Friday, 24 February 2012

TOTP 17/2/77 (tx 23/2/12): after the spike

Hello, everyone following the Guardian mention/online link about to become quite confused. You want the next post down.

Ruby Flipper update! Now there's a factual concept that hasn't been exerted in thirty five and a half years. A newspaper clipping of their rejection has been unearthed dated 19th August 1976, the date of broadcast of their face-making meisterwork Let 'Em In and also, adding mystery to that previous side issue, the last week of Cherry's still unexplained break. Three and a half months it seems to have taken for the BBC to decide they were wrong. The BBC spokesman - offical quotes! - claimed viewers were missing the all-girl nature of the dancing, which maybe gives away quite something about their actual purpose by this stage.

And as we've brought up Signora Gillespie, something else I've stumbled across since we all last met in this place is her perhaps sole piece of choreography work, Enya's Caribbean Blue video from 1991. This is known because there's an lengthy making of the video feature (part two) to which she contributes, still with the Rapunzel-esque tresses of her heyday but with the crucial addition of a bumbag. Also, though it's not mentioned, one of the nymph-like figures in the video is a young Martine McCutcheon.

"Don't panic, you've got the right channel" asserts Paul Burnett. Not one of Radio 1's great and legendary figures, Burnett, despite being in charge of the Tuesday afternoon chart reveal and being DLT's sideman on Convoy UK. It's this intro that was used at the start of the Big Hits 1977 compilation, odd given it's his only appearance of the year - he seemed to be doing one Pops a year at this stage - and he's not a figure any casual viewer would ever connect with the programme's storied past.

Is that another new angle of the Rose Royce Cortina?

Suzi Quatro – Tear Me Apart
We're seeing a lot at the moment of what the glam stars did next once Chinn and Chapman had stepped aside - Slade, the Rubettes, Gary Glitter, Mud last year. Suzi of course was pretty much doing this stuff from the off (and this actually is a late period Chinnichap), but her swapping of leather for fringed jacket-cum-catsuit - the angles never make it entirely clear - while the rest of her band donned the black biker accroutement of her heyday perhaps just to tease us, demonstrated how she'd now willingly let her country side eke out. Yeah, another one. Having started with an alarmingly wayward note she never quite finds her new range but can still play a bass the size size as her, and her showmanship credentials are renewed quite apart from her looks deep into the lens and vigorous upper body shaking - that is when she's on camera at all, the director fascinated by closeups of the guitar - as she spends most of the break with her foot up on the piano. It's a wonder she isn't trying to play it with the heel. If it's a muted instrument, perhaps she was. Less than lucidly, Paul calls it "a new chart contender". Yeah, we'd assumed that already.

The Moments – Jack In The Box
Just because, Paul refers to this as "a Tony Blackburn record of the week... and it made the charts". No, surely it's Noel's selections that tend to stiff. It's matching powder blue suits all round it transpires as well as doing virtually all the singing Harry Ray is the only one into the art of movement to. At one point he nearly goes for a spin on the spot and gets halfway before thinking better of it. At another there's some impromptu knee bending. The director, confused, zooms in on the back of his head. Bunched up uncomfortably in the middle of the stage, Ray's bandmates strive to look interested.

The Brothers – Sing Me
There's a very awkward moment when the camera lingers on Paul while pulling away towards the stage as he gathers up the mike cord, looks downwards while grinning and looking mildly embarrassed as if in realisation that, given a national telly platform on the nation's pop conversation hotspot, "it's always exciting to see a new band in the charts" really was the best he could come up with on the hoof. Brown suits and very wide open lapels on yellow shirts are the dresscode this time. There's now a hand gesture developed for 'paper kite' and a tug on the cord for 'pull my string', so the time in the spotlight is teaching them tricks of stagecraft alright. At the back of the audience a woman wears a red hat with a remarkably broad brim. You know that 'Barry Manilow from above' cartoon gag? It must be like that.

