Thursday, 31 May 2012

TOTP 19/5/77 (tx 31/5/12): Jam, Jacko, Joe and Joy

"Time to bop with the best in rock and pop" Say this for Jensen, he goes that extra yard to make his intros stand out. In the background what seems to be the keyboard player with our first act of the evening tries to mime along with the end of his spiel before Kid triumphantly punches the air as final visual punctuation, a la Diddy.

If ever a smile said "I don't really understand what I'm doing here or supposed to be smiling about, but..."

Suzi Quatro – Roxy Roller
Mixed in emerging from the centre of the number one picture, which is a new one. Suzi would be given big billing by Pops for a little while yet, and it'd pay off eventually, but for now it's another, unsuccessful go-round with the glam sound. For some reason the drummer starts with his foot on top of the bass drum, making the kit look children's sized until he realises that's not really a good enough angle to play more than the snare from. Suzi for her part, in a powder blue jumpsuit, is sitting cross-legged on a box at the front of the stage, singing down to the camera, which just means she looks like she's wearing a distracting huge crown of lights until the angle changes to one lengthways on. Eventually Suzi gets up like her music teacher would have told her to, straps on the big bass and... contributes? Well, she plays the instrumental break bit while standing on the box, sadly stepping down rather than take a showbiz flying leap. The director finds Kid a second or two too early at the end, finding him in the midst of some enthusiastic arm swinging to the beat.

Heatwave – Too Hot To Handle
On grainy video with flames superimposed over the top, like someone saw the Bohemian Rhapsody version with flames at the start and took the wrong bit of inspiration. The band seem to be wearing kimonos with individual colour patterns taking up only half the outfit, as if they were meant to stand side to side and make subtitles for the Chinese. Halfway through, and it's not clear for reasons I'll come back to for a later performance whether these were added at the BBC end or not, very bright flashing lights appear in the middle of the screen of a contrast that might have blown out the RGB settings of colour sets of the time. They seem intrusively bright enough on HD. As the video cuts out one of the frontmen is into full-on karate moves. Kid finds it understandably hilarious.

Linda Lewis – The Moon And I
Why Lewis should get special treatment being alone on a stage is anyone's guess - maybe, being a rewrite of a song from The Mikado, they thought it demanded extra culture - but her entire performance is framed in a blue-purple oval, as if a dry run for the graphics of early 80s BBC news. Close-ups of cellos and a clarinet too. None of this overshadows that Lewis' great soul voice is being parlayed into somewhere it barely belongs, and that after Feelings and We'll Gather Lilacs it's the nation's pop program falling back on the classics songbook again. Very few audience shots to determine what the kids think of it, though they hardly need help in coming across as catatonic.

Bay City Rollers – It's A Game
Same as two weeks ago. Health and safety, can't have that many tartan scarves in one built up area too often.

Carol Bayer Sager – You’re Moving Out Today
Kid sees this as "a real treat", and to emphasise how special he is he gets a ride on a camera trolley while introducing it, to the evident delight of several of those he passes. DLT or Jimmy would have done all sorts of business while there; Kid just introduces it without reference or playing up to it, as if nothing were amiss. There's the mark of the man. As it stops he embarks on some self-conscious strutting on the spot as Sayer, hands deep in high waisted white trousered pockets, peppily/quirkily sings like you'd imagine Diane Keaton would, complete with mid-lyric face 'trying to remember' acting, before miming along to the trumpet/scat solo before realising it makes her look foolish. Meanwhile offscreen the male vocal role is shared by a too casual bloke from the office and a Speak & Spell machine. "The grocer told me what you do with bread"?

Joe Tex – Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)
I mean, he's not exactly svelte either, is he? Great as it is and as successful as the single was, strange to see this make the early edit, not least because you'd imagine Soul Train would have to be paid an extra set of export repeat fees. Kid's virtually pissing himself laughing afterwards. It's been on before, man!

The Trammps – Disco Inferno
Big old edit in the early version: "For fans of Legs and Co, we have a bonanza for you today (massive jump cut) as they dance to the Trammps' new record" Hard to see in the light what the costumes are, but they appear to consist of gold bras and pants, quite a bit of tinsel and, for some reason, large gold buttons on fronts and sides. I say hard to see because the whole routine is overlaid with a screen of flashing red lights at epilepsy rates. The routine shows up the problem with still nascent Legs & Co - they're fine dancers, fully conversant in getting down, but the actual choreographed bits don't seem to have much going for them. The version on One For The Dads confirms that it wasn't BBC4 cutting the song off in mid-flow but BBC1 in 1976. Must have been given razor blades for Christmas.

Tony Etoria – I Can Prove It
"Good disco fun" says Kid, the song already long well underway behind him. In a Harry Hill-collared white shirt and elaboratedly knotted snood-cum-neckerchief with with a rarely utilised guitar strapped on, Etoria seems more than a bit nervous, perhaps because orchestra and singers are throwing everything they can at the arrangement. At various points he seems to be singing behind the rhythm, vainly trying but missing the click track altogether.

Joy Sarney – Naughty Naughty Naughty
I think all has been said that neeed to be said here.

