Thursday, 2 February 2012

TOTP 27/1/77 (tx 2/2/12): think pink

We're still very much in the teething stages of establishing what sort of pop musical year 1977 will be, and it really doesn't settle down for a few weeks yet. David Soul and Boney M may be emergent already, but around them is still a certain amount of mush and shots in the dark. The dark, coincidentally, is where Tony Blackburn was told his combination of lumberjack shirt and straight-from-the-bin-round brown jacket with big lapels would best work.

The brown Cortina, registration NCP 303P, must have had a thorough wash by now. Could the BBC not be bothered to ask the label if they had anything better?

The Brothers – Sing Me
Starting with recent Opportunity Knocks winners, which puts them on a level par with Bonnie Langford and Little & Large, who like these men also adapted their Knocks-conquering routine into reggae. You have to make time to watch their first Op Knocks if only to admire the harp and vocal trio and wonder how anyone was supposed to judge cting against music. The Quality Street Orange Crunch wrapped-coloured shirts have been retained now alonsgide scarlet trousers, albeit without the matching jackets for the full effect, and they're taking this post-Nicholas reggae to the masses with much less exuberant stagecraft, the instrument head waving and livewire moves having been used up at Hughie's behest. It's a litany of bad metaphor, from ships to kites, where obviously "I come down when you pull my string". Tony moves his shoulders in some approximation of rhythmic motion in the background. Tony is keen to mention that they actually are

David Parton – Isn't She Lovely
"Talking about singing things, here's a lovely song..." There's a link that wouldn't work on the page, and barely works out of the mouth. Yes, it's that man again, still with eyes firmly closed and expression forcefully pained. The boys one side of the stage bop about expectedly. The girls on the other side are nonplussed, as well they might be. And let's watch that mid-song break stagecraft in action: some very forceful handclapping, what seems to be him putting his fingers to the corners of his mouth in a 'smile, bastards!' motion with no great facial joy, going across to the other side of the stage only to find they aren't interested either, giving the rose from the lapel of his white suit jacket to a random girl, wandering off the stage to press two sets of flesh, and back for the climactic verse. The camera nds up focusing on a girl near the front who clearly does not want to be seen swaying to this song at all, especially not on national television with her mates watching. The director lingers on her to teach her a lesson. "Isn't she absolutely lovely" Tony renames the song before predicting it'll be a number one sound. Its imminent fall was inevitable from that moment.

The Eagles – New Kid In Town
Not the most immediate of songs to give the Legs & Co treatment to, which may be why Flick opted for the opaque. Hanging around outside mock Victoriana shop fronts, one of which advertises 'CEGARS', in frilly dresses, big hats, long gloves and fur stoles may not have been what Don Henley and Glenn Frey quite had in mind but the relaxed pace allows for some character work you don't tend to get in Legs routines. Patti alone pulls four different expressions in her first three seconds on screen. The loose story framework is surprise and intrigue at Lulu, who gets many solo routines in portraying, well, a new kid in town. At the end Sue and Pauline find acceptance of her anew.

Barry Biggs – Sideshow
The shoehorned into pink frilly suited effort from the pre-Christmas show. Given how much specialised editing has had to be done to cram as much as possible in this week it's a mystery why they didn't just leave this out...

Status Quo – Wild Side Of Life
...or this on its third appearance. As the intro, in which Tony asks of an overmade-up woman "it's your birthday today, isn't it Barbara?" before hijacking her low-key celebrations by mentioning it's his own birthday coming up (January 29th, in fact) and he's "looking forward to being a teenager", of course. Afterwards he appears to suggest he was having "a really good truck".

Mr Big – Romeo
Not the Mr Big who did To Be With You but a band who make Smokie look like Black Sabbath incorporating a man who just stops himself short of complete falsetto and a poodle-permed co-singer, both of whom consider "step back inside me, Romeo" to be a winning approximation of subtle kinship mentality. The keyboard player has an open leather jacket with nothing underneath, the bassist is sporting a Panama hat. It's a complete mess of imagery.