Boz Scaggs – What Can I Say
"A fabulous thing" Paul labels it. Doesn't bother with the title, though. It's the overmanned video clip again. And they left it in the edit ahead of a song that isn't on again.

Thelma Houston – Don’t Leave Me This Way
Again Paul doesn't name the song, but he does stress that "we're very fortunate" to have her here as she has to go back to the US straight afterwards. Judging by her outfit - scarf around neck, functional white dress, notable lack of item (YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN) - she'd done most of the packing before arriving at the studio. The orchestra for their part sound like they're merely on holiday, leaving the little regarded on record Hammond organ player to do the heavy lifting. The funky bassline is apparently being played by osmosis. At least Thelma's giving it plenty, staring out the front row, shimmying, adlibbing and a huge note to near enough close. People are clearly impressed. Well, some are, a good swathe of the crowd not even waiting for the full fade out before racing across for the earthier delights of...

The Rubettes – Baby I Know
With Tony Thorpe singing, not Alan Williams, you're right. Chiefly of interest this time is bassist Mick Clarke, who is giving it one last go on his own in resuscitating the white flat cloth cap from their heyday. Is he intending to stand out further? Given how unrepossessing his colleagues look it doesn't take much.

Mr Big – Romeo
The mildly disturbing wild card from the last show has a video every bit as quixotic. One of the singers is only wearing an open leather jacket on his top half, which given they're serious minded AOR makes it all the more alarming he's liberally slathered himself in baby oil. The other one has a camera angle that exclusively films right up his nose. Loads of dry ice and backlighting and no small amount of visual tricks, one a kaleidoscopic Bohemian Rhapsody nod, Mr Big having toured with Queen.

Tavares – The Mighty Power Of Love
Legs & Co are in the studio with an audience, which seems rare these days. It's a 'see what's around' week, everyone in a different coloured leotard, a differently wrapped beige scarf and, for flavour, a tambourine, shaken and tapped against the other wrist vigorously throughout to reflect the instrument's position high in the mix on the record. Wouldn't that make a hell of a noise in the studio? Can you get tambourine deadeners? (Don't answer that) Maybe that's why the crowd aren't all that enthusiastic compared to earlier, though something clearly happens to Patti up front as she puts her right leg out in accordance with the choreography, makes a surprised face and glances down at where her foot was. "A beautiful performance", apparently.

Leo Sayer – When I Need You
Very hesitant, Paul. And this man read out the chart rundown. Not a man always given to dynamism, Leo, as he stands stock still at the mike in what appears to be an ice hockey jersey, hands actually in his pockets for a good two and a half minutes. Look lively, Leo, much as the song may not demand it and all the director can come up with is multiple panning shots. Perhaps knowing we need something for the big finish, the Earth Wind & Fire outro seems to be focusing on the audience without telling them. Some leave, some stand around chatting, a large camera is dragged into shot for no good reason and with only a couple of exceptions everywhere is a tableau of awkwardness and knitwear.


EDIT NEWS: A song we'll see again but not in this version, Manhattan Transfer's Chanson D’Amour given the Legs & Co treatment, worth a look not for Burnett's comedy French accent but the leg work and the country thematic costumes with a hint of Where's Wally - on the occasions Ruby Flipper had two routines a show one would almost always be lost, but they decided the other was superior? - and a song we won't see again, Les Gray's unbecoming solo cover of Groovy Kind Of Love in a white jacket producing a rose out of seeming thin air at the end. He makes about as convincing a loving balladeer as Danny Dyer would.

24 comments:

Simon said...

One further piece of information: it's another one! Same intro again, though. Some development necessary there, surely. Available evidence is pointing to Joel Morris as creator of these works.

Arthur Nibble said...

I found this show really interesting, firstly because it contained three songs I had no recollection of, secondly it had controversy in my opinion, and thirdly (railing against our leader) because I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Burnett’s hosting.

