Relevant information: Pan's People And TOTP Dance Troupes will have an interview with Lulu of Ruby Flipper (and at that time she was only 16! Some of you are feeling a little embarrassed now, admit it) and Legs & Co up some time in October.
Tony Blackburn back in charge this week, and there's suspicious amounts of blank space around him in the frame... and it turns out it's another "crikey, Nicey's just read my mind!" moment as Tony pretends to forget the title again, only this time it's not himself reminding him in the speech bubble, it's Noel direct from the wiped show in a suit with a purple and orange tie going through the title one word at a time. Tony's sense of achievement upon realising is not palpable.
Elton and Kiki are already down to 26, the record buying public certainly wiping their hands of that whole mess as quickly as possible. One new entry seems to be just represented by a shaped blur, but we'll come back to that one.
Smokie – I'll Meet You At Midnight
There's one heroic orchestral figure with which to start. In front of an audience including a woman in an Uncle Sam hat and her friend who looks quite a bit like Lulu Flipper and nearly takes a highyl visible tumble, Chris Norman makes love with his eyes to a wandering camera crane before a sudden lighting change reveals - egads - a man with a double-necked guitar! Norman's full throated post-Rod growl and some sterling work by Johnny Pearson's men elevate it from being just another MOR strummer song type, as I suppose does the oddly French textural lyricism, and the audience seem as keen as they ever could be, though a crane swing round reveals much of the front of the stage is taken up by a big camera, reflecting the stage lighting uncomfortably, which might be why it gets turned down for dramatic effect too early meaning our show-off guitarist is in the shade for a whole verse and pre-chorus. Next to it a girl in a lime green coat and what seems to be a cut down version of Noddy Holder's hat stares listlessly at the back of the redeveloped stage. Maybe it was she that nicked all the mirrors. It's one of Tony's favourite songs at the moment, apparently.
The Wurzels – I Am A Cider Drinker
"A nice half-pint of that lovely scrumpy they call cider"? Cider's not an obscure term, Tony - in fact if anything the concept of scrumpy is more parochial to the Zummerzet set. And what's with the undersizing of portions? Same performance as last week, not cut to so many ribbons this time, and it allows us to consider a) whether, after Drink Up Thy Zider, whether the Wurzels doth protest too much, and b) when these were shown in Germany a couple of years ago what must that populace have thought of us?
Kiki Dee – Loving And Free
"We're going to change the mood somewhat right now, very dramatically in fact". Well, that's one way past the impossible link when you don't have Jim's indefatigable resources of bringing working men and women on as props or Noel's free associating style. Although Kiki's in the studio once more she's still sitting primly upon a high stool, and through the turned down lights we can make out, not an audience or anything so prosaic, but the return of the wedding cake tiers. Electric blue eyeshadow, overlaid candle flames, you can't say they're not trying to breathe active life into the performance.
Bay City Rollers – I Only Wanna Be With You
Tony drags the most nervously monosyllabic girl he can find on screen to exchange pleasant badinage on the basis that she and her friend have attached tinsel to their berets, which are of course "sensational" in Blackburn Land. The song Tony refers to as "I Only Wanna Be, of course, With You" is in video form, where we get to observe Les mistaking gurning, shoulder movement and an open shirt for charm and a fresh outbreak of tartan.
Rod Stewart – Sailing
Speaking of overwhelming Scottishness aforefront... Sailing had been number one just the previous September but was being as the theme to Sailor, a BBC documentary about the Ark Royal. There were people who missed its four weeks on top in 1975 but suddenly caught on a year later? Enough to take it to number three, in fact, though last week (as in the week before original broadcast) The Killing Of George FamNO, DAVID had been to number two so everyone won all round. But mostly Rod. Tony has the two hat girls up with him and they really don't know where to look. Rod looks like an older Noel Fielding at a Wurzel Gummidge fancy dress party and the camera doesn't cut away from a head and shoulders close-up of him for a full fifty seconds. It's hypnotising. Then millions of swaying children gradually join in on choral BVs. Eventually a serious outbreak of arm swaying takes hold leaving Rod eventually crouched on the floor, spent and craven. It's like Emu's Pink Windmill Show had a budget upgrade (and, erm, a loss of Rod, Emu and Grotbags. Work with me here.) Would it be churlish to mention most of one whole section is swaying their arms in the opposite direction to everybody else? *thinks* No. Tony makes sure to mention Sailor is on at 9.25 tonight on this channel. No it isn't.
Rick Dees & His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck
You'd, erm, better just watch this. Floyd must have lived next door to a single magpie farm.
If ever a routine promised one thing at outset (close-ups of Sue's waggling arse) and delivered another (some people in big impressionistic duck suits) it was this, though I can't imagine Floyd was particularly keen on that design of waistcoat. He's getting the chance to display his swagger move set, though, gets a good few seconds of full-on solo work like he'd never had or have again after becoming human once again and he even gets to mouth along to the words as part of his choreography. Floyd was only 17 then as well, until that moment it's like everything he's worked towards. Look how nonplussed the audience are at the costume change. Observe how studiously his fellow dancers ignore the presence of the large cloth beast (except, needless to say, Cherry, who at 1:31 is definitely looking up at something and failing to stifle a grin, which might explain why she's missing from the wide group shot eight seconds later) Note from 1:17 that Philip is still miming along to the words. And cry. Cry for the lost hope of the optimistic young television dancer and the patience of the exalted choreographer who once believed in her charges. Is that Floyd himself in the costume? Is that the respective Flipperers in those costumes? Were they assigned one each if so or was it just who got to the pile first? What the fuck is Tony doing at the end? We might never know.
'Disco Duck' was trending on Twitter half an hour after the show finished. Our work here is done.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band – Blinded By The Light
Ah. A return to earthier stuff, if you'll forgive the phrase. Before then, Tony re-emerges in his own dry ice holding an oversized egg ("someone said I should go to work on an egg. You can definitely tell pantomime season is approaching"), never quite recovering his composure. A different performance this week, where one clever shot has Chris Thompson and Mann delivering their lines across each other in the same still shot. Thompson is meanwhile dressed more sedately, unless you count the big purple hat and the visible yellow T-shirt with a big red S on like a six year old attempting a customised Superman kit. There's no close-ups of the drummer so we don't get to tell whether he's wearing a Benny-style woolly hat or a Basil Fawlty-style big head bandage.
The Drifters – Every Night's A Saturday Night With You
Trouble with showbiz professionals drilled to within an inch of their corresponding life is there's not all that much to say about them once the fact all four Drifters are wearing yellow trousers, which seems to have been a popular colour amongst the 1976 soul community, has been taken in. Take heed, The Real Thing, these people talked to each other about their styling for big television occasions. Meanwhile an errant cameraman has evidently blazed an unnecessary trail given the big gap between groups of audience members right at the front with not even a wire visible between them. No wonder quite a few are now looking out specifically for maurading EMIs.
ABBA – Dancing Queen
"The show tonight is rather like David Hamilton - a little shorter than usual". Couldn't get through the whole thing without one, could he? And of course that line doesn't work, not when the last TOTP we saw was the same length, and not in a slot where they're all this length, and David Hamilton has always been the height he is. He should have thought ahead 35 years for such anachronistic eventualities, should Tony. Wisely Tony says goodbye before the song this time, which is the Australian performance again. See the way Anni-Frid plays fast and loose with the concept of choreography. By the end of the second chorus it's abundantly clear she missed her true calling as the Swedish Alf Ippititimus.