Oh yeah, another week off on 6th July, meaning another week of nothing but Alternative Canons.
Anyway, this week's big news - the director has discovered split screen. Noel gets to trial it in the time honoured looking one way/looking back over the other shoulder/into full screen all in real time effect. Before long they'd have invented a way to run tapes back to back and no doubt DLT would soon enough use it to have a conversation with himself.
The Surprise Sisters – Got To Get You Into My Life
I don't know if the recording has this much Philly soul influence - it was produced by Tony Visconti, it says here - or if the BBC orchestra are doing this cover a good service, because the Sisters (the actual Sutcliffe sisters, for the record) don't look the most with-it of vocal acts. Their step-step-step-bend choreography is half-hearted at best and they still manage at one point to visibly get their mike wires tangled, while two of them are wearing dresses that don't exactly flatter their figures and appear to be made out of the purple wrappers from Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Quality Streets. Another one appears to have nearly finished growing a quiff, an unbecoming look in that set-up. Vocally, well, maybe they were merely the Nolans ahead of their optimum time. It doesn't help when a directorial decision means they all end up facing away from camera on the second chorus lead-in, but the die had rather marvellously long been cast when on the first chorus one of the Sisters looks directly down the camera with hand on hip and stern of expression while her colleagues face straight on. After that point she's plainly minding her own business. By the third chorus she's stopped bothering to sing/mime. Our favourite moment comes at this point where the one nearest the camera appears to have been confronted by a sudden, hitherto repressed memory. It's Noel's breakfast show record of the week, somehow.
The Real Thing – You To Me Are Everything
More mismatched wardrobes this week including a ripped T-shirt and a hat with an even wider brim than last time, now of cartoon UFO proportions, but no guitar and everyone more spaced out, in one member's case so he can lead into the start of the lead vocal with some impromptu Pete Townshend windmill air guitar. Maybe he got bored with trying to mime handclaps. Most glaringly, Eddie Amoo is wearing a T-shirt with, possibly picked out in sequins, the legend 'U 2 ME R EVERYTHING'. Somewhere Prince was taking notes.
Dion & The Belmonts – The Wanderer
Noel takes a moment to salute the eclectic nature of that week's chart, mentioning "comedy numbers like JJ Barrie - oop, no, sorry, wash my mouth out, The Wurzels..." Maybe this was a thread carried over from his radio show, because you can't imagine The UK's Favourite DJs were all entirely mad about No Charge any more than those reading this are. Dion, for whom this was a hit first time in 1961 and whose chart rundown shot is a close-up of an album sleeve, is deemed to be representative of "a more nostalgic feel", even though chief retrospective agent Paul Nicholas had by now left the top 30. Dion had in fact tried a Spector-produced comeback the previous year and would release another album in 1976 but presumably his old label fancied a major spoiler. It certainly couldn't be much more spoilt than by the Ruby Flipper treatment, a Patti solo number in a plunging neckline jumpsuit in front of some curtains. The decision to interpret this must have been taken fairly late because Patti doesn't seem to really know what to do and the director is as clueless, breaking out the split screen for an eye close-up, a side of face shot and a longer image of her arm with hand clenching and unclenching in time to the beat. Second go: pursing lips, head and shoulders, seperating of fingers in time. Third attempt: feet close-up, upper face close-up, non-committal moving. By this stage it's looking more likely that Flick was really too busy that week.
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – The Boston Tea Party
"Rather appropriate for bicentennial year" suggests Noel, who doesn't seem entirely sure of what's going on. In fairness, neither would Harvey.
Zal Cleminson doesn't make the most convincing Pierrot clown, does he? The crowd are giving dancing a go but it's far too awkward for any sort of proper feet engagement. For someone noted for theatrical onstage behaviour, much as he's giving it plenty vocally Harvey's body language on the second chorus, regarding those who are throwing themselves into it with a withering eye with arms sternly folded, gives away his uncomfortableness with the idea that this should be flung at the pop kids. Now, you see that thing he's holding up from a holster towards the end?
Archie Bell & The Drells – Soul City Walk
"If you're wondering what he was holding in his hand, that's known as a drell spoon". A what? Furthermore, he's planting props on bands in lieu of proper links? This does sound like the sort of thing Noel might do, in truth. The Drells aren't around this week, maybe fearing damage to their glittery jackets and Northern club night issue frilly shirts if they have to be shoved in suitcases for transit.
Flintlock – Dawn
Described enticingly by Noel as "some gentlemen from Dagenham". In fact the kids would have known them from Thames' children's sketch show You Must Be Joking! and its 1976 follow-up Pauline's Quirkes, making this something of a sortie onto enemy territory as far as youthful telly is concerned. Despite such exposure this was their only top 30 single, and peaking at 30 at that. The reason seems apparent, namely they were a poor screaming tartan-encrusted 15 year old girl's Bay City Rollers with added too much smiling and a sax solo that sounds like a goose being worried. History will remember them. For their namecheck in Half Man Half Biscuit's Everything's AOR, of course.
Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together
It's about this point that Noel stops making sense. "It's a very very long time since we've had an artist on Top Of The Pops from behind the Iron Curtain. In fact I can't remember the last time." Er, yeah. Meanwhile Bryan's got his spiv tache and white suit with bowling shoes on for the semi-famous video clip with ostentatiously lurking Jerry Hall.
Osibisa – Dance The Body Music
Percussion! So much percussion! And band style possibly filched from Sly & the Family Stone. Course, it's unlikely many would have heard African rhythms and call and response like this in Britain at the time. Noel's actually laughing when we come back to him to find he pronounces it Os-sea-bee-ser, but he can't have been that truly enthralled as we see him in the background looking distracted before wandering off to the other side of the cameras, a crane shot revealing just how small that studio audience really is. There's a half empty bottle of wine on the keyboard stand, which may have helped. Noel, when not put off by a mysterious cheer after the applause has died down, tells us they've "just come from that part of the world where they grow little Rolf Harrises". It's called Australia, Noel. We're adults. "No, not the west country..."
The Wurzels – Combine Harvester
Now that's a segue. Repeat of the tractor-aided second studio performance, should you need to know, though Noel feels the need to add a top of his voice "ooh-arr!" just as the vocals start. A cursory exit, but Noel does give a namecheck to our playout Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton, though the edit fades it out right as it hits the chorus.
EDIT NEWS: The full version won't be on iPlayer until Sunday, I think, but it says here it included Slik (keeping to that no third appearance on the edited version rule), Lee Garrett again, Lulu and Philip from Ruby Flipper (obviously all seven got credited at the end despite only three appearing) doing The Continental for whatever reason that was deemed TOTP worthy and