Friday, 28 December 2012

An announcement

As you may know by now, Top Of The Pops on BBC4 continues into 1978 with the launch on January 4th and first show proper, 5/1/78, on the 17th in the usual slot.

Yes It's Number One will, however, not be following suit.

I've decided to step aside from TOTP blogging (bar the last three days of On This Day, obviously) after quite some months' thought and consideration - not because of recent events or feedback but due to wanting to spend more time on other projects without an extra blog commitment of this size getting in the way, and more directly before it grows into an outright hindrance. Over these 21 months and 64 shows the appeal of recapping every week has for me palled - there's only a finite amount of new things and means of phrasing that can be written, and the self-imposed rigmarole of prepping the posts, looking up playlists and details, watching and rewatching clips and then detailing everything to the detail to which you've become accustomed has taken a lot of the fun out of the TOTP repeat watching experience which was the point of starting the blog at all, and consequently taken the entertainment out of the blog maintaining to the extent that it's increasingly feeling like a chore. The point where I'd need to commit to another full year seems like a good place to break off and, while I'll doubtless still be watching the shows, not give myself the extra workload around that half hour. If anyone else wants to pick up the Pops-blogging slack from here, do so by all means.

So... thank you to BBC4 for the programming idea and the continued support, and more directly thanks to everyone who read the blogs, supported it in various ways, posted comments and got a great little community swapping ideas and knowledge going down there. From this blog though, goodbye and good love.

EDIT: reliably informed in the comments that you should now keep an eye on It's Top Of The Pops!

Big sounds

By popular demand (two people), a chronological order skirt through what I'd say are the thirty best moments from a year and three quarter of curios, no hit wonders and other remarkable - in that word's many and varied sources - performances from 1976 and 1977 (apart from Diddy's chat with Mike Nesmith, which isn't currently on YouTube):

Hank Mizell, Pan's People and some uncannily lifelike costumes

Paul Nicholas meets rockers uptown, after Noel's forgotten his name

An extraordinary nearly boys-only Ruby Flipper routine to David Bowie's TVC15

Brendon and Mud may have missed this cut but 5000 Volts had to get in for the impromptu talkbox miming

The still remarkable Glamourpuss. Those dresses were restitched and used as quality curtains

The subtle minimalism of 1776, proving you shouldn't go into pop looking like the infamous prisoner Charles Bronson

Percussion and boxing frenzy alike from Johnny Wakelin & the Kinshasa Band, including a guitarist who gets so into his solo his hat falls off

Back to the singular Ruby Flipper, this time finding new ways to operate doors for Wings

Can shrug off Noel's... erm... jokes and the absence of their proper guitarist in favour of one building his part up

Elton John and Kiki Dee and Ruby Flipper and an almost voted down Noel

Floyd Pearce's finest hour, Rick Dees & His Cast Of Idiots

Noel's abortive interview with Chicago, starting with him asking a non-writer how he writes. Terry Kath gets an impromptu chance to show off his smooth moves.

The almost legendary John Christie, and Noel's similarly almost legendary prediction

Sailor from the Christmas show clearly having done what the chorus suggests, ending in a balloon drop that entirely lands on the drummer

Stevie Wonder won't release the correct singles? David Parton to the rescue with his circle-turning elan and pain-etched singing style

Headline-based fun to open Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran's carefully choreographed routine

If all this run had achieved was to smoke Contempt out (NB. it isn't) it might well have been worth it

Joy Sarney. Another clip of this was uploaded to YouTube a day after repeat with the description "What the hell is wrong with people from the past...."

"Ooooh, the Trinidad Oil Company!" indeed. And a full works outing too

Sue Legs & Co's glory, Piero Umiliani

The exquisitely out of place Martyn Ford Orchestra, the highlight being Ford's forceful point at 1:36

And a fourth from one show! A pimp-dapper Billy Paul is forced to recreate his own samples for a less than interested audience

Neil Innes sucks up in Jubilee year. Afterwards, Tony gives a name to a genre

Imagine turning on the show unawares one night and being confronted with the blackleg RAH Band

We can well believe our eyes, Kid, but Darts are still quite something, Den's crashing about especially

Solving the Irish problem in carnival gear, that's Boney M

Peter Powell got a bit excited on his TOTP debut. How excited? Reaction to The Jam excited.

Very much of their time, The Barron Knights. They get a laugh, good for them.

Sue and Lulu hide under cover of shame from the Legs & Co Jonathan Richman routine

We didn't see the original but the repeat performance of John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett still delivered, unlike Elton.

That was the years that was

Some of the better posts that have gone alongside the 1976-77 recaps (apart from the one about the 1989 Brits that got mentioned in the Guardian because the clips have been taken down by the BPI, the swine):

The Alternative TOTP Canon: the great performances that people don't go on about all the time

Ruby blue: a history of TOTP's shortlived Pan's/Legs bridge Ruby Flipper

Cherry shake well: the people's favourite, Cherry Gillespie

Put yourself in the picture: related listings and features from Radio Times

TOTP 11/10/73 (tx 3/10/12): an intermission: the rogue Kenny Everett-fronted repeat

Live from Television Centre: the most common studio visitors...

