Thursday, 29 November 2012

TOTP 10/11/77 (tx 29/11/12): bursting at the seams

Noel's in a suit so he's in a serious mood. No, wait, that can't be right. The Jacksons' Goin' Places under the charts. Somewhat unfairly the photographer wouldn't wait to let Rita Ray get changed.

Obviously Den always dressed like that.

Tom Robinson Band – 2-4-6-8 Motorway
Not often we've started with a repeat visitor. Maybe Robin was impressed by the numbers punching the air, who respond in kind again along with a good proportion of clapping along at the start - though there don't appear to be a lot of people around this week - as the crane camera, given plenty of runway space, takes off, heads through a big cardboard ring and films Robinson, pink triangle badge again proudly worn alongside scruffy skinny school tie, from above. He seems quietly amused by the directorial concept. As you suspected they would eventually the first chorus sees a cut to a different band member with every number. The band seem to be playing totally live in accordance with the Musician's Union sticker on Tom's bass, going on Noel having to wait a moment or two too long waiting for them to pipe down.

Ruby Winters – I Will
First proper link and, dangerously, Noel's trying out a concept joke. "Here's a lady who used to be in the Four Seasons alongside Donna Summer". Takes a moment. Ruby's in a white room with a white piano, a white big chair, a white dress and, for stylistic variation, a red rose in her hand and a big pot of them next to the piano. "I remember when Bud Flanagan and Julie Andrews used to sing that" coos Noel. "I bet you do" retort a nation.

Roxy Music – Virginia Plain

No, hang on, that's not it. Reissued to promote a Greatest Hits, because reissuing songs that were hits five years earlier was pretty common then - we've only just seen Radar Love, remember - although Noel oddly doesn't mention it this is the iconic 1972 appearance of much costumage and glitter. You know the one.

No, hang on, that's not it either, and YES I CAN SEE HE IS. As well as all that there's lots of unselfconscious dancing from the audience so you can tell it isn't 1972. It gets cut off early, unfortunately. Well, look how many songs they're trying to pack into half an hour. If you count rundown and playout, thirteen!

Boney M – Belfast
And who could possibly pass up the opportunity of seeing this experience - "song" seems too reductive - again? Uniting Catholics and Protestants in common scorn.

Elvis Costello – Watching The Detectives
Or as Noel introduces him "the Red Shoes man", odd given Red Shoes wasn't a chart hit. As with Red Shoes Elvis is in full angry nerd mode, seeking out the camera as early as sees fit so he can stare it down, eventually leering right over the mike with full-on scary googly eyes for most of the second verse as if we committed whatever it is ourselves. Meanwhile Pete Thomas drums extravagantly mid-stage. "Watching all the detectives and things" is how Noel succinctly puts it.

The Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love
And then, Legs & Co ahead, Noel just goes for it. "This is where you have to get your rulers out and tape measures and your plumb lines and, ah, get measuring. Feel a bit silly now." What's he going on about? Presumably he's freestyling on the theme of depth, but - and maybe we've all seen too many DLT intros to bring this thought on - the mention of rulers was in an Adrian Mole sense. If it seems it couldn't get more obtuse Legs & Co oblige in what seems to be farmer's market chic - flat caps, waistcoats, check shirts, slacks, sensible shoes. It says here Flick chose the clothes herself to fit the mood, which makes you wonder what interpretation she saw in the song. Gill, Lulu and Rosie do a good line of thumbs jauntily placed into belt loops, I'll say that for the Pauline Sueless routine which involves a lot of conjoined fancy striding and even more pleasant grinning.

Kenny Everett & Mike Vickers – Captain Kremmen (Retribution)
This is the show we would have got had BBC4 not found the rushes for the 1973 show back at the start of October, for this reason. Strange this gets such attention, Kenny was on Capital at the time and didn't start the Video Show until 1978 so it would have meant little to the vast majority of the audience. Noel doesn't even try to place it in proper context, instead working around the theme of Star Trek and - hey! - Patrick Moore. Sadly it's only the video, for which Ken presses some buttons, holds a phone to his ear and hangs on visible wires in a spacesuit. Vickers for his part appears dressed as a WWII flying ace prodding an organ in big gloves. How odd this whole venture seems.

Santana – She’s Not There
"There's an interesting story about this record - you listen to it and I'll tell these two ladies the story" Noel ventures before turning and animatedly miming something to two ladies wearing Tom Robinson Band stickers. It's probably more interesting than the grainy enormodome live clip.

