Tuesday, 20 December 2011

TOTP 25/12/76 (tx 20/12/11): literally, Christmas has come early

Well, it looks like we might have made it. Yes, it looks like we made it to the end. This retrospective year of Glamourpuss and Harpo. Of the sisters Chanter and Surprise. Of Dr Kiss Kiss and Shake It Down. Of Ben Goldacre's Noosha Fox revelation and Alexis Petridis' Guardian article. Of whether young people who've somehow stumbled across this would think Liverpool Express were one of the defining bands of the age. Of the rise and fall of Ruby Flipper, literally in the case of TVC15. Of trying to understand Noel's links, DLT's concepts and Diddy's parting. And, of course, that late run to infamy by John Christie. And now we only have a two part look back at 1976 to go.

Question for commenters to pad out your comments and additions to this show - what's your choice of outstanding moments of Top Of The Pops 1976? As some sort of memory jog, here's a Spotify playlist of a lot of what was featured.

DLT and Noel, a partnership that would produce something rather less suited to family viewing sixteen years later, are your hosts, and someone must have booked the studio as they're in front of a chromakeyed wall behind a full set table at the near side of which is an enormous turkey. There's two on its far side, you may say.

Slik – Forever And Ever
Getting in early, DLT's gag for this link is to pretend to have drifted off, unable to be roused. It doesn't show great commitment to what's ahead of us all when you're acting like that in the first link. This Bay City Rollers song at 33 1/3 - written by the same people who were responsible for the Rollers' original hits and had originally been recorded by the substantially less portentous Kenny - was a number one in February but we've seen Midge and co's baseball jacketed US culture fetishising outfits since. What we haven't seen before, because with hits comes dignity, is the keyboard player's matey grin and nod to camera mid-chorus. On the wall behind our hosts there's shots throughout of aftermath and crowd, so we get to see Slik wander nonchalantly off stage...

Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
...as our duo contrive some pundom based on Noel's "flower arranging art". You know this video by now, as even though it's not been on the show since 1st September it's ingrained on every single one of your neurons.

ABBA – Dancing Queen
A shaking with excitement Dave Lee Travis with a knife in his hand. Must we fling this filth at our pop kids and their families? Or indeed this filth, as Legs & Co's two performances are both costumed around bra, pants and accessories. In this case that means big white furry hats the shape, colour and consistency of marshmallows, possibly so they don't catch their deaths of cold, and some sort of arrangement around long necklace-like strands connected to the hats plus wristbands and strips tied to their pants of similarly consistency. It's like mink bondage. A director has the idea of shooting the intro chorus from below, which coupled with pointing and spinning suggests a very wrong Soviet Pennies From Heaven adaptation. Not unreasonably, there's a lot of women standing off to one side, arms firmly folded. A group of gentlemen at the back sway to the beat. One chap caught close up seems transfixed, not moving a muscle. Amid all this, with what must for once have been more than three days' notice Flick doesn't really seem to have got a handle on it.

JJ Barrie – No Charge
Noel makes a Light Brigade joke. If it's meant to provide levity linking into one of his studio appearances, it doesn't work. This is still, after all, No Charge.

Laurel & Hardy With The Avalon Boys feat. Chill Wills – The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine
Yeah, interesting, this. Not just because of its fact - partly Peel's fault, apparently - but also it was a number two at Christmas 1975 and yet is still counted, crossing over as it does into the first couple of weeks, as a 1976 hit. And they're right there in the stu... no, wait, it's the clip from Way Out West. Several more courses, a smaller turkey and a bottle of wine now bedeck the presentational table. Noel tells DLT to "use your loaf". So he does, with a loaf of bread cut in half and enacted by Travis as a talking mouth. It makes Noel and the offscreen crew corpse. That must have been a long shoot.