The Jacksons – Show You The Way To Go
"From the land of a thousand dances!" Even Michael only exhibits two or three here, but it's enough. This has gone down as the record where Michael really started showing what he'd become, the eighteen year old's voice achieving full range under the new tutelage of Gamble & Huff as writers and producers. As for their actual studio presence, it's a wonder. People are dancing! Kid's swinging his mike cord! The brothers have broken out their colour coded martial jackets with glittery designs on the front that might as well have been based on the outfits from a lost Gerry Anderson series! Michael's straight to the front, leaving Jackie and Marlon to try and pull off a full choreographed synchronised routine when there's two of them and their brother's in front spinning away and adding ad-libs. Unfortunately, after a commanding performance Michael decides he can trust a Top Of The Pops crowd with participation. "Everybody clap your hands! Put 'em up high so I can see 'em!" By the time we cut away five people have done so.

Van McCoy – The Shuffle
Legs & Co again, clearly without time to rehearse new bits for this prime example of Sport On Four Pop as Sue and Lulu pretty much replicate their routine from the other week and everyone else follows their moves in pairs of Patti/Pauline and Gill/Rosie on seperate podiums behind, all sporting bedouin-based trousers.

The Jam – In The City
Ah, the point of no return, how are you.

Well, that was effervescent. Note Kid's brief spate of air guitar when he thinks he's far enough off camera - he did it again at the end - the two blokes pogoing at different speeds from first to last while everyone else remains rigid, fighting that good fight, and that in his indoor shades at that angle at 0:43 Rick Buckler looks a bit like Roger Taylor does now. Note the expert coincidental timing that sees this appear the day before BBC4's Punk Britannia season kicks off, and then wonder, while neither song nor performance are really recognised as major moments in punk's heritage, whether a crack hadn't just appeared in the prime-time pop continuum. "Right at the forefront of a new rock phenomenon known as New Wave", Kid declares confusingly.

Rod Stewart – The First Cut Is The Deepest
Toppotron™'s back! Three months after the last use of a pretend big screen, one seems to grow into the set out of nowhere, giving away its secret with its initial picture-in-picture shot, replicating what we're seeing only with a big blue bit of cloth where Toppotron™ is, eventually replaced by a projection of the countdown still of Rod in full emotive body language which someone then walks in front of, none too cleverly. Song introduced, Kid turns towards it. So does most of the audience. What were they expecting to see there? We see the video in all its back-guitar-playing, arse-waggling glory. Boz Scaggs' Lido Shuffle sees us out. Just one thing for Kid to do before the end, and he doesn't disappoint: "from me it's good love!"

Thursday, 24 May 2012

TOTP 12/5/77 (tx 24/5/12): bee sharp

So this isn't a vintage run of TOTP2, but given the show numbers limit and the seeming demand to keep it fairly populist I'm not sure we'd have expected much more. Worth it for the universal horror at Claire & Friends and surely KWS' first visual media mention in nearly two decades, though.

Jimmy Savile in restrained mood. For now. And if you thought last week was cryptic...

Answers on a postcard or the back of a sealed envelope.

Honky – Join The Party
It's 1977. They called white disco-funk bands Honky without prejudice back then. They have an analogue synth, a three-man brass section in polyester plus-fours who like marching up and down, and the rest of the band are clad in white bell bottoms, and I can't work out just from that whether they're behind or ahead of the times. The instruments, mike and mike stand are all covered in tinsel and bits of party popper, as if they'd accidentally started their stage I'm-on-telly party before the floor manager had given them the go-ahead. They have a lot of stickers, which crop up on people's backs throughout the rest of the evening. The singer's trying, bless him, in his open sailor shirt and American accented baritone ad-libs, but nobody's ever going to confuse them for an American band, just another British band hoping nobody asks them where they're from. The guitarist, who 'plays' his solo without changing chord or strumming motion, and bassist both looking like they got into white funk because they didn't get into 10cc doesn't help their cause in that respect. By the ending breakdown they've got audience members to throw streamers at them, but as with all recent shows they seem to apathetic to really join in. Most of them don't so much as brush the bell bottoms. Jimmy refers to them as being "all the way from Southampton" as if that were glamour itself. "They're gonna get to number one, definitely!" he states confidently. SPOILER: they didn't.

Barbra Streisand – Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)
"A cool-off, straight away". And back to her acting all coy and that at Kristofferson around a ribbon mike.

Blue – I'm Gonna Capture Your Heart
"A disc jockey from Leeds", one with a broad West Indies accent, is dragged on to do Jimmy's job for him. Blue seem to have been stuck away in a corner and the singer-pianist has to find the most low down angles from which his rheumy eyes can meet the camera's glare. He's already on a lower level than his bandmates. The bassist tries to make mad staring eyes on his close-up on the final go-round, but it's partly lost as he's staring out the monitor. Only audience members can make that sort of assumptive mistake, sir. A couple of big wobbles on static shots follow, perhaps old audience members returning to beat up the camera operators who ran them over last year. Or maybe it's bad workmanship, as then it seems the actual stage wobbles. Can't get the chippies these (those) days.

Trinidad Oil Company – The Calendar Song
Over without a throw back to Jim in vision, and... steel band calypso! Innumerable men in Wolverhampton Wanderers colours, half of whom don't actually seem to do anything - there's only five sets of percussion - but move from side to side and sing backing vocals, like a Trinidadian Showaddywaddy. They're even wearing drapes. And they weren't even Trinidadian, they were Dutch. With no set rhythm they have to amuse themselves, one man with a hedge of hair above a Borg headband choosing a moment on screen to get down with his bad self, twirling and shoulder shimmying just to amuse the bloke next to him. He'd make a far more convincing frontman than the actual frontman, who may well have got the job on the basis of his fine set of teeth. Surprisingly, only one stick drop is recorded.

