Thursday, 1 December 2011

TOTP 25/11/76 (tx 1/12/11): in which Jimmy Savile unites Glasgow

I made a mess of this in the comments box the other day so let's get this straight - now all the schedules are out, here's how BBC4's 1976 commitment comes to its thrilling conclusion, namely by still taking a Sky At Night week off and then having to compress the denouement into four days:

Thursday 15th, 7.30pm - 9/12/76
Monday 19th, 8pm - 23/12/76
Tuesday 20th, 8pm - 25/12/76
Thursday 22nd, 8pm - 26/12/76

Both the Christmas shows are in hour long slots, though originally they were 50 minutes long, and are being repeated back to back on Christmas Day from 10.40pm. Seems a bit odd to keep the Sky At Night slot next week when that means having to cram an extra show in out of time on a Monday, but there you go. And then last I heard The Story Of 1977 is being shown on New Year's Eve, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. (EDIT: the reason why there's nothing on Wednesday is that's when BBC2 are screening the annual TOTP2 Christmas special, at 7.30pm)

It's our first Jimmy Savile show since his passing, and immediately we get a taste of the man's work as he pretends he can't work out whether to talk into the mike or a stick of rock. A cheap gag, but the visual comedy of Jimmy's rapid double take just about keeps the idea afloat.

The Kursaal Flyers – Little Does She Know
There's something very Southend about the construction of the name in lights sign above them, and not just because it says 'KURSAALS'. The band, meanwhile, are all over the shop. Paul Shuttleworth is about an alarming a frontman as we've seen in 1976, sporting the kind of tousled, short at the sides cartoon Teddy Boy pompadour that wouldn't be seen again this side of the Stray Cats, a spiv's pencil moustache and the sort of teeth that explains all those jokes Americans make, particularly noticeable in his instance from his insistence on singing held notes through them as much as they'll meet in the middle. Whether his choice of shiny blue suit and matching cummerbund was meant to somehow offset all this isn't clear, but standing next to Richie Bull in a Hawaiian shirt with garland of what may be daffodils, crimped hair and what seems to be a developmental version of a Zapata/David Crosby tache it seems as if he couldn't quite go the full sartorial distance. As for the rest of the band there's a white suit jacket like their mentor Lee Brilleaux's, a Panama hat like Geoffrey Boycott's offset with second hand car dealer chic and a prominently placed drummer in shorts who plays entirely in double whacks and looks a bit bored of it by the last verse. Behind them a washing machine spews constant bubbles. What sort of image is this? It's like a workaday Camden Britpop band gone back to late period rationing. The song's laundrette love given the full Spector by Mike Batt, here with what seems to be castanets and cymbals at the front of the mix, is reflected in a mighty set of Shuttleworth body language gestures and full-throated singing, which just means more unflattering closeups. Jimmy calls them the Kursaals as well for some reason. Maybe he wasn't sure about the full name either. It was they that brought the stocks "as it happens, do you see", but all they get from him is a "that one is going to go up the charts". It'd be a different story had Noel been around.

Dr Hook – If Not You
Standard live clip, which allows us to talk about Jimmy's top, if the credits are to be believed the work of one L Rowland-Warne. Here, you'd better have a look at it yourselves.

Now, what's going on there? Rangers and Celtic did actually play the previous night and maybe Jimmy had the top lying around from a previous incident when he'd accidentally angered some Glaswegians with football/religious talk and took a broad approach to allaying their annoyance, but then he never really showed a wider interest in the game. He could have clumsily chosen it to reflect music and the show's broad church. This is all far more interesting than the song, in which someone to "patch my pants" and "kiss where it hurts" is requested before one of their million guitarists plays a smug solo.

Billy Ocean – Stop Me (If You've Heard It All Before)
Jimmy gets someone else, "a real life disc jockey" to introduce this one, someone wearing a T-shirt all of which we can read says 'Join Jim'. Self-promotion? And if so, by whom? As usual Billy has mixed and matched his attire and it's supper club night, which means the huge bow tie, grey waistcoat and tight matching trousers. You can see his religion, as they say, though Jimmy would know what trouble that can lead to. No wonder the director spends the first twenty seconds trying to tactically lose him out of the bottom of the shot and not too long later films him upwards from behind. More castanets show up. Did an extra percussionist turn up with the orchestra?

