Friday, 13 May 2011

TOTP 6/5/76 (tx 12/5/11): No Charge, some change

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...

12 comments:

Steve Williams said...

I liked Noel's reference to "the Top of the Pops series" - that two thousand-odd episode series, eh, Noel? On the full length version Noel very specifically refers to that fact he'll be playing The Sutherland Brothers And Quiver at 7.50 the next morning.

Although this was Robin Nash's last show for the time being, he came back in 1977, and then became BBC Head of Variety for several years. I know he directed Harry Hill's show as Harry specifically wanted someone with experience of directing big old-fashioned LE bollocks.

The other great thing about the full version was they kept in the entire minute of aimless camera pans after the credits.

billy1987-1994 said...

Noel's fake tear-wiping after JJ Barrie was extraordinary enough, but the biggest shock of this week was seeing Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks at number FOUR in the chart. It meant a top 5 of two Eurovision winners, a 50s re-issue, Noosha Fox, and, erm, Dave Lee Travis in a silly outfit. Quite amazing. *wipes tears from eyes*

Arthur Nibble said...

Good grief, a bizarre week which proves that ToTP didn't just stick to the top 30 for its content and had to scrabble round for acts on occasions. Only 8 of the 14 songs in this edition were in the top 30, three others were top 50, and three songs weren't in the chart at all - Mud (a future hit for their new label having left Mickey Most's empire), Mac & Katie Kissoon (eventually 5 weeks in the top 50, doing a nap hand by filling all positions from 46 down in the process) and Bazza (sorry, mate, try again).

wilberforce said...

hmmm - this weeks show has me ruminating on a fair few things...

MUD:
it's funny that although i was obsessed with the charts at that time, mud's attempt to gatecrash the disco scene somehow completely passed me by despite being a top 20 hit... maybe it was something to do with the fact that i loved their classic glam/chinnichap trilogy ("dyna mite"/"tiger feet"/"the cat crept in") and was disapointed that anything they did after that ("rocket" was a real damp squib, and i think the shark-jumping moment must have come when les gray did his king impression on "lonely this christmas")...

ROBIN SARSTEDT:
this guy obviously can't carry a tune in a bucket - most bad singers can't hit the high notes, but in his case it was painful to hear him failing to hit the low ones! perhaps having a couple of brothers in the biz might explain his otherwise baffling success?

SUTHERLAND BROTHERS:
the lead singer bears more than a passing facial resemblance to the actor john saxon - and they even have the same suspicious hairline ha ha! talking of which...

BARRY MANILOW:
i heard the following tale from two independent sources who worked in the theatres that barry was playing in the late 90's...

the staff were notified (and were probably threatened with dismissal if they failed to comply) that not only could they not talk to mr manilow, they were also not to make "eye contact" with him, or even go anywhere near him. not only that, but they were also informed if he happened to be walking towards them, they were not allowed to pass him but to turn around and walk back in the direction they had come!

i don't know the reason for this bizarre prima-donna behaviour, but perhaps inevitably a rumour went around (and maybe where there's smoke there's fire) that the reason he went to such lengths not to be accosted was he was terrified that if anyone came too close they would spot he was wearing a wig!

MICROPHONES:
i notice that all the singers use those nice slimline tubular mics when performing - i don't know if they were real or just props, but at least it meant you could actually see their mouth's moving (even if they were just miming)... unlike today's performers who look like they're eating an ice cream rather than singing!

EDITS:
why is the frankie valli re-run kept in the edited version of this episode, and the tina charles and kissoons appearances chopped out? i can only think that otherwise noel's links would not make sense... but it's still wrong to deny us the chance to see something we haven't seen for decades, as opposed to something we saw a couple of weeks ago (especially if they don't show the unedited version later)...

Arthur Nibble said...

This edition's made me ponder questions which don't need answering but would keep me awake if I wasn't careful...

1) How many acts, like the Tarney-Spencer Group and Laurie Andrew from the first show of this re-run, got onto ToTP without ever making the chart in any shape or form?

2) How many acts, like Johnny Taylor, saw their only UK hit represented on the show by a solitary brief clip over the end credits? I know this also happened to 1973 Opportunity Knocks winners The Handley Family, who had one week at 30 with "Wam Bam", but I really shouldn't.

