Friday, 19 August 2011

TOTP 29/7/76 (tx 18/8/11): anything can happen in the next half hour (but it's doubtful)

We're getting well into the summer slowdown on the show now, best exemplified next week where in an original programme featuring twelve songs only four haven't been on the show before, and those are portrayed by a video, a Ruby Flipper routine and two exclusives, one of which didn't chart. Then it's a wiped show, then one with 11 performances of which five songs are new to the show, two of those being videos and one a Flipper. By the time we get to 26th August 1976 there's a complete clearout and it's all newly minted, and a really quite fascinating selection too. We'll get to that, I reckon, on 15th September 2011, but in the meantime there's some songs we're getting to know very well. Just the half hour in its original form this week, but even then more than half the records aren't new to the show.

David Hamilton's back in charge this week, in a T-shirt that shares a red hooped design with a cartoon swimming costume - white jeans too - and against quite some background noise. He has his own obsession to work through too, the Olympics giving him the opportunity to claim "some racing certainties", himself "for the high jump" and "plenty of discus". Except that doesn't work unless he's lapsed into pig latin. Is 'discus' meant to sound like 'discs'?

Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak
Ah! Now this is a way to break a show in, even if like so many it ended up falling short of the top 30. Such is their profile they've managed to get a backcloth of their logo up, while Lynott can get away with entirely mirrored shades that reflect the lot. Meanwhile the rest of the band get to amuse themselves, one cutaway showing Brian Robertson grinning manaically at Scott Gorham as they share a backing vocal mike. The audience react to rock by awkwardly moving very slightly quicker than usual. During the instrumental break the director decides he hasn't done much yet and as the camera pans from one side of the stage to the other he brings in a solar flare effect fading in and out to no great effect. Still, it's a day's work. Right at the end a man with similarly long hair walks to the side of the stage with arms folded. Why did they need a roadie? It's mimed on a single use TV soundstage!

Dr Hook – A Little Bit More
"A man who is a member of the medical profession but he is not a psychiatrist and it's not your mind he's interested in, it's your body". Such is Diddy's convoluted introduction to the hirsute and homoerotic video, as previously discussed. Really he's not a member of the medical profession at all, is he, he's just a carnival huckster. And it's not a 'he' either. "What a naughty man!" Diddy concludes afterwards, having only just been given prime evidence that it's several people.

The Chanter Sisters – Sideshow
Rum girl groups seem to be an occasionally recurring feature of these shows, and to prop up a week of songs we know all too well here's a pair for whom sophisticated style is other people. We've come across the song before, it was playout a couple of weeks ago, but actually seeing the none more rock'n'roll named Irene and Doreen brought home the fashion low comedy that has always hovered just under the surface of this repeat run. Irene sports a large curly perm and a dress seemingly made from some huge, unliked Christmas novelty curtains tied to a ribbon round her neck. Doreen has taken to the crimpers and has donned an all-in-one. She also favours the full-on hair flick during her solo dance, where she sways gallantly from the hips with feet planted to the floor while Irene is on vocal. She's clearly the more confident performer, giving it some enormous held notes, and certainly the more confident dancer given Irene seems to be mimicking the audience's own uncertainty. As if to compensate for unexpected vocal volume, after the instrumental break the soundman has clearly turned her mike down, only for her to come in at normal pitch for once and sound strangely distant. "Great! Fabulous!" Diddy says with no conviction before making a "flown over from Nashville/very hard on the arms" joke. They're British, by the way, why they'd need to fly over specially is unrecorded. The Sisters, should you wish to know, went on to sing backing vocals for everyone from Elton John to John Cale to Justin Hayward to the Undertones before Doreen split off to work with Bryan Ferry, sing in a chorus at The Secret Policeman's Ball and back Roger Waters, Meat Loaf and Van Morrison. She also wrote Kiki Dee's Star. And that's more than you ever hoped to know about Doreen Chanter.