Piero Umiliani – Mah Na Mah Na
It's at this point that television goes into a tailspin for two and a half minutes. Firstly Jim emerges in a suit and brown wig, announcing "Jimmy's had to disappear, this is his twin brother Percy". Maybe Percy's still alive. This of course is the mysterious one (who actually had quite a career if you look it up, even the bloke on lead 'vocals' was a session guitarist who played the riff on the theme to The Good, The Bad And The Ugly), but unable to make the obvious Muppets/Benny Hill connections Flick went with... um... well... oh, just watch it.

She may well be doing all the heavy lifting routine-wise, but what BBC4 really needed at this exact moment was a picture-in-picture live feed from the home of Sue's children. Surely the highlight of this triumph of the art of CSO - and one wonders whether Sue was given strict direction or just flash notes - is the facial work of the other five from 1:53, caught between smiling for the camera and absolute terror. Apart from Lulu, who spoils it by looking at the monitor rather than the camera.

Simon May – We'll Gather Lilacs
Year of punk and all that, granted, but even TOTP acknowledges how out of contemporary pop mores this is by placing May, his piano and the surrounding leaves Elkie Brooks left behind in an oval sepia fringe for the intro. Maybe it's to make his performance seem more tolerable by the nostalgia filter. No man can look that smug and miss that many notes flat. Maybe it's the influence of the open wine bottle on the piano with glass, but on long notes he's ululating all over the shop. No wonder he gets cut off early, and apparently foreshortened in the midway solo too. It's possible they never told him.

10cc – Good Morning Judge
"How am I doing for a beginner?" The video in all its overlaid, braless, bewigged finery.

Martyn Ford Orchestra – Let Your Body Go Downtown
One assumes Martyn Ford and Johnny Pearson had a dust-up in the car park after hours. Jimmy makes sure to mention this is at number 48, which doesn't quite seem the positive he might have intended. Ford is one of the great pop arrangers and could get the De Paul/Moran axis to write this for him - unrecorded whether they did so on facing synths - but given a live group to work with, and it's unclear whether these middle aged men in matching orange jumpers are the in-house collective or Ford's mates, it all falls flat as an in-house orchestra on limited time attempting disco would, though well done to the saxophonist standing up for his solo. He knows his etiquette. Ford is wearing a white suit with a musical note brooch and huge glasses, not so much conducting as experiencing the unfortunate onset of St Vitus' dance. The floor manager has to duck out of shot at one point. And check those backing singers, possibly chosen to visually represent every facet of mid-70s pre-disco/punk night out fashion:

When we next saw them they were trying out some half-synchronised moves. The one on the left (that's not Moran, is it?) appeared not to have received that memo.

Kenny Rogers – Lucille
From behind a drumkit and surrounded by girls, proving Jim's talents for wandering and attracting run in the family, Percy introduces a video of Rogers, who we'll be seeing quite a bit of, sitting louchely sideways on a chair.

Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up (Pt 1)
Unusual to get two Legs & Co routines in one edit, introduced here by Percy pretending to play May's piano, but maybe it needed to be proved that Legs & Co could dance properly. Pretty standard fare for Legs '77, restored to full capacity - and isn't Patti glad she came back just in time for that first one - in visions of aquamarine, bras, ruffled shoulder pads and party dresses with cutaway fronts all the better to swing around. The routine ends with a slow zoom into Patti's crotch. "Just a little present for the lads in the pit there" Percy leers. At least be subtle about it, director.

Mud – Slow Talkin' Boy
Say this for Mud, once they got the glam explosion out of their system they never stuck to one formula for long. Rob's bought an electric mandolin and someone's found Hot Butter's synth, represented visually by Les and Ray, sporting a pink jumper and a huge acoustic bass, playing air pong. That's to mark the synthesised pips on the off-beat, each one met by a flash of the cobweb of lights above the stage. Good reaction times, techie. Les gets an uncontrollable and quite sweet fit of the giggles just by briefly tipping his darkened shades before he and Ray have more fun with alternate arm swinging and stare-out. Somewhere along the line Dave has grown a fake tache. Makes up for how underwrung the song is. Again, one assumes this is genuinely unedited from original showing but it does fade out early.

Billy Paul – Let 'Em In
The Pauline Quirke lookalike standing next to Percy with her tracksuit top-warmed arms stoutly folded may not have seemed to impressed with the prospect, neither the hordes of people looking hopefully up at the camera crane who don't notice until almost too late that Paul's actually behind them if they care at all, but soul business picks right up. The man in the big purple floppy felt hat and big overcoat is covering the Wings hit from 1976, replacing the namechecks for Paul's mates and heroes with references to civil rights activists and African American heroes. Pops in turn replaces Ruby Flipper looking coquettishly through novelty doors with Paul with, well, an audience member right in the centre of shot looking away into the middle distance and finding something or other amusing. The record features samples from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but with the orchestral requirement he has to recreate them himself. The BBC's supposed to have the world's largest sound archive or something, couldn't they have put some extra research hours in? In any case, what led a downtrodden sector of US society to rise up and get behind the civil rights movement a decade earlier merely bemuses a group of pasty British teenage girls. Paul's added Great Britain to the "bloodless revolution" bit, what else could he have done? Nothing of this is really his fault, he's coursing and occasionally belting his way through it without aforethought.

