I really hope BBC Four have some sort of strategy for this run, we're a good few weeks behind now with only two wiped shows for the remainder of the year and The Sky At Night remaining in that monthly slot, with that double from last month seemingly a one-off.
DLT, sitting behind a drumkit, introduces with his usual verve a chart remarkable for the breadth of its many new entries. There's the Muppets, who'll we'll see on the show soon enough, and the Ramones, who we won't, plus...
They're no oil paintings, haw haw haw. One can only assume their handlers decided actually seeing a photo yet would be somehow transgressive. They could have at least paid more attention to their big printout of the chart. They wouldn't even appear on the show until Jeffrey Daniel walked against the wind five years later (that's coming up very soon on On This TOTP Day, for what it's worth)
We'll come back to what this was, but the focus has not been tampered with in any way. Is that Emlyn Hughes and Kevin Keegan bottom left? It's hard to tell. Clearly what Liverpool had in prestige and silverware they lacked in photographic ability and string. Nice wallpaper.
Rule Lenska, more successful in her acting career than her sisters Eraser and Protractor. This of course is Little Ladies of ITV's, and presumably thus BBC LE verboten, Rock Follies Of '77, with OK, featured on the show literally the week before release. Then half the series got delayed til November due to industrial action, so that was that nipped in the bud. Bob Stanley tells us he bought this very 7" last week for 25p. The B-side is called B-Side.
Blue – I'm Gonna Capture Your Heart
You again. Not often a song gets to open the show twice, much less that it's one with as undynamic an opening as this. This time the piano is so far forward on the stage someone could easily pull at it and bring the whole thing crashing to the floor, though note that would be quite dangerous and all told I'm glad they don't. Already before we're seconds in modernity is making a mockery of studio soft rock, as someone self-consciously jigs about at three times the speed of the song before sharing a laugh with his friend right in front of camera. The bassist is pulling rock poses, the drummer looks like a lost member of Gabriel-era Genesis and Hugh Nicholson begins giggling two thirds of the way through at apparently nothing but a very private joke with the bassist.
Olivia Newton-John – Sam
Grease being a year (to this week, in fact) away, it's easy to forget how long before then Neutron-Bomb had spent performing doe-eyed ballads while seated, in this case on some steps left over outside the prop cupboard from Deneice Williams' visit. DLT, flanked by two girls wearing T-shirt bearing the legend 'DESERT', calls it "lovely" and the orchestra seem on safeish ground with a country lament, but it's been a rather crowded field for this sort of thing of late.
Piero Umiliani – Mah Na Mah Na
Those who've been fearing how DLT might introduce this, luckily he restrained himself to inviting a call and response. Again, have to ask whether Sue was choreographed individually or just told to do whatever the suit allowed in the overlaid single shots.
Frankie Miller's Full House – Be Good To Yourself
"Sensational number", no less. Well, clearly the work of people au fait with the Faces, as much with their positioning and stance as their rollicking rock'n'roll strut. Clearly over time the audience has learnt, as by now when the camera charges through the middle of them towards the stage they get out of the way sharpish. "Was that fantastic or was that fantastic?" DLT enthuses.
Kenny Rogers – Lucille
"Stop pushing! I get nervous, I tell yer!" warns DLT before referring to this not by name but as being "one of my favourites at the moment". After the reception he gave the last one? Seems like damning with faint praise even more. Same video as last time.
Liverpool Express – Dreamin'
"It's going right up there" DLT confidently predicts, and sure enough it stalled at 40. This would be the last we'd see of the 76-77 hardy perennials with the mid-tempo locked down, all with their Richard Beckinsale hair. In what may constitute an attempt at forging an image Billy Kinsley, looking more and more like an exact scientific cross between Eric Idle and Jasper Carrott, has a very thin and ragged looking scarf on, while the guitarist has brought his motorbike jacket and the keyboard player has gone for the white suit jacket and Dave Hill hair combination. None of this makes it sound less country-Rubettes-could-have-this-any-day like. There's a fading away fish-eye lens shot to end, and then DLT wanders onstage. "Just one thing, I want to apologise for the fact Manchester United whacked your team on Saturday" he offers, in reference to the FA Cup final. Then the band make to beat him up. This they do by having one of them growl and two grab lightly hold of his arms.