Be Bop Deluxe – Maid In Heaven
Jimmy namechecks the floor manager, and due to the lost shows here's our first naming of Legs & Co. This seems an auspicious choice of dancing material, presumably a late replacement for something else, and it's clear Flick and the girls aren't quite sure of the best movements to interpret Bill Nelson's art-prog outfit into. So it's lots of shaking, some meaningful arm movements and bobbing around, repeat. There's some brave experiments in synchronised arm circling towards the end that only succeeds in taking everyone out of tight choreography. The costume designer meanwhile must have had a bad experience in a children's art class as the Co are all wearing paper tassels attached variously around their person and to their underwear, the thinking of the lack of garments perhaps being... that they're Top Of The Pops dancers, yes, but also flashes of skin detract from whatever they're trying here. Come the end there's a tight shot of Sue heavily breathing, which I'm entirely sure was in no way meant in any other way than to suggest she got more exercise.

Cliff Richard – Hey Mr Dream Maker
Jimmy and sailors! Again! They all wanted in on those Savile and seamen (just don't) special links. Jimmy gets so animated he begins waving his arms about wildly. "We're in a hurry, you see" he explains, before linking to a ballad that seems to last years. Cliff, wearing a black T-shirt with white specks and a spider by way of HR Giger design that suggests less soulful pop long stayer and more patron of a goth clothing shop in Kilburn, is shot almost entirely in insert with some sort of meaningful film, bleached out and partly recoloured in pale red like someone wants a craft Bafta, in which a woman (it very briefly goes to normal colours at one point but not for long enough to identify her) wanders round some trees and looks around a bit, intercut with shots of branches and specks of light. It's not clear what it's supposed to represent, unless everyone who watches it will die horribly within seven days. After he's finished singing and once he's done with pointing, Cliff raises the mike cable above his head, not in victory but as if spent of life force. Maybe it got him too. Oh, no, wait, that can't be right.

ABBA – Money Money Money
"We aren't half in a hurry tonight!" Jimmy reasserts, which can't be right given how much time was taken up just then. Even with a gift of a title Jimmy's struggled with this one, asserting "many years ago everybody in the pop business was skint" but now we have a song "for all the new pop types". In the video Agnetha gets the white dress, Annifrid the black, both with glittery headbands in their colour and no sense of choreography as Agnethea struts and Annifrid... doesn't.

Elton John – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Jimmy's found two girls in Union Flag waistcoats. Meanwhile Elton is liberated from the pretend vocal booth only to be placed in one of those studio settings where you're not quite sure whether the audience are watching him at the time, so dark is everything but man and piano in the lights. The soberness of Elton's suit is offset by the biggest tinted glasses he could find and the director reaching instinctively for his box of cascaded mirror image-based effects as seen most effectively with Joan Armatrading. Of course with Joan you had a good head shape and nothing else to get in the way, here you've got huge glasses and a great big piano so the effect is lost. By the end he gives up and points a camera at a monitor, the cheapest effect in his arsenal.

Chicago – If You Leave Me Now
Jimmy's getting brave with the setting now, absolutely surrounded by girls, one of whom chooses the very moment he starts talking to somehow lose her seating position, reacting with a jump and yelp as if she'd been electrocuted. Suspiciously, as she shifts wildly about and the camera pans ever closer to Jimmy's face we see she's holding flowers the same as our Kursaal friend was sporting and a stick of rock. So there's someone he's trying to get off with having promised them a moment on telly only for their reactions to taint it. Chicago, it transpires, is a three syllable word with every one enunciated. Just the video again. Gah. Wanted to see Terry dance to Mississippi again.

And one last note right at the end as producer turns out to be Johnnie Stewart, who created the whole enterprise but left in 1974 and must have been tempted back as a stopgap. For the occasion he's earned himself the man-on-chair-holding-jacket silhouette, which is grand of him.


Anonymous said...

Her escape was so urgent, she forgot her detergent.

Surely lyric of the year so far?

Angelo Gravity said...

I thought Elton's live performance of Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, without backing singers or even a band - just himself and a piano - was pure class - fantastic song, fantastic performance.