Andy Fairweather Low – Be-Bop ‘N’ Holler
Tony calls it "Be-Bop A Hula", which is something else. In fairness it's not a song heavy on either be-bop or hollering but does feature two drummers, one of whom seems to play nothing but rimshots, and Fairweather Low seemingly singing through a closed mouth - not in miming, in the sound of his voice. Just in front of Drummer Two someone seems to have turned the dry ice machine on full setting and just left it.

The Moments – Jack In The Box
For some reason as Tony introduces this video clip the camera focuses for a long time on an empty stage shrouded in artificial mist as if something or someone is going to emerge. And then they don't and the director remembers to cut to the clip. The three Moments are wearing pink suits! They wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the club lounge they're performing in today in those. As their fine range of facial hair and a tremendous tight afro soul up a storm - "it sounds like a game but it's a dog on a chain"? - the fake screen projection returns. Someone in a cardigan right in front of the screen could kill with the ferocity of his shoulder thrusts if he doesn't learn to control them properly, but the producer's not thought this bit through as to the side of the screen we get to see people emerging from backstage. Two appear to be being marched out. Two others, sitting down throughout, embark on a play-fight. Eventually someone who looks like he'd be in Madness in three years' time starts hopping from foot to foot. Meanwhile back at the Moments an older woman sitting on grinning appears for a couple of seconds and disappears again without explanation. Tony mentions it was his record of the week, not wanting Noel to have oneupmanship.

The New Seekers – I Wanna Go Back
"We haven't had a new record from the New Seekers for a long time" Tony confidently states. Seven months, Tony, that's how long before they'd last been on the show. A classic Pops trick sees Eve Graham's head merged in over the hole in an acoustic guitar being plucked for the intro. This line-up involves two acoustic guitars, an inaudible electric bass and a lot of swaying from foot to foot in time, not to mention a hell of a truck driver's gear change. Are they playing this live? It cuts off early, and not before time.

David Soul – Don’t Give Up On Us
"Do you like David Soul?" "I think he's lovely, yes". That's fortunate. Video, clearly, a quick goodbye and Rose Royce play us out.

EDIT NEWS: Ten songs in half an hour! No, it didn't really flow well. Should have been two out, really, to stop the piecemeal mid-song cuts and repetition but just Julie Covington again. We've seen a suggestion this has been cut twice - and the week it went to number one has been lost, though she's on again at Christmas - because of Argentina's current Falkland sabre rattling, but that seems somewhat hasty. Maybe it's been cut because the montage they're using is so deathly dull.


Arthur Nibble said...

Another showing for dark mauvey-red, an early contender for this year’s mustard, by those Brothers (label mates of Glamourpuss, fact fans). Decent enough OpKnocks fayre, driven along by a confident singer not afraid to tell the crowd ‘”You got it!” during the handclaps.

Break out the Ex-Lax, here comes David Parton, with both his mic and jacket noticably turned down from last time. Why were most of the audience near the stage sitting down and side on to him? Hope the audience member he picked on for not smiling gave him the Gareth Hunt Nescafé handshake back.

Really disappointing Legs & Co routine – surely the least amount of dancing ever done in a TOTP dance routine after "TVC15", almost as much hand to mouth than foot to floor, and the strutting catwalk elegance of the ‘dancers’ was spoilt by the wide shot of the scaffolding under the set. Poor show.

When Barry came on I thought they’d repeated his first truncated performance and duly waited for the skipped note before the chorus, but no! This was a new performance, wasn’t it? He obviously loved that suit. Shame about the number of slightly off-key high notes which made me think I’d left the kettle on.

I can’t believe Quo’ve been allowed so many prime-time video repeats in this run. Are the BBC trying to make up for banning their songs from Radio 1 a few years back? Seeing as her week at the top's been wiped, I’d have thought they’d give Julie Covington a pre-watershed turn instead.

Now then, an example of ‘payola’ working with Mr. Big. I was surprised the Beeb allowed this to pass the censors at the time, what with its less than opaque “again, please” chorus refrain. Two awards for the band from me – singer most resembling a boxer, and the Peter Hook award for lowest keyboard set-up, unless the Joanna player simply had very long arms.