Tina Charles – Love Bug/Sweets For My Sweet
The orchestra sound like they're being chased by bees, which is a good start. Tina's an old hand at this now, when not stuck in the gantry, but with her either recent or ongoing pregnancy she's been forced into a billowing marquee of a black dress. No matter how much of her particular standing on the spot and swaying a bit charm she plays up she can neither hide the nature of the song, which counts as a medley only insomuch as two lines of the latter are inserted towards the end, or the move she really goes for in the later stages of swinging her arms around as if trying to take off like a helicopter. A large number of people at the front of the stage, so in the worst possible position to get quickly to the other stage and see the next act, are wearing the T-shirt of...

Darts – Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It
Behold, the three fashion styles of doo-wop.

Yes, of course Den's jacket is fully shiny. The editing team are really getting their worth out of their new equipment, this week forming a rainbow-hued small arrowhead which Noel follows around the screen. "Double top! Double top!" he obliges at the last. They're back in the studio with some changes, one being the pianist is actually on the stage this time, another that Den, who otherwise is his usual reserved self, has no room to extemporise for his solo spot, ending up rolling on the floor before towering over the front row. Two girls right at the front by his feet obligingly look, bored, in the opposite direction. One of them, it turns out, is wearing their T-shirt! There's gratitude.

ABBA – The Name Of The Game
Merchandise! Maybe.

"You should have a look what's written on the front" he teases, to which his new friend unknowingly obliges.

Well, that's confusing. "Aw, you let the secret out" Noel laughs for some reason, as if it were advertising or some sort of outrage he were trying to hide, then back to the world's least convincing staring competition. Noel lists all the places we can find him, thinks of a few more ("it's my turn to turn the globe round between programmes..."), and Rod Stewart sees us out.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

TOTP 3/11/77 (tx 22/11/12): Peter's out

Well, if nothing else it's already lasted much longer than the last time the BBC tried a Doctor Who repeat run. For the second week running we have to start with bad tidings, this time not legally but broadcasterly. At the weekend a researcher for the programme let on via Twitter that the 1978 documentary and thus repeat run was going ahead, yet just yesterday at a press launch BBC4 controller Richard Klein said he hadn't decided whether it would continue.

Now, public indecision is not a blanket rejection per se and the quotes do smack a little of someone who wasn't expecting to be asked - and let's be fair, scheduling a repeat run is less about budgets, studios and suchlike then it is ordering some tapes from the BBC Worldwide library - but clearly that's not what we want to hear. Klein also mentioned declining viewer figures, which is kind of borne out and in such not due to recent events. Discounting the Kenny Everett night TOTP has been in BBC4's weekly ratings top ten once between mid-April and the last published figures, compared to thirteen times in the same span in 2011, and has topped 400,000 viewers three times in 2012 (the last that mid-April show, the one recovered from Diddy's collection as it goes) as opposed to eight last year. 1977 hasn't really had any different scheduling or any less wide advertising than 1976 had, and this for I think I'm right in saying the only all year round regular programming the station has. I know some argue people will flock back for 1978 because of the music but that's rot - 1977, for its associations with punk and disco, is regarded as one of pop music's banner years, whereas 1978 is Grease and Boney M in similar strata of popular culture. We shall have to wait and see, and then perhaps think of something else to do here next year.

Mind you, never mind BBC4's treatment of the show in 2013, it's BBC4's treatment in late 2012 that's looking precarious. With The Sky At Night confirmed for the 7th and just the one show for the week after, the as yet unpublished schedules for the week before and the two weeks around the festive season mean three* normal TOTPs will have to be fitted in between 16th December and whenever the Christmas shows are scheduled for, which last year was the 20th and 22nd. It's as if someone lost count. Or doesn't care that much, obviously.

(* One of which is hosted by Dave Lee Travis, but I haven't heard anything about whether all his programmes have been pulled for the time being or if last week was a one-off, but his job on Magic AM has been dropped until enquiries are completed)

Still, I'm pretty sure we're here for the rest of 2012 at least, so we must press on, sword of Damocles overhead as it may be.

So what do you think of when you hear of Peter Powell? Shape Up And Dance? Anthea Turner? Five 45s At 5.45? Being director of the management company that act as agents to several ITV prime-time's worth of talent? The Record Race? This? (Not the kites, that was another Peter Powell) Whatever, he'd almost literally just joined Radio 1 (bar three months in 1972) and was reputedly so excited at the prospect of hosting the show of shows he lost his voice minutes before recording. The excitement, it's fair to say, shows, even though all he has to say is hello and welcome. Positively bursting at the seams, he is, and that's not the half of it. And he's wearing a Radio 1 T-shirt tucked snugly into his jeans. The exciting new youthful face of radio, there. ELO's Turn To Stone over the charts.

