Wednesday, 25 July 2012

TOTP 30/6/77 (tx 25/7/12): summer shorts

Courtesy of Google's scans of the Glasgow Herald archives, that night's BBC1 at a glance...

In fact it comes out at a sneaky 27 minutes, which means we've just about lost another likely non-charting single of forgotten rubbish oddness. Gnh.

"There's only one way to introduce this week's TOTP - and this is it". It may be a shortened programme full of repeats, but Noel's going to bring out all the stylistic big guns we've become accustomed to nonetheless.

T-Connection – Do What You Wanna Do
Kicking off with a video is a surefire way of showing there's not much going on this week, or that someone pulled out late. A really ropey quality performance video clip, as if they'd prefigured the cabling running the floor of the Atlantic by dragging the reel to reel along the sea bed on the way across, mostly featuring an overhead shot of the singer at the keyboard wearing a bright yellow tabard with some sort of flower-cog design on. But never mind that, as just 25 seconds in... Toppotron™ time! And what a motley crew of uncomfortable dancers we have in tonight, ranging from a couple on a raised platform who have the swing and the moves to a man in a grey jumper lively pacing three steps into the bulk of the throng, then three steps back, then repeat. TV studio, wedding reception, all the same. The girls swing their bobs prettily. The boys either fancy themselves in their stylish white jackets or look like they need an urgent piss. One girl has brought her autograph book with her and is clutching it for dear life. Just a minute and a half in - maybe the end was damaged by rocks or covered in seaweed - Noel wanders on, and either it's a massive con with green screen and last week's crowd or he's oddly lit from above. "Born with a teaspoon in their mouths" is his first attempt at redefining the presentational art.

Gladys Knight & The Pips – Baby Don't Change Your Mind
"Three new entries in the charts this week - well, four altogether but three in tonight's programme". Sounds like he's actually over-read the script. They've still not learnt how to wear orange headphones properly.

John Miles – Slow Down
Not a repeat! So there was life in TVC that week. Miles still has his luxuriant tache, embellished with Les Gray shades this week, and can play the talkbox a little better even though he can't remember to start using it at the right moment, but his band have made up for it with a variety of bad fashions. The keyboard player in his wing-collared shiny catsuit open to the navel because he thinks it makes him resemble Travolta makes a good effort, but the drummer in green PE kit (and no shoes) takes the prize for not thinking through how he's going to look. Noel commends the "unbelievable" pace before allowing us to scratch another off the bingo card with a failed prediction. "It's got to have number one written all over it" he suggests. Well, it's closer than most of them.

Jesse Green – Come With Me
Or Jess, as Noel renames him. As the kids literally scarper from the marauding camera that keeps changing its angle, maybe through people getting their own back, we see Green has gone for the page of the style booklet titled 'international man of leisure'. Shades with lenses that awkwardly reflect the studio lights, tight afro, thin and very neat long moustache with mere hint of before its time goatee, black shirt with top three buttons undone, pristine white suit. Quite the smoothie.

Queen – Good Old Fashioned Loverboy
Well, they're not going to turn up twice, are they. "For some reason I always want him to say 'give us a kiss' at the end of that" Noel muses. Your fantasies about the flirting habits of the manly Freddie Mercury, Noel, are yours to keep.

Cliff Richard – When Two Worlds Drift Apart
Noel's been chatting to Cliff. "He says if it's not a hit, it'll be a miss with style. I reckon he's got style, I reckon it'll be a hit. Otherwise I wouldn't have chosen it as my record of the week." Two in one! Inaccurate prediction - it peaked at 46 - and record of the week humble brag. No, wait, the song is "what happens when two worlds drift apart", so he's described the title too. The song seems an anticlimax now. It seems an anticlimax while it's progressing too, a stately piano ballad. Cliff in his powder blue suit, promotional badge for own album and two medallions can at least attempt to pull this descriptively emotive vocal style off, but the Ladybirds, around one mike and two in Carole Bayer Sager tribute outfits, cawing almost over him in a slightly different key don't help.