Mike controllers: ...and the most common hosts

State of independents: the 1970s in pop on the ITV regions

30 for 30 on 4: thirty Channel 4 music clips to celebrate the channel's thirtieth birthday

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?: the full story of the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen and its claims to number one

Contempt breed familiarity: who were this mysterious band who turned up on the show one Thursday in May? And who were all those other non-hitmakers?

A farewell to 1976, by Bob Stanley: the year's music precised by someone who's got a book on modern pop out next year

Monday, 24 December 2012

TOTP 25/12/77 (tx 24/12/12): no Beatles, Elvis or Rolling Stones in 1977('s Christmas Day TOTP)

Well, that's another year done with. Let's start with the six most read posts of 2012 to date, inevitably affected by events but with a heartening end:

6 TOTP 7/4/77 (tx 19/4/12): boxing clever: two clips from Soul Train do some of the legwork, but the central conceit is Legs & Co's boxing exhibition to Love Hit Me. In the comments Brendon's bassist posts PDFs of two TOTP shooting scripts.

5 TOTP 12/5/77 (tx 24/5/12): bee sharp: bees, steel drums, streamers, wine bottles, orchestras, Billy Paul having to recreate his own samples, Lee Brilleaux... the maddest show of the year, where Jimmy comes on quarter of the way through in a wig and suit professing to be his brother Percy and in context it seems perfectly normal.

4 TOTP 22/9/77 (tx 18/10/12) open thread: the first Pops after the series of unfortunate events, emotional balm provided by working out whether Hank The Knife was wearing a wig, why dry ice was so upsetting Jean-Jacques Burnel and whether Stardust's singer was Paul Whitehouse in disguise.

3 The disappeared: 17/11/77: the first skipped show for which video evidence could be provided, featuring Noosha Fox, Brighouse and Rastrick's finest and Bob Geldof's noogieing. Numbers boosted by being linked to from all over the place, including David Icke's forum.

2 TOTP 25/8/77 (tx 27/9/12): your super soaraway show: Legs & Co take to the catwalk in Elvis' honour, Noel sports a Boomtown Rats badge and the Adverts fall prey to the soundman. A record 131 comments, bolstered by outside influences.

1 Contempt breed familiarity: despite everything this was a comfortable winner, a potted history of the one band the internet knew nothing about before appearing on these shows. Don't know how this ended up so popular, apart from one link on doyouremember it doesn't appear to have been linked from anywhere.

Of course were this a more representative look back at 1977 Contempt would have taken pride of place, alongside Joy Sarney, Danny Mirror, Brendon, David Parton, Trinidad Oil Company, Martyn Ford Orchestra, Honky, the Carvells, Page Three, the Foster Brothers, Hudson-Ford, Neil Innes, Gene Cotton, Dead End Kids, Jigsaw, The Banned, Peter Blake, the RAH Band, Berni Flint, John Miles' command of the talkbox, Danny Williams, the Steve Gibbons Band and the Mah Na Mah Na Legs & Co routine with a live feed from the living room of Sue's children, plus Diddy interviewing Michael Nesmith. Instead the ever unimaginative BBC LE department decided to honour the biggest hits of the year instead. Pschaw.

So before we start here's how it fitted into what some say was the greatest Christmas evening's telly of all time, featuring the two most watched Christmas Day light entertainment shows of all time, and the one that received the most viewers isn't the one everyone thinks it is (and wasn't as big as is commonly quoted):

8.55am Star Over Bethlehem
9.55am Playboard
10.10am Michael Bentine appeals on behalf of Wells Cathedral
10.15am Christmas Worship from All Saints Parish Church, Kingston-Upon-Thames
11.13am Weatherman
11.15am The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas animation
11.40am National Velvet
1.40pm Are You Being Served?
2.10pm Top of the Pops
3.00pm The Queen
3.10pm Billy Smart's Christmas Circus
4.10pm The Wizard Of Oz
5.50pm Basil (Brush) Through The Looking Glass
6.20pm Evening News
6.25pm Songs Of Praise
7.15pm The Generation Game
8.20pm Mike Yarwood Christmas Show
8.55pm Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show
10.00pm News
10.05pm Funny Girl
12.30am Weatherman
12.31am Closedown

The best ITV could do? The Christmas Stars On Sunday and nearly three hours of Young Winston.

Back to business, with an intro screen which features previous footage of those who we'll see over the following fifty minutes in the middle and chart slides of others along the side. This is the closest Barry Biggs, Berni Flint and, remarkably, the Sex Pistols get to the end of year spectacular. 'Part One' - well, it couldn't be comfortably edited out, I suppose - has Noel and Kid in charge, the former in the widest bank manager-style tie he could find, the latter in a purple suit, huge bow tie and ruffled shirt giving him the look of a school leaver on work experience at The Comedians. Noel hopes "the pudding isn't lying too heavy cos there's a bit of dancing to do today, I reckon". Not with most of this lineup there isn't. Maybe that's the idea.