The Jam – The Modern World
Rickenbacker on high alert, and one going on close-ups with an unreadable address on an affixed label and 'I AM NOBODY' written in Tipp-Ex or similar on its body. This is the sort of performance that could, and for all the show lets on might have been, recorded last time the trio were in, so used are we already to the suits and the stances, though Rick Buckler does chance a grin at the camera looking up at him. Bar the full upper body movement of a chap in a flat cap and the similar motions of a friend who joins him halfway through, perhaps that being the designated punk appreciation side of the stage, it's not convincing too many down the front to move wholeheartedly no matter how much Weller gurns in anguish at society and stuff. Those two, and this man...

He jumps in the air.


And whoops. "Woo! Hey! Wild stuff from the Jam" indeed.

The Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft
And just to top off this opening link of opening links: "let's just think about those occupants of interplanetary craft, shall we?" Richard and Karen on video in front of shots of the milky way.

The Barron Knights – Live In Trouble
The Barron Knights! THE BARRON KNIGHTS! The group the Grumbleweeds could have been! Stop the rerun now, BBC4, the apex has been reached. "A bigger bunch of loonies you're never likely to meet" is Peter's somewhat overheated introduction, so much so he then goes and gets the title wrong. Live It Up indeed. What were they, Mental As Anything? This is the song with the celebrated reworking of Angelo, chip shop in Walthamstow and all that, in the middle, so obviously that's the bit of the song the producer made them cut for time reasons. Red satin jackets and ruffled shirts are the order of the day and if they look direct from their cabaret act that's because they probably were. Just before he starts singing... the singer does a leap in the air and air guitar. One of the Barron Knights taking the piss out of Paul Weller. Oh, those were the days of levelled impetuousness. The kids of 1977 are either stony faced or seem to enjoy the You Make Me Feel Like Dancing section, especially when... the singer unveils his comedy pinging braces. That just leaves the Float On section, which it's fair to say has not wethered the changes in moral attitudes well, rare as it is to see a man corpse at the weight of his own comedy Irish accent. Towards the end one of them does a spin on the spot. "Can you spin like that?" Powell enquires of a lady in a very thick pink cashmere sweater. She obliges. Powell does likewise, in the counter direction. I, watching this in the future, have no idea what future anyone saw in this. So wrapped up is Powell in this idea introducing the next song is an afterthought.

Queen – We Are The Champions
The live video clip wherein to a crowd of scarf wavers Freddie dons the black and white catsuit of fate. "Best thing since Bohemian Rhapsody" Powell avers afterwards. What, out of absolutely everything?

Dorothy Moore – I Believe You
"And now, a little bit of beauty" says Powell in voiceover in the tone of a Radio 3 announcer, a very grandiloquent way of introducing Legs & Co. Entering through some McDonalds hoops, Flick clearly had some spare bathroom curtain material she wanted to get rid of and got it fashioned into six green and yellow dresses, matched to leggins. It's a neatly worked out routine, the girls positioning themselves between the hoops and dancing around and between them, but given I think we've even seen those props before it looks like they made it for 80p.

Status Quo – Rockin' All Over The World
I cannot make out what Powell says before introducing this performance video - "well, wolvey guy?" is my best go - maybe because he can't wait to get the title out before chatting a bystander up. "Hello blue eyes." "Hi!" "Hi hi! Let's get down to this one. Yeah!" Afterwards he delivers a succinct summary: "Status Quo, you know?"

David Bowie – Heroes
My, is he keen to be here. Powell, not (openly) Bowie. "We're rocking on the very best show on television. This is the biggest party in the whole lar." Well, that's what it sounds like. It's not 'world', it's not 'lot', it's not 'bar', again it's not anything distinct. Peter, you're a radio DJ with years of experience. You're supposed to be a clear, enunciating vocal presence. No wonder Sweater Girl back by his side keeps looking at him with some trepidation. As for Bowie, a repeat the original of which we didn't see, the guitarist is clearly no Robert Fripp in style or effects and the drummer is on begrudging session time (though apparently Tony Visconti popped in to play bass) but Bowie is his charismatic self singing live and committed in a shirt with big floppy cuffs. And yes, he's actually there in his pomp and glory, with a crowd, recorded on a proper studio recording night. Now what's your excuse, Mercury? Although having said that Bowie didn't return to Pops until 1995.