Steve Williams said...

Yes, not sure why Johnnie Stewart was back in the producer's chair, as he is for the rest of the year, given he last produced the show three years before and Robin Nash returns in January. I can't think of another producer who gets his own logo.

The Kursaal Flyers were a supremely odd-looking bunch, especially the guitarist on the right in the hat, miles away from everyone else, which looked as if he was a member of the crew who was leaving and was allowed to pretend to be in a band for his last show. I liked how the washing machines could be seen behind Billy Ocean and Elton John later.

I've got a Radio Times from February 1976 where there's a documentary about the Kursaal Flyers, following them getting a deal, recording and touring and trying to get a hit, making them perhaps the Upside Down of their day. The only other song I can think about doing the washing is The Blues Are Still Blue by Belle and Sebastian. The laundry/quandry rhyme was mentioned in The Guardian's Notes and Queries the other day as one of the worst rhymes in pop history.

The moustachioed guitarist in Dr Hook has beautiful hair, it must have taken hours of styling. The one stood next to Ray Sawyer looks exactly like Willie Rushton.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the sexy dancers. Hilariously two of them are sixteen and one is seventeen. Imagine that these days. On second thoughts don't.

Vin said...

I enjoyed 'Little does she know'. I first heard it a few years ago and as I like the 'Power pop' songs of the early to mid seventies, I thought it was a great tune. Unfortunately at the time I didn't know who did it or what it was called...

Also, maybe I imagined it, but in the chart rundown were the Manhattans just Manhattan??

Mikey said...

Yes, Johnnie Stewart often had the silhouette of him on a stool with his jacket slung over his shoulder next to his name in the credits. According to Steve Blacknell's 1985 book (which admittedly is full of inaccuracies), he had asked the show's photographer Harry Goodwin to take some shots of him behind a back projection screen in various poses (including playing a saxophone) - and chose his favourite image as his personal trademark.

Interstingly, though, the logo is missing next to his name on the edition of 16th December, according to the clip on Youtube of Showaddywaddy at number one.

I wonder what Stewart thought of what his creation had become by November 1976? It looks like a combination of possible budgetary constraints and editorial decisions had made their mark over the previous 3 years.

Arthur Nibble said...

Nice to see loads of new stuff this week, if you get my drift. I see Steve Miller’s got a proper rundown photo now, but Hank C. Burnette’s represented by a cartoon. Lovely shot of Yvonne Elliman – shame we’ll have to wait till next year to see her properly.

I don’t quite understand the reference to the Kursaal Flyers buying the stocks – does this mean they bought loads of the single themselves to propel it artificially up the charts? As for other songs about washing, howsabout “Ariel” by Dean Friedman or “I’ll Tumble For Ya” by Culture Club? Boom boom tish!

Looks like Dennis from Dr. Hook had some topiary done after the last hit and had two layers taken off his beard. The male subject matter of the song sounds a right lazy, selfish sod.

Had Billy Ocean borrowed Jim’s stick of rock for his performance? Also, who decided on that arty background fighting for attention against Cliff’s alarming T-shirt? I can feel a migraine coming on.

Good God, an Abba video which makes the girls look plain and frumpy. Still, the lads look smart in their West Brom tribute tops. Keeping the sartorial note, not sure about Elton’s shirt, tie and suit combo, but his performance was exquisite.

As for Chi-Ca-Go, the only ‘oldie’ on this high-class edition, I’ll be a bit sorry not to see it again. Maybe due to two of its chart-topping weeks being wiped, the song’s retained a freshness that “Mississippi” lost months back.

Leaving the best to last in my opinion – Be Bop Deluxe. Now this is more like it! Classic art rock, skimpy painted-on costumes, a namecheck for the dance troupe and some co-ordination, at least for most of the track. Love the fact that the long haired gals were centre stage for the head banging.

Record company promotion was certainly different in those days. Fully nine months after Be Bop Deluxe’s last and only other hit, their record company decided to showcase BBD's four most recent albums by releasing “Hot Valves”, an EP featuring a track from each album. Not that it did Bill Nelson any good - it seems he’s never received a penny of royalties from EMI or Harvest after all these years. That’s buggered up Jim’ll’s theory in the Abba link.

