Friday, 24 June 2011

TOTP 10/6/76 (tx 23/6/11): Tea Party mandate

Odd Twitter #totp comment of last week, which was spotted during the Saturday showing: "do the bbc have any old totp from 1976 that DONT have 'our kid'?" Er, yeah, all of them apart from last week, the Christmas show and possibly one of the lost shows. At least it's not the endless, endless get out clause "this is why punk had to happen". Because obviously Malcolm McLaren was sprung into action solely by JJ Barrie and Mud, and any week now the entire top 30 is going to be overtaken by punk records. There's a distinct air overtaking these shows of nostalgia somehow not being how it used to be, that what was actually showing at a time when Top Of The Pops was another branch of light entertainment, as it was for most of its lifespan, was somehow wrong and it must be the BBC's fault, not yours. Even those who made their name from easy nostalgia are looking on bemusedly. Still, onwards.

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 the Elton John & Kiki Dee video (no it wasn't, I was working off an inaccurate list).


Steve Williams said...

Unless there was a remarkable edit, because it says it was between Osibisa and The Wurzels, which Noel linked to without a breath, I'm certain Elton and Kiki weren't actually in this. I know records took a while to get to number one in those days, but probably not that long.

Apart from The Surprise Sisters I thought this was a pretty ace episode, one of the best of the run. Like The Flasher, my dad had Dance The Body Music on seven inch (he was a right soul boy) so I grew up on it, though I remember it being a bit funkier than that performance. I like the member of The Real Thing that used to have a guitar but now doesn't wearing that vest with "THE REAL THING" written on in felt tip. No wonder they normally give him a guitar, given his dancing.

It was mentioned somewhere else but actually Noel is quite good at this, certainly compared to the other lot in charge, he is quite witty and lively, you could see why he was so popular.

Simon said...

Looking at Twitter search nobody seems to have mentioned Elt'n'Kiki last night, which isn't a watertight guide but you'd have thought someone might have referenced it. Though assuming it's the same list I worked off it's wrong for that episode anyway as it had Flintlock opening when Noel referred to the Surprise Sisters as openers.

Adam Maunder said...

I agree with Mr. Williams - this show has arguably been the best thus far, and I cannot wait to see Ruby Flipper do 'The Continental' (as has been proven by BBC4, this one seemed to be something of a staple for the Beeb's variety shows - the Young Generation did it on that Rolf Harris Show they repeated back in 2008).

Point of pedantry now, but I have no life, so here goes: 'The Wanderer' was one of Dion's 'solo' hits, after he left the Belmonts; the group that backed him on his subsequent Laurie tracks was the Del-Satins, never credited as such on the records.

FWIW, his later work is also worthy of investigation: his later 60s stuff veered from hard blues to Dylan-styled folk, his 1968 album contains an acoustic version of 'Purple Haze', and his 70s records for Warner are pastoral singer-songwriter efforts, with some good tunes. The failed Spector 'comeback' album was called Born to Be with You; patchy, but the title track's great. All these and subsequent works can be purchased on CD from the astonishingly amazing Ace Records.

Oh, and if you're not asleep yet, 'Let's Stick Together' was the other hit - 'Kansas City' being the first - by the determinedly offbeat Wilbert Harrison (I have him singing 'Cool Water' as a near-calypso), also well worth a punt should you ever run across the name.

Keep rollin' on.

ximeremix said...

Re: Flintlock - the drummer was also in Tomorrow People at the time too, but for the life of me, I can't remember his name - (looks up on Wikipedia) - Mike Holoway (now aged 50!) and he played a character called....... Mike!

Anonymous said...

The drummer in Flintock was in an Episode of Minder as well apparently, recognised by my older brother.

Stuart Maconie sees himself as a self-appointed arbiter of taste for the whole nation, so ignore him.

I agree with the general vibe that it was the best edition yet. Noel's link ruminating on the varied nature of the chart was almost as if someone was going to watching in thirty odd year time..

wilberforce said...

before i give my own views on this week's show, i must point out that the person employed (no doubt at great expense) to caption programs on freeview informed us that "brian" ferry was on - philistine!

as for the show itself: lee garrett must be vying with robin sarstedt for worst/most out of tune "live" vocal so far...

i always thought the lead singer in real thing was chris amoo, not eddie - he was the sometimes guitarist (not checked on wikipedia!)... the backing singers seem like they're there just for the ride and perhaps unsurprisingly look a bit embarrassed by it all - they really should have taken note of archie bell's boys and come up with some slick choreography, rather than just either half-heartedly clapping and swaying about (like the guy next to the singer), or dancing over-strenuously as if to compensate for having nothing to do (like the guy next to him)...