Bryan Ferry – Tokyo Joe
Legs & Co, under some Chinese lampshades - well, close enough geographically - struggle here only because the lighting is only on the back of the stage so they spend almost all the routine in elusive shadow. Because this is the era of Mind Your Language everyone (bar an absent Lulu) is in too short kimonos with at least one set of permanently visible knickers, doing a bit of bowing and a lot of that shuffling-with-hands-clasped thing, and everyone has their hair in buns or side ponytails. In fact pretty much the entire routine is based around the prayer gesture, with few exceptions including a wide swinging running motif on which one member is noticeably leading with a different arm to her colleagues. "That was not Legs & Co, that was Legs Ah So" remarks DLT, laughing at his own joke. At least he didn't do the slitty eyes.
The Stranglers – Go Buddy Go
"Watch out for this lot coming in the charts next week" DLT says with some confidence in front of a man wearing a fez, before growling something like "they are supremmmmmme!" like that means anything to anyone, most of all himself. So, more of this new music called New Wave. Or something. Taking the glam band adage of three out of work bricklayers and their hard looking mate and pushing it into new frontiers, Hugh Cornwell and Jean-Jacques Burnel are, frankly, having a bit of a lark. Cornwell is playing his riffs on Burnel's bass, while Burnel 'plays' attack rhythm on a guitar sans strings. Burnel, wearing a T-shirt with the Triumph motorbikes logo in the Ford style, is leaning forward like he wants to chin someone, anyone, but as we've seen on this show on pre-punk occasion it's more straightforward rock'n'roll than anything too far ahead, especially when the overjaunty pub piano solo kicks in. The audience are, as last week, stunned into silence. One man looks directly at the camera, glances back as if in late realisation, then decides that's enough of that and resumes looking back. The two people right at the front between the lead two are having a conversation during Cornwell's vocal part. Burnel just gives up pretending long before the end, which clearly comes long after he'd anticipated, ending up gathering up his guitar cord.
Marie Miriam – The Bird And The Child
"Something completely different, as they say in musical circles, for you now". No, DLT, that's Python you're thinking of. This was the French entrant that beat out Rock Bottom at Eurovision, presented here in a typically Eurovision Second Language translation which in its open line refers to its singer as "a child of creation" as opposed to a couple of lines later "a bird flying in motion", presumably as opposed to flying by osmosis. Miriam, decked out in varying shades of brown, including a scarf with a massive knot, can only try in getting it across, helped by the orchestra having a whale of a time building up the brass fanfares and getting a big showbiz finish, much as the Ladybirds try to take over the thing. Miriam then just neglects to sing the last bit, standing back and admiring a relatively lively crowd. "Ooh la la!" says DLT, of course.
Electric Light Orchestra – Telephone Line
"That famous Yorkshire group", with comedy pronunciation, are on video, all second hand half washed out colours, slightly dry iced string section and meaningful close-ups.
Brendon – Rock Me
"And now we have a few words from our sponsor... he's been eating at the BBC canteen!"
I'm not even going to try. It looks slightly blurred because DLT is bouncing both and his croak-emitting friend up and down in time to the intro. Surely this is what friend WeddingSuit, this time all in white, meant by "an unexpected intro"; presumably it isn't Brendon and band leading the the audience in a clapalong to begin this Abba B-side cover, as he did that last time to similar acclaim, and almost throughout hands clapping, unclear whether superimposed or reflection, appear in silhouette on the big round set design screen next to the stage. See, punks, look and learn. Looks like Brendon's got the same denim shirt on too. See, Liverpool Express, that's how you go about building a lasting image. (Not that it worked, this is his last appearance on the show too, but nevertheless) That all said, despite visuals this clearly isn't a three guitar song, though by the second verse one of them, in a Rubettes cap, seems to be 'playing' the brass section instead. "A bit of fun music" is the best DLT can come up with.
Rod Stewart – The First Cut Is The Deepest
And back to Rod's guitar soloing gluteus maximus. For once the last link and credits song are really quite interesting, as is DLT's body language: "We must add from all the team here on Top Of The Pops our congratulations to Liverpool (thumb up) for winning the (screws face up) European Cup (makes funny circular hand gesture) final!" That final was played on Wednesday night, so during the recording of this show. One assumes two endings were recorded, one with a straightforward goodnight message followed by Good Morning Judge. What we get instead is We Can Do It, Liverpool's Cup final song, a lyrical rewrite of a Rubettes song ("do you remember '65, we really had the place alive!") to charging glam riffs. Now that's who should have been performing in the studio next week. (Apart from that the single immediately started dropping down the chart, but you know what I mean)