Showaddywaddy – You Got What It Takes
Not a lot of new performances given the auspicious occasion but the 'Waddy are always available with a combination of colours to suit all occasions. They start with their backs turned, as per rock and roll showbiz tradition, but it doesn't work if they're initially being filmed from behind the stage left drumkit. Under a variety of large balloons Dave Bartram, who appears to have a large car key for a medallion, struts in allurring electric pink while nobody else at all mimes the prominent sax part. We know from last year that they like a visual gag, so the performance is cut into with shots of them at a large dining table re-enacting the last supper (or having a false Christmas dinner, one of the two) Buddy liberally pours out wine and makes merry, as you'd expect. Romeo looks unenthusiastic pulling a cracker, as you'd expect. Al James sits at the end on his own and looks utterly fed up.

Deniece Williams – Free
Tip: when being shot in artful half-darkness, don't wear a dark coloured dress. At least they've given her a proper stage this time. Lit by spotlight from the front and one in-shot overhead light, Deniece is definitely made out as the centre of attention which enhances her emotive heights of performance that by the end almost reach Minnie Riperton levels, though the only other people in the studio on that side of camera are a discreetly placed well back orchestra. Still applause at the end, obviously. They've got a pretence to keep up.

Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band – The Floral Dance
Kid comes up with a corker: "1977 certainly saw a lot of new names in the charts, none more outrageous than this." Really, Kid? In the year of punk, something you'd previously indicated you were well across, and the decade of rock excess a traditional brass band were "none more outrageous"? This is a repeat of their regular year performance but it hasn't been on BBC4 before, though with the audience waving balloons, tiny bits of material on large sticks behind them you might be forgiven for thinking it was a special party mood performance.

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man
Kid challenges Noel to name an act with three names, and Noel dodges the future editing bullet. "Carol Bayer Sager? Andy Fairweather-Low? Value Added Tax?" He actually did that same rule-of-three line when Bayer Sayer was on, but Christmas schedules are famed for repeats. Legs & Co time, and what better physical illustration of the concept behind the title than Musketeer doublet and hose? Maybe Flick was expecting Mike Oldfield to be picked or something. On the plus side it means plenty of knicker shots, which may be the partial point of the exercise. Lots of hat doffing work ensues around Christmas trees with Pauline both opening and on a central plinth from where she gets a solo that amounts to turning round in a circle

Leo Sayer – When I Need You
Noel seems to have a thing with Bayer Sager, specifying that she wrote this song. A repeat of his performance when it reached number one, where Leo in a bare, dark studio models a large ice hockey shirt, sticks his hands in his pockets and lets the director pick up the slack with multiplication visual effects.

Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D'Amour
Or as Kid still calls them "the Manhattan Transfer Company". He ends his intro to the same film clip as original showing on an odd upward inflection as if he's unsure about the chanson's actual properties after all this time.

Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again
Even though he doesn't deliver the punchline this link has the handiwork of Noel all over it as he asks Kid which bands he's not liked this year. "You mean apart from Hot Chocolate?" Kid replies before being bundled almost to the ground, and of course there they are just across the way. Of course Kid called this OK You Win when he first introduced it, so maybe there's truth in there. As usual Errol sings right to us while moving hesitantly to the rhythm while the rest of the band swap glances and knowing grins.

David Soul – Don’t Give Up On Us
Abba – Knowing Me Knowing You
Space – Magic Fly
Johnny Mathis – When A Child Is Born (Soleado)
Four repeated videos in a row, this portion notable only for a shot halfway through Soul of a large group of audience members who don't appear at any other stage of the programme dancing to Toppotron™ - that may be a straight repeated clip from a previous show, which is confusing given they clearly have a clean copy of the proper video to show - and before Space Noel reading out a purported card dedication: "Christmas comes but once a year and when it comes it's very exciting, but Top Of The Pops is always fun especially when done by crew 19". This is apparently so vital Noel never actually introduces the clip, which with its visual effect assault, men in helmets and synth oddness must have left family members baffled nationwide.

Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke
"Legs & Co have invited a special friend along" smiles Kid and that can only mean one thing - Floyd! Dressed as Santa! Well, if you want someone to willingly move and strut with absolute dedication and excitement while in a silly costume you may as well call for the acknowledged expert. Not that the girls are stinting, dressed as they are as trotting reindeer insomuch as they have antlers on their furry hoods, albeit bedecked in holly leaves plus little tops, microshorts, gloves and boots in matching shiny silver. Santa Floyd, who hardly ever breaks his look at the camera, has the human reindeer on a leash, which brings all manner of unsubtle allusions to the fore. Even that shrinks in the egregiousness stakes, however, compared to the fact someone's added to Stevie's precision funk with sleigh bells. It doesn't improve the mix. Eventually Floyd ostentatiously disappears down a model chimney and his flock wave him off. Patti seems to be blowing him a kiss, which adds yet another layer.

Kenny Rogers – Lucille
Noel stumbles forward mid-link. "I've got a loose heel here..." is his punchline. Christ, even the Barron Knights had done that one already by then, and Kid either feigns despair or is genuinely despairing. It's a video but not the one we've already seen, as Kenny is by an empty bar festooned with bottles and instead of leaping over and going mad chooses to sit without a drink and tell his story. When he sits down there's an audible creak. He doesn't seem to be singing live but no foley artist would be so moved, would they?