Walter Murphy – A Fifth Of Beethoven
One of the issues always raised with Ruby Flipper is that Flick really had no idea what to do with the male members. By this stage, neither did the male members. This is one of those routines that has to be seen as words are not enough (it's on YouTube too, but with the soundtrack replaced at WMG's insistence) Basically it's intended as a Flipper leg show in tiny hotpants, crop tops and some sort of headwear with a feather on. What that means is we must look at it as anything but a sop to the dads, for instance to the air traffic control arm movements and the fact the whole thing is performed seated, which makes it look more like a music and movement class in overcoming collective limitations. Note how TOCG and Patti can hardly take their eyes off the camera (and the first closeup is of TOCG, despite her being the shortarse of the team, and she gets to work in some of her prime 'yeah, I know which one you're watching' faces) Of course the secondary routine, assuming we don't count the overuse of CSO completely different while parallel to the live action, is the switches between Philip and Floyd in the conductor's umpire hat, Einstein wig and big overcoat (overexcitable men in overcoats getting worked into a frenzy by underdressed young women? Did Mary Whitehouse know about this?), only for it to turn out they're both behind their own music stands. Philip, if you watch closely, does appear to be giving Floyd some in-character dagger looks, it's just we don't get to properly see them except in profile. The ending between the two is a welcome reminder that these were the days of high farce comedy.

Jimmy James & the Vagabonds – Now Is The Time
A new performance, and some people in the audience have brought scarves! Or toilet roll. Seems to be a similar density of material, in any case, and long enough to require three people holding them aloft. Such was the evident popularity of James and his far too high waisted mustard coloured trousers. If anything, his eye-popping routine in the breakdown is even more full-on.

Status Quo – Mystery Song
The video again. See Rick's open shirt in a very unmanly pattern! Watch Francis' hair in the indoor breeze, revealing a pair of mighty sideburns! This, of course, is the superior Mystery Song.

Liverpool Express – You Are My Love
Not the same as the previous two showings, as there were tight regulations on solarisation overuse. Instead our visual effect comes from the shape of the keyboard player's hat, pretty much Puritan in dimension. The guitarist has swapped his twelve string for something proper and some leather jackets have been broken in, but instead of being in a big open space they're hemmed in at the front and the comparative lack of comfort shows a little.

Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Oh, you know by now. Diddy revels in the detail they've "done the double - they're in the top ten in the States, they're number one across the nation in this country". In what way is that a) a quantifiable double and b) proper syntax at the end? Once the awkwardness has subsided, having referred to their being top "across the nation" for the third time in three sentences Diddy bades us farewell, in the style of a kids' presenter, with the Bee Gees' You Should Be Dancing and the news "we'll see you on Radio 1 tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock", which isn't accurate in either time or visual sense.


ximeremix said...

Two things of note in the Liverpool Express section:
1 - I didn't know that Scott Walker played drums for them, and
2 - I didn't know that the vibrato wheel on his Moog could make such a difference to the sound of an upright piano!

Steve Williams said...

Here's a dull observation for a dull episode - Johnny Pearson was presumably on holiday given Derek Warne, usually "Music Associate", whatever that is, was billed as Musical Director. Yet despite knocking up a new slide for that, they still haven't taken Gavin's name out of Ruby Flipper's billing.

I like the intro to Mystery Song, I wish it was all intro. I love the rock poses Alan Lancaster pulls, especially as he looked unbelievably pissed off throughout. I love that first shot of him when everyone piles in and he's pummelling on his bass. The Dr Hook video looked far grainier than last time, God knows where they stored that.

Liverpool Express appear to have changed drummer, or he's had a raidcal haircut since last time. And The Chanter Sisters seemed to be a prototype for Wood and Walters.

Adam Maunder said...

And there was I, wondering if I was gonna be first this week? Still, no matter: despite all the things counting against it, this was great fun for the most part, even if the question Diddy What The Hell Are You Wearing? must have been asked at least once before recording.

Lizzy is the way to start anything off right, and all I can think of as to why more of their singles weren't hits is that their live reputation, coupled with their album sales, meant that was one market they didn't feel the need to chase.

To save myself the pain of having to see the Dr Hook video again, I actually went off and did something else, but funnily enough, I'm actually glad to have come back in in time to see the Chanter Sisters, if only so as to tell people it did in fact happen, and wasn't just some kind of frenzied fever-dream. Screeching disco ladies seems to have been quite the style lately, doesn't it? Surprise Sisters, Glamourpuss, 5000 Volts - anyone keeping tabs on the iTunes D/L charts, let us know if they make a showing?

The Flip's Walter Murphy routine elicited essentially the same response from me as the opening titles to K-9 & Company always do: helpless giggles & tears of joyful disbelief. High farce comedy indeed. Oh, and the only reason TOCG made faces which suggested she knew which one we were watching was that she clearly possessed the ability to read the minds of any male viewer near a reflective surface, including most of my fellow Commenteers.