Showaddywaddy – Dancin' Party
And to prove the yin and yang of TOTP is in full effect, keeping us all on our critical toes and all that... this is a repeat to everyone but us as well. A cover that still sounds like a ripoff of Runaround Sue, it starts with everyone bar the drummer huddled over Dave Bartram as he launches a call and response, the latter filmed from the crane camera overhead. So was that all in one take or is some of their famed visual perception trickery in evidence again? All in red suits and black shirts Bartram then takes an immediate step into the crowd as two groups of two behind launch into involved routines, including an awkward chorus line. Before we can consider the likely casualty rate from a TOTP camera and its man following Bartram around an audience given their usual GTA-style success with the trolley our man has spotted two people in massive tinfoil top hats like Isembard Kingdom Brunel misunderstanding Noddy Holder and has purloined one for himself. Stolen off the head, in fact, before delving deeper to find its mate, a couple of others following and finding women to dance with as they go, and whomsoever possesses the twin hat shall be joined forever in matrimony, possibly. The hat has written on one side 'HELLO MUM', this being the 70s when that was nearly original, and on the other 'VOTE FONZIE'. Viral Happy Days advertising/vote rigging? On the BBC? Questions must be asked. Powell challenges those given around him to name one each of their other hits. Interactive in this brand new era too.

ABBA – The Name Of The Game
Back to their glares, their anguished soft singing, their dinner table and their Fla. Powell wishes the best "from all of us here to all of you back home" and because the show can't go a week without them, Smokie play out over a weird graphical effect of wavy coloured concentric circles which is never going to overtake the kaleidoscope of studio lights in the nation's affections, I'll tell them that right now. Were this 1977 you'd be about to see the first Citizen Smith. Were this 1977 and you Peter Powell you'd probably be going for quite the lie down with a cool flannel in a darkened room.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

TOTP 27/10/77 (tx 15/11/12): a change to our published schedules


Well, this isn't the way I expected the impending backlog to be dealt with, at the very least of our present worries. Remember when this was a fun, carefree blog? That was a great eighteen months or so we had going back then, wasn't it?

I don't know if 20/10/77 will be shown again, because it might, you never know - the official word is merely 'postponed', though given he's been bailed til January it now seems unlikely. But in case, here's a Disappeared for that show, which I can skip through because Legs & Co aside every one of these will (technically, pending) be on again or has been on before. If it is eventually shown in some form, pretend you never saw this.

Showaddywaddy – Dancin' Party
Smokie – Needles And Pins
Dorothy Moore – I Believe You
Status Quo – Rockin' All Over The World (video)
The Carpenters – Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (Legs & Co)
David Bowie – Heroes
La Belle Epoque – Black Is Black (video)
Queen – We Are The Champions (video)
Tina Charles – Love Bug/Sweets For My Sweet
Roxy Music – Virginia Plain (no, really, it was reissued for some reason so they repeated the famous 1972 appearance)
David Soul – Silver Lady (video)


Kid! Ah, always trust Kid, even in a complex patterned dad tank top. Santana backs the chart and appears concentrating on a closed eyed solo, which about sums him up.

Slade – My Baby Left Me/That's All Right
We catch Slade on the precipice, endless US touring having cost them their way over here and this their last top 40 single for more than three years. Even with this there's some desperation given it's an Elvis tribute, two of his songs welded together into hard rock shape. To complete the Samsonite illusion, Dave Hill's gone and shaved his head. Even Noddy's luxurious mullet passes by the notice of most, although with the shine eminating from the Hill pate it might just be that people standing at a certain angle can't clearly see it.

Mary Mason – Angel Of The Morning/Any Way That You Want Me
In front of a hoop of lights, which really should have had a dog jump through when the song completely changes volume and introduces big timpani for full effect, Mason is making her own attempt at tonsorial attention, a very tightly wound perm that seems to move independently of its owner and makes her look like a lost member of the Abigail's Party cast. Otherwise it's the sort of performance those with stage experience knock out, Mason gazing lustfully down the camera and pacing away during an instrumental section before a sudden half-turn back when time to sing. Sawing strings, Ladybirds in full voice, the full cabaret arrangement.

Darts – Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It
Three medleys in a row! Even when the charts went mad for medleys in 1981-82 I doubt TOTP ever did that. "You may not believe your eyes when you see this next group but they're for real" is all Kid can say in advance accompanied by an extravagant wave of the arm, though having been weaned on Showaddywaddy and the like some people singing call and response in a line is highly believable. The pianist - sorry, operator of the "piano machine" - is on the floor next to the audience, which is odd as there seems to be room enough on the stage until Den Hegarty gets going, jumping around on the drum riser before taking over vocals with the sort of malevolent glint which is only leading one way. That way is on top of the pianist, and then falling over trying to retake the stage leading to his having to sing the last line while sitting down. As old rock and roll lags given their moment they're putting as much as you like into it. That said, half the audience can't wait to walk away from the stage, and perhaps not before time. "Wild sounds and scenes" adjudges Kid.