Dr Feelgood – Lights Out
And round about the other end of the subtlety spectrum... just four albums, one a live number one, into their career and having already lost their talismanic guitarist, Canvey Island's own make their TOTP debut with something not far from that mythical beast punk, albeit through a cover of a 1958 US rock'n'roll hit that was actually a B-side (Wilko Johnson, for it had been he, had written the A-side, Sneakin' Suspicion - who's trying to deny him performance rights royalties now?) Lee Brilleaux stalks the stage, ducking to the floor when the director's least expecting it, sweating like a man even though it's only two minutes long, in a suit jacket that could charitably be described as off-cream, looking constantly like he's about to offer everyone out. Bassist John B Sparks, with his walrus tache, open waistcoat and distressed jeans, looks ever more like a truck driver. The audience react with pretty much absolute neutrality/boredom, one man side of stage seemingly sitting down, so the director cuts to some flashing green lights instead.

Deniece Williams – Free
Our Leodensian friend gets to introduces that staircased performance again. Jimmy takes back over for the final link with a conspicuous lack of people around him. Kaleidovision plays us out with Joe Tex and the sight of precisely three people dancing.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Contempt breed familiarity

Think it's fair to say there was only one question on the minds of the TOTP1977 nation after Thursday night's first show...

Who the hell were Contempt? What was so fascinating before Thursday, and has continued to fascinate those who care ever since, is in this information age nobody seemed to know anything about them bar a few meagre technical clues on a discography page, and certainly nobody knew or remembered what it sounded like - precious few Google hits for the song title, as stated in the recap not even the estate of its producer Martin Rushent knew anything, yet clearly so much was thought of them by someone in a power of responsibility and influence that they got to open Top Of The Pops one week. Luckily, over the last 48 hours details have begun to emerge, some from the bassist's daughter on the doyouremember forums (and she didn't believe his claims until the repeat), so consider this your primer on a band who you've never heard of before (and this goes as much for hardened pop/chart watchers who were there at the time) and almost certainly never will again.

Contempt were Howard Paul (vocals), Chris Jarrett (guitar), Robin Langridge (keyboard), Nick Pallett (bass) and Stuart Skinner (drums). Pallett had been in Dandelion Records band Principal Edwards Magic Theatre; Paul had fronted Asylum, who played with the likes of Sailor, Camel and UFO around 1974-75 and had through which he'd gained a reputation for adopting a 'stockbroker' image, something as you can see he maintained. Asylum are described here as "reminiscent of Genesis with shades of Steve Harley" and having "a tremendous sense of theatre". After they finished Paul retreated to open mike nights and through links made there formed a new band. By June 1977 Contempt were touring with the Kursaal Flyers, one press release claiming Money Is A Girl's Best Friend "wasn't typical", though as it mentions Queen influences and RP accents it can't be that comparatively outlandish.

In fact Polydor, who'd been due to release the single a day after TOTP, messed up distribution so it didn't chart at all and as a result didn't back the album despite it already being recorded with Rushent. A few months later the members physically fell out and Contempt came to a halt. As for later work Paul released a cover of Mack The Knife on Elton John's Rocket label in 1979, Jarrett is credited with guitar and programming on Toni Halliday's pre-Curve solo album, while Langridge went on to help launch Karel Fialka - he's one of the people in the background here - as well as play with natural bedfellows Ofra Haza and Ivor Biggun, and before any of that had, in a continuation of Thursday night's theme, been in a blues band called Punchin' Judy. A documentary short directed by Asheq Akhtar won the London Film Award presented by Tamasha Theatre Company earlier this year, and here it is. The Polydor red 7" he holds up? Yes, that's it:

Now, who were Glamourpuss?

Friday, 18 May 2012

TOTP 5/5/77 (tx 17/5/12): no show without Punch

We will get round to this in the fulness of time.

"Right, come on! You're not supposed to enjoy yourselves!" It's to be assumed Noel was making a joke, but this is at the start of a TOTP fronted by Noel Edmonds so who really knows.


Bay City Rollers – It's A Game
Ah, the Rollers! Except this is the beginning of the end, down to four and this their first single not to reach the top ten. Les has gone for the open shirt look plus high waisted white jeans and a badge reading 'I CAN DO IT' but more notably there are few strands of hanging on to the tartan tradition, Eric Faulkner with a scarf, Stuart Wood his collar. Not that this matters much to the Rollerites, there's still quite a few scarves and one girl down the front completely losing it. Later, however, when the camera is right behind her she keeps turning back and checking where it is. Fearful of being found out? "Somebody wrote to me and said 'how do you measure tartan? With a Bay City ruler?' Well, close" Someone wrote to Noel, yet it still sounds like the sort of line only he would attempt.

Rod Stewart – The First Cut Is The Deepest
"Rod Stewart also wears tartan". Yes, Noel, maybe so, but not in this video clip. Rod looks uncomfortable playing an acoustic guitar, as if it's physically weighing him down, and notably there's no instrument shots for the difficult bits. That'll be why on the second chorus he suddenly swings it behind his back, as if he's making that Kenny Everett sketch flesh and playing it with the arse cheeks, before bringing it back just to turn his back on camera and then abandoning the instrument entirely regardless of the soundtrack. He then makes like he's using his vertebrae to fingerpick. "What a moody lot of romantic individuals we have here" comments Noel. The Rollers and Rod? We can't hear screaming but we're led to assume it, which is an interesting touch.

