Thursday, 29 March 2012

TOTP 24/3/77 (tx 29/3/12): that big hair sound

Without wanting to turn this into another blog foregrounding the narrative of changing times in 1977, it's worth noting that on the 26th March 1977 ITV's self-consciously hipper (though it wasn't really, three weeks before the star guests had been Slade and Paul Nicholas) Pops rival Supersonic featured Mr Big, Racing Cars, Guys And Dolls, Roy Harper, Cliff Richard, Dennis Weaver and this:

According to iPlayer, if you like TOTP77 "you may also like Songs Of Praise". I'm saying nothing.

Dave Lee Travis in extreme close-up. Some things are not meant for family audiences.

Brendon – Gimme Some
Having spotted their true USP from their debut appearance, their rundown photo features the wedding suited bass-playing youth front and centre. For his studio return he's dressed down to grey shirt and jeans, safe in the knowledge that tonight he gets to play in front of a drummer who looks even younger, as Brendon and his Keegan hair kicks off with some good old-fashioned clapping above the head. Whether Brendon thought he hadn't made the most of his opportunity first time round I can't say but his shirt is even further open tonight and he's miming into and gripping onto the mike like it's a buoyancy aid, some achievement when that involves extemporising lines like "I need me some sugar and your love is tea". Meanwhile one of the guitarists gurns unpleasantly and plays like he's Johnny Ramone while sporting a Rubettes cap. Well, they weren't using them any more.

Elkie Brooks – Pearl's A Singer
DLT, resplendent in a red T-shirt with Marilyn Monroe pictorial design, introduces "the lovely Elkie Brook". In TOTP world she just hadn't qualified for surname plurality yet. Beside a stage prop that resembles a peacock lost in an autumnal hedgerow Elkie croons gainfully while her band in full dickie-bowed, ruffled shirt formal dress, including a guitarist the spit of Denis Law, do their slow, subtle thing, the bassist seemingly only requiring one finger. Even at supper club speed a marauding camera mows half the front row down. Luckily the tracking shot wasn't required when Elkie and band break into proper jazzy mode, heralded by a pianist with a perm that would have got him into any contemporary funk band, a glorious goatee hanging over the end of the chin and a cardigan that can't have cost more than 75p from a dubious flea market. You're on telly, man! As the Richard Stilgoe-alike on keyboard switches to lustfully swiped tambourine in-house backing singers the Ladybirds make a rare screen appearance, though they only get to sing one line while actually on screen. Them's the breaks.

Brotherhood Of Man – Oh Boy (The Mood I'm In)
DLT pretends to faint at the end of his link. The girls surrounding him find it amusing. Simpler times. The look this time is all over the shop, the blokes in white shirts and medallions both playing guitars because THEY'RE NOT LIKE ABBA, ALRIGHT?, the girls in matching white overalls. To them, this was sophistication. To the viewer, their decorators' van is ready to whisk them away to another job the moment recording finishes. One of them starts with one hand in her pocket. By the chorus they're standing at ninety degree angles to each other. Not seen that anywhere else.

Graham Parker & The Rumour – Hold Back The Night
But first DLT has an announcement. "A lot of you people watching at home this evening would be expecting to see David Soul... unfortunately he's had to rush back to the States... of course we will be trying very hard to get him for you in the near future". David Soul never appeared in person on Top Of The Pops. (Unless he turned up for a quick chat, but then the likelihood is he'd have been asked to record something while he was there, so it seems not) Meanwhile this is a repeat, and it's a good thing too as just to squeeze the show into a 30 minute slot this was edited down... to 73 seconds. Cheers for coming, Graham. All together now - it's an appearance as short as he is.

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jnr – You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)
"David Hamilton's theme tune" DLT claims. Oi, don't encroach on Tony's comedic patch! A video, or possibly a recording from an overseas programme, in which the couple sing their professional soul right at each other - well, they're a married couple - and we here note Davis looks like the surreal love child of Bo Selecta's Craig David mask and a negative of Tom Jones.