Ram Jam – Black Betty
Even Legs & Co are firing tonight, and while rock has never been a Flick strong point, leading to far too much aimless running about, it allows all sorts of signifiers - ripped black dresses, extravagant hair swishing and air punching, meaningful faces to camera. Of course, not everyone makes good business out of looking hard...

Rod Stewart – You’re In My Heart
"Hit sound number four... hit sound number three, actually". Kid must have been put out by being surrounded by women, knowing what people on Twitter would say 35 years into the future. It's a strange video as Rod and his spiky ladies' mullet sits and mopes in an expensive restaurant before singing into a fancy mirror as the maitre d' improvises a violin solo

Boney M – Belfast
Kid's on the stage looking back over the audience at us, which is strange but not quite as strange as what follows. After January's near death by non-miming they're taking no chances on their first visit since, three extra backing singers in carnival gear resembling bellydancing costumes and massive headgear made from what seems to be leftover material which reaches down to the floor at the back, while Liz Mitchell has donned antenna on top of a full bodysuit. As they've brought the band Bobby in his silver reflective suit isn't even the most expressive man on stage, guitar and bass heads and the heads of their players alike bobbing and waving all over the place. This is, lest we forget, for a song about the Troubles. Most of the audience look baffled, as well they might.

Tom Robinson Band – 2-4-6-8 Motorway
I'm going to embed this because of a) Tom's school tie knot, pink triangle badge and Musician's Union sticker, b) the all over the place air punching on the first chorus and c) the tone of the end of Kid's intro. Excited much?

ABBA – The Name Of The Game
Kid's still too excited for proper words, calling this the "highest chart charter". The video, wherein the couples sit around a dinner table, chat, play ludo and experience differing emotions.

Smokey Robinson – Theme From The Big Time
"It's a bit like the pop family Robinson" Kid inaccurately reckons. Truly, if Smokie weren't available the show had to make do with whatever was closest. Wisely for the full soul-funk sound Smokey's brought his own band with him, the pianist caught in passing close-up playing just above the keys without actually depressing them, as well as an all-aquamarine outfit for his Esther Rantzen tribute. (It's not, it was the title track for a Motown-produced film) Only tentative movement now.

Baccara – Yes Sir I Can Boogie
"Can you? I'd like to watch" Kid asks a female placed next to him. Please, Kid, not now. Not here and now. A repeat of their appearance follows, after which he has a guest. "If you were watching last week" ... er, yeah, Kid, about that... "you'll have seen the back of Radio 1's newest recruit - well, this week we're giving you a full frontal" before revealing... Peter Powell" In a Radio 1 247 T-shirt too, as tradition insists. Kid promises we'll see more of him next week before, surprisingly, the Sex Pistols' current top ten single Holidays In The Sun plays us out. Peter Powell as the way forward for Top Of The Pops in 1977? A cheap holiday in other people's misery indeed.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The disappeared: 13/10/77

Rokotto – Boogie On Up
First of three (not counting the dance) we won't see again are Dundee's own contribution to funk - sounds like some comedy concept, but remember Average White Band - grooving up a storm yet a couple of weeks after Rose Royce had taken the opening spot seeming a little undercooked. Does it look to you like there's a couple of ringers here? Also note TOTP2's usual rigorous caption research.

Rod Stewart – You’re In My Heart
The video, obviously, to the first single from Foot Loose & Fancy Free, which we'll see in a couple of weeks.

Brotherhood Of Man – Highwayman
There can't be many bands who sandwiched a complete, top 50-missing flop between number ones, but even at their greatest moment of consistency BoM managed it. This isn't the performance - it's from Top Pops, in fact - but I can't imagine what was shown was too different. The uploader indignantly comments underneath that they can't be an Abba ripoff because they'd been together since 1973. The sound, the look, even the stances must be sheer coincidence, then.

Rose Royce – Do Your Dance
Repeat of their bravura turn from a couple of weeks before.

Mary Mason – Angel Of The Morning/Any Way That You Want Me
To be reshown in a couple of weeks when the first three songs on the show are all technically medleys.

Nazareth – Love Hurts
Pained rock balladeering as seen the other week.

George Benson – The Greatest Love Of All
As always archived by One For The Dads, featuring no Pauline again and rather too much arm waving in big sheets to count as proper dancing as such. Well, how much better would you have done with the source materials?

Ram Jam – Black Betty
Really, what was that bloke's business being there?

