Friday, 20 May 2011

TOTP 13/5/76 (tx 19/5/11): have you ever sung about a harvester before?

Last time I posted about a missed episode it turned up anyway, but it seems the episode to be shown on June 2nd according to current advance schedules will be that originally broadcast on 3rd June, missing out the 27th May broadcast. Again, if this is true we can only speculate - has host Jimmy Savile blocked his shows from the run? Has the tape, shown on UK Gold in the dim and distant past, been lost? Who knows, because we'll never conclusively find out after the start of May shenanigans. What we'll miss if it's not shown, as well as a lot of repeats including JJ Barrie and a band who make their notable TOTP debut in this week, is this Ruby Flipper masterwork.

Also, turns out someone else is also doing this show blogging business.

Dave Lee Travis in an all black outfit, including gloves, that he doesn't wear for the rest of the show. Also, a full head gorilla mask. The reason is unclear, except perhaps to the family conscious what with the possibility of having to be exposed to his features for half an hour at a time. At least he doesn't mention the already falling Laurie Lingo & the Dipsticks at all. Not even subconsciously.

City Boy – The Hap-ki-do Kid
Glossary required here. Hap-ki-do is a Korean martial art that seems to have died out in the west apart from with Wesley Snipes, which at its best looks like this. City Boy were a Birmingham-based pop-rock band in the finest tradition, led by the future leader of the Maisonettes, who'd have a big hit with 5-7-0-5 in 1978 and would be one of Mutt Lange's first successes as a producer. Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas had been eighteen months earlier and record labels weren't quite as quick back then. Neither were City Boy at adapting to television - singer in white suit and neckerchief looking like Bob Mortimer when he did a sketch as Noel Edmonds, guitarist in top hat who clearly wants to be the frontman instead, bassist in leathers, keyboard player resembling the modern day Roger Daltrey a huge head of late 70s footballer/early Princess Di hair. The lyrics, by the way, are entirely about a kid who's good at hap-ki-do, but to an AM radio funk-rock backing that nobody would do faux martial arts moves to on the dancefloor. "An exciting new sound", apparently.

Lee Garrett – You're My Everything
"Alright! Laid back!" Garrett starts, rather too urgently. No, not illfated teen idol Leif, but the co-writer of Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours and Stevie Wonder collaborator (also blind, apparently, though it's not apparent from his stage style) Fairly standard pop-soul by rote, actually, up until out of the second chorus when he takes advantage of live vocals and breaks into a monologue that isn't in the published lyrics: "yeah, for a kid that got thrown up, beat out of radio stations a million times I think I've done pretty good - you have faith in yourself and I'm pretty sure you'll be on Top Of The Pops too, ha ha! All you have to do is have faith in you and you can make it baby, believe it, take it from me!" Nobody cares. Perhaps they lost him at the bit where he was beaten for throwing up in radio studios.

Diana Ross – Love Hangover
DLT has a plastic duck wearing either a sombrero or woolly hat tucked into the top buttoned up button of his shirt. Wacky, see. He then pretends to introduce Groovy Kipper instead of Ruby Flipper. Two weeks in and already the presenters don't have faith in them. It's a fascinating routine with a story, starting with some interpretative arm waving on a bed before the disco section kicks in and everyone else turns up in outfits straight from The Stud. We can't work out whether one of the awkward looking males is Paul Nicholas or a Flipper ringer. He looks similar and has the curly head of hair, and in a white ten gallon hat he's not really dancing much, just... exuding.

Slik – Requiem
Everyone's remembered their baseball gear this week, and Midge's plaintiveness to camera lessons are coming on a treat, before the director goes and misses nearly all of his solo. It gets a bit too jaunty for a true requiem, it has to be said.

Andrea True Connection – More More More
The story of how a hardcore porn actress, stranded in Jamaica by political unrest, chose to spend her downtime making a disco classic is well thumbed. Not unreasonably for someone involved in the most underground of filmic arts she's not a natural performer in this promo clip. Squeezed into tremendously tight hotpants and a fringed pale shirt she may be, but her idea of dancing to the funky rhythm is swinging her arse a bit. She also looks about ten years older than she was, but that's unforgiving yellow lighting for you.

Jimmy James and the Vagabonds – I’ll Go Where Your Music Takes Me
Some jaunty dancing leading with the elbows by a man in a hat down the front momentarily distracts from a set of Vagabonds - supper club chancers, as mentioned when this was first on the show - whose choice of yellow shirts and pale blue suits both makes them blend into backing band background and makes them stand out next to their sharper suited leader. In the instrumental break there seems to be some spoon against bottles percussion in the middle of the mix. Perhaps it's there because someone in the orchestra was under-utilised that week.