The Detroit Emeralds – Feel The Need In Me
"And when twelve legs get together with a few other bits..." Just eight months after they joined our happy dancing band Gill and Rosie get their own showcase (though there is evidence to suggest a previous wiped show featured those two alone), dancing alone but likewise in a three-way split screen with the other four in the middle doing a supplementary joint routine. All six are outfitted in a curious mesh of little black dress, flapper style - feather in the hair, sequins, outfit cut to the thigh - and glamorous widow at funeral, some sort of lacey mesh attached to the back. The pair must be across a soundstage from each other as they switch all the time from grinning enjoyment to concerned glances across, as it's never entirely clear whether they're supposed to be in sync. "It's Patti's birthday, and we'll be having a birthday patty for her after" Noel challenges syntax. Actually it was her birthday (a lady never reveals her age. I'm not a lady. 27.) the day of recording, but with link time short Noel probably had enough on his mind, unlikely as that seems.

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man
Still snowed out. That gong never gets used.

Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again
"Rather appropriate to have a fanfare before the number one sound, and men don't come more common than this lot". Ah, Noel. A smile, a quip, an insult. Errol, who's even more stationary than usual, affects not to notice. Obviously. A comedy rolling xylophone trill seems to have been added to the chorus by the orchestra, as well as some parping trombones. Noel, after commending their "phenomenal rush to the top", introduces as the playout "Ma Boney". Frank Farian's wife?

We'll have to be going some to make it past fifty comments this week.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

TOTP 23/6/77 (tx 18/7/12): I knew Irresistible Dennis when he used to rock and roll

We're now into a run of half hour originals from now til the end of August '77, bar a couple that are slightly longer. The reason? A re-run of Max Bygraves Says I Want To Tell You A Story. Next week's was 25 minutes in its original form, which would have to lead to a hell of an extended outro.

If you've got time you want to kill this week, look through the catalogue for the auction of Jimmy's personal belongings taking place in Leeds at the end of the month, including the Jim'll Fix It magic chair, the pottery likeness of himself wearing a kaftan and the mounted Brazil nut presented to him by a patient at Broadmoor. His turn at hosting this week, which he commemorates with a none more timely (for 2012) Union Flag embroidered tracksuit top, alongside the flags of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not a cross of St George? Consistency, please.

Dave Edmunds – I Knew The Bride
Rockpile, really, so on bass and songwriting a man deeply embedded in punk already, Nick Lowe, makes his Pops bow. It's still the shaggy/Shaggy-from-Scooby Doo-haired Edmunds front and centre, or in this case front and above, the camera shooting right up his nose for the vast majority of the song. Few cutaways, little relief. Barely a sight of Billy 'not that one' Bremner's cowboy hat. By the end Lowe, presumably thinking he's more than likely off camera, has stopped playing with his left hand, only picking up a chord shape with the very last note. "Got my feet tapping down here" Jimmy exudes as much as he's capable of.

Tony Etoria – I Can Prove It
Long time since we've seen Jimmy dancing. Having pretty much used his guitar as decoration alone last time he was on, Etoria has abandoned it this time, meaning with no other idea of what to do he starts with his hands on his hips. He's also tightened his afro especially, which doesn't quite gel with his yellow neckerchief and extravagantly patterend shirt, like you'd find in the tiling of a kitchen at the time. A little wink on "ain't no way I can treat you like a queen" is surely transmitting mixed messages. As Etoria exhibits a kind of running action from the elbows when not singing the camera trolley goes on another maiming spree. One woman is visually manhandled out of the way by her partner, another in a 1930s errand boy's cloth cap checks on his friends' safety before realising he himself is in the firing line. People are, perhaps wisely, leaving the stage well before the end. "Yowee!" is Jimmy's appraisal.

Gary Glitter – A Little Boogie Woogie In The Back Of My Mind
ALRIGHT, SHUT UP NOW. Even if the song's not there he's far more like his old self then when we last saw him, big collar up and pomade alive, charging down the tiered stage, playing it right down the lens, overactive limbs a-flailing as lyric sign language that actually makes no sense against the lyrics, miming appallingly. But it's not the same, chiefly because where the Glitter Band used to be are an aged band of sessioneers, perhaps even plucked from the orchestra's numbers. The drummer, and there is only one, is clearly in his fifties and grins throughout as if to say, not unreasonably, that however he got to this stage in his life he's going to be on telly so he's enjoying it. This time when the camera makes its way through them young people merely turn and walk the other way, no matter how much the girl right at the front grins at them. And away from our prime-time pop sight Glitter goes for more than four years.