Baccara – Yes Sir I Can Boogie
Another act returning to the studio, so the director chooses to start with 25 seconds essentially of just red filtered lights before the proper spotlighting is set upon the duo. Uncomfortable shifting and a couple of rehearsed spare hand movements ensue.

Wings – Mull Of Kintyre
Kid predicts the McCartneys will be "celebrating up in Scotland". What, nothing else? It's not like they'd have a turkey, I suppose. The same performance as we last saw, which isn't from Yarwood as previously stated, instead just seeming to be a second, maybe slightly cheaper video perhaps just to show off Linda's tartan socks. Kid manages to get a lengthy outro link out in one breath before Noel cues in "probably the biggest selling Christmas record of all time", White Christmas. That's no excuse. Sadly Kid doesn't wish us "merry Christmas and merry love", just the first half, but, overlaid over a slowly circling camera shot of the studio ceiling that eventually alights on some tinsel and baubles in kaleidoscope-vision, the credits are in Star Wars scrolling type and font. Influential already.

This is quite a long post, isn't it? Let's make it a little longer but simultaneously easier, as thanks to Neil again here's the Boxing Day show, not complete as UK Gold cut out repeats (we assume) of Brotherhood Of Man, Billy Ocean and Joe Tex, featuring a handful of new performances - Boney M with Bobby Farrell still having to sing his own parts and an unwelcome intrusion to mime the news report bit, Heatwave, an Elvis montage, a rather literal Legs & Co routine for Silver Lady and, erm, Showaddywaddy's hit that was already going down the charts when 1977 started. It also starts with the same title sequence as the previous day so you can see what I meant.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The disappeared: 22/12/77

A forty minute show three days before Christmas, because that's what they did back then. Why not play Fantasy BBC4 Editing? Again provided by Neil Barker, who taped it onto VHS in the Sky analogue days so quality is less than perfect:

How serious Osibisa's singer seems compared to the rest of the band, and indeed Jimmy, who seems to have worn that unique vest on special occasions for about a decade and a half in total. They're one of three studio performers whose song won't appear again, as with Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley plus friends and a debuting... well, it was released as 'Lol Creme & Kevin Godley' but Jimmy's taken the less associative elements, plus the songs by Yannis Markopoulos and Donna Summer, to whom Legs & Co pay tribute by inventing Tetris. Sadly Jimmy doesn't stop to explain who the men in matching jumpers behind him before Gordon Giltrap's Holiday theme are, nor why the one second from left is the spit of Stewpot. And at the last link, before the Muppets' version of Don't Dilly Dally On The Way, the bloke to Jim's right - we've seen him before, haven't we? He's not Irresistible Dennis, I know that.

Friday, 21 December 2012

TOTP 15/12/77 (tx 20/12/12): Thursday night's alright for charting

Let's get down to brass tacks, it's your special guest host Elton John! Sporting a cap, because any port in a storm, and a jacket with red lining that's probably far more expensive than it looks, plus in an interesting development no glasses. The other Donna Summer single, I Love You, goes behind the rundown.

The Dooleys – Love Of My Life
Of course we (points at comments box) have seen this twice already but they (points at viewing public) haven't, which means they miss out on the transmogrification and join the Dooleys as their transformation into all-pearly grinning supper club entertainers with ideas above their station is complete. Jim of the flowing mane has an open-zipped Evil Knievel castoff of a top and a pair of white trousers that are hitched so far up his body, with the aid of a thick belt, he surely couldn't walk properly. Anne and Kathy are more properly dressed than first time around, in fact one of them not far from Catholic girls' school chic. The keyboard player, taking Jim on at his own game despite being stood right next to a large circle, has gone for the open jacket over bare chest. The bassist is standing right next to Jim on stage, which is building up your part somewhat given the usual vocal arrangement.

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Egyptian Reggae
Elton's body language is all over the place, a ten second link sees him bobbing, weaving, shifting from foot to foot and sticking out his right elbow like he's trying to balance on a ball. Maybe because nobody could believe it first time round, "the fantastic" Legs & Co's meisterwork gets a second airing.

Carl Douglas – Run Back
It's now we can clearly see Elton has some sort of small reflective pendant on, could be diamond, could be glass. Should never leave home without one. As the camera pulls over to Carl we can see about a third of the audience are watching Elton instead. Not unsurprisingly, given his relative stature, but you're there for the music, dammit. And maybe for Douglas' dad clothes, a cream fleece for the larger figure and far too tight light brown cords. He's enthusiastic enough when it comes to improvised fist clenching and taking a step down to the lower part of the stage and when he spots a lurking lens it's little eyebrows and pretend surprise all the way. Then, right on the big brassy first note of the chorus, he delivers an over the top comedy wink. He knows alright. He also knows nobody else knows what melisma is yet as he arches backwards and delivers a big note, and then spoils it with another chorus to which he bounces jauntily about on the spot. There are, we note, two sailors down the front. Wrong week!