I have to say I never really notice the Vagabonds when they appear; whenever Jimmy's going, he's got the same kinda pull on me as Cherry, albeit for different reasons. In keeping with my last comments, I s'pose I should flag up his 60s stuff an' all, which is fairly glorious.

The Quo one struck me as better on second acquaintance, although no, it's not as good as Hugh Laurie, but then what is? And Liverpool Express didn't seem to be enjoying the peak of their success, possibly due to the fact that they look far too soft to comfortably pull off leathers.

I'd be interested to know if anyone has anything interesting further to say about Elton 'n' Kiki, 'cause I sure as hell haven't. And for a parting shot, those visual effects between each section were fun, probably partially because they looked so self-conscious & awkward, as if they'd just discovered the button ('Staaaaarrrrwipe!...'). Not exactly Flying Down to Rio, anyway.

Heigh-ho, then: still the most pleasant way of whiling away the 7:30 p.m. slot after all this time!

Stegron said...

I have to admit, I barely notice TOCG anymore, as my eyes are pulled, black hole-style, in Lulu's direction whenever she's onscreen (she's the almost unbearably cute blonde one in the Flipper).

Sacrilege, I know...

Arthur Nibble said...

Two main talking points for me this time – firstly The Chanter Sisters from Fulham, who must look like different parents. One slighty portly with a brown afro, the other a tall skinny frizzy blonde in an Andy Pandy outfit - and it was the blonde one with the huge voice! Until seeing TotP, I didn’t realise the sisters sing completely separate parts of the song and don’t overlap. ‘Sideshow’ spent five weeks in the 50 but still peaked two places lower than Sheer Elegance’s schoolgirl groove. The Sisters’ ‘Puppet on a String’-style and spoken-middle version of ‘Band of Gold’ is worth checking out, if only for curiosity value.

Second talking point for me is Walter Murphy's effort. It had made number 30 two weeks previously, then dropped a place and stayed for a second week at 31, yet here it was, being Cherryfied. Was this the first instance of a song dropping out of the 30 and not even moving up or anywhere and still getting on the show? It peaked at 28, for anyone still awake.

Anonymous said...

All the RF routine needed was a Thighmaster (TM) and it would pass for one of those infomercials where you keep "fit" while sitting down.

wilberforce said...

first of all, diddy looks like he's wearing some straw on his head! perhaps on the way in from his country seat to record the show he passed some fields with freshly-made bales of hay and thought "ah, i could use some of that"... by coincidence he appeared as part of a team of radio 1 jocks in a repeat edition of "celebrity eggheads" aired the night before this edition was broadcast, and in contrast to his wild-thatched younger self, the contemporary diddy had a suspiciously neat and full head of hair...

regarding "lizzy" (as they were probably affectionally referred to by their head-banging fans) - just for the record, here's the "jailbreak joke": tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town... erm, what about the jail? as tv cream have already noted, perhaps there are towns with several jails, although highly unlikely. didn't phil realise how stupid it sounded when he wrote it? couldn't he have adjusted it slightly to something like "tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak... in this town tonight"? apparently not. also, didn't his bandmates notice the absurdity of that line when they were rehearsing it together? it would seem not so. and didn't the producer point out its asanine nature when they recorded it? that presumably didn't happen either. anyway, thanks to their negligence we can all still snigger at that lyrical schoolboy error all these years later...

perhaps even more amusing than the sight of the voice of dr hook and mr eyepatch canoodling at the end of their video, is the little guy on the right of TVODH standing there miming along with his ridiculously long hair, lennon specs, groucho marx 'tache and uncomfortable stance of hands behind his back - maybe he felt a bit embarrassed by what his chums were up to?

i have to say the chanter sisters made the surprise sisters look like the pointer sisters in comparison! they obviously should have stuck to their normal line of work as faceless session singers, especially the corpulent bubble-permed one wearing the patchwork quilt - who was crazy enough to give them the green light as performers? it wouldn't happen today, unless you want to put on a freak show like susan boyle ha ha... a friend of mine was watching this with me and remarked the music sounded like a mix of northern soul and eurovision (!), but however you'd categorise it, it was just plain awful... btw, irene did release a fantastic funk 45 called "cuckoo cuckoo" that was unbelievably written and produced by bubblegum pop svengali roger cook of "i'd like to teach the world to sing" fame...