Carole Bayer Sager – You’re Moving Out Today
"I think we'll show some of the interesting people in town tonight" is Jimmy's cover for a third showing of this, not that any of whatever that means actually appears. Still we don't know what her ex could possibly do with bread.

Brotherhood Of Man – Angelo
You know how sometimes like minds seem to gravitate towards each other?

Obviously he's not a sailor, so indeed he's "a magic disc jockey of one of the more colourful varities", one who delivers the title in comedy falsetto. You'd think a DJ would want more of a plug than that, even someone like him. Especially someone like him. The blonde is blonder and flickier, the dark-haired one is more rouge tinted, but the two blokes have guitars rather than one being on piano so THEY'RE OBVIOUSLY NOTHING LIKE ANY OTHER BAND, ALRIGHT? Something no other band definitely did is their special move for the song, namely raising their left arm, first outwards, then backwards, to each chorus piano riff. It adds a certain flourish, if perhaps not as much as they expect.

The Stranglers – Go Buddy Go
Jimmy introduces us to a hangdog middle aged man who is apparently "the world famous Irresistible Dennis". This seems to come as a surprise to him, but he does waggle his eyebrows in a quite funny way. That may be his secret. He seems less sure about the third showing of this. If only someone had found a way to edit Blue's piano from out the back of the stage, or advised Hugh Cornwell not to wear something that looks like an apron. As we cut back to Jimmy people are actually dancing to it at last. "It's a good night tonight, as it happens. Heh heh heh" is Jimmy's tart comment.

Johnny Nash – That Woman
About quartering the BPM at a stroke, Nash has the afro thing right, matching it with muted greens and cool soul. Not that it's having the same effect on everyone, one hirsute youngster turned away from the stage until the shot changes and his friend, presumably watching the monitor, has to literally point him towards Nash. Others are clearly also waiting for a signal to turn away when safe. Neither does it help that when on the second chorus we get a shot from behind Nash the girl front and centre of the audience is extravagantly chewing gum and holding a conversation while the man next to her stares off into space at a 90 degree angle to the stage. All the while Nash continues pledging his love, oblivious as he should be.

Alessi – Oh Lori
No link, strangely, and this is Legs & Co's song for the week even though the twins were in the studio just a couple of weeks ago. They're either dressed in 1930s wedding dresses or as toilet roll holders, bonnets and off the shoulder flouncily tiered dresses the attire. Inside some sort of cage of glittery decorations it's all very lovely and cosy in a one for the caring mums/daughters way. Is that what we're here for? You decide.

Paul Nicholas – Heaven On The 7th Floor
"Wowee!" Jimmy exclaims while his shoulder is being assailed by a toy Paddington Bear. Paul abandoned the hat and cane. They must have turned out to be the lucky charms as this ended his chart career - and began/ended it in America, where it somehow reached number six despite sharing its production values with his previous hits. Maybe it's because he keeps referring to an elevator. It's that transatlantic touch. Having realised Paul can't come up with anything himself for the instrumental bits a close-up of a man playing a harmonica solo is overlaid as Nicholas waves his arms about and does some frantic hopping from foot to foot, knowing that he is somehow perhaps the only one he can get a TOTP audience moving. Jimmy meanwhile has Peter Frampton with him, shirt open to the waist, grin plastered on. As befits the traditional uncomfortable chat shot the interview lasts one question - "where've you been living?" - before Jimmy waves a picture we can barely see for both being out of frame or reflecting studio lights. Luckily he does know what the number one is, unlike some. Jimmy makes a joke about making him work hard. Then he makes it again.