Delegation – Where Is The Love (We Used To Know)
And now, The Green Lantern - The Harmonic Soul Years.

It's not a colour that radiates serious minded greatness, is it? As if this weren't undignified enough, a badly timed closeup reveals a massive gap in the front teeth of the lead singer.

The Eagles – Hotel California
"They're touring around the UK at the moment" Noel tells us. So why aren't they on the show? Legs & Co - still Patti-free! Three weeks now - instead, and what says more about Californian decadence then dressing your dancers as matadors in fake moustaches. Well, that's one way of putting paid to the literalism accusations. Gill Rosie takes a supporting role that's meant to be lead as a Hollywood starlet type, the backdrop is a single door against clouds looking like a painting and none of it really makes much sense.

Mac & Katie Kissoon - Your Love
"You might well have heard the rumours of Mac & Katie Kissoon in split partnership riddle. Well, here's the truth - they're back together again." What? They don't seem very together to start with, Katie having to descend some stairs to join Mac. She's also been lumbered with an impractical looking Mexican-inspired dress with what seems to be a large peacock feather affixed to the front. A lot of people only seem to come over to watch right at the end.

Leo Sayer – How Much Love
The massed Leos of the VT suite strike again.

Joy Sarney – Naughty Naughty Naughty
This is true. Within the last day another clip of this has appeared on YouTube. Title: 'Punch & judy song on Top of the pops'. Description: 'What the hell is wrong with people from the past....'

The first line of the middle eight is "he's been in trouble with the law for grevious bodily harm", and it's sung like a grand soul statement. As you admire the work of the director, who refuses to let on any sight of Sarney's singing partner or his habitation until right at the end of the first chorus, just think about this for a moment. As this blog post reveals, the recorded version is different. Johnny Pearson had to find out how to play this and then run it through with his orchestra. The Punch operator, wrist blatantly in shot, had to provide live vocals. Someone had to get all those balloons pumped up. Humanity, that whole curing cancer thing can wait for another day, we've got a new performance of a song in which a session singer pretends to be a forgiving rival for Judy's affections in the face of a heavily sexed up Punch to organise. You'll notice the lack of audience shots.

Tavares – Whodunnit
The TopPop clip again, enlivened by Noel picking a fight with a girl in a flat cap behind him.

Frankie Valli – Easily
Surrounded by Rollermania girls, of whom there really are a lot, Noel informs us Valli is "doing some fabulous concerts". How important is he? He gets a walk-on. Presumably the best bits don't include this sappy piano ballad, judging by the fact that half the audience, even the two seemingly transfixed at the front are distracted by the crane camera as it swoops from round the back of a 50p shaped mini-stage we haven't seen before. Some start waving at it. You're not telling me that wouldn't distract Valli, stage veteran or not. Noel, now in front of the balloons, takes quite some time to start talking afterwards.

Andrew Gold – Lonely Boy
"Sounds like a company with Angela Rippon as managing director, doesn't it?" It's taken him this long to think of a line for Legs & Co? The oddest piece of early version editing comes here and must be for timing reasons, even though the edit comes in a good minute or so short of as long as it can run, as the earlier routine was cut but this repeat, Floyd and all, was left in.

Mr Big – Feel Like Calling Home
Noel has got a Union Jack flag ("the only thing that spoils it is it says Made In Hong Kong") and hat from somewhere. That's more intriguing than this leaden number, which the singer tries to enliven with some very odd strained falsetto singing at the start and his bandmates add some "bidibidibidi" backing vocals to at one stage.

Deniece Williams – Free
At last, a new number one! Noel, absolutely surrounded and packed in by people - well, let's be fair, girls - asks one what it will be and gets no answer. He seems to be chiding someone in response as a slow wipe takes him and his kind off the screen in favour of Williams' studio performance from two shows ago now, just before someone holding an autograph book can reach him. He's on telly, woman! "It's been great presenting Top Of The Pops from inside a lift" is Noel's line out of the action and into Sir Duke and the credits as everyone presses in on him, but not before someone clearly pokes him in the eye.

TOTP 28/4/77 (tx 17/5/12): do the bump

ALERT! Top Of The Pops 2 is back for a fortnight only, every weekday from Monday, BBC2, 6.30pm. Don't expect too much out of the way stuff, it's a limited run in prime-time after all, but good to have it around.

Dave Lee Travis in charge this week, getting straight down to business, no messing about. Yet. And... hang on, what's this coming over the hill?

Marquee Moon's only top 30 week, so obviously punk's not having to happen yet. Well, it's difficult to know what even Flick would have done with its monolithic nature. Deep Purple's five years old Smoke On The Water is at 27. We never see that on the show either.