Arthur Nibble said...

Just noticed something about the Xmas show line-up. Without wanting to give anything else away, as expected the chart toppers are all present, plus various flavours which made the top three...and 'Devil Woman', which peaked at 9! Whoever Cliff's publicity agent was, they did a grand job. Looks like we'll have a happy Cliffmas.

wilberforce said...

maybe johnny stewart came back to temporararily take over the reins as his successor was either unwell or on extended leave - a bit like GP's after they retire...

also maybe the kursaal flyers were billed as "kursaals" because they (or the beeb) couldn't afford to make a backdrop with their full name? this lot were supposedly part of the canvey island/sarfend pub rock/rhythm & blues scene, but there's little evidence of that in this dreary offering, despite the singer's quiff (talking of whom, "paul shuttleworth" isn't much of a rock n roll name is it? he hasn't got much of a hobson's either, and looks like the kind of guy who got picked on at school to boot). FYI the drummer will birch later went on to become a respected music writer...

dennis locoriere certainly looks a lot better for having visited the barbers and ditching the grizzly adams look, but also surely wins the award for the worst air-guitar performance ever, hacking away completely out-of-sync with this snorefest that is worryingly-similar to the abominable "wonderful tonight" (with so many other guys playing guitars you wonder why he had one in the first place)... also his general agitiated performance suggests he was either whacked out on stimulants or desparate to use the toilet...

and as far as billy ocean is concerned, for me it's not so much a case of "stop me" as "fast-forward me"!

Mikey said...

Yes, I don't think Brian Whitehouse works on Pops again until October 1978. But the Director Phil Bishop (sometimes billed as Assistant Producer) has already produced a couple of shows in 1976 (in August/September) in his own right, and either Bishop or Stanley Appel are on hand to direct for the rest of the year. But maybe these two were not yet judged sufficiently senior to have responsibility for producing more than the odd show by themselves. Robin Nash returns in January 1977 - I wonder if this was envisaged at the time of Nash's departure in May 1976?

Simon said...

Couple of late notes from elsewhere: it's been mentioned on the One For The Dads forum (by Sue!) that the girl in the Cliff film is Pauline from L&C, and it was filmed in Richmond Park; and I've realised that the reason there isn't a 1976 show on the Wednesday of pre-Christmas week is the annual TOTP2 Christmas show is on that day, BBC2 at 7.30pm. Four Pops in four days! Truly these are the days of our lives. (There's also a proper Savile retrospective on the 28th, BBC2 7pm)

Erithian said...

Who remembers the Radio 1 spoof (Noel Edmonds might have been behind it) where the question in every line of “If Not You” was answered with a DJ’s jingle, viz: “Who’s gonna iron my shirts?” – “Dave Lee Travis!” – “Who’s gonna kiss where it hurts?” -”David Hamilton!” etc etc.

Unlike the New Seekers three years earlier, who had gone on to be the first number one of the new year, Elton John didn't benefit chartwise from his appearance performing "Sorry..." on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show - the one with Angela Rippon.

Wellieman said...

Another vote here for Elton John... I'm not particularly a fan but his performance was *almost* goosebump inducing. He's not a bad piano player either! Puts the other singer/pianists we've seen this year firmly in the shade (thinks: Simon May/Eric Carmen/Randy Whatsisname, etc).

Now I thought I actually liked that Kursaals song before I heard it again last night. It sounded, well, a total mess and lost the "big" sound it has on the record - typical of the aural butchery we've witnessed throughout this year. Agree with other comments that Mr. Shuttleworth's teeth were the abiding memory of the performance.

I'm pretty sure, too, that Legs & Co must have knocked that performance off with very little rehearsal probably due to a last minute change. It just looked like Sue had some moves worked out so they stuck her prominently front stage left. Check out all the other girls regularly eyeballing her and trying to follow. Poor old Lulu missed some moves, being the furthest away!

If Cliff had the best booking agent, poor old Queen must have had the worst. We didn't get a sniff of You're My Best Friend in the summer and now, with Somebody To Love straight in at 4, still nothing! Not even a play-out!. Wasn't it Eric Hall plugging for them back then? (Anyone recall the excitement of waiting for the new Queen Xmas track, billed upfront as Bohemian Rhapsody part 2?? Personally I much prefer it to the overblown BoRhap, but each to their own).