Thanks to Julie’s edit, it’s followed by an example of ‘payola’ not working with Andy Fairweather-Low. For a minute I thought we’d re-tuned to “The Old Grey Whistle Test”. Andy’s second and last solo hit had been a year hence, and no wonder with this effort, only brightened up by the steel guitar player looking like Bricktop out of “Snatch” wearing an Elvis wig.

Yes! Magic Moments. A video with a black background and dry ice can only mean one thing, a superlative Stateside soul sensation. I love this song, and even the fact the lads looked like a Barry Biggs convention couldn’t ruin it for me. By the way, that mystery line is “It sounds like a game, but it’s a doggone shame”.

From the sublime to – dear God, break out the Werthers Originals! People playing stuff 30 years too old for them. By now I bet The New Seekers were rueing the error which saw them disqualified from the UK 1976 Eurovision final – they recorded their song, the pre-show favourite, for a BBC Scotland show which was accidentally transmitted before the final, breaking the ‘previously unplayed live’ rule. You can indirectly blame BBC Scotland for "Angelo"!

Not much to say about old Dave, except for a very smooth transition at one stage where the camera changes from front to his right and he doesn’t get phased. I did wish they’d put some CSO on the video and make it look more Can-like just for a different effect.

Mind you, Hutch got a much better deal than Rose Royce, still represented by that Cortina in the chart rundown (were there too many in the band to fit in a regular photo?) and, even worse, the start of the song was ruined by a mixture of slimy Tone and a huge dollop of canned handclaps. You wouldn’t have got that with “Supersonic”, I can tell you.

Steve Williams said...

This was a bit ragged, this show, right from Tony missing his cue at the start through those weird shots of the dry ice, to the canned applause coming in just that bit too late at the end. Is that the first appearance of dry ice we've ever had on Top of the Pops?

I liked how the audience around David Parton were seated on the side of the stage, most with their backs to him, giving it a pleasing kind of supper club vibe. It's amazing how many members of the audience on this show don't seem to give a toss about the acts, though Giles Smith points out in Lost In Music that the idea go going to "see a band" is quite a new one, before the sixties you'd go to listen to a band or dance to a band.

The lead singer of The Brothers was very charismatic. Not a bad stab at the new entries this week, them and Mr Big going top ten and even the New Seekers sneaking into the bottom end of the chart, only Andy Fairweather Low's progressive stuff flopping.

Of course as Covington's week at number one has been wiped we've lost her entire chart run at 7.30, but because it's so bloody long dropping it means we can get two extra songs in. Shame one of them was Quo again.

Steve Chapman said...

The Rose Royce rundown slide is causing a debate here at work as to exactly what car it is. It looks on the face of it to be a Cortina but Mark 3 had round lights and the name FORD across the bonnet. Late mark 3s got the square lights but had the Ford badge smack bang in the centre. The car in the picture has neither.

Any ideas?

Chris Barratt said...

The Mk3 'Tina never had a "Ford" oval badge on the front - that was re-introduced on the Autumn 76 Mk4 (and the Fiesta), and then phased into late 77 (S-reg) model revisions on the Escort, Capri and new-for-77 mk2 Grandad. That is a standard 75/76 Cortina of XL, GT or E spec (the lesser models retained the round sealed-beam headlights) on the rundown photo
Highlight of the show for me was those fools dancing to the Moments - it was like watching one of those YouTube Pan's People re-dubs as they appeared to be dancing to a completely different tune (Tiger Feet maybe?). No wonder David Parton was a little more static this time around, the orchestra sounded pissed and I imagine his eyes were closed wishing he was somewhere else!
"Sing Me" was limp faux-Carribean tosh and "I Wanna Go Back" was the best reason in this '77 run NOT to 'wanna go back'. I have a theory that had punk not happened and created the joyous domino effect that gave us new wave, synth pop and the 80s Mr Big represent the alternative "Ghost Of Chart Music Future" - perfectly played, earnestly trilled transatlantic. Top Of The Pops would have been 30 minutes of the stuff Jonathan King used to report on,

wilberforce said...