3) Even rarer, how many acts only had one ToTp showing and, like Johnny Taylor, never got a verbal mention? Noel was too busy with his second self-promotion in the edition to even give the shirtless one's US chart-topper a namecheck.

wilberforce said...

sorry arthur i can't answer your questions, but i do seem to remember at some time in the mid-70's TOTP made a point of featuring an unknown (and uncharted) act every week - however i think they abandoned that policy after a couple of weeks!

Simon said...

On the mikes issue, tangentially: miming on TOTP only seems to have become something notable recently, perhaps because for its last decade there was always some live performance element to the show (even when dance acts were on, in a couple of famous early 90s occasions) You'd never get away without a microphone in front of the singer these days but especially in the mid-80s it was regarded as artistic second nature. Of course on these shows it's slightly different because quite a few of the songs were re-recorded on Musician's Union rules.

I don't think the closing credits song was ever named in the last link, was it? As we now know from the unedited versions they'd keep playing it for a little while longer anyway.

Arthur Nibble said...

Scary chart rundown moments #2 -
Harpo next to Paul Nicholas. Separated at birth?

parmo said...

On the subject of microphones, my 5 year old daughter asked me why they were all holding sticks.

Simon said...

A little late, just done the full-length version update.

Bamaboogiewoogie said...

I was re-watching some old episodes as I was dubbing them onto DVD and thought I'd post a few random comments:

Odd rundown pic peculiarities - ABBA look like 2 people reflected in a mirror to make 4 while Eric Carmen is 1 person reflected in a mirror to look like 2. Issac Hayes and Johnny Taylor both can't afford tailors. James and bobby Purify look like they have been cut out of a magazine with blunt scissors.

Noel calls Mud's song Shake It Around proving that accuracy was never his strong point. Considering that this was such a big hi I'm surprised that Mud didn't follow it up with another dance track but instead they chose to do a cover of Living Doll which bombed.

The Frankie Valli and Barry Manilow songs are both superb pop ballads, neither of which is enhanced by the seeing the singers in the flesh, particularly Barry. 'Trying To Get that feeling Again'? He clearly has lost all feeling in his backside sitting on a tall stool in that position too long.

Ruby Flipper are dressed like an embryonic Village People, albeit a multi-sexual one. There's some impressive dancing here with Gavin showing off his athletic prowess by doing a flip.

Noel tells us that Floyd will be back again later but omits to mention that the girls will also be back accompanying Robin Sarstedt. Well something had to distract from his average singing abilities.

The start of the Tina Charles song sounds ridiculous with all those over-loud wolf whistles, I expect Biddu was having kittens. I see Floyd had drawn the short straw from the very start by accompanying this song sporting long checkered shorts with braces, striped socks, boots and a bakers boy cap, none of which helps the song although he is the right height to be little Tina's lover.

The Rolling Stones keyboard player looks like Ronnie Barker doing an impersonation of Mr Spock. It's not Nicky Hopkins, does anyone know who he is?

Great to see the classic line up of Alan Hawkshaw (keyboards), Brian Bennett (drums) and Dave Richmond (bass) backing Cliff. The latter played on Serge Gainsbourg's legendary Melody Nelson album.

It's a shame that the Johnny Taylor song wasn't a bigger hit, it certainly deserved to be (it hit number 1 in the USA). I bought this one at the time and thought it was great that a song which was essentially an R&B tune was called Disco Lady. At the time my 13 year old brain thought the line "You ought to be on TV, on Soul Train" was "or Soul train" leading to my confusion because Soul train was on TV.

daf said...

Super disco effort from Mud there. Matt Lucas would be perfect for the part of Les Gray if they ever do 'The Mud Story'.

Alarming 'Stool technique' by Barry Manilow - Looks very awkward, and surely must be bad for the back. Nice showbiz flourish at the end, though.

The Fox performance continues to impress. I'm particularly enamoured with the meaty bass sound on this - a stone cold classic!

Bruce Thomas WAS in Quiver, but had left by the time of this performance (he left during a European tour in 1974).
The Bass player was actually one of the 'brothers' : Gavin Sutherland, who's still around - http://www.gavinsutherland.net/

And speaking of bass players, The Cliff Richard band produced a spectacular exhibit - Bravo Sir, That's what i call a moustache!