this was all heading. 1978 and 1979 was very different in booking terms, but we'll get there in time.

As such, here's a cut out and keep guide to all the punk-affiliated TOTP appearances in 1977:

19/5/77 The Jam - In The City
26/5/77 The Stranglers - Go Buddy Go (the other half of the double A side that featured the banned Peaches)
14/7/77 The Saints - This Perfect Day; Sex Pistols - Pretty Vacant (video)
21/7/77 The Jam - All Around The World
4/8/77 Television - Prove It (don't wait up for this, as far as we know it's been wiped)
25/8/77 The Adverts - Gary Gilmore's Eyes
1/9/77 Elvis Costello - (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
15/9/77 Generation X - Your Generation,
22/9/77 The Stranglers - No More Heroes
27/10/77 Tom Robinson Band - 2-4-6-8 Motorway; Sex Pistols - Holiday In The SUn (under the credits)
10/11/77 Elvis Costello - Watching The Detectives
3/11/77 The Jam - The Modern World
8/12/77 The Banned - Little Girl (already onto the cash-ins, here members of prog third-raters Gryphon chancing it)

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #40: Whale - Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe

Clown wig and Groucho glasses/tache set, Bardot blonde wig, interpretative boa waving, shouting. That's the spirit! Watch for the guitarist diving into the crowd and the crowd throwing him straight back onto the stage.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #39: Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Love Missile F1-11

The song that proves nothing ages as badly as ideas of what the future will look like, but you can't say the TOTP team weren't trying to fit in with the image with the colour oversaturation, the visual effects and of course the explosions. For all that, the band's disappointment that all the audience are doing is clapping in time much as they would for Wham! must have been palpable. The band aren't doing anything to help, though, they're just standing there with their haircuts!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #38: Billy Howard - King Of The Cops

Yes, this was recorded for the show, it counts. Couldn't he have thought of a second joke per character?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #37: Status Quo - Marguerita Time

From the first show of 1984, also the twentieth anniversary special, here's another piece of kit rearrangement as a spectacularly pissed Rick Parfitt walks into, mounts and eventually brings crashing over Pete Kircher's drumkit. Quite the job he does on it too, the whole thing from floor tom to allegedly weighted down bass drum right off the riser in one move. Listen to the appreciation his handiwork gets. Before that is plenty of old school rock and roll showbiz, not counting 0:56 when Rossi spots his mike has fallen out of its stand. Also note Jim Lea of Slade on bass as Alan Lancaster hated the song (or his wife was pregnant, depending on which piece of self-mythologising you believe) and left the band shortly after.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Alternative TOTP Canon #36: The Who - 5:15

No particular theme to this week's five Alternative Canon entries, just cherry pickings from the wide, wild sweep that was Top Of The Pops. This, for instance, comes from the 500th show from October 1973 and is the full version of the clip you may have seen on Later last week - just rare (the rest of the show has been wiped), scintillating footage of a great rock band near enough to their height. Plus in the last 55 seconds you get some mike swinging, windmilling, a scissor kick and to close some Townshend/Moon patented auto-destruction, apparently due to the former's annoyance at the Musician's Union stance as their members were supposed to be on strike. Eventually some audience members are moved enough to throw their wigs at the band.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

TOTP 21/10/76 (tx 3/11/11): this competition is now closed

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.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ruby blue

After seven months, just as quickly as they arrived, they, or at least their collective self, were gone.

Odd thing about that photo is from the whole cache of Pan's People and Legs & Co promotional pictures all the girls are either in matching outfits or specially designed branded gear, and yet for this one and only proper Ruby Flipper meet-the-gang set everyone's in the clothes they arrived in. (It's not too far from very likely that Lulu dressed like that when casually out all the time, and we now know Floyd wore the oddest assortment when off screen too. And as for Philip's sophisti-gay biker look...)