even though the brothers apparently went on to have a top 10 hit with their opening effort, i don't actually remember it at all! is it because it passed me by at the time, or is senility setting in?! i don't know exactly what their ethnicity is (at a guess a mixture of black and indian), but the fact that they're from mauritius and were produced by a team more used to working with the likes of tony christie and paper lace surely makes this a splendid addition to the cod-reggae canon...?

i see i'm not alone in feeling that quo have outstayed their welcome - back then i was still a fan at this point and had recently got their "blue for you" album as an xmas gift, but unfortunately the two big hits apart it was pretty mediocre, so when the equally lightweight "wild side" came out as a 45 alarm bells started ringing, and the shark-jumping moment arrived shortly thereafter with "rockin' all over the world", at which point i jumped ship in favour of the disco express...

andy fairweather-low's percussionist was whacking away on some timbales which are used in afro-cuban latin music, whilst the rhythm on this number is based on brazilian bossa nova, which can be (and usually is) played on a standard drumkit... it's easy for me to be smug about this as i studied latin music at college some years ago, but prior to that i'm sure i would have made the same mistakes and assumptions, as did the likes of modern romance a few years after this when they clambered aboard the new-romantics-go-latin bandwagon with their wedge haircuts and pastel suits...

sorry arthur but the moments' track isn't a patch on their previous hit "girls" (with its very un-pc lyrics "...and the ones that ain't so good lookin', they're the ones that do the best cookin'")... i don't know if it's by accident or design that the two "oohs & aahs" guys wear somewhat old-fashioned pompadour hairstyles whilst the mainman sports a bang-up-to-date afro that is a magnificent feat of topiary... what happens whilst the crowd dance in front of the video is a classic TOTP moment (if you'll excuse the pun) - the two girls being frogmarched from behind the screen (one being a hazel irvine clone if not actually hazel herself) later appear with tone as he presents the number one sound (no wonder they were dragging their heels!), and the guy jerking about in front of the screen reminds me of the old (also very un-pc) joke where a paraplegic guy in a nightclub gets given an award for winning the disco dancing contest and responds by saying "i was only making my way to the bar!"

the new seekers' lovely eve graham appears to be singing live to me (or else she's making a hell of a job of miming) but not sure about the rest though... i noticed the blonde lynn paul clone was stuck right out on the edge of the stage slightly apart from the rest, perhaps as the real one had usurped eve's position as the band's main lead singer before splitting to go solo...?

Steve Morgan said...

There was always a bit of dissension behind the scenes of The New Seekers, whether it be over money, the band's managemnet famously screwed them, that's why they broke up in 1974, or disagreements over which of the girls should take the lead, Lyn Paul's were always the bigger hits, shame her solo career didn't really take off after her initial minor hit, another Coke jingle, which sadly, didn't sell a million.
One thing I noticed about last night's song and performance was how dated it seemed, despite a change of line up thay'd hardly seemed to have moved on. However, that single became a bigger hit than their last one so they must have got something right. A change of style is coming though, they do get one more shot at the charts in just over a year's time, pity it's not rememebered as more of an anthem.

Simon said...

Arthur: surely the Christmas Let 'Em In (and the original, come to that) featured less dancing? Lulu and her pink bucket hat kept the hoofing end up well even if everyone else was reduced to 'surprised onlooker' status. It was a Biggs repeat, but others have spotted that it was a different edit of the original. Wiki claims Romeo was indeed briefly banned, though no idea when as the video is shown twice more.

There's another clip of the Brothers in their Opportunity Knocks days actually doing Sing Me with exciting different lyrics from the oddly envisioned Song Writers Show, where it turns out it was penned by a none more irie suburban husband and wife from Exeter. We could spend days discussing *those* suits. Also, that man hosting is/was Peaches Geldof's grandfather. What a world.

Steve Williams said...

Oh, incidentally, did anyone else notice there was a huge pile of balloons tied up and hanging from the ceiling above the stage The Brothers were on? Maybe releasing them would have livened up Andy Fairweather Low's performance.

Steve Morgan said...