Contempt – Money Is A Girl’s Best Friend
But we do get this. What it is... well, it's a mystery for starters, as cursory online searches find next to nothing about them. Not even the son of its producer, the great Martin Rushent, could come up with anything when someone asked him. Contempt clearly not breeding familiarity. So all we have to go on is the music, and that's tricky enough. They've got vaudeville aspirations, the open shirted guitarist seems to have got lost on the way to a prog gig, the drummer sports a magnificent bushy beard and the singer is in full City gent costume with furled umbrella. Very much in the Sensational Alex Harvey Band lineage, then, especially when the singer unveils the sort of vocal style that would seem slightly overdone in regional musical theatre. Then it briefly turns into then-recent Queen with a three-part harmony. Quite a bit of Cockney Rebel too. Then there's an acapella harmony on the line "open up the goody store". By this point, not unreasonably and just before the slow-then-quickening waltz time section with widdly guitar solo which turns Greek, audience members are looking as practically bemused as they can. Eventually it has to be faded out. It is, fair to say, one way of opening a show.

Rose Royce – I Wanna Get Next To You
Ah, something sensible. Something cheap too, as Legs & Co are split into factions this week and Pauline gets a solo spot in an area that appears to have been fenced off with pink toilet paper hung from the lighting rig. Two white roses in her hair and lots of arms to sides pouting is how it goes.

The Detroit Spinners – Could It Be I'm Falling In Love
As we pan from DLT to stage we see two girls wearing tartan scarves that are the very same length that they are, one with 'WOODY' in white lettering down the middle, the other 'LES' likewise. Wrong week, girls. And maybe they should stop chatting to their mates apparently not noticing anything else going on and turn round, because there's a fulsome display of music and movement going on. Matching predominately mauve suits, lots of spinning round and changing places, and behind the Ladybirds (we have to assume) doing completely different moves, which makes them noticeable but then even more so when they're inaudible for a few seconds too many. Obviously the blaring orchestra stomp all over its subtleties, but the mid-section, while the Pearson timing does send it a little out of whack, allows the Spinners to show off their full move set - an elbowy cartoon-like full stride creep, a hop while spinning with jacket tails in the breeze, a two steps to side and kick, and a bit where the rest give Bobby Smith the floor to show off his solo moves and then look at each other as if to say "did you see that?" By the end, oddly, we can hear the Ladybirds over the harmonising Spinners but the latter's handclaps are coming over fine.

10cc – Good Morning Judge
From the first album after Godley and Creme had left. They, of course, became major players in the development of the pop video. This is a video, and it's not contributing to the form's major development. It does, however, include the following: Eric Stewart in a neckerchief and tan jacket, a 'jury' of chromakeyed multiple Stewarts and Graham Gouldmans in wigs and facial hair and both men (Gouldman spends the bulk of the bits not shot on location in a white wig pretending to be an American judge, for some reason) pushing away their stands to reveal electric guitars for soloing upon.

Rags – Promises Promises
As previously mentioned, Rags are kind of an embryonic Bucks Fizz - one of the girls managed them, the other wrote songs for them and their failed Eurovision bid with this song included a skirt ripping-off sequence. Maybe that's what DLT is thinking of as he makes the sort of face introducing them that he usually saves for Legs & Co. In fact they're literally wearing rags, stylised ragamuffin outfits at least. Just as you wonder whether they're no so voluminous they can't actually move in them they get cast aside in favour of light blue outfits, leading to some classic light pop shimmying, incorporating some synchronised head ballet, that actually seems a little ahead of its time. Four Eurovisions ahead, I suppose. "It's going to be Noel Edmonds' record of the week next week" DLT threatens early risers.

Joe Tex – Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)
Frankly, taking clips from Soul Train is making TOTP's efforts all round look even lamer than normal. Everybody struts their stuff to its utmost, the performer has the original recording and loads of space to work with, and if you get some sort of latent anti-genius on it results in something like this (apologies for the Wright):

Some points of note: the woman side of stage posing a threat to low flying air traffic from 0:49, Joe's belief that convincing miming is something that happens to other people, the people you can just see in silhouette behind the caption at 1:25 bending forth and back from the waist in unison, his clever move with the mike stand nearly backfiring and endangering lives at 2:11, and of course that ending. Imagine if DLT had had to take that role. IMAGINE.

Kiki Dee – Night Hours
Still sitting down. In the round with an acoustic guitarist sporting Farrah Fawcett-meets-Dougal from the Magic Roundabout hair Dee has some people spellbound and several looking at the monitor instead.

Billy Ocean – Red Light Spells Danger
DLT has found a hard looking man with a beard. What transpires is not pretty, involves both mockery and forgetfulness, and can be seen here. That might be the only reason why in a show in which everything else bar the number one is new to TOTP this has been kept in, unless it's the presence in front of Ocean of Gill and Rosie turning and pelvic thrusting for all they're worth in short tops embossed with flourescent red dots, intended (we must assume) as stop signs. They've got more red circles hanging off their pants-as-dancewear. Even their clothes are literal interpretations. For Ocean's sartorial part his jacket design is somewhere between tartan blanket and Axminster and that collar could still make him fly away one windy day.

Barbra Streisand – Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)
"There's all sorts going on here - they're all after my cheese butty, look" quoth DLT, who proceeds to take a bite. What's happened there? Put it down between takes, man! You've got three minutes a time! Inevitably, he links into the video with his mouth full. Being simpler days, there are people who find this hilarious. I say video, with Kris Kristofferson staring intently at her it's more likely to be a clip from the film.

Uriah Heep – Wise Man
DLT introduces them sitting at their feet, John Lawton sadly not taking the opportunity to clout him one. Prog? At this stage of proceedings? Well, not really, they were a heavy rock band by this stage, new frontman Lawton falling between two stools with a mighty orcs-ahead vibrato, Rob Halford-presaging leathers and eyeliner as his band walk through the usual big rock ballad business. The kids just look confused.

