This is the first week we've had an uncut version very late on Thursdays and Saturdays (11.35pm if you're quick), but for the time being we'll stick with the prime-time showing if that's alright with you. Noel's on, and his pidgin-Russian accent is what people on TV message boards would call "delightfully un-PC". Silver Convention are still going up the chart, making them the soul harmony Trotskies of the BBC cuts. And bloody hell, look who's not number one!
Mud - Shake It Down
Truth be told, looking at the tracklisting we thought we'd struggle to get anything out of this. But no, it's Mud gone disco! Obviously they haven't smartened up much for all the Diana Ross-style glissandos, heroic trumpets and falsetto backing vocals and gang shouts, having gone for the obviously none more Studio 54 combination of green shirts and vests, green trousers and white jackets. Les Gray still looks the same as he did when doing Tiger Feet, that is to say suspicious. Bassist Ray Stiles is giving it a go with Michael Jackson-presaging black glittery gloves and some extravagant swaying, and on the breakdown Dave Mount leaps from his kit to batter a pair of tom-toms while leaping about like a cartoon villain sneaking after the girl. No matter, it still looks like the teachers doing an end of term revue.
Frankie Valli - Fallen Angel
Robin Nash gets a mention from Noel, it being the already veteran LE producer's last show with only directing Bread, Goodnight Sweetheart and Harry Hill's Channel 4 series in his future. What he gets for his trouble is the soppiest of emotional grandstanding ballads, Johnny Pearson's orchestra on syrupy overtime. "What a sad story - tripped over her harp and over she went" Noel interjects, still working to his own agenda.
The Stylistics – Can’t Help Falling In Love
And a big hello to Ruby Flipper! Sadly none of them are sitting down. Wisely they start with just the two Pan's emigres before introducing the multi-gender collective to almost do as they please in a line. Here's Noel's full explanation: "Top Of The Pops have made a little move on the dancing front, Pan's People have sort of moved slightly stage left, stage right we've got Ruby Flipper, and you might recognise two of the faces there but five new faces and they're going to be doing various dance routines throughout the Top Of The Pops series". And that's it. Eight years of the People cast aside with no aforethought. That was, in fairness, pretty much what levity Flick Colby and Ruth Pearson gave the change too, just deciding to change the concept without even telling Bill Cotton according to Pearson. But, as we will discover over the coming months, you just weren't ready for men dancing on TOTP.
Barry Manilow – Trying To Get The Feeling
His stool is far too high, that's the first thing to note. The angle of his mike must be adjustable. It's... well, it's a Barry Manilow song, one that didn't chart at that - in fact he didn't have a top 50 single between Mandy in 1975 and Can't Smile Without You three years later. Even the album of the same title did nothing. He's really putting his all into it by the end too, slapping his hands against the keys, the arms of his white suit jacket trembling.
Robin Sarstedt - My Resistance Is Low
Nobody anywhere is giving it their all to this. With the female four-sevenths of Ruby Flipper in ballgowns behind him, one of whom is idly miming to half the female vocals, Peter's kid brother smarms for his country. The Bernard Cribbens version might be better.
Sutherland Brothers & Quiver - Arms Of Mary
"From one of my records of the week to one of my artists of the week" says Noel, neatly linking into his breakfast show. Funny, he never made a thing about his musical spotting worth usually. Iain Sutherland looks like Jack Black trying to deny his fashionable long hair is fast receding, a look the drummer has taken to its natural next stage. You can tell this is earnest folk-rock from his scrunched up facial expressions on the meaningful words. Lots of white suit jackets this week. Oh, and on bass looking exactly like the young Chris Langham that's Bruce Thomas, later to produce rather more complex lead basslines for Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
JJ Barrie - No Charge
Or, as the chart caption calls him, JJ Barry. The edit here is extraordinarily good, comparing the lyrical content of this to that of a song we haven't heard but could equally have been the one we just saw. Anyhow, this is one of the worst songs ever made and you'd better get used to it, from a man who somehow looks exactly as you'd think he would, right down to the massive collars in a pattern more often seen on grandparents' curtains. Noel overly pretends to wipe his tears away with the mike, commenting "quite amazing" as he does so. Difficult to tell if he's being sarcastic. "On his way to a monster success" he predicts, not inaccurately.
Cliff Richard - Devil Woman
And apparently Barrie's wife wrote this. Cliff actually hadn't had a top 40 single for two years until Miss You Nights in February, so this was his attempt to reconnect with AOR. It's not actually about the devil or loose women, by the way, it's about a voodoo cat or something. All that gets pushed to one side by first a shot from beneath which uncomfortably reveals which way Cliff dresses and then a glimpse of the bass player, who is sporting magnificent mutton chops and huge glasses giving him the air of a friendly tobacconist. Noel seems to take it literally and personally.
ABBA - Fernando
Number one. Thank christ! It's the one with everyone sitting around the fire again. Then Noel promises "an awful lot of good sounds" in the morning and we're out with Johnny Taylor. Someone on Twitter pointed out that for the last two links the huge flower in Noel's lapel changes colour from white to red. He's playing with us, the tinker.
EDIT NEWS: Fox! The big success story, as we always say... but it's just the week one performance again, as memorable as it was. Noel's introductory comment is worth considering: "I suppose if you call a number Single Bed then you're bound to have to get up and make it at some point". Tina Charles' Love Me Like A Lover seems to have Mr Punch on backing vocals and, to push home how much more integrated Ruby Flipper are going to be, features one of them dancing in inset while wearing yellow tartan trousers. Charles for her own part is wearing a daffodil and several plants in her lapel, which just makes it look like she got caught in a hedge just outside the green room. Noel claims two girls in the audience brought the carnation in his own suit. After a live Rolling Stones performance of much pouting and little stickability Noel commends how the charts are "full of variety and records of many different sorts of appeal making it" before being drowned out by Mac & Katie Kissoon's blaring horns. As if to deliberately disprove his point it turns out to be Studio 54 disco of a sort we've already seen a lot. Then Noel refers to a "relationship of a very different sort", and cue JJ...