The Jacksons – Show You The Way To Go
Oddly, despite having been in the studio not so long ago this isn't a repeat of that but a clip from their TV series, the second series of which had run on CBS in the first three months of 1977. As soon as Michael picks up the mike the screaming takes over the soundtrack almost completely, even though there only appear to be three people going mad on camera. More notably, the mass frantic applause we hear is from somewhere else entirely, as well as seemingly dipping in and out at virtual random, and it's not visually happening when we get a shot of the whole studio audience, some of whom are standing up waving their arms about but none of whom seem to be cheering or whooping all that hard. I sense skulduggery. Jimmy has "the Bournemouth raver", who seems to be a girl completely unphased by anything, to one side and another girl held in a tight headlock to his other. As T-Connection's Jamiroquai-must-have-been-listening Do What You Wanna Do soundtracks the credits her expression gradually changes from televisual experience enjoyment to panic for her health.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

TOTP 16/6/77 (tx 12/7/12) open thread

Hello. Yes It's Number One can't come to the blog right now as he's on a business call* elsewhere. This is therefore your chance to fill in the details and ruminations without my giving you a head start for once. Kid's in charge, so remember to wish him good love back at the end, with the following:

John Miles – Slow Down
Olivia Newton-John – Sam
Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again
Andy Gibb – I Just Wanna Be Your Everything
Emerson Lake & Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man
Gene Cotton – Me And The Elephant
Queen – Good Old Fashioned Loverboy
Archie Bell & the Drells – Everybody Have A Good Time
Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis through the auspices of Legs & Co and special friends – You're Gonna Get Next To Me
The Foster Brothers – Count Me Out
The Muppets – Halfway Down The Stairs
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Anything That’s Rock 'N' Roll
Kenny Rogers – Lucille

(* in a wet field in Gloucestershire)

Oh, and as I didn't want to just leave you with nothing, here's a Spotify playlist of 1977 so far - everything that was performed in the studio or number one and is on there in original form.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

State of independents

So we're seeing in rather too graphic detail what the BBC considered prime time pop entertainment. But what about the opposition? Here's a surely by no means complete guide to TOTP rivals and music-led shows the ITV regions put out in the Seventies:

Lift Off/Lift Off With Ayshea (Granada, 1969-74)
The first of many Granada pop shows produced by Muriel Young, and almost as famous now for how little survives - two out of 144 episodes. In fact, pretty much just this online:

And an audio recording of Starman, which came three weeks before the TOTP slot. Originally co-hosted by Graham Bonney, and later Wally Whyton (and Ollie Beak of course) the show renaming came for its fourth of eight series.

2Gs And The Pop People (LWT, 1972)
Splendidly antediluvian title for a vehicle for The Second Generation, Dougie Squires' follow-up to the more celebrated Young Generation when they grew up (and who later included Patti of Ruby/Legs), featuring plenty of their routines but also invaluable archive of Scott Walker, The Move and Labi Siffre. Oh, and this notorious Sandie Shaw routine:

45 (Granada, 1974-75)
Ayesha's successor, later known as Rock On With 45, which seems presumptuous. Sixty episodes, 15 of which are still around, fronted by Radio Luxembourg's Kid Jensen. If you can find any clips, well done.

The Geordie Scene (Tyne Tees, 1974-76)
Not actually Geordie specific despite the title, this was a melange briefly hosted by DLT early on, typically exhibiting one artist per show, progressing from the Glitter Band and metal Sweet via a pre-fame Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets to Dr Feelgood. Dave Eager's your man there.

Supersonic (LWT, 1975-77)
Having begun as part of Saturday Scene, fronted by Sally James, it became ITV's most direct attempt yet at a Pops killer by being shown on Thursday afternoons, albeit being moved back to Saturday lunchtime before the first of its two series was complete. All linked by Mike Mansfield from the VT suite they had ideas about presentation, keeping cameras and bits of set scaffolding in shot and not just having people playing to an audience, as shown by Osibisa having their dry cleaning bill increased, David Essex wandering around a bit or a clearly well past the stage of feeling ridiculous Marc Bolan. The theme by Status Quo's Andy Bown, played live on its third show, meant business, more so than being followed by Cliff Richard, Pilot, Bay City Rollers, Chris Farlowe and Albert Hammond that week would suggest. No, despite featuring the Damned in February 1977, literally years before BBC TV would, the playlist was never outlandish. Not to say it didn't try, as shown by it ending two months later with a hesitant all star jam featuring Marc Bolan, Dave Edmunds, Dave Davies, Elkie Brooks, Alvin Stardust and Gloria Jones.