Were Ruby Flipper ahead of their time or a joyous error of judgement? Certainly you could do more, and more idiosyncratic full routines, with mixed sex outfits as some of those we've sat through together have shown - you can't imagine Legs & Co in all their soft focused smouldering glances and two sizes too small tops putting on the duality of A Fifth Of Beethoven or the morality tale of Young Hearts Run Free (and now we all know them so much better we can better appreciate Philip's cock-eyed acting here) Yet it's telling that towards the end of their run on this repeat set that's probably given them a higher widespread profile then they had at the time even BBC4's own continuity was calling them Pan's People. Seems the popular memory recalls two sets of dancers and the rest were mere minority interest flotsam. But oh, what flotsam.

Again, I fully believe Pat Cash headband/open waistcoat/short shorts is how Cherry dresses on most functional occasions

So it's March/April 1976 and Ruth Pearson, the final active original member of Pan's People, has decided to retire and move behind the drapes. She and Flick Colby have observed the rise of disco and believe it's time men were subsumed into the next phase of Pops dancing. Without telling fearsome BBC head of LE Bill Cotton (Ruth: "it felt like it was time for a concept change. Everybody in the group could see it was time for a change") plans were drawn up for a troupe named, after a fashion, for their overseers, RUth and FLIck. Mary Corpe and Lee Ward, who'd only joined Pan's the previous autumn, both left, Mary telling the press "it's a big mistake. Men rush home to watch sexy ladies. They do not want to see other men." Cherry and Sue stayed on and open auditions at the Dance Centre in Covent Garden found Lulu Cartwright, only 16 (and apparently Cherry had been her head girl at ballet school), decade older Royal Ballet School graduate Patti Hammond, Philip Haigh (nee Steggles), formerly of Nigel Lythgoe's The Young Generation, 17 year old Floyd (also known as Floid, but we'll go by his spelling in the credits for now) Pearce and potential Paul Nicholas-a-gram Gavin Trace. Launched onto television at the beginning of May it was all carried out with the minimum of fuss, and actually not much publicity as far as I can tell, even Noel referring merely in passing to Pan's People, at the end of a beloved eight year stint, being "sort of moved slightly stage left" at the end of Flipper's introductory Stylistics routine. Notably, that aforementioned individuality was prized of the new group. Philip: "(Flick) wanted us all to have our own individual look. In Pan's People they'd all worn the same things each week and she thought that looked a bit dated." And so out came the wide variety of costumes, the thrown together bits of business and the acting. Oh, the acting.

It's just that it didn't make the same impression on the viewers. Gavin was let go by mutual consent in mid-July, Flick feeling he couldn't keep up with the weekly turnaround of new routines, and was pretty much never seen again. Then in October the producers let it be known that Ruby Flipper would be going no further and arrangements would be made for an all-female troupe to take over. Flick was notoriously unhappy, feeling she'd been given an ultimatum to retreat to the same Pan's People ideas or lose her job, but was told ratings were suffering for it and as well as the gender issue, these by all accounts being pretty close to the actual words in the letter given to Flick, "young teenage boys would not want to see white girls dancing with black boys". (Lulu: "I don't think any of us realised what was going on. I think if it had been on ITV we would have got away with it.")

Sue, Patti and Lulu stayed on for the as yet unnamed new set, Cherry went off to the theatre and then... well, you've read all that, Philip rejoined Nigel Lythgoe's team and then the Brian Rogers Connection before branching out on his own and Floyd... well, here's some further background details.

Actually, first off Floyd became Legs & Co's token man, making nine utility appearances with them over the following 15 months (here's one) plus being a part of their cameo in the notorious Joan Collins vehicle The Stud. After that he jumped ship and joined Arlene Phillips' Hot Gossip, then rapidly making a name for themselves on Kenny Everett's show. He literally grew up in public. You want a proper clip, don't you? Here's one from a 1983 live show, notable also for being the track, one from the early Human League catalogue, Floyd sings on the troupe's flop 1981 album Geisha Boys And Temple Girls. In Hot Gossip when Floyd got the short straw costume things turned out slightly different.

Hot Gossip fizzled out towards the mid-80s; beyond that I know he's on the Doctor Who single Doctor In Distress and in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

I know Gavin's got her arm round her but Patti's merely blinking, alright?

So, the grand Pops experiment was brought to an abrupt end. And yes, I'm going to kind of miss them.