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.