Shang-A-Lang (Granada, 1975)

Bay City Rollers were on top of their game, having just had Bye Bye Baby go to number one, when this twenty week long series began, and Give A Little Love followed it to the top during the run. Your hosts played one new song a week to the accompaniment of screams and stage invasion attempt and brought on contemporaries of a curiously retrograde quality, like the Rubettes and Showaddywaddy. Surely Eric was wandering across the stage or something, kids can't have been that keen on Dave Bartram.

Arrows (Granada, 1976-77)
Keeping alive the Shang-A-Lang format, with producer and dancers (Him And Us) moving over, this was a vehicle for a band who'd had a couple of top 30 singles in 1974-75 but due to legal issues managed not to release anything while their show was ongoing. Here's an example of their work, interspersed with Paul Nicholas. Elsewhere there was a ceremonial passing of the torch, Marc Bolan, a perception confusing Slade and the Wurzels. And this Arrows original, which I believe someone covered.

So It Goes (Granada, 1976-77)
Meanwhile other things were going on late at night. Always eclectic, July 1976's first show featured the Chieftains, Tom Waits and the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, while Clive James was a weekly guest on the first series and there was a regular feature on record sleeve design. Then came the last show of that series, the last live guest of which kind of changed the show's and Wilson's tack a little. The second series featured very little performing in the studio, unless it was Ian Dury reading poetry, leaving Wilson to go out and about to check up on a curious looking, pre-Dylan hair John Cooper Clarke and Siouxsie & The Banshees (look very closely for a young Mick Hucknall near the front). Reputedly Wilson's boss told him "I don't need any more guys with horse's tails sticking out of their asses", with reference to some Iggy Pop live footage, and a third series was cancelled.

Marc (Granada, 1977)
So obviously the next place to go after the Rollers and a Mickie Most band is Marc Bolan in his unfortunate last months, not it's fair to say a natural in front of camera. It only ran for six weeks, curtailed by events (the final show was broadcast after Bolan's funeral), for which T Rex would perform three songs from across their career and Bolan would help select the rest, which meant the first band a notably out of breath Marc introduced were The Jam and that you were as likely to see Hawkwind as Mud. Probably best not to ask how Robin Askwith got on. The series famously finished with Bolan and Bowie jamming together. Mind the edge of the stage, Marc.

Get It Together (Granada, 1977-81)

Muriel Young moved on to produce seven series of another variety pop show, whether that meant the Jags, Dollar or U2. Roy North, initially with Linda Fletcher, later with Megg Nichol, and Olly Beak returned too, plus a house band directed by Mike Moran.

Paul (Granada, 1978)
So obviously the next best thing to Bolan is Nicholas. Not unreasonably details and clips of this series are harder to come by, though records show appearances by Wings, Marianne Faithfull, Jimmy Cliff - reggae like it used to be! - Thin Lizzy, Darts and Leo Sayer.

Revolver (ATV, 1978)
Mickie Most's attempt to create an antithesis of TOTP until the station refused to let punk and new wave appear in prime time on their watch, the concept for the sole series was ATV and host Chris 'Renta Santa' Hill (credited as 'KING OF THE KIDS') had taken over an old dance hall with a revolving stage much to the chagrin of its manager, who would chip in disparagingly. Said manager was the masterstroke booking of Peter Cook, who is said to have influenced John Lydon's Rotten persona and, Pete Shelley claimed, would distribute porn magazines among the audience and try and get them to put the bands off by holding them up. It was the sort of show where the Stranglers would be introduced by West Midlands radio legend-to-be Les Ross cooking burgers. It would put cartoons to Ian Dury and the Blockheads' words. It debuted Dire Straits more than six months before this was a hit, a good portion of the crowd at the start clearly thinking they're going to be an entirely different type of band. And then the critics all hated it and it was dropped. Five shows have just appeared on YouTube, the pick being the first - XTC, Kate Bush, Steel Pulse, John Dowie, Tom Robinson - and the fourth - Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Rezillos, Matumbi, the Motors.