Gladys Knight and the Pips – Midnight Train To Georgia
Afro'd effortlessness from Knight, Pips in choreographed swinging to either side in 1930s design style suits. You'd expect nothing less. And then "me hearties, it's time to grunch your groats". No, Dave, that's pirates.

The Wurzels – Combine Harvester
What are we to do with this?

The classic banjo/sousaphone/accordion power trio line-up there. The badges say 'I'VE GOT A BRAND NEW COMBINE HARVESTER' disappointingly. This was the Wurzels' national breakout, local heroes who'd got this to number 33 already, so if you think it looks odd now imagine what sort of culture shock it must have been to people with no prior knowledge of band or record, even if they were more likely then to know what Brand New Key sounded like. We do wonder if the orchestra had a go at recreating this backing, being as it is banjo, some sort of basic percussion, occasional tuba and piano and no accordion at all as far as we can tell. Disappointingly online sources aren't keen to tell us which one's which, so we can't sympathise with the comedy oversized brass wielder by name seeing his obvious less chuffedness c

ABBA – Fernando
Still round that fire. DLT introduces this standing inside a cardboard skyscraper with a full New York-style skyline behind him, which given the Ruby Flipper performance it was required for has been edited out just makes him look like he's calling too many shots in the name of weak comedy set pieces. Then, prior to a playout featuring Melba Moore's all too forceful This Is It, he finishes the show draped in sousaphone and accordion with badge on forehead. Yeah, maybe he's thinking about his own place in entertainment too much for pure linking's good.

EDIT NEWS: The Bellamy Brothers performance from the other week, Ruby Flipper dancing to Archie Bell and the Drells' storming Philly sound Soul City Walk (which is on YouTube but WMG had it muted when they used to do that sort of thing) and... Paul Nicholas! As this was his last diagnosis of reggae pneumonia on the show, we shall discuss this more in a few days.


Arthur Nibble said...

Fret ye not, Simon - I had a quick peak at the 'oppo' and they haven't done an in-depth critique since April. I think you've exhausted them! Anyway, for once, I'd like to share my thoughts on this latest half hour (I hope this is a one-off for all our sakes):

1) Chart rundown - why the cutout picture of James and Bobby Purify which gives them no background and a sort of Ready Brek glow?
2) City Boy - the guitar intro immediately reminded me of the theme tune to 'Robin's Nest'.
3) Lee Garrett - needs to properly wax that handlebar moustache.
4) DLT introduces 'Ruby Slipper'(!!) with possibly a nod to the Plastic Chicken character in his hit single.
5) Slik - they've got a voicebox in the instrumental bit but not on stage... wouldn't Fox lend it to them?
6) Andrea True - sorry to mention this, but how did she get into those shorts? That's not a song, it's a biology lesson!
7) Jimmy James - DLT says "this does deserve to be up there at the top of the charts"..this showing came at the song's peak of number 23. The DJ big hit tip curse strikes again.
8) Gladys' Knight's Pips - proper moves, proper that, Sheer Elegance.
9) Wurzels - criminal lack of tuba use on stage, plus a Scottish accordionist in a scrumpy band.
10) Abba - health and safety would have a field day with that fire (evokes memories of the Blue Peter Girl Guide indoor camp fire debacle).
11) Outro - Melba Moore? Melba Less, more like. She should have enlisted Johnny Taylor's agent, then she'd have got half her song played.

Anonymous said...

Gotta be rare for someone to host Top Of The Pops while also having a single in the top 10 at the same time? At least until the mid-90s 'celebrity host' era.

Slik's 'Requiem' is amazing, and am slightly disappointed to find it stalled outside the top 20 despite DLT's assurance it was headed for the top 10. Also love one girl in the audience's look of sheer glee when The Wurzels start singing. And, yes, thanks for the Ruby Flipper confirmation - I was wondering why they built that cardboard city set just for one weak joke, but that makes more sense!

Adam Maunder said...

Not that I wanna appear obsessed or anything, but the YT link you posted up to Ruby Flipper 'doing' 'TVC15' has Hank Mizell at the start of it! So he did appear!! Presumably not performing, though, if Jim'll had just been talking to him. Oh well - here's hoping the Beeb do exhume this & the advanced schedules are just wrong, it wouldn't be a surprise either way.

Simon said...

I wrote Ruby Slipper and then realised I'd made a mistake, but retrospectively hadn't spotted that IN THEIR SECOND WEEK the presenter had got their name wrong. No wonder they didn't last. And of course Rubber Duck is the Paul Burnett element of Convoy GB.

Have any other hosts got up and performed at about the same time? Steve Wright had a couple of novelty hits, most successfully Arnee And The Terminators, but by and large post-DLT Radio 1 DJs didn't really go in for novelty hits.