Dead End Kids – Have I The Right
DLT is flanked by two girls wearing T-shirts reading 'MOTORING UNIT BBC'. Nothing is explained, much less why one of them looks like the potential love child of Jimmy Savile and Laura Marling (who wasn't born for another thirteen years, so it's even more surprising) Dead End Kids is a tremendous '77 punk bandname, it's just it got swiped first by a band looking to fill the gap the Bay City Rollers (who they'd supported the previous year) hadn't quite left just yet - Scottish, young, delusions of rock chops. They ended up teen-glam after both concepts had long since left the frame of reference, which explains why they were one hit wonders. Singer Robbie Gray had clearly decided belts and braces was the look, making him look like a stereotypical 1970s football hooligan were it not for the night's latest voluminous perm. Throughout he holds a small mallet in his left hand, not for bludgeoning the front row if they look at him funny but for first banging against his thigh and then, when the time comes, for studiously 'playing' some tubular bells that continue being played after he's walked away following nine hits. That's the sort of thing that gets the teens running.

Smokie – Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone
As much as it seems they had a studio residency for these few months, this is merely a repeat.

Boney M – Sunny
"It's girlie time!" As usual when introducing Legs & Co DLT seems to be on the verge of doing himself a mischief, this time coupling his not quite comedic enough not to be convincing lasciviousness by proxy with a comedy northern accent. It even looks like he's making the male masturbatory gesture at the end. Still Gill-less, it's more standard hoofing in time is made in dresses possibly made from those strips of paper you get in kebab houses to seperate the counter and kitchen. Really it needs Bobby Farrell.

T-Rex – The Soul Of My Suit
We weren't to know it yet but this is the last we'd see of Marc Bolan on TOTP. He looks more imperial phase elfin-like then he did on his two 1976 showings but it's hard to tell which seems less fitting for prime Bolan, the yellow suit jacket or the keyboard player with a Scottish folkie beard, tracksuit top and Badly Drawn Boy hat. Once upon a time he'd have been given proper style pointers. Not to denigrate the whole thing, there's a fine crane shot from the back of the stage revealing both Dead End Kids' instruments still set up on the other stage and the actual paucity of audience numbers, and Bolan, still not yet (and indeed never) 30, has regained his charisma. He'd have been 65 this year. Imagine.

Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D'Amour
But before then DLT has special guests... The Captain & Tennille! What level of specialness this is is unclear as their biggest hit at this point had peaked at 28 and they wouldn't reach the top 40 again until 1979, but never mind, nice of them to drop in. The Captain has a captain's hat on and, bearing the permanently surprised look of latter day Brian Wilson. says he's on holiday "to look for a few captain's hats". Yeah, alright. Tennille's only contribution is to confirm that the pair got together in 1971, "a long time ago". Then it's the last week on top for this "magnificent piece of music" - his words - at number one, after which DLT does his piece on his knees claiming "a bezerk cameraman has attacked me". Not before time, if so. Sound And Vision, presently up to number three, again plays over the credits, and again the early edit cuts it off before the vocals.

Friday, 23 March 2012

TOTP 17/3/77 (tx 22/3/12) open thread

Hello. Due to a series of minor crises I haven't got time to write up last night's show, but as the comments box tends to get lively quite quickly I thought I'd throw this up and append to it when I've got time. Sorry, and go ahead.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The official opposition

Here's a fun YouTube search game for all the family (or at least the Yes It's Number One comments family) to play while we have this gap between shows - what are the best or most interesting musical performance YouTube clips taken from a British TV show other than Pops, Whistle Test or Later?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

TOTP 10/3/77 (tx 15/3/12): European harmony

"It's your weekly shot of rhythm and rock" enthuses Kid Jensen, which seems a very Americanised way of putting it, especially as in his white jacket and big collared stripy shirt he seems to be dressed as an airmail letter. There's a slow clearout process going on in the top 30, though Barry Biggs is still about, the best of the new pictures being the O'Jays looking like trainee gangsters.

Graham Parker & The Rumour – Hold Back The Night
Not punk yet, no, but pub rock's still pulling at populism's coat tails. Admittedly this is Parker's soul/Van Morrison leanings rather than wiry Feelgoods pub rock, but it's all heading somewhere. Seems slightly desperate to be covering this, though, the Trammps had only sent it to number five sixteen months earlier so there was no great call for him to be resuscitating a lost classic or family favourite. It doesn't help matters that Parker is wearing shades, is tiny (unless the Rumour's guitarists are all medical giants, which I doubt) and is doing a lot of double fist pumping before the vocals start. When he does start singing, he seems to have retroactively borrowed the voice of Craig Finn from The Hold Steady, despite being from a different continent. He's big on arm movements to exude the lyrics further, the title always, always getting the outstretched palm. And what is he mouthing during the bridge? Can't work out if it's proposed new lyrics, the sax or electric keyboard solo expressed through the larynx or trying to remind himself of how the next bit goes. "What an exciting debut!" Kid makes sure to exude.