Paul's TOTP outings were rare – he hosted one edition a year from ’76 to ’79 and made one appearance in a novelty chart act, plus he got close to another in 1985 when he made number 52 in 1985 as the Pee Bee Squad – which is a shame. I liked his comment at the start. I see Paul also preferred not to have the nobbly foam bit on the end of his mouthpiece. Now there’s a game for you in the future, checking which presenters prefer neat mic to bobbly mic.

Surely the briefest rundown clip ever for an act for poor old Silver Convention, followed by (forgotten song #1) Suzi Quatro hitting a slightly off-key first note and sounding a bit like a Friday night Southend karaoke act. Future husband on guitar at the back, Len Tuckey – never liked his fried chicken. Boom boom tish!

I thought The Moments were snuggled up as if defending a free kick, but then I noticed they couldn’t move because their trousers stopped them from dancing – no ball room! It’s the way I tell ‘em! Extra points for those cravats, a touch of class, and a fine recital.

No Manhattan Transfer early doors, so we miss out on the first Legs & Co showing of the night (and what a performance that turned out to be! Bugger!), so we skip straight to the Brothers. Unlike dear old Frank Carson, these “Opportunity Knocks” winners probably expected to have a short shelf life but a charismatic singer and enjoyable, competent song probably deserved at least another crack at the charts.

Now for the controversy. Poor Les Gray!!! His last three hit appearances with Mud were wiped, and now Les’s sole solo slot with a better version of this standard than Phil Collins’ slop gets cut from the early showing, maybe because it only reached 32, yet we get Boz Scaggs’ video again, and “What Can I Say” was danced to on a later (wiped) edition. Boz never performed any of his hits in the TOTP studio, so Les’s omission was sacrilege. Boo boo boo, BBC4, shape up!

Now, hang on, Thelma was in the studio a fortnight ago talking to Kid, so she must have recorded “DLMTW” while she was there? Erm, doesn’t look like it. Thelma was noticeably feeling the cold in the studio but warmed the show up with a belting, sassy performance with a hint of “Love Hangover” in it, showing the Communards’ version up as the cheap, poor facsimile it was. Shame Harold Melvin’s version charted higher than Thelma’s - at least she was determined enough to get on the show.

Desperation measures by Toothy Tall Rubette, wearing his old when-we-were-number-one white bowls cap in a “Remember us? Anyone? Please?” style, before we get the full horror of that Mr. Big video. Vertical shots right up that boxer-like hooter, followed by...mmm, sweaty bare torso! Now, had that been Thelma Houston’s...! We then get a very poor man’s attempt at BoRhap trickery, and I bet the rest of the band were pleased with their coverage in the video.

Next up (forgotten song #2), a minor hit and deservedly so, as it sounded like ‘will this do’ Tavares by numbers. Plenty of good face by Patti, and I only wish Flick had made more of a rhythmical gymnastics feel of the routine by giving half the gals a ribbon on a stick instead.

Leo looked like the most unconvincing ice hockey player ever in that garb, but at least he didn’t look like Ronnie Corbett this time. Rounded off by forgotten song #3 (EW&F's first UK hit, and a year's wait for the next one) and a hat-trick of stylish shufflers...the blond-haired lighthouse dancing like Arnie and checking out his fellow groovers, the girl who must have thought she was going to Royal Ascot instead of TOTP in that whopping great red hat and, from 28:30 to 28:36, ladies and gentlemen, surely one of ths year's stars...as Sister Sledge asked, I wonder why he’s the greatest dancer! Cap that!

Noax said...

I don't know. I spend all that time coming up with a name for their giant screen, and then they bin it!

I'm not sure that the Car Wash picture is different, is it? I think the 2 week wait for another Pops may have made me forget though.

Arthur, I thought Paul Burnett was pretty good too - his presentation style reminded me a bit of Rosko actually, but with the all important difference of not being a total ****.

Alas, my Sky+ box decided to record this with glitches all the way through so I didn't watch as closely as usual.

Suzi Quatro - An under-rated song this, but the performance of it leaves a bit to be desired. I wonder if that's why it stiffed.