John Forde – Stardance
This has already attracted some debate in the comments about where Forde came from and whether Judge Dread was involved somehow. It's another example of something I referred to last week about the rise of space disco, sounding a good few years ahead of its time in places - maybe it got on because someone thought there was a British Space in the offing? - and it's turned up since in the playlists of the likes of 2manyDJs. No sign of the TOTP performance unfortunately, or even a single edit, though there is the extended 12" version.

David Soul – Silver Lady
David stays atop, his dream machine stays running.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Alternative TOTP Canon #45: Pet Shop Boys - Can You Forgive Her

Despite having been regular stoic visitors in their early years Neil and Chris, supposedly in a dispute over performing live, didn't appear in the studio for any of their four singles in 1991. Upon returning in June 1993, ironically in the midst of the live-performance-first era, the occasion demanded something that Charlestoned all over the boundary between ridiculous and sublime. Fair to say little was spared in the ideas department - 3D effects, the launch of the iconic big coned hats, Chris scavenging behind a pulsing orb. In that setting dancers painted silver in suit of armour bodices and diamond-styled Don King-esque wigs wielding silver cricket bats seems too obvious.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Alternative TOTP Canon #44: Public Enemy - Shut 'Em Down

Plenty has been written on here about production standards, so it's only fair to highlight when they make a good staging decision. For three and a half minutes there isn't a single switch to another camera other than the crane shot keeping a menacing Chuck D and an almost normal Flavor Flav in centre of shot throughout, not to mention giving them live mikes and allowing a couple of particularly brooding S1Ws to keep watch. If only the floor manager had been as sharp, too many people getting to easily distracted by that roaming camera, even a complete lack of responses to the usual failsafe of putting hands in the air and waving 'em like you just don't care.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Alternative TOTP Canon #43: Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Two Tribes

It's hard to think of a single that's been performed more often on TOTP, seven times in the studio in all. This sixth, to mark its ninth and last week at the top, is by a comfortable margin the most ostentatious, beginning with Patrick Allen captioning and Holly very deliberately ripping up a copy of the Sun in retaliation for a piece about the band. Note that front page lead which appears to read 'STREET STAR VERA FACES SACK', and sure enough Liz Dawn only stayed on Corrie for another twenty-four years. The rest, apart from Ped Gill and Mark O'Toole swapping instruments, is that of a band given yet another chance to get across the message and succeeding by some distance - the white suits, the flags both hanging up and handed out to the audience, the loudspeakers, the cane, the two coming together, an enormous wattage of flashing lights, Holly's walkabout limited when he realises how small the studio and its number of inhabitants really is. Listen to the volume of that reaction.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Alternative TOTP Canon #42: Art Of Noise - Close (To The Edit)

As what used to be called studio boffins, Art Of Noise were deliberately faceless and imageless, great for the sort of theories Paul Morley draped around their oeuvre, less so if you have a hit single and the BBC want to know if you'd like to come in and represent it on prime-time television. So step forward Anne Dudley, Gary Langan and JJ Jeczalik, two Fairlights and a liberally 'played' mixing desk, some masks of the design as seen on their record sleeves, some sort of fur stole, berets and the full whiff of artisan. Their Tube appearance for the same is worth a look for Morley visual input, clown costumage and an absolutely static audience.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Alternative TOTP Canon #41: Mick Jagger - Let's Work

Hadn't expected to see this again, had you? Well, while we've got some time and to mark the imminence of post number 200 I thought it'd be good to resurrect this to highlight some of the lesser seen performances that have cropped up in researching the under-read On This Top Of The Pops Day as that blog staggers towards its inevitable conclusion. This week's bunch of five inductees starts with a song which peaked at 33, wasn't even in the top 40 when featured - in fact the show had already been hanging onto this performance for a fortnight before giving in - but everyone who saw seems to remember. One thing you can't accuse him of is not putting some gumption into it, using the entire studio as a personal bouncy castle of a plaything. One thing you can accuse him of is a lack of subtlety, whether that be in the Tebbitrock lyrics or the two gangs of seemingly barely choreographed groups. There's a BBC Stones season coming very soon including an At The BBC. We should get a petition together to ensure this is included.

Monday, 5 November 2012

30 for 30 on 4

Channel 4 turned thirty years old last Friday and to mark the occasion... they did nothing. Spoilsports. So in the spirit of celebration, and thanks to everyone who made suggestions, here's thirty great musical moments from the C4 back catalogue...

Ten from The Tube

- The Jam famously played one of their last gigs in the Tube's Newcastle HQ. From that set, indeed on the first ever show, a roaring Town Called Malice.

- No idea who that is at the start. One of the show's strengths was being able to spot potential stars early. The most famous example is perhaps Frankie Goes To Hollywood, performing an early version of Relax before Trevor Horn re-recorded it all for them with a couple of close friends before a somewhat overdressed and outnumbered Jools gains exact knowledge on their style.