Tina Charles – I Love To Love (But My Baby Loves To Dance)
The big turkey is back. Behind it Noel elects not to make a joke having been put off by DLT combing down his shirt, claiming he's "trying to clear up my dandruff". It's plausible. Unlike what they've done to Charles, as despite the huge studio floor completely empty apart from three crew and a camera taking reverse angle long shots she's ended up being filmed in one shot on a fairly narrow gantry, her movements even more restricted by some scaffolding and a couple of boxes. She hasn't helped herself sartorially with a test card of a jumper design and big scarf. Was there a draft up there? She should have said something. No explanation of her predicament is forthcoming. Tight schedule? For the Christmas Pops?

The Wurzels – Combine Harvester
You can't imagine the Wurzels had a lot on as they've come back for a studio encore sitting with the audience in the round on a small tractor, as is their wont, without so much as a tuba in sight. Pink shirts, brown waistcoats and brown cords are the dress code this time along with the signature neckerchiefs. Despite the passage of time since this was an unknown song "she made oi laugh" gets an actual audience laugh. Despite some stout singing along things don't really get going until fake snow and balloons get dropped and much batting about of the latter commences, leading to a widespread failure to be really listening any more. One balloon manages to knock Pete Budd's live mike partly round, though just by shifting his posture he's able to continue. A man standing to the side of Budd is enjoying it rather more than a man of his more than mean audience average age should be, waving his arms about all over the place. Has to have been a plant.

Cliff Richard – Devil Woman
Pretty sure this hasn't been on before, as there's an audience in shot, some of them are still theateningly holding balloons (imagine that Cliff/Wurzels green room conversation), no backing band and Cliff is wearing trousers of an acceptable size. A fire is superimposed over him at various points, which is certainly a quick and cheap way of denoting the concept of devilment. Cliff's still largely playing to camera rather than the people, though you may argue his baring yards of hairy chest isn't a way to play to anyone. Congratulations to the audience member who turned up in a red wide brimmed hat, much as it must be blocking plenty of people's views.

ABBA – Mamma Mia
DLT claims it's a Liverpool song - "when the kids came home from school hungry they knocked on the door and said 'mam, I'm ere!'" DLT is from Derbyshire. Apart from Bjorn finding a gap between the girls' heads so he too can sing his inaudible backing vocals direct to camera it's the three session men, and they look the part, we really need to be watching given all ABBA routines are part of the national consciousness these days, standing out only by not being allowed to wear the same colour-coded electric blue outfits as the main four. The drummer looks bored and/or distracted beyond comprehension, not a good look if you're pushed to the front of the stage. This again seems to be a new in-studio version, raising the possibility they may have been watching their own song being loosely interpreted earlier on.

Hank Mizell – Jungle Rock
The bread face has been put at the front of the table with a banana in its mouth, and already it's more likeable than Noel. Legs & Co are back, and we get to compare and contrast now as on the very first show of the run Pan's People in their dying embers worked this to a hunting motif with cameos by whatever animal costumes they could find in the back of an old storage cupboard. With time and expense the whole jungle hunting side is explored further with the ladies doing a wardance in parrot feathered head-dresses and about as small Indian reservation fancy dress bras and pants as could be got away with in pre-Hot Gossip days. As if from a 1940s cartoon they're taking the cannibalistic option on jungle mores, doing a war dance round a large cooking pot, in which stands a bemused Tony Blackburn, who has clearly been given no clues on what to do so just has to stand there observing the madness for two and a half minutes. Before long a whole new menagerie joins in, and clearly the advance notice has paid off with some relatively more elaborate costumes with a hint of Victorian theatre about them, although some of the heads are more Cubist. With a tiny amount of studio space delinated by fake trees, six dancers basically circling the pot with progressively less energy plus extras in varying bear and crocodile outfits variously Susie Q-ing here and ring-dang-doo-ing there doesn't leave a lot of physical room for self-expression and it becomes lots of people trying not to overtly bump into each other, especially when the camel arrives. Still, the girls are visibly having fun, attempting to find partners for the close. An alligator has a balloon attached to its tail. Lulu exchanges pleasantries with a tiger (and if anyone can lipread her - it's right near the end - do tell) Tony Blackburn stands in his pot, unloved, forgotten and alone, watching the young people and not so young crew members have fun without him. Your heart bleeds. No it doesn't.