i used to love watching flintlock on "pauline's quirkes" - as a peer of theirs whose own musical experiences were limited to bashing out quo-style 12-bar boogie on the old joanna at home at that point i was well impressed, even if most of their material was covers. when i saw them in the TOTP chart rundown i remember actually giving them a cheer! (sadly as simon says it turned out to be their only appearance in the top 30)... i think drummer/actor mike holoway is still active in showbiz, even if at "non-league" level these days ha ha! btw, notice in this performance that the singer/guitarist's mic is too high, and the guy playing sax (very badly - he should have taken lessons from brYan ferry's sax player) has to stoop to his to sing bv's - he usually fronted the band so maybe he was originally standing in the middle and was asked to switch with the guitarist at the last moment?

i always thought osibisa was pronounced osi-BI-sa, but noel says "os-SI-bisa" - is he right? also, the melody in the marshall hain "dancing in the city" hit a couple of years on bears more than a passing resemblance to this - were they big osibisa fans? (and did osibisa sue for plagiarism??)

Arthur Nibble said...

Unless my eyes deceive me, no-one's mentioned the crowning moment of Flintlock drummer Mike Holoway's TV career, on Pebble Mill At One, when he was the male backing vocalist for Paul Shane's magical rendition of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling". If you haven't seen this car crash of a cover version, find it on YouTube right now. Baby babe-EH!

Arthur Nibble said...

Here we are, Paul and Mike in 'perfect' harmony, and the obvious inspiration for Vic Reeves's club singer in Shooting Stars. Enjoy!

Simon said...

This is the only Google hit for "drell spoon". What was Noel on about?

Noax said...

Like many others it seems, I'm loving Noel. I had no idea (though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised) that he took it so seriously, even talking up to vocals on some of the performances!

A real contrast to Diddy and Tone doing jokes about each other (and the latter getting basic facts wrong), and DLT pissing about non-stop. Sir Jim'll is still ace of course, though he's just doing his usual act.

I must say that I hate The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, primarily because when I was a radio DJ (yes, really - I'm better now) some 'hilarious' listener requested their songs every ****ing night.

The Dion routine was very weird, and the fact that there was this big rock'n'roll revival going on in 75/76 equally bizarre really. It'd be like all the Britpop stuff suddenly becoming popular again now. Even Menswear.

As for The Surprise was like some kind of parody from a sitcom. Or the Aldi version of Rock Follies.

Arthur Nibble (again) said...

Went to watch this on the iPlayer tonight and caught the second half live (from Slik onwards), so I can confirm that Candi Staton's song got the first chorus played in full along with the first two lines of the second verse.

The first rule of Osibisa - if you're leaving the dressing room for the stage and you're handed a hat, you know you're in the back row onstage for the gig!

Old Applejack said...

Slik notching up the hat-trick despite never rising above 24! Indeed, it had dropped out of the top 30 and crawled its way back up to 30, thus justifying its showing this week.

In the wide wide world of stats, I wonder if any non-top 20 song managed any more plays than this?

Steve Williams said...

The best bit about the extended version was the usual extended playout where you could Noel absent-mindedly trudge across the stage. I wonder when they filmed those, the other week you could see The Heavy Metal Kids standing there. It also pointed out that the set for The Continental was between the two stages, and it seems odd they'd actually have it there in the studio, you'd think they'd pre-record those things.

Flintlock spending just one week at number thirty just emphasises how in those days, telly exposure got you nowhere, because they're all over the Look-In Annuals, like they're the biggest band in Britain. It reminds me of Lisa Stansfield in the early eighties, presenting Razzmatazz and forever appearing on The Video Entertainers, and not one of her records got anywhere near the chart, until many years later. Whereas these days if an X Factor finalist gets to number two, that's their career over. I liked the "singer" from Flintlock corpsing, and they seemed to follow the seventies principle of te ugliest member being the singer (cf Kenny).

I was wondering about the pronunciation of Osibisa, I too always pronounced it with the emphasis on the Bee, rather than the See. We might find out when Diddy Dave introduces them in two weeks.

Also great - Noel corpsing while trying to do his high concept joke about Alex Harvey ("It's the little, er, persperations that count!"). And, er, looking at it again, the Surprise Sister on the right (the brunette with the flower in her hair) has got a very bewitching smile.

Not now, Arthur... said...

Hang on, is this the fourth week in a row where the programme opens with a non-top 50 flop? (There were also at least four songs from 31 to 50 in the programme.) The Surprise Sisters did manage to scrape the top 40 with a 'sideways look' at an old Andy Fairweather Low song called La Booga Rooga.

Never realised Slik had got back onto TotP with a song that was charting lower than on its previous appearance - anyone know if this was the first time it had happened on the show?

Noel seemed very gentlemanly in his descriptions of Flintlock. Maybe he was being encouraging to a group from round his 'manor'? I think Noel's originally from Dagenham or Ilford.

Finally, Chris Amoo was an innovator and his T-shirt should have been on Tomorrow's World, as he invented txt spk before the mobile phone had been properly launched over here!