- No idea who that is either. The Smiths had appeared in one such film and would follow the Tube pretty much all the way down. This is Hand In Glove from their first studio visit.

- It's not in this clip but Paula Yates famously introduced The Proclaimers' impassioned Throw The R Away as "something really weird", though by the looks of her she can talk.

- The Art Of Noise in literal clown outfits with a mass of Fairlights, synths, samplers and a mixing console, Paul Morley adding comments as is his wont. It should however be noted the setup hadn't extended as far as replacing the audience with dummies.

- A pindrop version of Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding, followed by Everyday I Write The Book.

- After Paula gets a little confused, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five dress like disco scenesters and perform some of the worst breakdancing ever committed to tape but command the crowd and revolutionise music. Insider tip: that's not a real policeman at the end.

- Trouble Funk drop the bomb on the banks of the Tyne in front of limited but keen numbers.

- Dexys Midnight Runners rework There There My Dear at length, slowed down, with a talky bit in the middle and Kevin doing press-ups.

- And finally... a works outing to the Hacienda in January 1984 (FAC104, in fact) brought the Factory All-Stars, Morrissey being interviewed, a bunch of Factory also-rans, Norman Cook in the audience and, paid for by the show as her label didn't consider her important enough, Madonna.

Five from TFI Friday

- Hard to entirely credit now, but there was a time when you *had* to be seen alongside Evans. The Paul McCartney Quartet piece together 1997 single Young Boy.

- Frock coat, girl's hair, but David Bowie's aura pervades.

- Not that those sorts of things are the bits people remember. Go on then, Black Grape's sweary cover of Pretty Vacant, with full Evans apology.

- And then, there was a destructive Slipknot.

- While we're up that end of the loudness war, it's forgotten that Evans buggered off and didn't play any part in the 1999 last series of TFI, which explains why Donna Air gets At The Drive-In's details confused at the end when she's audible over the feedback.

Five from The Word

- So what was this show's most famous musical moment? Lynne Perrie. But apart from her, Oasis' TV debut. Note the dancers in the background. Why does Liam take a drink after he's finished singing?

- Alright, the other famous one is L7, but you can see that sort of thing all over the internet. Instead, the noise and confusion of the UK arm of riot grrrl Huggy Bear, who were promptly thrown out of the studio for shouting abuse during a film of Playboy models.

- Speaking of confusion, not to mention malfunctioning instruments if the bloke who keeps running to the front of the stage is any indication, Manic Street Preachers were meant to be doing Love's Sweet Exile, but...

- Jo Whiley was The Word's music booker for most of its lifespan and had a knack for picking up fascinating new bands early. For example, Weezer with Rivers Cuomo in novelty glasses.

- And yeah, occasionally someone thought this sort of thing would run. Duran Duran turn Hungry Like The Wolf into a poor man's New York Dolls.

Five from The White Room

- The Mark Radcliffe-helmed series didn't last too long but provided two moments people tend to recall. A caustic Ray Davies strums through You Really Got Me and the contemporary To The Bone before Damon Albarn joins in to add backing vocals to Waterloo Sunset before bashfully joining in on a chorus of Parklife.

- And the other? The honourable member of Iggy Pop.

- More subtle climes, a gorgeous version of Glory Box from a then-rare live set from Portishead.

- As already seen, one-off duets were something the show liked to expand upon, usually involving Bernard Butler, but this one works a treat, as the rapt faces performance-side show - Sandie Shaw and Salad doing Girl Don't Come.

- A duet on record and in life, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey as two peas in a pod.

Five others

- You may have noticed an omission from The Word, the celebrated cut off Nirvana performance. That's because I wanted to highlight Nirvana on Tonight With Jonathan Ross instead. As far as he knows they're playing Lithium. As far as everyone in the studio knows they're going to play Lithium. The only people who don't know it are the three on the stage.

- In 1984 Channel 4 made a series of label-funded documentaries under the title Play At Home. New Order's is the most intriguing as would be Factory's wont, featuring the whole label cast plus live footage. Before five minutes are past a fully clothed Gillian Gilbert has got into a bath with Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus has tried to give an interview while on the back of a motorbike. Follow the sidebar for parts 2 to 7.

- Robert Plant on Wired, musing on "giving it some neck" and I Should Be So Lucky.

- From awkward Network 7 follow-up Club X, a hypnotic take on WFL by Happy Mondays. Shaun's nicked Bez's maracas.