Van McCoy – The Shuffle
A third helping of the Legs & Co select committee. Patti's still off recovering from what Floyd put her through so it's Sue and Lulu making the best of McCoy's second attempt to make a flute-driven instrumental work in tight bellydancer outfits, maybe because that was all that was left over, from within what seems to be one of those growing frames you find in allotments.

Barry Biggs – You're My Life
We should know better given Biggs ran with the pink ruffled ringmaster suit as the previous last word in fashion, but he's dug right down to the bottom of the basket this week and emerged with a lime green marquee-like shirt which may even be partially transparent. With a large part of the audience behind him and some actually watching him instead of the monitors he slowly ascends a set of steps as we look back at him trying to look back at us all lachrymose while studying every step in turn in detail. Once he gets halfway up and finds his little stage he turns round and makes like he means every word to a crowd who may or may not be listening. Just as the camera pans down to DLT a floor manager runs across the shot.

ABBA – Knowing Me Knowing You
"They've been there for 34 years and they're going to stay there for another 34 years" claims DLT. This was the last week, fortunately, though in terms of popular culture in general he was far more spot on than he'll ever realise. He then does a Swedish accent, which makes one girl giggle. That's all she wrote, DLT crashing into the vocals of Rod Stewart's The First Cut Is The Deepest, which in a beautiful piece of historically chart referencing scheduling on BBC4's part is followed by a trail for Punk Britannia (starts 1st June).

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Miss it, miss out

Don't forget there's two TOTP77s on tomorrow (17th), 7.30pm and 8.30pm, followed by the Tales Of Television Centre documentary including rare footage and recollections from Babs, Dee Dee and Ruth from Pan's People. Recaps up Friday night.

Monday, 7 May 2012

European union

You've never quite heard a song without the fullest orchestration, have you?

Nice bit of in-character work, Ronnie. That of course is the omega performance of a recent TOTP77 favourite and the song the UK sent forward 35 years ago today to defend the Eurovision title Brotherhood Of Man had won a year earlier. It finished second, not that everyone hoped it would come that close - documents released in 2009 revealed BBC governor meeting minutes which noted "when it seemed that the UK would win the contest (and have to pay for it again in 1978) BBC faces at Wembley had grown longer and longer, but they had cheered up when L'Oiseau Et L'Enfant won the prize."

Some sign of what was to come came on the night of A Song For Europe when a technicians' strike meant coverage of the nomination process was limited to Radio 2. The self-penned Rock Bottom beat among others The Foundations, Lyn Paul of the New Seekers, Carl Wayne ex of The Move, Mary Mason who we'll see soon anyway and Opportunity Knocks winner Tony Monopoly, not to mention pre-show favourite Promises Promises by Rags, which I only mention due to the routine the group had planned which would see the two female members' skirts being ripped off mid-song to reveal shorter garments underneath. Four years later one of those girls, Nichola Martin, co-founded Bucks Fizz and the other, Jill Shirley, became their manager, so at least the idea didn't go to waste.

Instead Rock Bottom, an evocation of more straitened times complete with Lionel Blair choregraphy, was chosen by the people to go forward to the Wembley final on April 2nd. Except it didn't, as another BBC strike, this time cameramen, delayed it to May. Then when it did take place there were a different set of technical snafus. Let host Angela Rippon explain. More directly, let producer Stewart Morris' talkback take up the story (NSFW):

That roller has never been cued in quite the same way again to this day. For the record this won despite receiving half as many twelve pointers as our man and woman, while some TOTP77 alumni finished sixth despite their Morse code sessioneer's sterling work.

Friday, 4 May 2012

TOTP 21/4/77 (tx 3/5/12): just because a record has a groove don't make it in the groove

A side note to begin: there's no Pops next week - don't know if The Sky At Night is moving any time soon but this month's is a special to mark 55 years on the air so give them some leeway for now - but as part of their 1970s series BBC2 is getting in on the act by showing this one at 10pm on the 12th May. Surely there's better choices? And not just for Gary Glitter's presence, much as that'll get the duty log going.

And then, on the 17th... two TOTPs in one night! Christ alive, I'm already dreading how I'm going to work out that week. 7.30 and 8.30, since you ask, with the long promised Tales From Television Centre documentary at 9 and a 1974 Blue Peter featuring a tour of the same building at 8, and the unedited Pops will be shown back to back from 11.20.

Back to forty minute originals this week, so let's try a new way of doing things - if possible (as, for example, not this week) I'll have the Thursday evening recap up later the same night, then some time on Friday the songs edited out will be included.

Oh, Tony Blackburn. With your Lego man hair and your cream polo neck and your lack of jokes now Diddy's off the roster.

Eddie & The Hot Rods – I Might Be Lying
PUNK! Well, no it isn't, it's not even as punk-like as their previous appearance with Get Out Of Denver, it's just not-as-good-as-Dr Feelgood-style pumped up rhythm and blues pub rock. Barrie Masters is certainly aware of what's going on with his stance and microphone attack mode, forward and back across the stage with an artfully bare chest and with the camera following his every step eagerly from almost underneath, but somehow it's not quite right. Maybe it's because it always looks like he's about to break out into a great big smirk. Both guitarists and the becapped bassist are in shades, one of the former pulling plenty of rock action moves unbecoming to his Graham Parker-in-leather-jacket appearance. Not for the last time tonight the audience couldn't be less interested. Three girls right by the front of the stage are watching the overhead monitor. Another is not only looking away from it but also chewing gum nonchalantly. Put some ripped leathers on her and she'd make the lead in a bad comedy sketch about punk, I suppose.