The Real Thing – You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing
"What a good week it's been for Liverpool, what with John Conteh" I like the period detail, don't you? For the record he'd defended his WBC light-heavyweight title for the fourth and last time against one Len Hutchins with a third round TKO. You don't get boxers called Len Hutchins any more, do you? As well as doing a lot of smiling to himself Eddie's gone for Zapata moustache in the works and hairline headband, while his bandmates have gone to the usual lengths of the laundry basket - red T-shirt and dungarees, fringed jacket over bare chest and what seems to be a dark blue apron. Any port in no storm at all.

Brotherhood Of Man – Oh Boy (The Mood I'm In)
Kid calls theirs "a change in style" even though they barely had a style to begin with, they were one hit wonders to this point whose only proper idea was a twist ending. This is their British Abba (But With The Blokes Singing And Not Playing Instruments Or Being Much Use To Anyone) relaunch, checkered alternating outfit colours the style plus neckerchiefs for the women.

Smokie – Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone
At least Kid admits they're "always" on the show, but you can't say they're moving on in the same way as BoM. The bassist has bought himself white flares and a home perming kit on an apparent mission to look like a future 70s stereotype and Chris Norman's lapels might be made out of Axminster but otherwise it's earnest acoustic melodic rock all the way. Right at the end of what seems to be a truncated version everyone ignores the physical probabilities and tries to go back to back on the instrumental break. It doesn't really work. As Kid prepares to tell us "I think that's just about the best 45 they've ever made" we briefly see a black man in a fedora, shades and smart suit and tie with buttonhole white carnation, so . Had he turned up at the wrong address?

Barbara Dickson – Another Suitcase In Another Hall
Just to confuse modern viewers, and probably a lot of contemporary viewers too, Kid remarks on how Dickson "has come a long way since the days of John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert". Kid's in an easy to please mood, he states it's his favourite song from Evita, and just for him Barbara's brought her guitar to fill the instrumentation gap where the harp from the first performance went. Still nobody to sing the male part, which makes her look like she's throwing a strange voice at the very end.

The Rubettes – Baby I Know
"Last time I was on Top Of The Pops I introduced the new single from the Rubettes and I said it would get to number one. Well, it's not far off this week, it's at number eleven!" Kid follows this with the kind of fixed smile that one can only attain when one has said something of that leap of logical faith on prime-time national television of their own volition. One strange thing given we'll never need to hear this again soon, as much of a grower as it is (just me? Oh alright then) The Rubettes didn't change their sound and look overnight, the one time we saw them in 1976 they were heading in a country direction anyway, but nobody's told whoever was in charge of the chart rundown as it's still using a picture of the band in smart jackets and two, including front and centre Alan Williams, in cloth caps. Also there's still five of them pictured, which means someone's not paying attention. This is curtailed by the single worst cut-to-black edit in the whole run so they can keep in two songs that were on the last Pops while cutting out the week's, and maybe month's, most interesting newcomer to the running order. Why bother, eh?

Electric Light Orchestra – Rockaria
Video again, still no room for Jeff's specific vision on the Pops stage.

Mary McGregor – Torn Between Two Lovers
A Gill-less Legs & Co with rather too little literalism this week. No duality, no switching from one side/emotion to the other, no general expression of feeling like a fool, just a lot of twirling and crouching down in Quality Street wrapper dresses because the song is too slow to really do much with.

Brendon – Gimme Some
"If you go to discotheques regularly here's a tune you'll have undoubtedly been tapping your toes to recently". Kid, I don't think people go to discos to tap their toes. Just a friendly word of advice. Brendon, a man with a full Keegan perm, is clearly aimed at Stardust Club - International Singing Talent And Chicken In A Basket Served All Night rather than Wigan Casino, given his song is chiefly the title shouted over a watery glam beat. The well dressed theme of the night continues with the young bassist, who in contrast to the neatly patterned shirts of the guitarists must have been sent out by his mum as there's no good reason for him to don not just a grey suit but a matching waistcoat. Wouldn't be surprised to find he's got a pocket watch on a chain on him too. Our fedora'd friend, despite being right at the back, is really going for his dance moves.

Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D'Amour
Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta! "Manhattan Transfer Company", as Kid calls them for some reason, are on video, in costume and responsive to clearly canned applause after the first line. They've got a band with them, Laurel Masse ordering "play it, boys!" like a jazz singer with ambitions. Elton John's Crazy Water sees us out. Kid sees us off with an extravagant Going For Gold opening titles-like wave and - let's not let a single mention of this attempt at a catchphrase go unnoticed - "goodbye and good love".

EDIT NEWS: Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran's Rock Bottom, maybe cut for being the longest song on the show and it will be on again but... I so wanted to see the reaction from the prime-time crowd to this. A year after Brotherhood Of Man brought the Eurovision party home, this back to back duelling piano jazz chords duet about working together against the failing economy - hey, timely too - was offered up as our continental representative. In its own way, this was as far from the pop mainstream as New Rose.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The disappeared: 3/3/77

The start of this year has been about fits and starts on the show, everything coming round plenty of times. That's the case with much of this second, Savile-fronted lost show of 1977.

Showaddywaddy – When
This, for example, is on twice more. No continuity jokes with suits or drums this time, though.

Mr Big – Romeo
And this video with its classily of its time visual effects has been on before.

Maxine Nightingale – Love Hit Me
Once more in the studio, plus once danced to by Legs & Co for the Northern Soul tail-ender from the singer most famous for Right Back Where We Started From.

Boz Scaggs – What Can I Say
SNL, Jeff Porcaro, I think we're across this video clip by now.

Cliff Richard – My Kinda Life
It's Cliff. Of course he's on again.

Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D'Amour
Another video - a lot of them around this point, aren't there? - and it's about to have a number one run so it need not concern us quite yet.

David Bowie – Sound And Vision
So that's one performance in the entire show which isn't replicated and it's the most intriguing of the lot. That's largely because it's a Legs & Co routine, and we know what happened last time Flick was given Bowie to work with.

Abba – Knowing Me Knowing You
...nope, still only on tape, and this is a future number one too.

Bonnie Tyler – More Than A Lover
Yes, she's still to come back as well, starting to become huskier and more AOR anthemic with it.

Leo Sayer – When I Need You
Get your hands out of your pockets, young man. Last week at number one, and he'll have another single on the show's radar before April is out.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

TOTP 24/2/77 (tx 1/3/12): oh, what a circus

Here's something entertaining One For The Dads has found - Legs & Co on Larry Grayson's Generation Game in 1978. Patti, Rosie, Gill and Pauline to be exact, plus friend Floyd and a couple of others, doing a very teatime-friendly version of ballroom disco dancing, while Flick is in charge of choreography, scoring and getting a round of applause for not being male. Of course Larry and Isla have a go afterwards.

Meanwhile, here's someone's stream of consciousness version of Pops recappage.

Noel this week, before a chart the captions for which have turned an uncomfortable mushy peas green. Barry Biggs is still in the top ten.

Heatwave – Boogie Nights
Lots of videos this week but none with a more forceful setting than this. Heatwave are in virtual silhouette at the front, some neon pink lines behind, and every so often a set of full beam lights dazzle everything in their path as the two singers sway in a fashion that suggests meaningfulness. Eventually the lighting change reveals a band costume of black jumpsuits with some sort of yellow 'sun rays' motif around the wide collar and belt. On the energetic frontmen it works a treat. On the '70s British detective series criminal of the week' keyboard player and the well built, defiantly English session drummer, less so. Midway through the clip gets the Toppotron™ treatment, excitingly this week at a slight angle to the shot, the proleteriat in at least one Panama hat and who knows how much poor knitwear shuffling before their telescreen. Noel calls it "a somewhat melodic way to get proceedings underway" as if it's MOR pop, while not for the last time this week the applause at the end is overlaid by a medium-sized youthful sounding cheer. One or the other, come on.