there's only so much you can do sitting in a chair, but it might have helped at bit if the flipper fillies were in sync with the music. as for the geezers, after that "performance" perhaps they should have followed gavin's lead and jumped ship, although for the opposite reason i.e. not enough to do (i suspect this lamentable effort was a factor in them receiving their P45's not long after)...

hey, where did the sub-shaft bit in the otherwise moribund "now is the time" suddenly appear from"? i didn't notice it in their last performance (maybe i'd fallen asleep or left the room by then) - anyway it certainly made a difference, shame there wasn't more of it. btw, in the course of researching this song on youtube i came across this - jimmy's certainly changed a bit in more recent times!

finally, as my chum also remarked (and i concurred), the bee gees runout track was the only thing featured on this show that has actually stood the test of time - a true classic that i never tire of hearing...

Simon said...

As I thought I'd mentioned in the piece (certainly did on Twitter) until reading that comment, the Jailbreak Joke was as far as I know inaugurated by Nick Hancock.

A Fifth Of Beethoven was in fact no change at 31 and made the leap to 28 the following week. There's the odd unusual patches of singles chart movement around this time - Mud's last appearance came because of a surprise nine place climb back up the chart.

Bobby Morrow said...

Not the greatest episode, was it?

The Thin Lizzy track was a very weak follow up to 'The Boys Are Back In Town'. I barely remembered it.

Dr Hook had to be the most unattractive group of the 1970s. Such extremeties of hair and beard should have been outlawed even then. It makes it even more odd that a group that looks like they would rob and then possibly kill you croon a song as soft as 'A Little Bit More'... Although I have to say I always rather liked the song, though. I don't think I realised how 'dirty' it was back then. Sweet innocent me.

Always quite liked 'A Fifth Of Beethoven', though the increasingly mortifying Flipper do their best to ransack it. Wasn't it in 'Saturday Night Fever' later? (AFOB, not the Flipper)

The Chanter Sisters were of course the total highlight. They were hardly Beyonce and Shakira, were they? Makes you wonder how they'd fare today. Hang on. They didn't exactly bring the house down in 1976! Was quite distressed by the crimped one who I assumed was in the grip of some fearful seizure. The other one made me wonder simultaneously when Leo Sayer will feature on the show and whatever happened to that old bedspread I had in my early years. A magic moment all the same.

Liverpool Express with their little homage to 10CC was OK. It's a bit wimpy but I didn't dislike it back then. I believe this was the song's 12th appearance on TOTP.

Didn't mind the Quo and thought 'Mystery Song' was a little 'hard' for them. Ever so slightly better than 'Something About You Baby I Like', which was a mere 5 years away.

Dear Elton and Kiki. Everytime they come out I hope it'll be a different performance. The most famous dunarees in rock. Well, until Kevin Rowland...

According to the ever more bizarre Sky planner, Sheer Elegance are on again next week. They must have made bail. Looking forward to Twiggy, transformed into a poor man's Olivia Newton-John, with 'Here I Go Again'.If memory serves, I recall it having a shockingly poor vocal performance from the Twigster who barely made a note throughout. We'll see.

wilberforce said...

oh yes adam, in response to your query on kiki and reg, i have some further comment that might be considered of interest...

my friend watching the show with me is (unlike myself) a big fan of reg's early work, which was why we watched "DGBMY" in its entirety (although he regards it as reg's "shark-jumping moment")... perhaps it's easy to note in retrospect with 20/20 hindsight, but we became painfully aware of the complete lack of sexual chemistry between the pair despite the song's subject matter. of course kiki could have been so ill-at-ease because reg was actually her boss at the time, but perhaps more likely was (like most women i imagine) she thought reg had no sex appeal whatsoever... or else she had some insider knowledge about the then-closeted reg's sexual preferences...?

Bobby Morrow said...

I seem to remember 1976 being the year Elton 'came out'. Well, he tested the waters saying he was bi-sexual, I believe. I think he blamed the lack of success of that year's 'Blue Moves' album (on which DGBMH didn't feature) on his announcement too.

There was a total lack of chemistry between Elt and Kiki as previously stated. They were definitely going for a Cliff and Olivia vibe. Kiki was one of those singers who was always seemingly respected but never really caught a break. She certainly had her chances but it never quite happened for her.

Arthur Nibble said...

How did Irene and Doreen think they'd be successful artists in their own right with those names? They should have changed them to something more rock 'n' Eileen and Maureen! Actually, Charmaine and Charlene might have worked! They'd been on TotP as a duo six years previously, called Birds of a Feather, with a complete flop called 'All God's Children's Got Soul'.