From the listings I have it doesn't seem Mizell ever performed, largely because this was his last week before the record started to slide. This is him on, I think, German TV:

Arthur Nibble said...

Actually, quite a few Radio 1 DJs had a go at cracking the charts. Tony Blackburn managed a couple of top 50 hits, Mike Read ("I just happen to have the guitar with me") famously converted one of his jingles into a new wave song released under a pseudonym, David Hamilton released an excruciating single apeing Tommy Cooper's catchphrase, and don't get me started on the Motown-shredding charity effort by Bruno Brookes and Liz Kershaw.

wilberforce said...

i know this is only vaguely related, but does anyone else remember slik drummer kenny hyslop's early 80's electro-dance-funk project set the tone?

when the tube was first broadcast set the tone seemed to appear on it every week, but despite such heavy promotion their records failed to get very high in the charts... probably due to a distinct lack of any tunes!

also, regarding andrea true: this may seem a little unkind, but as the monks put it in their novelty hit 3 years after this appearance on TOTP: "nice legs, shame about the boat-race"...

Noax said...

I can't believe they left out the Ruby Flipper performance of 'Soul City Walk' in the edit as it was quite magnificent, apart from the one dancer (I think the Paul Nicholas lookalike) overplaying his part a bit.

I did spot the rubber duck adorning DLT which was clearly a roundabout plug for 'Convoy GB' - perhaps that's all he could get away with in the pre-product placement days.

Also, having never heard it before, to these ears it sounded worryingly like City Boy were singing about a 'Hot Paedo'.

This is my first post, but I'm loving this blog btw.

Arthur Nibble said...

Wilberforce, do you mean Set the Tone as in 'Dance Sucker'? I remember that! In a similar stylee, do you recall Fashion (the brummie 'Set' equivalent) performing on Tiswas?

wilberforce said...

yes that's the set the tone i'm talking about! i suppose both they and fashion trod similar electro-dance territory but i thought fashion made a much better job of it - i loved the "fabrique" album, and still think several of the tracks on it are great today...

sadly they were one of those bands that never quite made it (despite getting a fair bit of press promotion and airplay on radio 1) and are now pretty much forgotten. i don't recall them appearing on TOTP - if they had maybe that would have made the difference...

btw - noax, i think your city boy "kiss this guy"-style misheard lyric is highly amusing, even if in the worst possible taste!

Old Applejack said...

We thought it was 'Hot Paedo' in our house too...

seekenee said...

First post, great blog, Simon!
maybe it,s because I was accustomed to the band name plastered on screen at top and tail of a performance on early 80s totp but for this 1976 feast I'm finding it very difficult to follow the name of artist or song - the mumbling presenters do a really bad job of their, job
My 3 year old is really going for ruby flipper, i'm breaking it to him gently re their imminent demise...ah, loving it

wilberforce said...

hey, city boy couldn't possibly have been singing about paedos, because they didn't exist back in those innocent times ha ha! (neither did stalkers...)

Steve Williams said...

I dunno why they wouldn't show May 27th, especially as they showed various clips from it on the documentary that launched this run. Also, it's Jim'll's first appearance in this run, of course, which would seem odd to drop.

I'm glad somebody else noticed that picture of James and Bobby Purify in the charts, it looks like it's been taken from a Cut Out And Dress James And Bobby Purify spread in The Bunty.

The Flipper routines in this show were great, the Love Hangover one was demented and that Soul City Walk dance must have taken ages to sort out, although some of it was ruined a bit by the crap camera angles so we could see them awkwardly step off the stage. Also, the stage wasn't big enough for all seven of them so I liked how the Paul Nicholas-a-gram had to finish off right at the edge of the stage, miles away from everyone else and in the dark.

I think Ruby Flipper are better than Pan's People, you know.

Anonymous said...

Right... Long shot... but I have been racking my brains for a couple of years now... I am trying (and failing) to remember the name of a band who featured on TOTP. White guys... don't think they were playing instruments... soul sound... wore dinner suits (I guess just for this song)... and I am pretty sure the DJ mentioned 'Big Jim' was one of those singing... long curly haired fella... don't think it was Big Jim Sullivan (DID he ever sing backing vocals). Anyway.... if I get an answer... preferably correct.. .I'll sleep at nights.



Bamaboogiewoogie said...