Kenny Everett Video Show (Thames, 1978-80)
Not a music show per se, of course, but certainly on the first of its three series the focus was more on Everett linking rather than being funny himself. Throughout Everett and co's eye for offbeat visuals lent itself to some endlessly replayable clips for the likes of Kate Bush, Thin Lizzy, Squeeze with a light aircraft, David Bowie with bit of business at the end, the chameleonic Nick Lowe and David Bowie again with Space Oddity seemingly filmed on part of the Ashes To Ashes video set.

Alright Now (Tyne Tees, 1979-80)
A kind of dry run for The Tube - Malcolm Gerrie producing and a former characterful pop star hosting in Den Hegarty, until he was sacked and replaced by rolling hosts including Bill Oddie, Mickie Most and Billy Connolly, whose attempt at interviewing John Bonham met with something of a brick wall. Although chiefly for local bands, so catching the likes of Dire Straits and the Police early, that was by no means all, especially if someone like the Clash was in town. It was produced concurrently (again by Gerrie) with teen issues magazine Check It Out, which lasted until 1982. That had live music footage occasionally - The Jam, for one - but is most famous for Public Image Ltd's walkout. The extravagantly permed presenter? Chris Cowey, later Pops nabob.

And from that point onwards came Razzamatazz, The Roxy and CD:UK... but maybe another time.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

There's plenty of what ifs about the short fuse spark that was the Sex Pistols' career. What if Queen hadn't pulled out of appearing on Today at the last minute, forcing their EMI plugger Eric Hall to suggest a much talked about alternative? What if it was Today's other regular host Eamonn Andrews presenting? What if Malcolm McLaren hadn't taken his eye off the ball in search of funding for a film and an American launch at their point of most domestic notoreity? What if Rotten had known what he wanted?

Funny thing is, the most famous what-if of their holiday in the sun, the one that's just passed by on the reruns, is one that's rarely discussed. Would it have meant much more if God Save The Queen had actually been announced as the UK's number one single rather than land one short in the official ranking and launched 35 years of claim and conspiracy? Being number two allows a counteractive history to grow, reinforcing their opposition to the music industry/broadcast establishment still from a position of enough power, and if pop culture history has invested itself in punk cliche people want to believe it was anti-establishment, something surely not so possible if the establishment are willing to play along after all. The monarchy wouldn't have fallen on that strength. The story of the band exists without this juncture to an extent - certainly John Lydon says chart positions were never anything he thought about and if the fix was in so be it, and as far as McLaren went martyrdom was as good as success for purpose. The response to morality-outraging talk of "a fascist regime" by people one Sunday tabloid actively suggested be attacked so to be taught a lesson being some massaging of sales figures to drop it down one place doesn't suggest that much of an outright threat, especially one that would obviously lead to a public display of victimhood and legend now inseperable from the 'mere' recording. It's kept its outsider status even as the single has become the jump-off point for Radio 2 documentaries and its singer has moved from public enemy to beloved reality TV entertainer-cum-outsider artist (though everyone else seems to have long made their mind up about the viability of the song amid its modern peers, the Diamond Jubilee week reissue publicised as a final righting of wrongs stalling at 80)

All the same, despite the widespread agreement now that McLaren was a skilled media manipulator who didn't have the actual individuals in the band's interests, or for that matter much of the music, at heart, they still caused enough of a stink to ensure the common and unshakeable belief that some combination of BMRB and the BBC had the chart positions for week ending 11th June 1977 reversed so Rod Stewart's I Don't Want To Talk About It/First Cut Is The Deepest had a fourth week at number one. Now that the once outsider punk story and the mainstream are incorporated into each other (witness all the people right since the start of TOTP 1976, half a year before New Rose, who have spent every week going 'where's all the punk?' or 'this is why punk had to happen!', overlooking that much the same music was on the show and being huge hits after punk happened - Emerson Lake & Palmer's biggest hit comes after God Save The Queen has cleared off) it's accepted as stone fact, as much assumed these days by that BBC as the music press, backed by assertion that these were the depths The Man was willing to sink to to keep the evil punk hordes at bay.

So what proof do we have? Well, not much of definite case, really. A lot of the most famous assertions made about the two records - distributors of both singles CBS claiming to Malcolm McLaren the Pistols were outselling Rod two to one (massaged to as much as five to one in some tellings), Virgin claiming they'd done (maybe distributed) more than Rod's sales that week - arise largely from hearsay, hype and claim made in the immediate wake or to sympathetic onlookers by parties with vested interests, Virgin in having a number one on their own terms, McLaren... because he was McLaren. God Save The Queen was awarded a silver disc within weeks, it's said, but this was going on sales shipped to stores - it didn't actually sell enough to go silver until the mid-90s.