- And finally one for the kids, from pub-set short-lived early 00s show Born Sloppy The Libertines play raggedly to an overfull room.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

TOTP 6/10/77 (tx 1/11/12): the king is dead

We've covered elements of this week already, as the Radio Times for this week featured this cover and a chat with some prime DJs. Noel wasn't amongst them, odd given he was the breakfast show host at the time. Maybe they thought as he was doing Swap Shop he'd be beneath them. In any case here he is with the show "you can have in any colour as long as it's black". So cue Henry Ford. Not really, La Belle Epoque. They like the music, they like the disco sound.

Ooh, look who's charted! Hope they're on soon!

Meco of previous post discussion fame gets the original drawn poster for Star Wars, dully.

Smokie – Needles And Pins
Feels like they're on every other week with something new, so obviously they'd be down to covers eventually. And roughly seventy seconds in audience member of the week is decided:

Imagine being on the bus to the studio wearing that. Even if it's made out of crepe paper it must still weigh a bit. Not that we're looking for distractions from this fairly straight and anaemic cover of the Searchers hit but VT have bought some new edit equipment in the week that creates rainbow-edged radial and diagonal wipes, the former used in conjunction with fish-eye and that through the bottom of a bottle effect we saw last time Smokie were on, probably not coincidentally. Alan Barton is the only member not on a riser. Certain issues?

The Emotions – Best Of My Love
A return to stealing from Soul Train's bins with all the actually dancing audience members that implies and in doing so shows up our lot somewhat. It's hard to decide who's best - a couple off stage left are doing a very kind of straight-legged foot-in-foot-out routine with both extending their arms out straight while somehow still touching fingers. A gent in a powder blue suit right at the front is bending from the waist. A man stage right is spinning every fourth step. The band meanwhile only take the mikes out of their stands just as they finish. Should have thought about that one.

Danny Mirror – I Remember Elvis Presley
Of course you do, he only died seven weeks ago and you've already been in the top 30 for three. Crooning Dutch grief hawker Danny, like so many, looks a bit like Keith Lemon by way of Mike Flowers, and is wearing a jacket with massive fringed bits and an immense number of shiny buttons on the shoulders with an Elvis T-shirt underneath. The audience are stunned into silence. Noel isn't stunned into silence by the demands of his job but from the way he glances over to the stage he looks about ready to say something.

Giorgio – From Here To Eternity
Noel suggests we get the Christmas decorations out, though what the one down Legs & Co are holding is clearly some sort of mass of shiny streamers. The reason I can't be any more accurate is the whole routine is in silhouette with a projected extreme close-up backdrop, which isn't really reflecting the futuristic nature of the record, electro years ahead of its time, and also fools those who look out for their favourite every week. One of them's Gill. Probably. They do look like they're giving it plenty in terms of energy and exuberance, it's just we can't tell for sure.

Yes – Wondrous Stories
Punk killed prog off in 1977, you know. A live performance video, Jon Anderson clad in an oversized dishcloth, most of the others in adapted Edwardian gear.

Deniece Williams – Baby, Baby My Love's All For You
A lovely lady, according to Noel. No staircase this time so she gets to move about, which for her means sticking one arm in the air and turning round. As the orchestra prove yet again they can ride a coach and horses right through disco if they so choose, sadly Hat Lady looks bored in a sea of interest, turning away from the stage when we catch her. Her friend is wearing a blue beret and what looks like the same top as Jon Anderson, oddly.

The Stranglers – No More Heroes
There's not even that much dry ice down JJ's side of the stage.

Baccara – Yes Sir I Can Boogie
Noel polls two interested ladies on how to pronounce what seems a fairly straightforward name, revealing some thought it was "Bacc-arer". "I thought it was the Osmonds meself!" chortles Noel to no reciprocation. They already did this once on the show and told you in the first verse too.

Steve Gibbons Band – Tupelo Mississippi Flash
Say this for Noel, he gets the audience involved, first chiding them on making noise around him and then sharing reading out the title duties with two women. It's another song about Elvis, one Gibbons, who somehow looks even more craggy than before, begins with some spoken word before falling into rock and roll line. The bassist is wearing a gas station cap and overalls, supposedly signifying trad working man identification. It probably isn't his own.

David Soul – Silver Lady
"Smile! Alright, don't overdo it" Noel commands a whole line of ladies, in his sharp suit looking briefly like a dressed down, swapped sexes version of the Parallel Lines cover. Soul wanders around as before, Leo Sayer sees us out, and in the middle a very strange moment with Noel and a single, unidentified older woman. "Now Kim, tell me about the brand new single you... oh, sorry, we don't have time, we'll find out about that later... she's livid, but it was only a joke. Bye bye." What? How? Why?