O.C. Smith – Together
"This used to be one of my records of the week". Oh, Tony, everything's your record of the week. He even mentions it again afterwards, he's so proud of its status. It's a long way from the Soul Train clip of two weeks ago to Elstree, but in his neat all-blue ensemble incorporating waistcoat Smith still exudes a kind of glazed sophistication against the very vague efforts of the orchestra, showmanship limited to some finger clicking. In the background various Hot Rods briefly appear to tidy up after themselves.

Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke
Cameraman and director in perfect misdirection harmony.

Pauline and the others (bar Patti - well, she needed time off after what Floyd put her through last week) are in very shiny and reflective silver dresses with something similar on top of their heads and they're going right through their training, bits of celebrated dance styles mixed in with the usual exertions somehow to balance with Stevie's appreciation shout-outs. Plus, for that extra ingredient, audible handclaps. As long as they weren't dubbed on in post-production, that's all that matters. And the audience respond in kind with... well, no, they don't respond in the slightest. Hardly a twitch, even though Pops seems to have built them three ringside grandstands to sit in and still have to have some standing around at the sides. Never a good idea, putting the audience in the background, you can then see how easily distracted they get. In one close-up only Tony, absent mindedly tapping the mike against his other wrist, is showing any sign of life.

Berni Flint – I Don't Want To Put A Hold On You (edited from 7.30)
Can't work out if this is a repeat or not. There are after all a limited number of things a director can do with one seated man and his acoustic guitar picking.

Tavares – Whodunnit
"I hate to brag but this was another of my records of the week". How many does he get a week? It's a clip from Holland's Top Pop, possibly chosen for the name alone, and a show that clearly holds no truck with the art of miming as only the lead singer is given a microphone even though backing vocals and harmonies are scattered throughout. Their matching crimson outfits with elaborate collars are quite the thing, along with the standard issue soul wing shirt collars. The shirts are pink. Pink!

Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran – Rock Bottom
Lynsey's special 'ROCK BOTTOM' paper didn't arrive that morning, nothing amuses her and this time nobody can be bothered with flags (or reactions) around them, but otherwise it's pretty much the same facing pianos arrangement as last time. They didn't even play it like that on the night, which was still more than two weeks away at this time due to strike-related postponement. The early version features a tremendously clumsy mid-song edit.

Leo Sayer – How Much Love
Well, this is decidedly odd. A video (here it is) directed by the man behind the Bohemian Rhapsody video (and has directed every live American Idol), it's essentially built around up to four Leos dancing and essentially messing about while singing, filmed individually and often in silhouette, looking like a cross between Once In A Lifetime and the credits sequence of Bottom.

Delegation – Where Is The Love (We Used To Know)
With Tony keen to state they're from Birmingham, so we run into 1977's Sheer Elegance, only with toned down wardrobes, if that's how you'd describe all-in-ones with zips right up the front in Wolverhampton Wanderers colours. All things are relative, after all, and you definitely wouldn't run them over. As far as the song goes it's pretty much the same as every other male vocal harmony soul outfit, their USPs seemingly being a) the Charlie Williams-a-gram lead singer pitching the mike at an angle where he constantly has to tilt his head upwards, and b) the chain of male pattern baldness from left to right - curly perm, shaved short, actually receded to the sides. "They now go back to Germany" Tony enthuses.

Elkie Brooks – Pearl's A Singer
Repeat from her second appearance. The pianist is quite Lennonish, isn't he?

David Dundas – Another Funny Honeymoon (edited from 7.30)
"At last David Dundas has given us another hit single!" I can't imagine that was an oft heard exultation at the time. Better arrangement - no chicken guitar, less In The Summertime stealing - and an unobtrusive white suit but ultimately a lack of charisma does for him no matter how much he tries to make unbecoming doe eyes at the camera. Someone right near the front in a huge floppy hat nods along while looking away from the stage. He's not that bad. "A nice happy-go-lucky one for the summer, I'd have said" is Tony's only half listening interpretation.

Dead End Kids – Have I The Right (edited from 7.30)
The multi-stage production from last time around.

Deniece Williams – Free
As with OC Smith she was performing this on clips imported from Soul Train two shows ago. Impractical as it sounds, it'd be nice to think there was some exchange program going on and that same week Showaddywaddy and Dead End Kids were confusing the cool kids of LA. What is definite is even for the time those are the greatest width of bell bottom we've seen, and in another all-in-one to boot. Turquoise, too. Great live vocal, hamfisted interpretation, and only what looks like a portable set of steps for her to sing on, Delegation obviously far more important to properly locate than an American boasting the country's number four single. The camera crane ends up behind her so we can see the orchestra in the middle distance and in between a sea of blank faces. Johnny Pearson, it transpires, is miles away, behind part of the camera run. Maybe that was the problem.

ABBA – Knowing Me Knowing You
With the minimum of fuss it's a third week atop for that video, then someone behind Tony adds their own "bye!" just after he says it, then Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill and we're out.