To really muddy the waters, what should be pointed out is, as far as 1977 goes and indeed well into the Nineties, 'total sales' is not necessarily, and not really recoverably, the same as 'total sales registered in the official BMRB chart'. BMRB's research worked from a set of about 750 retailers nationwide who filled in weekly sales diaries, from which a random 200-250 were chosen weekly to compile the charts. Whether BMRB, as is often rumoured, ordered sales from shops affiliated with labels, by which is meant Virgin, be withdrawn from that week's selection - the oft-quoted proof of this is a reported anonymous tip-off quoted in a Richard Branson biography - on the back of concern by not just the media but other record companies, is unproveable, but if you're looking for a secondary angle it's as good as you'll find.

God Save The Queen was released on Friday May 27th. In England's Dreaming, a great book slightly stymied by Jon Savage getting some details wrong around this crucial event he uses as its pivot, it's claimed to have sold 150,000 copies in five days to put it at number eleven. Impossible, surely - for one thing 150,000 copies would have been a clear number one contender, for another the sales week finished at the end of Saturday trading. Five days later would have been the following Tuesday, when the chart was announced on Radio 1, presumably hence the assumption. A few pages later Savage claims the single had sold "over 150,000 copies" by the Jubilee bank holiday, that is to say one full week's sales later. A few pages further on it's put at 200,000 by the end of that same celebratory week, the overlap of which would have gone towards the following week's sales and besides which would have come from an incomplete week due to bank holiday closures on the Monday and Tuesday. He also speculates that the boat trip gig on Tuesday June 7th - the same day as the Queen's Mall procession, and two days before her own river flotilla - promoted sales for a chart week that ended on the 4th, even though he then states the trip was hardly covered in the daily papers and its fame arose from its embedded reporters and photographers in the weekly music press, which would have come out the following week. Come on, John.

So let's turn to what statistics we can find or assume. If we therefore take his word that by the end of w/e 11/6/77 God Save The Queen had sold 150,000 in total and take off the 20-25,000 copies from the previous part-week you'd certainly end up with an amount that would be at the very least a live contender for number one. However, Stewart's single is, by the terms of singles that spend four weeks at number one and another four in the top five, officially quite a low seller - slightly less than 600,000 according to available BMRB-derived statistics, and don't forget that this is after three weeks already at number one and a couple in the top five both before and after that, no major deviations occurring to give it an extra boost after its initial rise.

Except... what was I just saying about the difference between sales and BMRB-registered sales, and what was counted for the latter? As well as the BBC, IBA and advertising standards, the single was banned by WH Smith, Boots and Woolworths to name three known major chain stores that, as the chart by its nature obviously looked primarily towards mainstream sales, BMRB's retailer sample would have relied upon. (Which is, of course, virtually a form of chart rigging in itself - there's not many high profile records, if any, that such blanket banning has come into effect on)

One backup source often offered is that God Save The Queen topped the NME chart (they didn't blank out the name in their chart as you may have seen on various nostalgia programmes, by the way, that's an unsourced mock-up) Yet their chart is ostensibly all over the place here - for the equivalent of w/e 4th it's at 27, 11th 6, 18th top. The reason is the NME sales week by print deadline necessity went up to the Friday, so sales for chart publication w/e 11th wouldn't have included those from the end of that 29th-4th sales week. It's said maybe half of GSTQ's total sales in BMRB terms came on Saturday - extra time at weekends, Jubilee business in full swing, weekly music press push, potential heightened awareness that record exists after TOTP chart rundown - the mirror equivalent of which would be pushed forward to the following week's NME chart. As for BMRB w/e 18/6/77 it's sliding back to number four, job done (and this would roughly tie up with most estimates), in a general week of sales decline that saw Kenny Rogers' Lucille essentially go arse-first to number one, aided of course by it being a bank holiday-shortened sales week (two days, Spring bank holiday moved forward a week, as per this year) For w/e 25th June it's number 9 in BMRB and 3 in NME, presumably reflective of the natural bias in sales towards indies. As per the magazine's nature the NME chart sample was taken from about 100 mostly independent record shops largely/presumably separate to the official sample, and the confluence of underground scene band and chain unavailability would have given this single an extra boost. (Melody Maker's separate chart, of a similar sample range and cross-section of indies, never had the Pistols above number five, that being from the chart w/e 11th. Don't ask me. It's not implausible, and indeed sometimes recorded, that the staff of both papers weren't above fiddling the figures on occasion either)