Julie Covington – Only Women Bleed
We lose Dooley Wilson's As Time Goes By for film rights reasons and pick up as on tape Covington stands, backlit, and sings to two different cameras from various distances in exactly the same way Bowie does in the Heroes video.

Darts – Daddy Cool/The Girl Can’t Help It
"Time to move yourself about a bit now". Here at the halfway point you begin to understand the problem with this show. It's not that Elton isn't entirely comfortable with performance to camera - ah, how times change - or that he starts every link looking at the floor followed by an "OK!", it's that this is the very famous Elton John and he's doing nothing other than 'that was, this is'. Nerves may be coming into play on that front, but why have a big name present the show - not even the last one before Christmas, by the way - and give him no room for manoevure? Anyway... Darts are back in town, Rita's in her most comfortably fitting leopardskin and Den's wearing a jacket that might be made out of discarded carpet material and what looks like adapted white dungarees underneath, looking for all the world like the lost Dr Who. Clearly the third wheel of the arrangement, Bob Fish tries to make up for it by proffering his fists as big chorus punctuation as if he's offering everyone outside, which may well have been the case. Hegarty then inevitably escapes, and after hurredly untangling his mike cable settles his chin upon one of the big set design rings, which suspiciously seems to be much lower and nearer than usual. It's when he puts his whole bodyweight upon the hanging structure and tries to swing forward on it that Griff Fender, who has up to now been miming along with Hegarty's lines, looks slightly worried. As they face off at the end the pair resemble teacher and problem child. Maybe that was the plan.

Elvis Presley – My Way
Some commotion can still be just about heard in the background as Elton brings in Legs & Co again. I can't work out whether this was thrown in at the last minute, as the unfitting pink dresses and last minute choreography involving lots of turning and arm waving during which a member gets out of sync at least once suggests, or planned so they could get Patti - at least we're led to assume it's her as she's not otherwise involved - into silhouette in wig, turned up jacket collar and guitar strummed in profile despite there being no acoustic guitar on the track.

John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett – Really Free
Finding himself among the audience for the first time all night Elton gets really out of whack, referring to this "making its debut on Top Of The Pops, for the charts anyway". Mind you, knowing what was coming, wouldn't you be stutteringly apprehensive? No amp climbing or place losing from Otway this time but he does do a few laps of the tiny stage with a suitcase amp in the middle, tear open his shirt just as nobody's expecting or requesting it and have to be pushed back towards the mike by Barrett to start the last verse. Four people down the front headbang vigorously. The rest look confused, not least the next band briefly glimpsed on the other stage.

The Emotions – I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love
What must they have told people back home about their experience on Britain's famous pop show? Elton rates Best Of My Love as one of his favourite songs of the year, which doesn't stop the orchestra's blaring brass crashing in early and his having to shout over them. Whichever Emotion is taking lead almost immediately exerts the audience to clap their hands. Two people, one of the sailors inclusive, do so. Nevertheless she's pushing on with energy, grabbing the mike and completely foregoing her bandmates' routine with a series of shoulder exercises and playing to the front row. Fine work.

Wings – Mull Of Kintyre
Different clip this week, from the Mike Yarwood show, with Paul standing alone in the middle of a pretend forest clearing, namely one very plastic tree, some dry ice and an old painted backdrop. It must be catching, even Elton's calling it "the number one sound", and to add to the general DLT-ism he adopts a Yorkshire accent introducing the Floral Dance outro, stumbling over the name as he goes. Does he say anything to acknowledge this very famous and characterful pop star has been your guest host for the night? Of course not. Was he doing it under heavy duress?

Thursday, 20 December 2012

TOTP 8/12/77 (tx 20/12/12): Christmas double issue

Tony Blackburn in his casual golfing top welcomes us, Donna Summer's Love's Unkind takes us down the countdown, and we all get to admire the inch-perfect skill of the designer.

Generation X – Wild Youth
A close-up of a guitar? With Tony around are we in A Bit Of That Sort Of Rock mode? We're certainly in the bleach'n'sneer department for Gen X's second appearance but the first we've seen on telly, though Billy, gloves to match his leather jacket, really has to try and gain the gaps where he can do that lip snarl thing. The guitarist meanwhile has the drooping blonde fringe that the Police would sport for a bit and Birdland would later take up. (Hands up who thought Birdland would get a relevant reference on here?) Tony James on bass manages to break his strap and has to perform some running repairs in the break. By the end Billy's just shouting and James has abandoned the instrument almost completely, lifting it high on the punch-along beat.

Hot Chocolate – Put Your Love In Me
"Here's a group that never made a bad record" Tony avers. It's another triumph of the directorial art, using both fish-eye lens and fading shots of the band members in turn up over a long shot of the stage before Errol gets to do his straight-faced, big-collared thing in closeup. Then on the way towards the end the effects budget gets blown for another week as everything briefly goes into flickering psychedelic colours, violins cascade, Errol hits a falsetto note or two and then things just continue as if nothing untoward had happened.