Yes, I noticed those balloons too, I was wondering if and when they'd ever get released. And, yes, they would have livened up Andy Fairweather Low's performance, but,as they say, if Paradise was half as nice.

Chris Barratt said...

If anybody's wondering about the Cortina in the chart rundown, it appears to have lived to the grand old age of 19 before meeting it's demise in 1994 (I bet the owner in 1993 didn't see it on the UK Gold repeats!)
From the DVLA enquiry site:
The vehicle details for NGP 303P are:
Date of Liability 31 05 1994
Date of First Registration 15 01 1976
Year of Manufacture 1976
Cylinder Capacity (cc) 1993cc
CO2 Emissions Not Available
Fuel Type PETROL
Export Marker N
Vehicle Status Unlicensed
Vehicle Colour GOLD

Noax said...

I'm actually blissfully happy that these repeats have sparked a debate about a Ford Cortina picture!

Leaving aside old cars, let's look at a pretty decent Pops music-wise, if shoddily produced and presented. Why did no-one buy Tony a thesaurus? They could be tunes, songs, ditties,, they're all 'sounds'

This week's comments sponsored by the K-Tel LP 'Hit Action'. Speaking of which...

The Brothers - I like this, because it was on said album, which was the first Various Artists LP I ever listened to over and over again. Full marks for going a bit 'freestyle' in the performance too. I always assumed they edited it on the album, but it seems the song really is short.

David Parton - I think the crowd layout was to make chicken-in-a-basket-style entertainer David feel at home. This was more hilarious than the first time, especially when he went wandering off for a bit.

The Eagles - I bet 'The Dads' were disappointed with the Mumsy outfits on display here. Very dull, and would only be livened up if someone who I don't think has been mentioned yet this year made a sudden reappearance. You know who.

Barry Biggs - Picture this : Barry settling down in front of the Pops, happy that he wasn't required to pop back in as they were happy to repeat the earlier performance. Then...."They're showing this one?!" It does prove that they edited the first showing of this though, either at the time or with the BBC4 scissors.

Mr.Big - I think this is a bloody fantastic pop song, and I'm surprised it's getting a bit of a slagging. I guess it's been a forgotten a bit when compared to similar stuff like the Bellamy Brothers, Smokie etc

Andy Fairweather-Low - I watched this about an hour ago and can remember absolutely nothing about it.

The Moments - Ooh, now this is good (except for the dry ice intro) as the pink suits are quality, they appear to be performing in someone's kitchen and the song lyrics are clearly nonsensical. Isn't one of the people at the top left of the screen milling about actually Mr.Blackburn himself? It certainly looks like someone with a dark brown jacket talking to a floor manager possibly. Love the guy in the audience doing a semi-pogo dance move repeatedly as well.

The New Seekers - OK, I know it's wrong, but I do like this too. It's Hit Action's influence again and the way they edit the song for this performance is exactly the way it's edited on the LP (in fact, given that the Barry Biggs edit was identical to the first performance of that, perhaps the LP compilers were watching Pops VERY closely....)
I didn't know that they'd gone for Eurovision again in 1976. I'm not disappointed about the outcome to that, but will be eternally annoyed that a few more people didn't buy "Beg, Steal or Borrow" 4 years earlier so it was Number 1 on my birthday instead of ****ing Nilsson (or Nillson if you're a TOTP caption writer)

Julie Covington - Glad that this is being removed. Probably not for Argentina's benefit though. This wouldn't make them angry, just very very bored.

And if you think that's all been very entertaining, there'll be some applause at the end of this.
There it is!

wilberforce said...

this may seem bleedin' obvious thinking about it, but the following has just occurred to me: if the beeb couldn't find a chart rundown pic of the band in question and had to use one of a car wash instead, surely the car used should have been a rolls royce rather than a ford cortina? (they could have borrowed the bbc director-general's one for the shot!)

Anonymous said...

Barry Briggs looked like a cake!

Wellieman said...

Not too much to add that hasn't already been discussed here. I do recall The Eagles were all set up to be the big Act of 77 in the UK as they had been building slowly over here and had a huge US reputation. I think the Radio 1 DJs were all convinced New Kid In Town was finally to be their big UK smash, but it just didn't happen for them. Nice song though as a prelude to their monster album to come, something about a hotel I think..!