The Racing Cars – They Shoot Horses Don't They?
"One of the songs that is particularly beautiful at the moment" is Noel's take on a ballad that takes the average RPM down hugely, before offering a blacksmith-based pun that does nobody any good. Once you've got over how alarmingly singer Morty looks like Bill Bailey with short dark hair and Simon Pegg's eyes it's notable how carefully it treads the line between anthemic and catatonic, never one thing nor the other. At the end the guitarist starts kissing/biting the neck of his instrument, possibly just because he can.

The Real Thing – You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing
And out of the tombola this time comes Eddie in the hat to go with his wedding suit from last time and a jacket that looks like it's made out of his dining room carpet, a white jacket with velvet pantaloons and the other two looking like they were rushed on stage in what they arrived in, including dungarees. Had they still not learned from the Americans about coding their gear? There's an acoustic guitar restored to the lineup too.

Mary McGregor – Torn Between Two Lovers
"She doesn't know whether to marry McTavish or marry McGregor". No. Serious, Noel, no. The video is a series of shots of tight close-ups of McGregor's face, but she still feels it necessary to hold a mike throughout. These were the early days of promo shoots, maybe some still needed the crutch.

Electric Light Orchestra – Rockaria
And another video, a full ELO onstage extravaganza in which the track's opera singer starts high up in a false castle and a quartered screen reveals Jeff's gang going at it ten to the dozen. Duelling cellists drag their instruments at right angles around the stage.

Barbara Dickson – Another Suitcase In Another Hall
Before Barbara can get underway Noel wants to introduce us to some people, Andrew Lloyd Webber looking about twenty while simultaneously not actually looking young at all and Tim Rice looking like a provincial PE teacher. Noel starts with a very strangely worded question: "Everyone says to me you've got so many hits on that LP, so many hits behind Evita, is that true?" Lloyd Webber, understandably confused, points out the first single was a number one and they've released the second. "I think we like this one at the moment best" Rice offers when asked which his favourite is, which is handy. It turns out to be both Noel's record of the week and his prediction for a number one, so its chances are sunk well before it can ever begin. Dickson looks very stern in her knockoff Laura Ashley, choker and ostentatiously huge flower in hair. To add artistic merit there's a shot from the far side of a harp being played by a disembodied hand. At the end a man in a bobble hat looks nonplussed.

Earth Wind & Fire – Saturday Nite
As ever, Noel's off on his own logic perambulation: "The next introduction sounds a bit like the sort of insurance company you'd need cover from if you were going to walk round a volcano". Having given Legs & Co mini-tunics that make no attempt to cover the underwear Flick seems to have set them on autopilot and let them go on the standard uptempo move set. Gill's trying, though, if the addition of what seems to be a Chaplin sped-up shuffle qualifies by itself as trying to add something new. It's not impressing the audience surrounding the dancefloor, who spent three minutes listening to disco, watching professional dancers and don't move a muscle throughout. Some men at the back stand with their arms tightly folded, women at the front look like they're being forced to be there. Is this Legs & Co's first time in front of a live audience on the regular show? They really needed to involve the crowd more, unless Flick's still reeling from the Ruby Flipper reproach - they did crowd participation a few times - and vowed not to go that far again.

Leo Sayer – When I Need You
"Two weeks at number one, it's got to stay there even longer". It did! Noel got a chart prediction right! Stopped clock and all that. Leo, the very definition of 'always available', gets all sort of multiplication camera tricks, but more telling is his standing before a catatonically swaying audience with his hands in his pockets again. It doesn't mean casuality by itself, Leo. Before cueing up Bowie's Sound And Vision to play under the credits - and at this stage of 1977 aren't we all waiting for certain gifts of sound and vision? - Noel promises Leo will be joining "the Swap Shop supergroup this coming Saturday". And yes, this was a thing - the show put together an actual supergroup which recorded covers of Roll Over Beethoven and Bo Diddley under Mickie Most's production. Leo sang, with backing from John Miles, Suzi Quatro, Kenney Jones of the Faces and... John Christie! 1977 was going to be marvellous for him after all.

And yes, he still had that smug face he pulls. Via this set of Swap Shop Book 1978 scans, which also features actual slides used in the chart rundown

EDIT NEWS: videos by Bryan Ferry (This Is Tomorrow) and Boston (More Than A Feeling, which you'd have thought would have been more of a pull than Rockaria)