Manhattan Transfer - I'm glad we got this Legs & Co performance, because when they turn up to do it, it's pretty dreadful isn't it? I still love this song, though part of me still can't believe it actually got to Number 1.

The Brothers - A better performance this time. The song doesn't just end though does it - were they freestyling?

Les Gray - Oh dear. I can't understand how on earth Les thought this was ever going to be a hit. Perhaps he'd seen Robin Sarstedt and thought "I want to do that!"

Thelma Houston - Um, well...difficult to concentrate on the song to be honest given the (lack of) clothing choices. What did she do to offend the orchestra so much I wonder? Because they certainly aren't trying with this one. I'm not mad keen on her version anyway, although I seem to be alone in that here!

Mr.Big - Extraordinary. Almost enough to put me off the song, which as I pointed out last time, I do really like.

Earth, Wind & Fire - I'd forgotten about this, and I actually used to play this on the radio a fair bit too. You don't hear it much these days, that's for sure.

Nice to see the return of the cameraman doing a James Hunt impression during the playout and trying to mow people down. Actually, as this would have been between F1 seasons, I like to think that james would have been hanging around trying to pull one of Legs & Co.

Actually, that's a slur on his reputation. He would of course have been trying to pull ALL of them.

Arthur Nibble said...

If a certain Joel Morris is reading this, I fully expect Toppotron and Tambourine Deadeners to make the next classic Top Of The Pops top 30 countdown.

wilberforce said...

paul burnett is so low profile that whoever writes up the previews for freeview (probably not a fan of the show or cares about the era) didn't even mention him... possibly because of his relative obscurity i didn't find him anywhere near as nauseating as his more (in)famous peers blackburn and edmunds...

the show was bookended by two feathercuts straight out of 1973 despite it being 1977 - suzi quatro still modelling one which may have contributed to the failure of her single, and in the late full edition a glorious example atop an acne-scarred youth half-heartedly shaking a leg to earth wind & fire!

Name changed to avoid monopoly said...

Just watched the Les Gray clip on You Tube. Anyone else notice the unusual way Les's lower lip gets sucked in on certain words, most frequently on the word "Love"? I see the lighthouse is in close proximity during the woodwind solo.

purplepiepete said...

Anyone else notice the older, balding & bespectacled gentleman in the audience bustin’ some moves during The Moments song? Or maybe he was just a prematurely aged teenager…

Paul Burnett was usually quite entertaining and frequently laugh out loud funny on his Radio 1 daytime show back in the day. Particularly so on his Radio 1 Roadshow stint, summer 78’. One of the better DJ’s.

Elsterpie said...

Box at home in germany but travel a lot so missed this and foreign iplayer only shows you dont want or repeats of click and hardtalk that i spend time in asian hotels avoiding. So....what was the EWF song?

Suzi song was alright but dont remember the tavares one (They did 'it only takes a minute' first u know) but i was quite partial to romeo (even more so their follow up flop 'feel like leaving home')........back then that is, unlistenable now

Thankyou one of you for drawing atttention to and reminding me of the chanter sisters' 'sideshow' a few weeka baxk. Wonderful.

THX said...

The EWF song was Saturday Nite, their first UK hit (not the Whigfield one) and one of their best.

Funny about Don't Leave Me This Way, for such an angst-ridden song almost everyone who sings it makes it sound really jolly. Thelma was looking positively delighted to be left that way. This week's highlight, anyway (not because of THAT).

That Boz Scaggs clip looks like the Saturday Night Live performance, but I'm not sure if it is.

Simon said...

Just remembered what else I meant to put in the minutes of previous meetings at the start - I had the opportunity to flick through Tony Visconti's autobiography in the week, wherein in half a paragraph he covers the Surprise Sisters. They were actual sisters from Blackburn he discovered and saw as a British Labelle, but claims they never got it together in the studio despite a great live reputation, that last bit a surprise (sic) to those who saw their working over of Got To Get You Into My Life.

Angelo Gravity said...

I think its a shame Les didn't do the cover of Isn't She Lovely - he would have made a good job of that one.