Additionally, note this was by no means the only week in the mid-70s when NME and BMRB didn't coalesce. If you want definite instability between the two in 1977, it's more instructive to look for one at mid-September. Magic Fly, the groundbreaking synth instrumental by French trio Space, spent three weeks at number one in the NME list, as well as a couple on Melody Maker's chart, but never went top of the BMRB chart. The reason? Elvis - having died weeks before, his most recent signle Way Down was on its way to huge sales, the bulk of which would naturally be made from high street stores. Rod Stewart himself fell victim slightly later, a week on top in NME for You're In My Heart meaning nothing when people preferred to buy Baccara's Yes Sir I Can Boogie from their local Woolies/Smiths/wherever. And come November there was an album that spent two pretty clear weeks on top of the official chart while not managing to do the same from the figures given by the collective shops surveyed by the NME. That'll be Never Mind The Bollocks, then...

There's another contemporary source on top of all these. The trade magazine Radio & Record News, using BMRB returns and their sample store weighting measurements, backs up Rod's 600k overall sales, Pistols' 20k for those first two days and about 50k for the following week... but for w/e 11/6 they list 98,000 for First Cut and 86,000 for God Save. If as by those accounts Rod was being outsold two to one he wouldn't even have been at number two. Furthermore, according to chart commentator James Masterton ,when the BPI briefly opened up their audited sales reports some years ago researchers looked up this week and found the double A side comfortably ahead. Certainly Richard Branson has recently claimed his information at the time was there was no point, at least before the weekend, that the Pistols were ahead of the running, take that as you may.

God Save The Queen, with three weeks in the top ten and a further three in the top 20 in a low-ish selling period, ended up at number 61 in the year end sales figures, estimated at 290,000 overall. Much as that just about fits in with the weekly figures given above there is the possibility, due to confusion over bans and shortfalls in documented distribution, that that's an accounting mistake, as there seem to be several of those in the given list (it's only three places ahead of Pretty Vacant, which only got to number six albeit with a longer top ten stay) - but one of those so affected is First Cut/I Don't Want..., which is at 31, heavily behind sales figures given everywhere else which would put it somewhere between 11 and 15. Is it possible that actually Stewart's single was undercounted that week, or indeed in total (Radio & Record News estimates 458,000 sales just for his number one weeks, and for more than a month at or near the top that does seem short)? BMRB weren't above plain cockups - they managed to completely mess up a chart seventeen months earlier and had to issue a hasty replacement that gave a completely different number one.

There's a sense in which, singles wise, God Save The Queen is an outlier in the Pistols' own canon. Anarchy In The UK had limped to 38 three weeks in the immediate aftermath of the Bill Grundy affair (27 in the NME list) before EMI washed their hands of it and recalled all stock; a month and a half after this discussed chart Pretty Vacant, which was greenlighted by most of those outlets that had previously shirked away, went straight to number 7 after its first full week of sale but only got one place further. Yet here was a record you couldn't hear, see or largely read about - the press had a Jubilee to deal with for a few days, after all - still making at least number two in the proper sales chart. Punk was still the commercial underdog and would to some extent remain so for its youthful flush, even beyond the initial reaction - after all, in terms of tabloid shock this lies nearly equidistant from the Rolling Stones and acid house, both heavy bogeymen for the times in their own ways. This was its big shot, and whether number two by accident or design it's better for the genre's whole story as anti-establishment, especially given we'll never know for sure, and to keep the social outcasts story running to believe things were being worked against it. It might not have ended up half the cultural touchstone it became if there were nothing to assert 35 years later.

Quite a bit of information here is taken from the excellent Lost Number Ones thread on the Haven music forum