Definitely think the quality is improving as we get to the year end. There's less lemons on it these days... Surprise Sisters where are you?

Simon said...

Good news, Wellieman - there's a lemon and a piano player in one in the last proper Pops. Also Queen are Legs-ed up on the next wiped show.

Noax said...

No mention or caption to commemorate Jim's passing? I was a little surprised at that to be honest.
The rundown pictures were more sensible this time, and while it was nice to see Nilsson finally being spelt correctly it's mystifying that the caption writers chose this point to give us 'Manhattan' unless Chicago's presence got them over excited about America in general.

The Kursaal Flyers - I LOVE this, I always have. I think the Guardian are being a bit po-faced (not that that should in anyway be a surprise) about the lyrics, as it's not like they exactly look like a serious band, is it?! My favourite part is '..and dropped all her clean UNDEEERWEEEEEAAAAAAARRRRR'. The performance is sadly very pedestrian, but I know there's a later one that's much better.

Be Bop Deluxe - Not keen on this, sounded like a Thin Lizzy ripoff to me. Not sure about the costumes either, I have to admit I fast-forwarded rapidly through this one.

Cliff - What kind of hippy nonsense is this? Cliff appears to be in pain or in a daze, and I wouldn't blame him for either to be honest.

ABBA - I can honestly say that I've never seen this performance before, I've only seen the video. It's not much to write home about though, and Agnetha's dancing is very odd.

Elton John - I'm always partial to a bit of Reggie, and this is a superb performance which makes me think what a shame it was that we didn't get him in the studio earlier in the year when he was No.1!

Shee-Car-Go - Weelll, I like the song but really don't like this performance. Why on earth didn't they get them to record something when they popped in to be worshipped by Noel the other week?

seekenee said...

The majesty of Savile and the eyebrow raising nature of the kursaal and cliff performances aside, this was a bland show for me - only one proper studio performance with audience, i'm not counting billy ocean cos they were so hidden due to his religion. I can now see the detrimental effect of the wiped shows, we didn't really get a sense of Chicago's reign and the Waddy's anticipation. Still lots to look forward to in the weeks ahead!

Bobby Morrow said...

Cliff had had a great 1976 with his I'm Nearly Famous (the badges!) album and it's 3 successful 3 singles giving him some much needed cred after too many years filled with Living In Harmony/Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha type nonsense. Hey Mr Dream Maker would be the first single from his 1977 Every Face Tells A Story LP and was a song doing the rounds back then. I had a version by Olivia Newton-John on one of her albums, though her take was much more upbeat and less spirit sapping. I think Cliff was hoping for another Miss You Nights type sleeper, but HMD really is the most appalling dirge. Even Cliff, the consumate professional, looks in danger of nodding off.

Elton did give a great performance of this subtle ballad from his 'serious' Blue Moves album. It did well here but was a much bigger hit abroad. Elt was about to begin his hair transplant years and would spend a fortune on hats in due course.

Nice to see Dennis from Dr Hook get a makeover. He did need a bit of a spruce-up. The song is sweet and has that half-hearted country feel so popular in the mid-70s.

Abba on the second single from Arrival. It slightly under-achieved chartwise in comparison to it's predecessor and indeed next year's Knowing Me Knowing You. Money, Money, Money is still terribly familiar even after 35 years...

Old Billy still over-emoting on Stop Me etc. It's not as hysterical as Red Light Spells Danger though, and it's nice to see him keeping the Sheer Elegance look alive. It was a big 'snug' though, that ensemble.

Anonymous said...

The shows have been a bit better recently, probably because there are some familiar hits.

What was all that gurning from the Dr Hook guitarists all about?

Anyone who doesn't have knowledge of this group (i.e born after about 1981) would think they were a spoof of kind done by the Two Ronnies!

Arthur Nibble said...

I think Legs & Co were really scrabbling round for a filler and this was probably a (brilliant in my opinion) Plan C or even D - I've found out that the Be Bop Deluxe EP was a non-mover at 36 this week and then went down the chart.

Simon said...