Pussycat – Mississippi
DLT produces a knockoff Emu in the wrong colours. "I had problems with a man called Hull" Noel comments in a textbook injoke as it attacks. (If anyone does know...) This is a repeat of the studio performance with the girls in black and mysterious wavy lighting effects overlaid. You've probably heard this enough recently.

Demis Roussos – Forever And Ever
"Here's something really big in Greece - BBC potatoes!" Noel and DLT work between them before both collapsing into laughter at their own joke. Not even technically a new joke either - when this was number one Noel introduced it as "the really big thing in Greece at the moment - no, not a BBC hamburger". Demis didn't come over for that single but he's over for the Christmas crowd in an alarming outfit, a red all in one with plunging neckline and an open full length coat. Like Cliff, despite being surrounded by transfixed kids he sings entirely to whichever camera is operational. Even when the Ladybirds take over he just looks straight down the lens at us in a statesmanlike stance for fully twenty seconds or more. He then gradually raises an arm in the air and watches the camera as it circles him for another twenty seconds.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
While DLT continues to attack Noel's hair by proxy, a girl in the audience shot behind them is making a note of something. Quick supermarket trip on the way home, maybe, but some things can wait for the bus journey. This is the video. All of it. This has a video, don't know if you're aware of that at all. Again, this is a 1975 hit that carried on over into the new year, making one wonder if it should technically count at all for 1976. Our hosts see us out with DLT having a health and safety existential crisis as he realises the big turkey of continuity turmoil is real before, bizarrely, Noel announces "we leave you with Legs & Company (always the full version of the name with Noel) and a bit of Wings". Instead, the show ends. How odd. There is a Legs & Co routine to a Wings song on the Boxing Day show, but that's one hell of a glaring editing cock-up. Did someone forget how long Bohemian Rhapsody is? Or just maybe was Noel making a joke about the turkey? Even for him that would be cryptic and unnecessary.

REMINDER: TOTP2 Christmas 2011 is Wednesday 7.30pm on BBC2, though you'll have to be wry about that yourselves; the Boxing Day 1976 special is Thursday at 8pm.


Simon said...

And someone on Digital Spy complains that Demis, Pussycat and Abba are on the show too much, while someone else thinks Elt'n'Kiki are still at number one. I don't think they've quite understood the concept. To be fair, they're on Digital Spy, allowances have to be made.

Matra Rancho said...

Despite my better judgement, I thought DLT and Noel collapsing into laughter at their "BBC Potatoes" "joke" was actually quite endearing.

Mikey said...

I was amused by the three women by the big wheel of the Wurzels' tractor who had their back to the group and seemed to be having a conversation among themselves during much of the song, as if oblivious to the performance. The balloons reminded me of early 80s Pops!

I wondered whether the bizarre location for the presenters' links was due to the director wanting to show off his multi-coloured computer shapes cluttering up the screen in an attempt to look modern, but I don't think it really worked.

Angelo Gravity said...

Firstly - loved seeing the Laurel and Hardy clip again :-) Didn't it peak at number two twice? Once in 75, then again in 76?

Abba live in the studio is a real treat - did they appear in the studio ever again after that? I'm not sure that they ever did?

Its been quite something to re-live 1976 again, albeit from April onwards. Although I remembered some of the performaces, I can't say I remembered a single complete show in its entirety - I think 35 years is just too long ago! I can't even recall if I saw this Xmas special first time round.

Stand out moments for me have been Marc Bolan doing I Love to Boogie - fantastic live version - he played it like a gig.
Also enjoyed seeing Showaddywaddy again and was impressed by the live performace of Sorry Seems to Be by Elton.
Gary Holton of Auf Weidersehen fame was a pleasant surprise with the Heavy Metal Kids.

Enjoyed the songs, enjoyed the number ones - it was good to see bands like Pussycat and Sherbert again - I thought Ruby Flipper were good, especially Disco Duck! Also really enjoyed them doing Rubberband Man and You Should Be Dancing.

I don't care what the anti-76 brigade say, it was a good year for music, rose-tinted spectacles on or not - I'd quite happily watch the whole series over again from start to finish!