Still re-watching some old shows:

What a great show this is - my favourite so far in the 76 run. I bought several of the songs featured on it (namely Soul City Walk, Love Hangover, More More More, Now is The Time, You're My Everything, Midnight Train To Georgia and This Is It - yes I liked soul!) and it really takes me back to being 13 when I worked every Saturday in my local market and used my wages to buy 4 or 5 singles. I couldn't wait to get them home and play them and used to make up my own Top 30 chart. Actually I didn't only write down my own Top 30 but I used to play it "live" on my own radio station every Sunday between 4.30 and 6pm when I would then listen to Tom Browne present the real Top 20 on Radio 1 and 2 until 7pm. I had two record players, a cassette tape of jingles, my mum's kitchen clock to time the show and just 3 minutes for each song and so had to fade some early. I never crashed the pips.

I think DLT is dressed as a gorilla because of the King Kong connection to the skyscrapers in the Soul City Walk backdrop. Not sure why he's dressed as a cowboy for the rest of the show (complete with gun holster which he handily uses to hold his mic lead) but he looks quite smart for a change.

City Boy. Don't remember this at all but do remember 5705 a few years later. The keyboard played looks a bit like the guy who was in World Party in the 1980s. I think unless a song was being played a lot on the radio then you weren't going to buy it on the strength of a TOTP appearance, especially if the title is something people can't say let alone spell. I rarely bought any singles just because I saw them on TOTP although having said that I did buy some on the strength of the title.

It's great to hear Lee Garrett sing live with improvised vocals ("lay back, hit some slack") even if The Ladybirds sing the chorus with little enthusiasm. Did any other singers ever name check TOTP by name in a song I wonder? I didn't know of his connection to Stevie Wonder at the time and I didn't even realise he was blind as you wouldn't guess from his performance.

Bamaboogiewoogie said...


DLT being very modern by saying that all of Ruby Flipper were "extremely tasty", that includes Gavin, Floyd and Phillip presumably? The Love Hangover routine was pretty good, really caught the sexual mood of the song but Gavin looks like he wants to be somewhere else and gets away with murder. He even take his hat of at the end. Nice to see two of the girls doing the famous Pans People finger wag to indicate "DON'T call the mama". The album version of this song is over 9 mins long.

Slik. Never realised that the intro of this was nicked from Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto. It's a great song and a good solid performance but it really is too downbeat to be a big hit for what is essentially a boy band. I liked the look of Slik at the time and remember buying a baseball shirt similar to the ones they are wearing but I didn't have the courage to have my hair that short in a 'James Dean' style..

The Andrea True Connection performance is a video or maybe from a German TV show (eg Musik Laden) as they favoured garish backdrops and used those sort of diagonal wipes. At the time (being thirteen) I didn't notice but Ms True looks like a pre-op transsexual. But it's a fantastic dance tune with some great brass and I really loved this at the time.

"This programme, Top of the Pops, has some of the best music around, on it" DLT exudes somewhat awkwardly before introducing Jimmy James. Yes Dave, it's a music show reflecting the charts. Get a grip love.

Jimmy James is a superb performer but his band leave a lot to be desired, looking too much like a dodgy cabaret band to cut it as blue-eyed soul brothers. The tone of this song is similar to Harold Melvon's Wake Up Everybody and as a naive kid I really did think buying a record could change the world. It didn't but it made me happy.

When Paul Nicholas gets to the end of his song he is so distracted by DLT's bizarre antics with Ruby flipper that he messes up the words and sings "All that we need" instead of "We've got reggae". He corrects himself but it's too late.

Ruby Flipper's Soul City Walk routine is a sort of tribute to Bob Fosse and the dancing in the film Sweet Charity but some of it is a bit feeble. Gavin seems to get away with doing as little as possible (again). I like Philip's Groucho Marx walk but I'm not sure it has a lot to do with soul.

I hated the Wurzels with a vengeance at the time. Was there ever a face that I wanted to smack more than that of the lead singer. He looked like Benny From Crossroads on steroids and used to irritate the hell out of me. I couldn't wait for the song to end. The worst aspect was that the implication was that everyone loved it and sang along with glee. I certainly didn't.

I loved Melba Moore's This Is It at the time and bought it along with Marlena Shaw's It's Better Than Walking Out (which didn't chart).

daf said...

Certain portion of the audience are frozen transfixed by Lee Garrett's spectacularly tight trousers - with no underpants to support 'Stephen and the twins', old 'Lee Junior' is a-wanglin' and a-danglin' for all to see.

PAUL NICHOLAS – Reggae Like It Used To Be
Another new performance, with possibly with a new bass player who, having a scanty grasp on the rudiments of reggae, is attempting some sort of 'jazz oddyssey' all on his own.
Very odd having Ruby Flipper dance to this half way across the studio from Paul - They're barely in it, till 'Old Hairy' pops up hogging the stage. Hands off Lulu, you Beast!

Featuring a young Tony Blair!