Amazed to see Liverpool Express still slowly climbing the chart - they must've sold a fair few copies of that one when they added them all up.

Enjoyed Legs' Manhatten Transfer routine - almost made up for missing out on Boogie Nights last week - speaking of which, that's at number 6 now and still no appearance by the band.

And lastly, a big bra-vo to Thelma for her performance - not once did her voice wobble, unlike other parts of her anatomy :-)

Erithian said...

That Liverpool Express top 30 run in full: 29-25-24-20-23-17-20-27. At this point they’re just past the peak, but yes only Messrs Soul and Biggs had outlasted them by their final week.

Loving Thelma and the honey on the right of Boz’s backing singers in particular. Suzi’s new direction is unconvincing and it’s a whole four weeks later she creeps apologetically into the lower reaches of the chart.

Lee said...

Watched the friday night late full version but in places it was unwatchable (the glitches not the acts, or maybe it was my freeview?).
I couldn't help thinking Paul looked a lot like Diddy David with a different wig :)

Anonymous said...

Were Tavares/Legs and co cut. It was only c1.50 minutes.

Steve Morgan said...

Re those glitches. I watched the Thursday early show on Freesat and then the late night one from Sky, both had the same glitches, mainly through the Romeo vid. Perhaps there's something wrong with the master tape?? or maybe the BBC transfer?? I'll watch the Saturday repeat later to see if it's the same.
Otherwise, good show, nice to see a change of presenter in Paul Burnette, highlight of the week, definately Thelma's performance.

Wellieman said...

Another thumbs up for Paul Burnett from me. He had an easy, laid back style and was certainly no worse a presenter than the likes of Tony Blackburn, David Hamilton, Noel, DLT et al. Wonder why he didn't get as many TOTP gigs as the others as he was equally as commonplace on Radio 1 as them...?

Agreeing with most of t'other comments on here, so apologies for repeating. Like virtually every TV show broadcast. Suzi Q was another throwback to long-gone Glam but still had enough clout to bag a TOTP performance (.... see also Slade, Glitter, Rubettes, Mud/Les). It was OK and ended up about right in chart terms. In fact this set her up for a half-decent post-glam run from 77 - 80 with a few more hits to come.

The Moments were another identi-kit US soul vocal act wearing their cabaret outfits. I bet they were on a tour of Northern working mens clubs with The Drifters, The Manhattans, The Stylistics, etc, etc.

Boz Scaggs - what can I say except didn't really like this at the time and still don't. However I may have missed a trick as there is a weight of opinion amongst my fellow posters urging a reappraisal of Silk Degrees. I even hovered over the Buy button on iTunes just recently. Not quite convinced yet, I need some more persuasion.

What a tizz you fellas have gotten into around Thelma Houston's appearance! By the way, what did she look like? My eyes never ventured that far up... (Now if only Clodagh had learnt some moves from Thelma for her performance a few weeks back it would have been interesting in THAT dress she was wearing.) Funny, but this appearance was also on the BIG, ahem, HITS of 1977 at the start of this run and not a peep from anyone.

Ah yes, my old favourite chestnut Tony Thorpe from the Rubettes. Now we've settled that its him singing, how about a comment on his guitar playing. He looked to be playing live and there were some really nice licks interspersed with his singing - particularly in the last verse - which reminded me of Mark Knopfler on Sultans of Swing! Or is that too treacherous to say?

Now back in 76 and 77 we still held a candle for Mud in our house, and still bought their records. So it was, then, that my brother dutifully went out and bought Les Gray's solo effort. And we really liked it and were really gutted it didn't do better in the charts at the time. So to see this performance for the first time in 35 yrs was such a big letdown. Oh Les, you really let us down, it was so lame. What was that awful cod-Jazz solo about and the weedy arrangement and the awful rose thing at the end. Must have been watching David Parton too much. At least we have some glorious Mud performances to reminisce about.