Mikey said...

To my surprise, my favourite TOTP moments from 1976 are some of the dances - specifically:

15 April - Theme from Mahogony by Diana Ross - I think Mary from Pans People looks lovely.

15 April - Isaac Hayes - Disco Connection - great choreography of its time, although it looks like Ruth is showing her age a bit in trying to keep up with Cherry and Sue.

13 May - Archie Bell and the Drells - Soul City Walking - Cherry out of Ruby Flipper doesn't seem to dance as such, but just wanders across the stage in shorts looking gorgeous.

8 July - that Tubular Bells in the Blue Peter garden because it just seems so weird.

Of the studio performances, I would say that Can sticks in the mind the most. But I also liked the Four Seasons 'Shining Star', the first Liverpool Express song 'You are my Love' and Mud's 'Shake It Down' (when Cherry was dancing on it).

Favourite videos are Dana (it really did look 4 years ahead of its time), Mike Oldfield's 'Portsmouth' and Bryan Ferry's 'The Price of Love'.

Best playout was the instrumental version of Jesse Green 'Nice and Slow'.

I didn't remember any of these songs (other than Portsmouth) when they was originally shown. I do remember seeing Pussycat and Showaddywaddy at the time, as well as the Wurzels and Brotherhood of Man, but not much else.

Steve Williams said...

It's odd to think, after we've been spoilt by the glitzy eighties Christmas shows, that the seventies Christmas shows looked like the cheapest of the year. At least there was an audience for this one which wasn't always the case. That Tina Charles clip is demented, proper Dogma-style filming, especially when you can see the cameraman's shadow, and that huge rope.

The ABBA clip is from an otherwise wiped show from earlier in the year, natch. I don't think they did ever appear in the studio again.

I like how the visual effects in and out of the performances got more haphazard and ragged as the show continued.

And also, kudos to BBC4 for prefacing this with Sounds of the Seventies including The Real Thing doing Can You Feel The Force as it's a brilliant song and all the clips of that performance on YouTube are in atrocious quality.

Steve Morgan said...

I really can't add anything to what Angelo Gravity and Mikey have already said, their posts here have echoed my thoughts exactly.
I think we do tend to look back at these years with rose tinted glasses and many of the comments here over the months have slated 1976 as a dull year for music. I've enjoyed the editions broadcast and they've brought back many, many memories. But by God, stick all those big hits together in one Christmas Special, add DLT and Noel Edmonds and suck any atmosphere out of the show altogether. I can see what people have meant. There were highlights throughout all the editions broadcast, but last night's Christmas special was deadly dull, Edmonds' and DLT's jokes fell flat, there was no interaction with the audience despite any studio acts that appeared, and not even Tina Charles with a lacklustre production of I Love To Love, lifted the mood of that one for me,(what on earth was that gantry performance all about?) but have to say that at least The Wurzels tried to inject a bit of atmosphere into their performance.
A disappoinment

Vin said...

The poor old wurzels. During the summer they had a John Deere on which all three of them were able to sit on the bonnet. For christmas they're relegated to a little Massey Ferguson....

Arthur Nibble said...

I thought it might be appropriate to end the year with a personal awards ceremony for what we’ve witnessed, enjoyed and endured thus far -

Worst vocal performance:
Bronze – Art Garfunkel (just edging Lee Garrett to the tape)
Silver – the original karaoke nightmare, Twiggy
Gold – Simon May (words fail me)

Most annoying edit from the half-hour edition:
Bronze – Sheer Elegance’s child bothering single (twice)
Silver – the last ever performance by Pan’s People
Gold – the debut of “I Want More” by Can

Worst presenter:
Bronze – Ed “There’s a competition tonight” Stewart
Silver – the smarmy wighead, Tony Blackburn
Gold – DLT, a total knob

The ‘We miss you’ award:
Bronze – footage of “Lean On Me” by Mud (with honorary mention to “Superspike”)
Silver – Jim’ll, we’ll never see his like again
Gold – Cherry Gillespie (deep sigh)