Can't watch anything by Andy Fairweather-Low without thinking of his appearance grinning inanely throughout a rendition of Bend Me Shape Me with Amen Corner. You know, that clip that is shown on every TOTP 60s compilation. Bah!

Finally, have to comment on New Seekers. What on earth were they or their management thinking dressing and styled like their 1972 selves? Not only were Lyn Paul and Peter Doyle replaced with clones but they wore and presented themselves exactly the same as when they were doing early 70s light entertainment progs. No wonder they had no chance of a resurgence in 77. Sometime in early 72 they missed their chance to be really big following the Coca Cola hit. I once saw a pic of Eve and Lyn in hot pants and man, were they hot and could easily have carried this fresh, modern look off. But they dressed down in dreary middle aged ladies frocks and recorded bland music (... with the glorious exception of Pinball Wizard... even better than the original anyone?). I suppose they got plenty of gigs at the Batley Variety Club and the like but the chance to be an era-defing pop group was lost.

Old Applejack said...

Hi everyone, only jsut getting round to my first comments of 1977. I have questions.

1) The Quo famously hold (or did hold, at least) the Pops appearance record. Does this include video appearances, and repeat appearances at that? Judging by what we've seen, no wonder they were racking up those appearance points!

2) David Parton. Glad to see him as until now, he's only ever been a name in British Hit Singles to me. Never heard his version of the song until now either. Does anyone know the story behind him? If Stevie didn't want this released as a single, how come this fella got away with it? And where did he come from and where did he go?

Arthur Nibble said...

David Parton (also known as Des because of the initials of his christian names) wrote a couple of hits for Sweet Sensation and, prior to his big moment, he'd released records both as a solo artist and as lead singer with some outfit called the Cyril Dagworth Players. He was only meant to produce "Isn't She Lovely" but had a crack at the vocals when the hired singer couldn't replicate Stevie Wonder - mind you, neither did David! He released a follow-up single which did nothing and that appears to have been the end of his recording career.

Glad to see a few more comments rolling in. Instead of going viral like Simon hoped, I was worried this site was turning into a bit of a private members' club, seeing as the number of weekly comments has tailed off a bit. Mind you, this week's repeat-riddled episode looks a bit pony and may give us even less chance of a chat than usual.

I have to admit, I didn't realise at first that the dry ice and audience pan before The Moments was actually the tail end of the previous act. Love the bloke dancing like an escapologist next to the screen!

Babbling Mouth said...

Arthur and others. 1977 was the year I got into music and the charts big time, and now I don't know what I look forward to most - the old Top of the Pops or the blog and comments on here. Both really entertaining. Keep it up!

Simon said...

In answer to Applejack's first question they must do, as they claim 110 Pops appearances but nobody can count more than 41 actually in the studio.

Arthur Nibble said...

I must do my research more thoroughly. I was right in remembering The New Seekers were disqualified from the UK final of “A Song For Europe”, but it wasn’t until 1980, when our entry for the final was “Love Enough For Two” by Prima Donna, featuring Kate Robbins and that Sally Ann Triplett out of Bardo.

“Save Your Kisses For Me” narrowly made it to the big final in 1976, pipping “Wake Up” by CoCo (which sounded similar in parts to “In The Year 2525”) by two points. Long before Jemini and their infamous nul points, CoCo went on to become our worst placing finalist at the time when they finally made the big gig. Bringing us full circle to the New Seekers, Lyn Paul had a crack at “A Song For Europe” in 1977 but only finished mid-table in the UK final.

wilberforce said...

when studying music at uni i became acquainted with one of the lecturers before he moved on, and later heard he wrote and produced the winning UK eurovision entry - i was pleased for him making a major breakthrough, but unfortunately the act concerned was jemini!

after that fiasco (maybe he should have made sure he was on the mixing desk that night!) his chance to make the big time went tits up, but i believe he's still in a senior position at macca's LIPA so i don't suppose he's selling big issues...