Chic – Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah)
Or as Tony calls them, Chick. No Francophile he. Nile Rodgers tells a story of coming to TOTP in 1975, we think with Labelle, and having only known genre divided radio up til then was surprised to find following them on stage at the recording of what he'd been told was this big modern pop show was Mike Reid's telling of The Ugly Duckling. He's not here, it's Legs & Co in their showgirl outfits, shiny boob tubes/small tops and pants each with a trailing set of feather boas like psychedelic Pepe le Pews and a matching armband. Dancing under a set of geometric shapes hung from the ceiling that wobble occasionally just as the girls move under them there's very much a flapper dancing vibe going on, though you can't really get away with much else dressed like that.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band – California
"I was in California a little bit earlier on this year, and to sing all about that here's Manfred Mann's Earth Band". Either the song actually is about Tony's holiday, which seems unlikely if not overdoing it, or it's not the greatest holiday destination tip I've ever heard. The guitarist, looking like a lost member of 10cc, opens by strumming his guitar unconvincingly before his singing colleague, who with beard and woolly hat seems to be a prototype for Badly Drawn Boy, except in a barely forgiveable rainbow jumper that even a Playaway host would pass by, exudes. It sounds like American country rock, as so many tried to back then. It turns out, though, that it's the drummer we should have been watching, as not only is he wearing a massive headband despite being bald but he bursts out laughing at the guitar solo, surely something he'd be used to by now.

Bonnie Tyler – It’s A Heartache
The show seems to have been edited by pinning the 3.5" videotape to a wall and firing a staple gun at it. Bonnie's back, a vision in a country singer white suit. No room for band theatrics this week with a tiny stage, but she sounds like she's getting used to her new voice. Tony makes sure to credit her as being from "beautiful Wales".

The Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love
"Number five in our sensational chart", they're under the lights again. This time with audio wobbles!

Graham Parker & The Rumour – New York Shuffle
The smallest man in pub rock returns! Still in shades, as expected, the Rumour run through some rhythm and blues (as opposed to rhythm and rock) enlivened when Parker joins in the guitar solo by mouthing it right at camera with a circular mouth as if he were a particularly rock-conversant goldfish, all while pumping his right arm to indicate some form of excitement. We lose Bing Crosby's White Christmas here presumably for film rights reasons, though it used to be a staple of TOTP2's festive show. Still, we jump straight on to a song that's just as legendary...

The Banned – Little Girl
Yeeeees. In all senses of the drawn-out sucking of air through teeth. The Banned were members of prog rockers Gryphon chancing it for the quick buck - their past members list on Wiki includes such delights as Rick Mansworth, Ben Dover, Tommy Steal and naturally John Thomas - though with their clipped, reedy riffs, Mockney singing drummer, skinny ties and cheap shades they actually seem to have accidentally invented new wave. Halfway through drummer Paul Sordid - that doesn't even work! - in his cream scarf runs to the proper mike and with the beat merrily carrying on regardless he goes through the motions of pointing and glaring through the shades. The audience look appropriately bemused. "I love that one" Tony lies.

Wings – Mull Of Kintyre
Tony slings his arm around a woman who seems less than enthused about the prospect and introduces a clip we're just going to have to get used to. The gift that keeps on giving, Belfast sees us out.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The disappeared: 1/12/77

Again, the combined forces of Neil Barker and UK Gold When It Was Good fill in a blank:

Geldof seems to have had a thing about ripping up literature, as we'll hopefully see in more exalted circumstances in late 1978, and note too some swapsies in the band, though the new keyboard player doesn't seem entirely accurate in his miming. "Amazing", Dave? Really? Can man really admire both the Rats and the Dooleys with equal excitement? As with the last DLT show we missed there's no songs bar Legs & Co's routine, which is entirely based around the first line of the song, we don't see in another show. That said, pride of place surely goes to a performance that's gone down in a sort of history, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett very much taking their chances with an audience who are the very definition of not being able to turn away. Something inevitable about DLT introducing Mull Of Kintyre with a Scottish accent.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

TOTP 24/11/77 (tx 13/12/12): all the fun of the pharoah

If I knew earlier that a TOTP that wasn't shown would be so much more immediately popular than discussing so many that were, this blog might have taken a different course. Regardless, onwards.

Kid, wearing the sort of mid-length jacket-cum-robe that goes best with a long cigarette holder, a chaise longue and a louche disposition, welcomes us to "the hit music scene". Belfast under the charts, which at 29 includes The Tubes (White Punks On Dope - no, curiously TOTP didn't go near it) with a photo featuring loads and loads of people, surely including people who weren't in The Tubes - on the Old Grey Whistle Test set! Caring and sharing, that's the BBC. Meanwhile Wings are lumbered with the single sleeve, which with the fading of the distinction between photo and photo-in-photo looks on screen like the worst Photoshop you've ever seen.