The DJ tip for the top balls-up award:
Bronze - Stewpot bigging up “Love’s A Prima Donna” by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel (reached 41)
Silver - Noel expecting a top 30 placing for “Let’s Fall In Love” by Robin Sarstedt (reached bugger all)
Gold - Noel lumbered him all right...John Christie, the face of ‘77

Best interview award:
Bronze – Eric Carmen (just like watching ‘Parkinson’ at its best)
Silver – Terry Kath being asked about the inspiration for a song he didn’t write
Gold – The in-depth interview with Hank Mizell

Special one-off award section…
The ‘What the Hell was that?’ award – “Oh Susanna” by 1776
The ‘Can’t be arsed to turn up in the studio’ award – Elton John and Kiki Dee
The ‘Best dancer other than Cherry’ award – Archie Bell, for effortlessly joining in the Drells Soul City Walk routine
The “So bad it was good” award – “Superman” by Glamourpuss

Simon, thanks profusely for this fantastic blog. There’ve been many highs, a few lows, many forgotten memories revitalised and some jaw-dropping nuggets. May I wish you and all the forumites a Merry Christmas and a Happy 1977!

Wellieman said...

Yeh, thought it was a bit disappointing for the end-of-year big highlight show. Anyway enough of my comments, you've read them all previously. Instead, some comments from my 13-yr old daughter, who happened to be bored enough with the Xmas hols already to watch it with me....

The surprising highlight of the show was Tina Charles... "yeh that ones alright. But why was she singing on a gantry in front of some fuse boxes?" Other comments: Demis Roussos sings like a girl, Cliff's dancing was funny, the Elton/Kiki one was remembered from a man who did both parts on Britains Got Talent, didn't get the Mam I'm Ere joke, whats with the crappy computer graphics between each link, the Queen boys need a decent haircut. Oh and why isn't the man in the pot singing (...thinking Tone was Hank Mizell!) The lowlight was definitely JJ Barrie. "Uh whats this?"

Anyway I've been thinking about my highlight of the year and strangely I keep coming back to Ruby Flipper's interpretation of Tubular Bells in the BP garden too! Partly because of Tone's massive cock-up (Here's a song called Champs Boys and that's by... errr... with a song called Tubular Bells!) Partly because a version of Tubular Bells in 3 minutes was a brave challenge which they nearly pulled off. Partly because the Flippers' hippy, garden peace and love-in was oddly visually appealing. But mainly because it was the strongest reminder that the long, hot summer of 76 was, err, long and hot. And thats what I think of most about 1976.

Let me also echo appreciation to Simon for taking the time and trouble with this blog. It has become my most looked-forward to read on the internet! Looking forward to 77.

Old Applejack said...

I don't know what Lulu said to the tiger, but I hope it was a response to the tiger telling her she'd had a 'mare during that show. Seriously. In both routines she screws up something rotten and has to look to the person next to her to catch up again.

Anyone else reckon it was Floyd inside the bear suit? Just my wife then?

My highlights have generally all been mentioned, but I have to menion my special 'jaw to the floor' moment. Ruby Flipper's 'Young Hearts Run Free' routine.

Have greatly enjoyed the re-runs and this blog, so massive thanks to Simon and all the commenters. Long may it continue.

Billy Hicks said...

Coming from someone who wasn't born in 1976 and wouldn't be for over a decade, I've unexpectedly enjoyed these way more than I thought. I barely knew any '76 songs before these repeats other than the occasional huge #1 (Elton/Kiki, ABBA, etc) but these have been Youtube favourites since:

Slik - Requiem AND Forever & Ever (discovering the latter through the former)

John Miles - Music

Sailor - Girls Girls Girls AND A Glass of Champagne (ditto Slik)

Mike Oldfield - Portsmouth

Bonus point too for Laurie Lingo and The Dipsticks for the wonderful confusion as I tried to work out what the hell was going on, and giving up making sense of 1976 when I found out it peaked at #4.

Still kinda wishing they'd jump to about 1981 as I'm a huge fan of that musical era, but until then bring on 1977!

Noax said...