Oh, and one final comment about music "videos". Every retrospective about MTV suggests there were no videos or promo films pre-1981. What a load of rubbish. Every week we see 2, 3 or 4 videos which would have been easily presentable on MTV. Like Mr Big and Boz Scaggs from this weeks show. Just my bugbear this week!

@Simon_Constable said...

After some recently disappointing shows recently, its nice to see a return to some good stuff. Paul Burnett was an excellent host IMO.

My three fave tracks however, are three that have been on before. Boz, Thelma and Mr Big.

I love Boz Scaggs. The live performance just shows off the pure genius of the fella. Two drummers? What's that all about?

Ooh Thelma! That outfit was a tad rude eh? Not that I'm complaining. A little titillation (see what I did there?) never hurt anyone, and that voice is pure heaven. Very talented lady.

Quite enjoyed the Mr Big video, even if it was a shameless Queen rip off. It was risque enough to raise some eyebrows.

Mmm. Legs and co. Didn't get the tambourines and ribbons but oh well. Sue gets my vote again.

The glitches everyone else referred to must've been at auntie's end as everyone seemed to experience. Only really spoiled the Mr Big song.

Directorily a rather poor show but otherwise I loved it!

Steve Morgan said...

Those glitches weren't on Saturday's repeat, apparently it was something to do with a change of satellite server, or something like that anyway.
Do you know what though? For the third time of watching this show I seemed to enjoy it more, whether or not it was because I'd had a couple of beers I don't know, but I really thought that third time round this was a good show.

Oh!! and Wellieman, go get that Boz Scaggs album, if you like a really smooth, late night listen Silk Degrees won't let you down.

Erithian said...

Boys, boys … anyone would think you’d never seen a nipple before!! Wellieman, if you look further up you’ll see a beautiful face, the most gorgeous eyes and an expression of pure joy at what she’s doing (at odds with the subject matter of the song but hey…) T’internet indicates she’s still gigging, guested on “America’s Got Talent” and performed at Obama’s inauguration ball (and hasn’t toned down the wardrobe much!). Thanks for your effect on a number of us chaps 35 years on, Thelma…

Steve Williams said...

Sorry I'm a bit late. I liked how Paul Burnett wasn't mentioned in the Radio Times, wasn't on the EPG and wasn't named by the announcer, so most people would probably have gone "Who the hell is he?". Seemingly Burnett didn't really like working to an audience, I've got a Radio Times from 1977 which follows him on the roadshow and he says he doesn't really enjoy it (maybe something to do with him once swallowing a wasp on stage). Yet in 1978 he presented Miss World when it was the biggest show on the planet, that's on YouTube (or it was, anyway) where he gets to announce Radio 1's new frequency.

Anyway, he wasn't unlikeable in this, though I note there were a few more out-of-vision announcements than usual, where he was far slicker. I liked how he referred to songs as "things". I also liked his authoritative "Really nice song!" after The Rubettes.

Despite there being a stack of repeats, Boz Scaggs aside (and that video seemed slightly better quality than the first time), everything was in a different form including in one instance performed by someone else. The highlight was the hilarious Mr Big video which may have been inspired by another video, I was roaring with laughter when we got to the spinning heads.

wilberforce said...

aarrgghhh! some idiot has made changes to this page so that all the comments are now down the left-hand side (and much more difficult to scan) whilst all there is on the right-hand side is this comment box and then loads of wasted space!!!

this is really annoying - if it ain't broke then don't fix it!!! am i the only one having this problem or is everyone affected? in any event can anyone change it back to the old way?

Arthur Nibble said...

I've also noticed the comments box has moved to the left, plus the font's different, and the forumites' names are now the same size as their comments as well. I also noticed a few weeks ago the access function's changed where, in order to publish your comments, you now have to type in two nonsenical words which are sometimes partly reversed (the font goes white and the background goes black) and sometimes the wavy nature of the font makes the words difficult to read. Horrible. Almost as bad as the complete hash the BBC have made of their football website.

Wellieman said...

Yep, horrible new format here too.

Steve Williams said...

If you click on the title of the blog post you can read all the comments nice and pretty under the post.