The Carvells – The LA Run
I don't know what image comes to mind when you try to imagine a song from the mid to late 70s called The LA Run, but I doubt it's this. It may well start with a close-up of a bass, metronomic drumming and some Moog squirting, but before long it's headlong into the world of early Beach Boys pastiche we go, leading-on bass vocalist and everything. Except... about skateboarding. In fact the Carvells, nom de rock for prolific backing singer Alan Carvell, have a board and helmet on the amp and keyboard, called 'their' subsequent album Skateboard Rampage and this is one of only two tracks on that album without the word 'skateboard' in the title. Fad cash-in much? Almost all clad in white trousers they're apparently a three guitar band without sounding anything like one, but they won't let us see the guitar solo as we cut to some stock footage of skateboarders doing their underdeveloped thing next to Tower Bridge - which, you may know, isn't in LA - on parapets and in bowls. And ny sheer amazing coincidence someone in the crowd has brought a skateboard with them! Lofting it above their head they resist any temptation to either try out some moves or chuck it at them. The director gets bored with the overlong outro and puts the skater footage back on, after which we see the keyboard player dancing with the board. You know how Dennis Wilson was the only Beach Boy who could surf - was he the only Carvell who could skateboard?

Wings – Mull Of Kintyre
"A long, long way from the skateboard scene" comes Paul near a cottage, then near a beach, then pipers on a beach. Macca gets up just as Linda approaches so he can go on a wander with Denny Laine. He must have had some explaining to do after that. "That must stand a big chance of being this Christmas' number one sound" Kid predicts, accurately by the show's standards in a stopped clock way, while surrounded by the apparent winners of a Brotherhood Of Man Dress-alike contest.

Bonnie Tyler – It's A Heartache
We've seen Bonnie before on here but this is the first appearance since throat nodules gave her the full cement-gargling treatment. "That sad sweetheart from Swansea", as an onomatopoeic Kid is keen to point out, Bonnie's voice actually seems to be rougher even than we've become accustomed to, borderline laryngitis. Footballer-resembling keyboard player in green T-shirt aside her entirely functional backing band are all in different shades of classic mid-70s brown, keeping it low key for now until the John Milesalike guitarist gets his solo and goes for his moment including a foot up on a non-existant monitor. A very odd moment right at the end, as while Kid confidently states her to be "my tip for success in 1978" - she didn't have another top 30 single until 1983 - Bonnie's voice on its own suddenly appears at seemingly louder volume than during the song for two and a half words, literally cutting off mid-syllable. Cut like that it can't have been a live vocal mistake, but surely a pre-record would have played in the whole band. Curious.

Darts – Daddy Cool/The Girl Can't Help It
"Those darlings of the doo-wop" have their first visit, falling Hegarty and all, repeated. Kid vouches for their live reputation, as if we hadn't just had a taste of it.

Leo Sayer – There Isn't Anything
Kid chooses to deliver his link not so much with his arm round a young woman (stop it) as restraining her with his forearm round her throat. Is she gurning and glancing round the studio out of choice or for assistance as the oxygen depletes? A carefree Kid tries her out as straight woman regardless of her situation. "There isn't anything... isn't it?" is his question to her at the end, again trying to work that particular charm of his, to which she can only say "no" and laugh because the question doesn't make sense without the song. Leo's on his own, as he has been before, a service we've only recently seen granted to Queen. To think there was a time when both would be of the same level of prestige. A blacked out studio highlights the brightness of his top and also the fact that he's basically trying to recapture the big ballad emotion of When I Need You only to find his big notes are just shouting before, using the magic of perspective, he wanders into a large picture frame towards a mike stand. He is, of course, on a part of the stage well behind the frame. What the point of that little sojourn was isn't clear but it keeps us guessing a little. Afterwards he's with a different woman, the stud, making a pointed remark about "beautiful Britain". No, Kid. Not now.

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Egyptian Reggae
Ah, paydirt. Kid cracks it's "the music a few English football managers are dancing to these days". Presumably that's a Don Revie joke, but he went to the United Arab Emirates. Still, all the same to Kid, isn't it? Anyway, the quixotic Richman instrumental gets the Legs & Co treatment. Treatment is the operative word. No words can do justice.

I described this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago as Legs & Co's equivalent of Pan's People's Get Down, not only in that it's probably the most likely of their routines you'll see on nostalgia clip shows but it's also people doing what on the face of it is a quite stupid looking routine with a great big animal-based elephant in the room with absolute poker faces and total commitment to their craft. In case you were wondering, according to the former it's Sue front end, Lulu at the back, and you have to say that Ms Cartwright's let the side down a little at the end there, assuming her end tableau position half a bar early while Sue's still wobbling her/its head, though she's also half a second late in the climactic head drop. And see the venomous power of that snake! I really have no idea how Pauline didn't run cowering. Or alternately piss herself laughing. "I'm sure Jonathan Richman would like that" Kid says, giggling. Well, he might.

Hot Chocolate – Put Your Love In Me
The graphical wizards have already moved on from their rainbow coloured circles and seem to have constructed an oval out of coloured lights and wires to project close-up shots of instruments into the middle of. A little moving about and the effect is quite psychedelic for the 20p budget's allowance, though the CSO framing could do with some steadiness. Errol's ever emotionless face mostly gets the full screen treatment, of course, but after he's started there's some judicious wipes from the centre so we can be reminded who's boss round here. There is an audience at this taping, but they're only glimpsed once in a long shot in complete silhouette. Eventually they end with a pan to the lights, like they want to finish already.

The Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love
The intro to the video, the one with all the spotlights you're probably aware of, sees Kid take to the Egyptian set and hoists a hitherto unused novelty tiger head print stole over his shoulder. With it in place he tries an Eric Morecambe routine and gets it wrong. Honestly, we shouldn't expect that sort of prop-based fallacy from anyone. Apart from DLT.

Santa Esmeralda & Leroy Gomez – Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Odd demarcation, given "high stepping", as Kid refers to him, Leroy Gomez was the singer in the group Santa Esmeralda. It's Gloria Estefan And Miami Sound Machine before its time. Perhaps in protest Santa Esmeralda haven't shown up, which means fewer people to take issue when Kid in voiceover tells us they're "from the land of flamenco guitars, the group Baccara and Manuel". Just say Spain, Kid, we've heard of it. Leroy's up for it regardless, doing some frantic clapping as an intro before a full stage shot reveals it to be him plus three dancing girls - I don't think they're Legs & Co members, though I stand to be corrected, from other European TV performance clips it seems to be more like Leroy's personal harem - performing a routine big in standing side-on in pleated Spanish-type skirts, just to ram it home. Two of them are in their bras. The other probably counted as the demure offering. Gomez, in his afro, half-shaved goatee beard and half-open shirt with sleeves that resemble the shape of tin foil immediately after it's been removed to reveal the buffet sandwiches underneath, tries his best but it can't be helped that he's been placed out to one side of the stage so the dancers get most of the central space.

ABBA – The Name Of The Game
Still there, still at deadlock in their Ludo game. "The Kid", as by now he's calling himself, is back on that new "exotic "set seemingly surrounded by the entire audience, some of whom are in ties, some in rollnecks. Ahead of the Jacksons' Goin' Places he has only one thing left to wish us - "good week and good love!" What? Don't mess with a winning formula!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The disappeared: 17/11/77

By sheerest coincidence, because the cycle hasn't changed, all the lost/skipped shows this year (so far) have coincided with Thursdays off. Unlike the last two this one was on UK Gold many moons ago though, so (cheers, Neil) we have this, enter at your own risk etc...

Brighouse and Rastrick represent! Imagine if you were watching at the time and previously had no idea what that was. The only songs we won't see anyway are the Boomtown Rats - luckily given that ever-popular 'present climate', one might argue - and Noosha Fox. Note also a different edit of Live In Trouble, this time in "loose heel"/"chip shop in Walthamshow" mode. For the record Fox had gone their seperate ways at the start of 1977, a couple turning up in 1978 as the prime of Yellow Dog, one joining Whitesnake and Noosha inevitably going solo with a song written and produced by Fox majordomo Kenny Young - and before you say it Andrew Sachs' targeted granddaughter is Georgina Baillie, this is Georgina Bailey, wide difference - which seems to be a pastoral companion piece to big recentish hit The Killing Of Georgie (without the murder, admittedly) and a band who seem in a cartoonish way to have taken the French element of the lyric to heart. Noosha meanwhile has gone that oh so common fashionista route, the country headmistress. It made number 31 but that wasn't good enough for the label to persevere and Noosha never got to do an impromptu knee raise again. By the way, I wonder wonder what Legs & Co's theme is supposed to be. Stone Age, you'd guess from song selection and general setting, but if so that's really not much effort on the costumes. Or set. Or set stability.

You'll also notice Jimmy didn't say Showaddywaddy much differently from anybody else. YOU HAVE LIED TO US, HUGH DENNIS.


While we're all gathered here, let's get in order the run of things from here until Epiphany. As expected the one remaining DLT-fronted show is being skipped so there's three normal TOTPs left in 1977 - one next week, two in a row from 8pm the week after. Boxing Day, being DLT-heavy, has also gone for a burton so just the one Christmas show is being repeated, 7pm on Christmas Eve, followed by a ten minute filler up to the hour only listed at present as 'Top Of The Pops: A Christmas Cracker'. Your guess is as good as mine. The programme gets a Christmas Day repeat at 10.15pm.

In further BBC archive ransacking there's ...Sings James Bond (BBC4, 14th, 10.30pm), The Christmas No.1 Story (BBC2, 19th, 9pm), Slade At The BBC (BBC4, 21st, 9.50pm), ...Sings Disney (BBC4, 31st, 8pm) and the annual even though you'd imagine they'd have run out by now TOTP2 (BBC2, 22nd, 8pm). They haven't shown Dennis Waterman and George Cole's run through What Are We Gonna Get For Er Indoors? yet. Just dropping that in there. Normal TOTP 2pm Christmas Day as per and a New Year's Eve companion programme complete the set.

And then... Friday 4th January, 9pm, The Story Of 1978! Followed at 9.50pm (don't ask me) by Big Hits 1978! Followed by... oh. I do know that the official line from the channel as recently as Monday just gone was no decision on scheduling 1978 had yet been made but you'd have to imagine they haven't commissioned, made and scheduled these for the hell of it.