I've not much to say about the this show - as others have noted, it wasn't exactly dynamic, and whoever discovered the new visual effects 'Blockbusters' toy obviously didn't get bored with it anywhere near as quickly as I did.

The most fun I had was watching The Wurzels trying to fight off the balloon attack and Tina Charles trying desperately not to fall off that gantry (perhaps the cameramen had a snap 4 minute strike as she was due to perform?) while remembering to stop singing while they did the effect on the mike every time she sang 'stop', 'top' etc.

Oh, and ABBA of course. I really hope (but can't verify) that the drummer was Slim Borgudd. He's the man who scored one Formula One point by dragging a terrible car over the line to 6th place at Silverstone in 1979. What a hero!

I can only echo others thanks to Simon for keeping this excellent blog going and the other regulars on here for the great banter.

Memories of the year? Discovering how magnificent Ruby Flipper were, The Chanter Sisters (SIIIIIDDDESHOW!!) and the real 'Nicey just read my mind!' intro. Sailors (Jim'll appearances only) and Sailor. Terrible chart predictions. And that camera zoom down the gob when 5000 Volts were on - I'm still having nightmares about that one.

wilberforce said...

arthur, thanks for your TOTP '76 awards - not only raising more than a few chuckles but also there's not too much i disagree with either. the only thing i would add is to the "special one-off award" section with the "it won't be alright on the night" award: winners - the stylistics performing with one of them perched on a stool on the sidelines, presumably as a result of injuring himself in a pre-taping runthrough of the dance routine!

Bamaboogiewoogie said...

A chance to see a few chart hits I missed so far in this run namely Slick, Queen and Laurel and Hardy. It was a shame that Stan and Ollie couldn't be bothered to turn up in person.

During start of Slick's performance there's young man with short hair in the audience staring intently at Midge Ure's left leg who's a dead ringer for Kirk from Coronation Street. I believe the bad split up not long after this as the hits had dried up. It always annoyed me the way the keyboard player insists on looking directly at the camera all the time.

Interesting that behind DLT and Noel we can see the groups leaving at the end of each performance which sort of makes a mockery of the hexagonal wipes. With artists on film (eg Laurel and Hardy) we also get to see close up shots of the crowd. At one point one of them appears to be signing an autograph for another.

JJ Barrie's got a touch of Mr Punch with that hooked nose shown in profile. Lucky he wasn't on the same show as Joy Sarney.

Tina Charles on a lighting gantry. Johnnie Stewart's clearly been watching too many episodes of Supersonic as this has got Mike Mansfield written all over it. There would be serious health and safety issues with this today and they only just about get away with it here being barely room for shapely Tina and the cameraman who turns rather shakily at the start. Nice to see Ms Charles entering into the spirit of the Christmas show being attired in a warm wooly jumper and scarf. This looks as though it was filmed earlier or later than the rest because I'm not convinced that is Tina in the long shot taken from the floor where the crowd are because they crowd are not present in the shots from above, it looks like someone standing in for her. Musically not that great. The delay echo in the chorus is coming in too early. Poor old Tina seems a bit lost without Biddu.

What's with DLT's startled face when he announces Cliff, it's as if Noel is making faces at him as if to say "Cliff didn't get to number one or two like all the other acts - what's he doing on the show?"). Not sure what that is in the floating about in the background at the end of Cliff's performance, it looks like part of some set that wasn't used (maybe a Greek temple for Demis Roussos?) or it might just be the fire exit.

Legs and Co doing Pans People doing Hank Mizell. Shame old Hank had gone missing again or he could have made an appearance. No doubt that is all of the ex-Pans People and ex-Ruby Flipper members in the animal costumes all on double time for Christmas. Poor old Tony agreed to appear in the cooking pot as a gag but hasn't got a clue what to do. I love the fact that neither DLT or Noel even mention his presence.

Almost the last gasp for Demis Roussos chart-wise. Brentford Nylons will be able to have their bedspreads back. Demis has a look of Danny Baker close up.

I still want to know what happened to Legs and Co and Wings at the end? Edited out by BBC4 or did DLT make a mistake at the time?