...which would then beg the question of what Plan A was. Checking the charts I can see potential in The Bee Gees' Love's So Right, which had climbed to 41 a week earlier but didn't move that week or improve on that placing at all. Or maybe as there were a clutch of new entries the following week something that was expected to enter the top 50 but hadn't yet? Or maybe even Money Money Money before a video was found? That might explain in part a routine from a future show, which we'll deal with when we get there.

Vintage Reading said...

Well if we must have blokes at the piano I suppose I'd rather it was Elton John than some of the characters we've had this year. (Thank goodness the show were Elt plays the piano while Bolan sings Get it On wasn't wiped.)

Dr Hook was the best bit about this show IMO. Love Dennis Locorriere and Ray 'Eyepatch' Sawyer.

Ullapoolharbour said...

Totally agree with Wellieman on the contrast between this insipid Kursaals performance and the single itself, which is a fine record to my mind.

Anyone else thought "Hey Mr Dream Maker" was near plagiarism of Dr Hook's "Sylvia's Mother"?

Steve Morgan said...

How our tastes differ, Wilberforce fast forwards through Billy Ocean's performance, Noax cite's Cliff's minor hit as "hippy nonsense" ;) while almost everyone else has a go at Paul Shuttle worth's teeth (I agree on that one though).
I thought it was a pretty good show again this week, my particular favourite was Billy Ocean who had me wholeheartedly singing along, even the audience seemed a bit more animated than usual. As for Cliff, well I previously cited Hey Mr. Dream Maker as a favourite of mine over I Can't Ask..., but after this performance and those "hippy " scenes in the park I think I'll pass.
I loved Legs an Co.s dancing to the Be Bop Deluxe track, Thin Lizzy soundalike though it was, I think it should have been a bigger hit.
I'm glad we all seem to agree that Elton's performance was exceptional, Sorry.. was always one of my favourite Elton tracks and I think he did a lot of promotion for this one and his performance on The Morecambe and Wise Show that year was every bit as good. Incidentally, there is an "official" video for Sorry (Elton, white piano, soft focus) which sadly seems not to be shown that much.
Wasn't too keen on ABBA's performance this week, normally I can't fault them but this performance wasn't one of their best, no wonder Money.. didn't get to number one, talking of which, still love the Chicago clip, could listen to it all day.

wilberforce said...

i know it's all a matter of taste but as far as reg is concerned, whenever he appears my finger automatically hits the fast-forward button faster than a speeding bullet...

Steve said...

Kursaals: mildly entertaining record but dreadful image. What would they have worn if Television Generation had charted? Well spotted with the Britpop connection, they look just like David Devant & His Spirit Wife!

Bamaboogiewoogie said...

The lead singer of the Kursall flyers already had the longest, thinnest head in the world, so why he decided to make it even longer by giving himself a massive quiff is anyone's guess. The KURSAALS sign was made up by the band themselves (I'm guessing it was their preferred shortened name). They also used it on ITV rival show Supersonic where the band all worse matching silk outfits (and looked all the better for it).

Talking of Supersonic it was always struck me how adventurous that was in terms of presentation with producer Mike Mansfield introducing the acts himself (or getting visiting pop stars and actors to do so), the warts-and-all direction with cameras, cables and lights all in view and the wide choice of music. Here Johnnie Stewart (whose logo I loved as a teenager - I wanted my own logo) appears to be attempting to liven up TOTP in a similar fashion with brief intercut close ups of coloured lights after some of the acts, some unusual angles and filming through the perspex backdrops, etc.

Elton John's performance was flawless and its existence proves that other reports of EJ not wanting to appear on the show for fear of the TOTP orchestra ruining the song were unfounded. Or perhaps not because Elton was solo here with no backing which actually helps the song although not enough to make it a big hit. Interesting to note that the Diana Memorial raised eyebrow was already in evidence at this point, I don't remember noticing it at the time.

Strange about that Manhattans rundown caption. Must have run out of Letraset. Should have used a Manhattan Transfer (boom, boom!)

I also thought it was ironic that Cliff and Dr Hook were on the same show when the chorus of Cliff's song (which I don't remember at all) so blatantly rips off Sylvia's Mother.

It's odd how different Peter Cetera looked in the Chicago video than he did in the studio last week. He seems to have put on weight.