Yes, without giving too much away, the Sheers are back next week, I believe in a sublime change kit of red and sky blue. If you think that's bad enough, wait till you see Sir Jim'll's outfit.

Noax said...

Ooh Arthur, you tease. Does he get one of his best shiny tracksuits out? I do hope so.

Anyway, this week. I see the Quo are still headless in their rundown photo and the 5000 Volts picture finally made me realise who that awful singer reminds me of after weeks of it bugging me - Cassandra off of Only Fools and Horses (apologies if that's already been mentioned)

Thin Lizzy - What a great performance, and that's not something we can say very often about the first act. Shame about the song not being too strong but Phil Lynott was just impossibly cool wasn't he?

The Chanter Sisters - I don't think I can add to everything that's already been said but I can forgive Doreen anything given that she wrote 'Star' for Kiki Dee! I really hope we get more entertaining drivel like this.

Walter Murphy - Love the tune, and I remember rapper A+ sampling it on his hit 'Enjoy Yourself' which I also liked although I'm not a big fan of rap by any means.
Oh, and Simon, was that 2 Flippers in parallel? I thought it might be 2 Flippers in series but then I always got confused with that at school.

Quo - Not keen on the song, though their next release is my fave one of theirs. Not many people would say that probably.

I think Diddy must've been ill. Not just because of the dress sense (and the wrong toupee by the looks of it) but because I do believe he had no badges on and told NO Tony Blackburn jokes whatsoever!

Adam Maunder said...

Stegron - 'Sacrilege', nonsense! I'm sure from the chauvinist perspective, that was much the point of the girly dance troupes on the Pops; there always being one your eyes followed around the screen, no matter where she was. Indeed, once Cherry leaves at the end of September, I shall probably have to switch my allegiances, and Lulu may well end up my next ocular fixation (her pas-de-deux with Philip[?] to 'The Continental', and her solo to Jonathan King a while back, certainly made me sit up & take notice!). Oh, by the way: over at the Pan's site, they're doing monthly Q&As with a few of the girls, and Lulu's the subject in October, so you can drop off a question there, if you so wish.

Mr. Underhill - Daft as the lyrical bungle in 'Jailbreak' is, does it honestly compare with Messrs. Leiber & Stoller's 'Jailhouse Rock'? 'No. 47 said to No. 3/You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see' and all that. Were they under the impression the U.S. Penal Code accepted mixed-sex prisons? Were they deliberately getting Elvis to sing a gay lyric? Still not sure.

Of the other famous people to share the name of Jimmy James, the King of Them All has to be this chap. ''Ey! Are you puttin' it around that I'm barmy?'

That stuff about Elton was interesting, too; personally, I've never been a fan of any of his catalogue, but as Rowland Rivron once proved on his Radio 2 show, 'Screw You' is a great one to throw at unsuspecting fans of his mushier romantic stuff, and see what they make of it!

Where the Saturday Night Fever OST was concerned, it seems to have been a 50/50 split; half new songs written expressly for the film, the other half proven favourites. So you can thank your lucky stars they didn't see to fit to include 'Disco Duck' on there, or its reputation perhaps wouldn't be quite so high as it is. In fact, I deliberately held off mentioning the aforementioned album earlier, knowing I'd be on thin ice if I let slip how crap I thought it was. ...Oops. [Shields self from flying glass]

On a familial note - and this is absolutely true: Eileen & Maureen are the names of an aunt, and my mother, respectively. So, nice to know they could've had a pop career had they ever wanted it!

Other than the above, may I offer an apology to any TV Cream regulars who've been suffocated by my yammering this week; all I can say is there's some really great YouTube stuff coming up, so bear with us.

Oh, and thank you to Simon for that Captain Sensible track on the Twitter feed - even as a Damned fan, I'd not heard that one before, and it was great! OK, that's more than enough now...

Mike said...

The highlight of these repeats has been the mowing down of audience members by the moving cameras, their shocked and pained expressions as they dive for cover. And the occasional collision where the camera is left wobbling on its stand.

Tonight's Camera Collisions :-
1) Thin Lizzy. Towards the end of the instrumental section, the panning camera hits something hard enough to bring it shuddering to a halt, before moving off again.
2) Liverpool Express. At the start, the crane camera pans back from the piano and hits something. But what would be up there? The second camera.

Sadly, we've missed this clip from '73.